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NBC Considers Dropping 10 PM Primetime Hour, Handing It Back to Local Affiliates

The cost-cutting plan, if it moves forward, would be implemented as soon as fall 2023

NBC is in preliminary discussions to cut back on its primetime programming hours between 10 to 11 p.m. in a cost-cutting measure that reflects the changing TV landscape. The plan, if it moves forward, would be implemented as soon as fall 2023.

Under the proposal, which was first reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal, NBC’s 200-plus local affiliate stations would take over control of programming that hour each night — and collect all of the ad revenue during that time. While NBC owns 12 local stations, including in top markets like New York City, L.A., Chicago and Washington, D.C., the vast majority are owned by multiple companies.

According to the Journal, the idea is still in discussions — and has not been officially raised with the company’s affiliate board.

“We are always looking at strategies to ensure that our broadcast business remains as strong as possible,” an NBC spokesperson said. “As a company, our advantage lies in our ability to provide audiences with the content they love across broadcast, cable and streaming.”

The cutting of a primetime hour would have a wide-ranging effect on the company, impacting programming choices. Along with ABC and CBS, NBC is one of three classic broadcast networks that program a full 22 primetime hours each week (including four hours on Sunday, starting at 7 p.m.).

By eliminating one hour a night, NBC could save millions of dollars in content costs, with the company’s affiliates likely welcoming a change that would allow them to earn more ad revenue. Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, is behind the efforts, and last year, the network announced that it would “rethink” its 1:30 a.m. slot, later giving that time back to affiliates.

The move would also impact late-night, with “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” likely moving up from its current 11:30 p.m. slot, where he currently competes against Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel for nighttime viewing.

Like most entertainment companies, NBC parent Comcast has been shifting its priorities from linear TV networks like NBC, which has seen a steady decline in viewership over the last decades, to its streaming service, Peacock.