NBC O&Os get daytime act together

Chicago’s WMAQ fares better than New York and Los Angeles counterparts

The NBC-owned-and-operated stations are blowing up their daytime schedules this fall, with two new programs (and possibly a third) coming this fall while three shows are exiting.

NBC Local Media chief John Wallace explains in a recent TVNewscheck article on how the station group is preparing for the massive changeover with the acquisition of Sony Pictures Television’s Nate Berkus Show and off-cable repeats of The Real Housewives. In addition, the group is looking to develop a third show, possibly keeping it in-house.

The program would be an Access: Hollywood-type show, but no details were announced. Another possibility would be an hour-long LX.TV show

NBC (as a network) has traditionally trailed CBS and ABC in the daytime race, and programs fewer hours than the other two. Therefore, NBC affiliates – and its O&Os – must rely on syndicated programming. NBC has ten O&Os, including the six largest markets, WRC in Washington, D.C., and the remaining three are in Miami, Hartford, and San Diego.

The opportunity to grab Berkus came when Martha Stewart decided to move her daytime talk show to Hallmark Channel, though at least one slot was already open with the cancellation of The Bonnie Hunt Show.

Another slot will open with the expected cancellation of Deal or No Deal. The second-year syndicated game show suffered steep ratings losses this year, and is being dropped by My Network TV in primetime this fall in favor of Don’t Forget The Lyrics, which is also being stripped in syndication.

NBC hopes the moves will boost ratings in its O&O markets. Ironically, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in Chicago performs better in the women 25-54 demographic than its New York (WNBC-TV) and Los Angeles counterparts (KNBC-TV). WMAQ is tied for second in this demo with WGN-TV during the day, and is only behind market leader WLS-TV.

Also in the O&Os stable is Ellen, which is experiencing ratings growth in its key female demos in its ninth season. It’s one of the reasons NBC renewed Ellen for three more years on its stations as a key linchpin for its early fringe lineup (locally, WMAQ airs Ellen DeGeneres’ show at 3 p.m. every weekday.)

While the moves are eliciting praise from media buyers and advertisers alike, a big change like this always carries some risk. Though the shows being replaced were definitely not ratings winners, there is no guarantee these new shows will do any better (it is television, after all.) While Nate Berkus has the name recognition for him to succeed, The Real Housewives could sink, given off-cable repeats have not historically worked well in broadcast syndication. Also not working in its favor is no continuity (Housewives have done editions in Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Orange County, Calif.) and the controversial nature of the series.

But still, the moves bring fresh programming initiatives to the NBC O&Os and are an improvement over the stuff they currently air.