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NBC Evil? Local News Evil!

Is NBC the destroyer of worlds, schedules and entertainment that is alleged nearly continuously by America's leading entertainment commentators? I'll leave that to you to decide, but you got to wonder what possible advantage could they gain by starting shows at one minute before the hour and half hour. Yeah, they could wreck the programming assignments of the thousands of households that use TiVo or the other assorted DVRs that exist (or if you want to go prehistoric, your VCR pre-programmings), but in the eyes of God -- His name being Nielsen -- you only exist as a curious sideshow, to be studied. One minute isn't going to give any network a programming advantage over another. It'll likely make it easier to switch from NBC to another network, since you won't be jumping into a mystery or a joke already in progress. Starting two or three minutes early, or even one minute late would be a much better strategy to hold onto viewers the whole night, though determined viewers can fight the siren song of "Must See TV" even if NBC decides to resurrect Turner Time.

Then why, NBC? Perhaps it has everything to do with local news. For years in the major markets, local news divisions have been running an arms race with earlier and earlier start times for their afternoon shows. The six o'clock news starts at 5:57 p.m. The five o'clock news starts at 4:58 p.m. And in markets where there is a four o'clock news, it's actually considered restraint if you wait until after the credits end to start the tease. Better to shrink Oprah to a barely visible smudge than to let the competition be alone in jumping the gun. And why not? Really, there's nothing else to distinguish one police-scanner relay from another.

So it was simply bowing to the inevitable when NBC announced in November to officially codify 10:59:30 as the time affiliates can start their local news. Most stations have been using that half-screen opposite from the credits to jump ahead of the line. Now, how would NBC make up for that 30 seconds of lost time? If you said to cut ad time, tear up that resume. You will never work in network television. Make the program shorter? How dare you suggest such a thing! Who do you think you are, NBC?

No, my friends, the correct answer is to slap an additional 30 seconds of ads in your show, start everything one minute early and start raking in the cash as your affiliates become the first to speculate each night on whether the fires, floods or robberies are the result of terrorism.

And if it causes some of your TiVos to break, thus forcing you to watch the commercials, well that's just a fortuitous break in the minds of NBC.


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