More than half the way through the November sweeps, there is a very tight news race for second place at 11 p.m. between Channel 2 and Channel 7.
And there is no question why it is happening -- the lead-in that Jay Leno's talk show is giving Channel 2 is killing the station that a year ago was closer to first place Channel 4 than to third-place Channel 7 at 11 p.m.
After the first 12 days of the sweeps, Channel 4 is No. 1 with a 9.5 rating, down 10 percent from a year ago. Channel 2 is No. 2 with a 6.4 rating, down 28 percent from the 8.9 it had a year ago when NBC mostly ran dramas at 10 p.m. Channel 7 has the same 6.3 rating it had a year ago, which means it is only a tenth of a point behind Channel 2.
The so-called Leno Effect is hurting NBC affiliates across the country, which undoubtedly will lead to calls to end the 10 p.m. experiment after one year. But the damage at 11 p.m. to affiliates could take months or even years to repair unless Leno's show is replaced in the fall of 2010 by some higher-rated NBC programs.
-- Alan Pergament