Leno’s Hometown Station, WHDH, Pushes Back

Apr 2, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Jay Leno’s hometown station says it won’t carry his new 10 p.m. show in primetime, a move that’s sparked an angry response from NBC.
WHDH in Boston Thursday said that it will air a primetime newscast at 10 p.m. this fall rather than Mr. Leno’s new show. It announced the decision via its Web site.
The decision prompted an immediate and scathing reaction from John Eck, president of the NBC Television Network.
“WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” Mr. Eck told the Boston Globe, which first reported the news. “If they persist, we will strip WHDH of its NBC affiliation. We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market, including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC owned-and-operated station.”
NBC’s strong reaction isn’t a surprise. The network can’t afford to let local stations get the impression that preempting Mr. Leno’s new show is a viable option.
Of course, it’s unlikely that most affiliates would attempt such a gutsy play anyway. Most affiliate agreements prohibit stations from opting to make such a wholesale preemption, particularly when content issues aren’t involved.
By refusing to run Mr. Leno’s show, WHDH is essentially nixing nearly 25% of NBC’s primetime lineup. Unless NBC convinces WHDH to change its mind, or finds another station to air Mr. Leno, Mr. Leno’s new show will begin life without a top 10 market, something that would adversely impact its ratings.
WHDH owner Ed Ansin of Sunbeam Television told the Globe that he was worried Mr. Leno wouldn’t perform well at 10 p.m.
“We feel we have a real opportunity with running the news at 10 p.m. We don’t think the Leno show is going to be effective in primetime,” Mr. Ansin said. “It will be detrimental to our 11 o’clock. It will be very adverse to our finances.”
He also said the move was “a better financial plan for us.” Indeed, WHDH gets to keep all the ad revenue from a 10 p.m. news, but only gets a fraction of it from Mr. Leno’s show.
While NBC blasted WHDH, Mr. Ansin claimed that he had the right to boycott Mr. Leno.
“We have a unique agreement with NBC, which is unlike the standard affiliate agreement,” Ansin said. “We have the option of not airing Leno at 10 o’clock.”
The executive said he offered to air Mr. Leno’s show at 11 p.m., thus pushing “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” back to midnight. NBC dismissed that option, the Globe reported.
NBC will no doubt look to quickly squash the Boston rebellion. Many affiliates no would doubt love the option of airing news in primetime, as many Fox and CW stations do with much success.
But allowing any wiggle room could torpedo NBC’s carefully orchestrated plan to make Mr. Leno a primetime star and keep Mr. O’Brien happy in the lead-off late-night position.

26 Comments

  1. What a brilliant move–a Boston Tea Party of Sorts for viewers sick of waiting until 11 pm (in the East) to get to watch news on a network affiliate. Good for NBC-Boston! If the Fox Boston affiliate Fox-25 already wins that time slot some night in news over all three networks’ 10 pm programming on some nights, clearly there IS a news need and market in an earlier time slot. And Jay Leno’s 10 pm slated-show is clearly trying to cover a programming catastrophe–an inability to actually create shows the public wants at 10 pm. “Dump the idiotic put-Jay-Leno on in primetime plan now” the voices begin ringing out in Boston. And hopefully this too will spread, creating an anti-Leno in primtime revolution that makes NBC try to create good shows again or risk losing an hour of programming to news!

  2. I think Ed Ansin knows that if NBC pulled their affiliation, they would have to go on to a much weaker station (NBC owns the Telemundo station on channel 60 in the market). Meanwhile, WHDH could easily program news 5-10am, noon, 4-7pm, 8pm-1130pm and keep all the inventory. WHDH could truly become “THE NEWS STATION”.

  3. Boston will be laughing when the rest of the NBC channels suffer mightily after about a month of Jay Leno in primetime. Don’t you think that by October everyone will be sick of the Jay Leno primetime experiment? And NBC will be slow to pull the trigger because it will be a marketing nightmare that even the doctors on ER (if the show still aired!)could fix. The NBC prime time programmers are about as smart as the investors on wall street that got us into this economic mess. The only difference is NBC is banking on Jay Leno. That’s a truly spooky thought.

  4. NBC is run by lawyers & bean pushers. They understand how to cut costs and sure people … what’s next, a CCTV camera view of Citywalk?

