NBC may scale back hours

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NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker has announced that the network is considering "all options" in an effort to come out ahead in a time of economic hardship and a swiftly changing media milieu. One such option involves the potential cutting of prime-time hours--or even the dropping of an entire broadcast night.

NBC, currently ranked fourth in viewership, is facing a new climate in which advertisers have less to spend, viewers aren't chained to set airtimes, and weekend TV is gasping for breath.

"Can we continue to broadcast 22 hours in primetime? Three of our competitors don't," Zucker mused during today's UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. "Can we continue to broadcast seven days a week? One of our competitors doesn't."

Though Zucker stressed that schedule cuts are only on the bargaining table and not yet written in stone, it's possible that the network could benefit from a little CW-style streamlining. The latter, newer network boasts a small stable of successful shows, and shies away from weekend and late-night programming--indeed, the CW washed its hands of Sunday-night doldrums by selling that time to an independent production company looking for a place to call its own.

Though this "evolution" of broadcasting could be a boon for the network, management seems a bit nervous about the impression such a move could give. "It's not giving up," said Zucker. "It's not retrenching. It's not throwing in the towel."

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