There’s been quite a bit of talk, lately, about the 10 p.m. network TV programming block, the third hour of CBS, NBC, and ABC’s nightly primetime schedules. (Fox and The CW have never bothered with the slot, confining themselves to two hours of primetime programming per night.) Specifically, there’s been talk of those networks—and especially NBC, which kicked these conversations off with some flirty “Hey, what if we did?” rumblings a couple of months back—axing the hour from their schedules, and handing the time back to their local affiliates.
Now, a new conversation between the heads of the big groups that own all those local stations has sparked further speculation that other networks might inevitably follow suit on the cuts—as well as a pointed response from CBS President and CEO George Cheeks, whose statement essentially boils down to, “The fuck we will.”
And, look: We understand that this can seem like some very inside baseball, as networks dicker with their affiliates about who gets what chunk of time while the rest of us get on with our streaming-focused lives. But look at this way: We’re talking about 7 hours of programming per week—i.e., seven shows, per network—potentially losing their timeslots, extremely suddenly. (Give or take, anyway; nobody really tries to program Saturday nights at 10 these days, and NBC and ABC both have football to bulk out their Sunday night schedules.) That’s to say nothing of the knock-on effects it might have on the late-night talk shows, as affiliates find ways to use the newly granted time, likely through expansions of their local news coverage. (News: It’s dirt cheap to make, and everybody watches it!)
This is all per Deadline, reporting on a panel discussion between various heads of the various companies that own your local TV stations, including Jordan Wertlieb, whose Hearst Television owns 34 networks across the country. When asked if he thought ABC and CBS would follow NBC’s (still hypothetical) lead and axe the 10 p.m. block, Wertlieb said, with some apparent confidence, “I think they will.” Which prompted CBS chief Cheeks to issue a statement of his own, saying “We are committed to 10 PM and continuing our ratings success in that time period.” Which could open up the possibility of CBS, bolstered by Blue Bloods and Tom Selleck’s steely mustache, continuing to hold the line as its competitors give way.
All three networks typically reserve the 10 p.m. block for dramas and procedurals; CBS tends to flood the hour with acronyms, deploying FBI, CSI, and NCIS shows as needed. ABC uses the hour for The Good Doctor and its two extant The Rookie shows, while NBC uses it as an overflow space for its general glut of Dick Wolf programs—both Chicago P.D. and Law And Order: Organized Crime land in the hour—as well as shows like the new Quantum Leap.