Friday, April 3, 2009

Standing Down For Jay

A new revolution is brewing on Boston TV, and it's interesting to watch if you work in the business. NBC affiliate WHDH wants to pre-empt Jay Leno's upcoming 10pm ET weeknight talk show for a newscast because owner Ed Ansin says he can gain more viewers with news than with Jay. NBC says that would violate the station's affiliation agreement, and it's threatening to pull the network and take it somewhere else, likely to the NBC-owned Telemundo affiliate.

This is more than just a station wanting to protect its revenue. Ansin and NBC have a rocky history, going back to the 1980s when NBC bought took its affiliation away from Ansin's WSVN in Miami after buying a station there. At the time, NBC and Ansin had locked horns because of preemptions. Ansin also refused to give up the network until after the 1988 Olympics, meaning NBC had to run its new station as a CBS affiliate for a year. And according to who you talk to, Ansin bought WLVI in Boston so NBC couldn't get its mitts on it.

I have no doubt Ansin is still seeking some payback. But for the network to pull its affiliation and move it to the Telemundo affiliate is just silly. NBC-Universal can't afford it, and they really don't have the appetite for it after what happened in San Francisco.

In 1999, NBC threw a hissy fit because Young Broadcasting outbid it for KRON. Instead of working with the new owners and staying on one of the strongest stations in the Bay Area, it bullied Young into dumping the affiliate with sore-loser demands including expensive reverse compensation. Young gave up NBC, which then poured millions of dollars into buying San Jose's KNTV and then a few million more to prop up its weak signal and news operation. You can argue NBC paid less for KNTV than what it would have shelled out for KRON, but it could've saved all that money by putting ego aside.

What NBC needs to do is make peace with Ansin and pay him to run Leno at 10, at a fee higher than he could get with a newscast. It may hurt some feelings at 30 Rock, but it's a heckuvalot cheaper than doing a KRON job on Boston at a time when the network's revenue is already hurting.

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