Big Deal In The TV World

I got an email early this evening from Matt Scott, another meteorologist at the TV station.

“look at this! holy cow! – will others follow?”

There was a link to a WHDH news story… or maybe a press release. Can you actually report a news story about yourself?

BOSTON — Starting in September, you will be able to watch 7NEWS at 10 p.m. on 7NBC.

For those of you who have a hard time staying awake, Frances Rivera and Kim Khazei will bring you a full hour of local news an hour earlier, followed by 7NEWS at 11.

It’s what wasn’t said that’s most important. WHDH, Channel 7 in Boston will not be running the new Jay Leno Show at 10:00 PM. This is quite unexpected, especially in Boston, Leno’s hometown! I’m not sure exactly the totality of what it says about the future of local/network television, but I’m sure it says things are going to be very different.

NBC quickly pushed back hard. As reported in Boston.com:

“WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” said John Eck, president of NBC TV Network. “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.”

Maybe they do have options, but none with the incumbent strength of WHDH. Even though WHDH’s ratings are down they still hold a lot of swagger in that market.

Here are some of the variables.

  • From NBC’s standpoint the earlier announcement of Jay Leno’s move to 10:00 PM removed an expensive hour of episodic programming, usually owned by others, for a cheap-to-produce show they own. They were willing to give up ratings with the thought their bottom line wouldn’t suffer… maybe it would even improve.
  • From the local affiliates standpoint Leno brings them reduced revenue and ratings with no reduction in cost. The assumption is the lead-in to their late local news would be lower as well, meaning Leno would cost them money in more than one hour per night.
  • Sunbeam, owners of WHDH, have a rocky history with NBC. They sued and later dropped their suit when NBC took their Miami affiliation away years ago. NBC took the affiliation because they had bought a Sunbeam competitor.

Is this the beginning of the end for network TV? Maybe.

Cable is starting to mount nearly as much first run programming as the traditional nets. The revenue model is different in cable where advertising is augmented by subscriber fees. I have been personally disappointed to see broadcast TV stations start to re-run shows that first appeared on cable.

The idea of distributing programming and bypassing local affiliates has to be enticing to the the traditional networks. They can cut out the middleman and his profit!

What do local broadcasters do? I’m not sure, but it will almost certainly have to include more, and cheaper, local programming.

From a selfish standpoint that’s not too awful for me. I could easily help a local station fill a few hours with a talk show or something else that’s aimed at a specific geographic audience.

Meanwhile I’m sure no one knows what the next step in this intricate chess game will be. Will WHDH relent? Will the networks fall apart? Will a local station admit they need local on-air talent? Who knows?

6 Responses to “Big Deal In The TV World”

  1. jebidiah springfield says:

    Holy halucination Batman! I ahd to read this twice to believe it! It breaks all the rules! I wonder, can we do it too?

  2. Mike says:

    As someone who watched NBC make good on its threat to pull the affiliation from KRON and move to a much weaker independent station in San Jose I would not be surprised if they do something similar here. Aside from all that the networks have given every indication they will be migrating to cable and satellite as soon as feasible Affiliates need to be getting ready for that day.

  3. Matt Scott says:

    If they were smart (Insert joke here), NBC would allow HDH to not air it, and SYNDICATE Leno to another station in the Market….Fox would love to have him there at 11:30, and he’d perform well.

    In fact, NBC should give this option to any NBC affil that doesn’t want it – that way, they’ll make even more money with new additional syndie contracts than they thought they’d have to begin with. And that way, EVERYBODY wins.

  4. Geoff Fox says:

    The problem is, the show exists as an ‘up and down’ promotional arm for NBC. Moving the show off channel lessens its value in many ways.

  5. Matt Scott says:

    I respectfully disagree with this on two levels : NBC doesn’t need this as a promotional arm..they’ve already got that in Conan, Jimmy, Carson, and the 9 hours of the Today show they currently run.

    2nd, all NBC cares about these days is making bucks. They’re proving that by willing to slaughter the golden Tonight Show goose by putting Leno on at 10 in the first place.

  6. Matt Scott says:

    continuing the above ( i ax hit send)…

    Why else are they putting Jay on in the first place? The answer : To make money – by not spending it on dramas, and to prohibit losing money to Leno should he go to the competition.

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