NBC cutting originals on Fridays?

Is NBC getting ready to dump original programming on Fridays? NBC entertainment co-chairman Marc Graboff says in an interview with Fortune that declining ratings and increasing costs may force the network to dump original programming on Fridays, where HUT levels on that night have been declining for years. Friday nights are the second-least watched of the week, behind Saturday, which the networks abandoned long ago.

Last Friday, WWE Smackdown on the CW won the night in adults 18-49. However, its ratings in that demo are usually lower than many prime-time shows on other nights. Smackdown usually does better in the hard-to-get male and teen demos.

Friday nights have been a longtime dumping ground for shows that were on their last legs (or shows the networks renewed despite low ratings and didn’t know what to do with), such as Star Trek, and more recently, Malcolm in the Middle and The Bernie Mac Show, thus coining the phrase The Friday Night Death Slot.

Despite that, all the networks have had success one time or another on Fridays, with ABC airing The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple and NBC airing Sanford and Son in the 1970’s, Dallas, Falcon Crest, and Miami Vice’s success in the 1980’s (Dallas, in fact was TV’s number one show at one time), and ABC’s TGIF block in the ’90’s. Fox also had success with The X-Files on that night in its’ early years.

But ratings have declined in the last few years as the total number of viewers continues to shrink on the night.

This fall, NBC will have scripted series Las Vegas and Friday Night Lights on Fridays this fall.

A move to scrap originals on Fridays may have the potential to anger NBC affiliates, which are already unhappy with the network’s ratings and comments made by NBC exec Jeff Zucker last year about dropping scripted series in the first hour of prime time. Scrapping Fridays may hurt local affiliates’ late news numbers, which for the most part, are sold on a Monday through Friday basis.