ABC and CBS Expected to Dump 10 PM Hour if NBC Does, Hearst TV Chief Says

But Jordan Wertlieb doesn’t see the potential move as the death of linear TV

Jordan Wertlieb, Hearst TV
Jordan Wertlieb, Hearst TV (Hearst)

With executives at NBC Universal actively looking to cede the 10 p.m. programming block to affiliates, Hearst TV president Jordan Wertlieb expects ABC and CBS to follow.

At a panel of local station heads at NAB Show New York on Wednesday, Wertlieb was asked if the other broadcast networks will also can their in-house 10 p.m. programming if NBCU takes the plunge. “I expect they will and I hope they will,” he said, according to Deadline. Hearst Television owns and operates 33 local television stations across the country.

While ABC did not respond to a request for comment, CBS president and CEO George Cheeks said in a statement to TheWrap the network was “committed to 10 p.m. and continuing our ratings success in that time period.”

NBCUniversal Local chairman Valari Staab, who was also on the panel, confirmed that NBCU is actively considering the historic move. “The decision has not been made. We’re discussing a lot of things, obviously it’s our obligation to look forward and chart the course for the future,” she said on Wednesday. “If we do it, we would need to put together a really solid schedule from 8 to 10 p.m. — 10 p.m. is the most streamed hour out there.”

“Valari made a good point and it applies to all the networks,” Wertleib said. “Take those resources and invest it in a really strong 8 to 10 block and the entire ecosystem improves.”

Fox and the CW have traditionally not had original programming in their 10 p.m. slots.

Graham Media Group CEO Catherine Badalamente, per panel sponsor TVNewsCheck, added that an affiliate-programmed 10 p.m. newscast would “definitely look probably different than a traditional newscast, but it’s a huge opportunity for us across the board.”

Chris Ripley, president-CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, said, “Net net, we would view it as a positive,” regarding affiliates controlling ad units in local produced segments.

Ripley added, “Streaming has gutted the general entertainment and cable networks. Literally gutted them,” but neither he nor Wertlieb are counting out broadcast networks yet.

“The prognostication of the death of linear television has been going on for 40 years,” Wertlieb said. “Every year, we surprise the marketplace because the American public loves broadcast television.”

Added Ripley, “When you take a look at that, the core strength of the pay-TV bundle is live, day-and-date content, which is the strength of broadcast. Within the ecosystem, I think broadcast TV will continue to do quite well.”

NBCU CEO Jeff Shell told CNBC earlier this month that the company is committed to “reallocating resources,” which could include shifting programming to its streamer Peacock and giving up the 10 p.m. primetime slot.

A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed Badalamente’s quote to Staab. It has since been corrected.