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Jay Leno At 10?

This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
Let me give you a little background. The television networks are being crushed by the economic downturn. Advertising dollars have disappeared.

This has an enormous impact on the networks, but it has had a dramatic effect on local stations as well.

How to survive? There has been talk and rumors about giving the third hour of prime time back to the local stations.

Right now the challenge is to lower costs and still deliver an audience. NBC's prime time audience has been woefully low of late.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Talk shows like Jay Leno's cost a small fraction of the price of produced dramas. In terms of cost benefit analysis, Leno could get a lower audience number and still make plenty of money for NBC.

Problem is the affiliates want as high a number as possible to lead into their late news.

This is a watershed moment.

Leno's success or failure will have much to do with NBC's future.