NBC is considering dropping the third hour of primetime each night. That could be devasting news for the lucrative One Chicago and Law & Order franchises.
Here’s why. The network went big with its Dick Wolf franchises, devoting Wednesday nights to One Chicago. Then as of this past February, NBC did the same with its three primetime hours of Law & Order.
Each Wednesday, Chicago Med bats lead off, followed by Chicago Fire, then Chicago P.D. in that now expendable 10 p.m. Eastern hour. That’s the primetime hour NBC wants to return to local affiliates in a cost-cutting move. On Thursdays, it’s Law & Order, then Law & Order: SVU, and Law & Order: Organized Crime.
The Wall Street Journal reported the NBC news Friday, although the newspaper said the review is in its early stages. But if NBC cuts seven hours of primetime, the network may delete some popular shows.
Maybe the network doesn’t touch One Chicago other than to put one of the shows on another night. After Sunday Night Football, the One Chicago shows are NBC’s bread and butter. Chicago Fire pulled the most viewers of the three shows, averaging 9.84 million viewers. That ranked fifth nationally. Chicago PD averaged 9.18 million viewers per episode, which was 10th nationally. Chicago Med finished 11th in the overall TV viewership rankings, with an average of 9.11 million.
Meanwhile, the Law & Order franchise, although far older and established, isn’t as popular. Law & Order: SVU, which is entering season 24, drew 6.83 million an episode this past season. That was 29th best among all network shows. Law & Order scored 5.92 million, which ranked 39th nationally. As fans know, NBC revived the OG show after canceling it in 2010 after 20 seasons. The crime drama about cops and lawyers premiered in February for an abbreviated 21st season.
Then there’s Law & Order: Organized Crime, which was a conduit to bring back Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler. Meloni first starred on SVU from 1999-2011. He came back for OC in April, 2021. This past season, OC averaged 5.51 million. That was a drop of almost 30 percent from the inaugural season. The show ranked 45th.
NBC already is headed into the fall season without its most popular show in the key demographic for the 18 to 49-year-olds. This Is Us finished first among this demo among dramas for the sixth straight year. But This Is Us finished its series run in May.
The WSJ reported that NBC could make this move by fall 2023. Other dramas that occupy the 10 p.m. hour include New Amsterdam and the reboot of Quantum Leap. The network hasn’t revealed, as yet, where it plans to place newly acquired Magnum P.I. NBC picked up the show earlier this summer after CBS canceled it. Production should start next month.
If NBC does cut its primetime hours, plans call for an earlier start for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Local stations would have an earlier open hour for a syndicated show and local news. Then Fallon would start at 11 p.m. Eastern.
Of the four major networks, Fox is the only one to not have three hours each night of primetime. NBC tried something similar in 2009. That’s when the network moved The Tonight Show With Jay Leno to the 10 p.m. hour, five days a week. After five months, the network moved Leno back to his late-night time slot.
The WSJ says NBC still needs to discuss the potential primetime cuts with its affiliate board. So stay tuned.