Today’s New York Times had some interesting statements from Dick Ebersol, a heavyweight at NBC, about the Conan-Leno epoch. Ebersol is running interference for Jeff Zucker, who’s in the hot seat for screwing up NBC’s late night schedule. Zucker, who has been friends with Conan since their days at Harvard, doesn’t have the juice to defend the ratings nightmare that’s developed.
The debate is around audience and ratings. Conan’s aren’t that great compared to what Leno used to pull. Leno’s aren’t great because of the new format he’s working and his time slot. The Zucker/Ebersol logic is Conan’s audience APPEAL needs to be broadened to include the midwest time zone, republican conservative demographic, and they think Leno does that better.
Herein lies the evidence for the monumental mistake they are making. It’s not the APPEAL that’s the problem at all for Conan. It is the REACH. Conan’s humor appeals to a younger hipper audience. Leno on the other hand is great for baby boomers and retirees. The problem is Leno’s audience spends less money that Conan’s – – and will spend progressively less as time goes on. That translates directly into less advertising dollars per viewer available to Leno.
Zucker and Ebersol don’t get the idea that REACH these days doesn’t get achieved through broadcast television and time slotting. The world has changed ! REACH gets broadened by deep and aggressive exploitation of theinternet delivery medium. What is even more puzzling about Ebersol and Zucker’s position on Conan is that NBC, and Zucker, are behind Hulu TV – – a business they set up to deliver programming on the web. Is Conan delivered on this medium ? The answer is NO.
Seems like Zucker and Ebersol are stuck in the old paradigm. They have not detected that REACH is more important than APPEAL for Conan’s style and his audience. Instead of evolving their distribution and marketing strategy to center on the emerging medium for Conan’s audience, they are satisfied to shuffle the talent instead, to match their outmoded delivery model.
There is a large group of (former) record company executives who made this same distribution channel mistake.