TNT's "Southland" Could Become NBC's Post-Halloween Nightmare

Last Updated Nov 5, 2009 4:27 PM EST

You read right. "Southland", the drama that appeared on NBC last season, before being dropped last month by NBC before it had even aired this season, is now being picked up by cable network TNT. As such, it could become the broadcast net's worst nightmare -- a pointed reminder of why its strategy to put "The Jay Leno Show" on every weeknight at 10 p.m. might not be working out as planned.

Here's why:

First, "Southland" was cancelled, even with six new episodes in the can, because its content was considered too out there for the 9 p.m. slot. The only time slot where it reasonably could have aired this season is 10 p.m., but it can't air then because of "Leno."

Second, TNT will air it at 10 p.m. when it relaunches on the network in January. In other words, it will go up against "Leno." If you're thinking that "Southland" doesn't create real competition for "Leno" because it's "only" airing on cable, sorry, but that thinking is SO 1990s. As one point of comparison, TNT's top original series, "The Closer" had an audience that was 49 percent higher than NBC's "Lipstick Jungle," which averaged 7.8 million viewers. Though there's certainly no promise that "Southland" will be a blockbuster on TNT, consider that lately "Leno" has been bringing in about five million viewers per night. If "Southland" draws as many viewers, it will be a PR disaster for NBC, if for no other reason than it makes for good copy.

In the big scheme of things, the shift of "Southland" isn't huge. But as a symbol of how the dynamics of bradcast and cable are changing-- and how NBC may have made a major strategic error this year -- it's huge.

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