  5. That’s aswesome, Boston! About time someone called this Jay Leno plan for what it is–stupid. No one is going to watch after the first week, and then we’ll all see that they gutted 10 pm programming for no reason at all. (Well, the reason of course is they can’t figure out HOW to make a tv show that people watch). I say fire all the executives at NBC to start! These “programming” directors have no clue about what people watch or like. And Jay Leno isn’t the solution! I’d rather watch news at 10 than Jay Leno

  6. Stand firm, Mr. Ansin. You’re setting a great precedent, and the majority of the rest of the country is behind you. You can inspire a wave of other NBC stations to do the same action you plan to do, thus creating a shambles of NBC’s stupid nighttime programming plan and maybe finally convincing NBCU officials into doing what most of us know already – Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman need to be fired because they have no ability nor talent to handle overseeing network programming. If they don’t get rid of them soon, NBC as we know it will be dead within a few years thanks to their noxious strategy of scheduling shows for profit margins rather than ratings. For anyone who remembers Milton Berle, “Your Show of Shows,” “Dragnet,” Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, “Bonanza,” “Laugh-In,” “Get Smart” or “The Wonderful World of Disney,” to name just a few NBC classics, the removal of Zucker and Silverman must occur in order to rebuild a quality legacy destroyed by this duo.

  7. Ed’s license allows him to program as he desires. If the contract with NBC allows NBC to cancel the affiliation because of failure to clear, so be it. Before NBC rattles its saber and threatens to go elsewhere in Beantown, it should look at what happened in Detrot when CBS moved from WJBK-2 to its own WWJ-TV-62. Or perhaps look at Miami, or San Francisco, or Jacksonville, where NBC (CBS in Jax) lost powerful, prominent stations to lesser rated stations. While the UHF/VHF frequency disparity will be somewhat evened with all DTV broadcasting, these strong brands remain in people’s minds for years.

  8. Everyone is right. I REALLY LIKE Jay Leno, so I TiVo him, and watch in the morning, it gives me a better outlook for the upcoming day. I REALLY DISlike Conan O’Brian. Bring Jimmy Kimel over from ABC to take O’Brians spot, dump O’Brian, and leave Jay @ 11:35. Everyone is also correct about the 10:00 news. Most people have to be up @ 0600 hrs, 11:00 PM is just to late to watch “doom and gloom” !!! Finally, yes, get rid of the heads at NBC, and get some good programming back.

  9. It’s too early to say exactly how this will play out, but I can’t say I’m surprised. NBC’s cost-cutting ploy might make sense for them in a short-term, bottom-line way, but it doesn’t make sense for affiliates if Leno’s ratings turn out to be far lower than what scripted shows were getting. Affils don’t have the benefit of NBC’s lower costs, and they lose lead-in to their local news, which for many is a key revenue center. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the fatal flaw in NBC’s not-so-grand design.

  10. Well, it doesn’t sound like anyone up here lives in the Beantown DMA. I do, and I want to see how Leno works out at 10 p.m.
    I have other options, can pick up the NBC affiliate from Providence, RI.
    Ansin should spend more time listening to his viewers rather than saber rattling in the press.

  11. Marianne, I live in NH, and I believe (I’m in sunny FL now) that my locals on DirecTv are from Beantown, not Portland ME. So, if this is correct, I’ll stand by my original post. How’s the weather up thata way ? Robbie ;>)

  12. Everyone talks about NBC turning NH based WNEU into an affiliate, but the same needs to be done with WWDP, which they own 37% of, and which has a strong digital signal that adequately covers 150,000 viewers in the Brockton area.
    WJAR’s HD signal isn’t receivable in my part of Brockton because their signal pattern covers mostly RI, unlike their now defunct analog signal.
    While WJAR is carried by Comcast, it’s an SD version of their signal and not HD :(
    Whatever NBC does, they need to cover the entire Boston DMA. My apartment had a cable outtage yesterday and I like keeping OTA reception as a backup… and for times when I can record two shows on DVR while watching a third OTA. That helps when Heroes, 24 and the Closer or a similar show are on at the same time.
    As for Ed Ansin, I think in hindsight he should’ve taken the FOX affiliation in the mid 90s when the opportunity presented itself. Either 5 or 25 would’ve been NBC and things would’ve been sorta right in the world… except for Ansin firing Randy Price. Bad move, Ansin!

  13. Obviously no one here lives in Boston, or has seen 7news. It’s repetitive “slasher” news, and they are at the bottom of the ratings barrel here.
    More importantly, they already run a 10pm newscast on their sister station ch56, which is in 3rd place (read last) in the 10pm news slot. They now plan on “simulcasting” the news on both stations at 10.
    So, that will give us 4 stations running 10pm news, with 2 being mirror images, and no NBC broadcast.
    Regardless of whether you like Leno or not, you have to admit that rebroadcasting a poor quality news show on a second channel, at the same time, in the same market, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
    Either Ansin is completely incompetent, or he’s angling for something we haven’t seen yet. Perhaps he wants NBC to let him show Leno on 56 while he moves the news to 7.
    Why this would be more important to him than actually fixing the news broadcast so that it might attract more than just viewers loyal to NBC programming, is beyond me. Come to think of it, if he were to follow through on his threat, he’d even lose them…

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