Tag Archives: wnbc

SlimeWatch, Part 2: NBC Loves Local. NBC Affiliates? Not So Much.

Jeff Zucker:  Planning to Go Local With You or Without You?

Jeff Zucker: Planning to Go Local With You or Without You?

Lukewarm is really never a good thing.

Not for soup, not for bathwater, and definitely not as an answer when someone’s asked to evaluate the earnings potential of the business you work in. And yet, for us, right now, that’s what we’ve got.  The headline on televisionbroadcast.com:  Analyst is Lukewarm on the Future of Local News.

Rich Greenfield of Pali Capital, a financial services firm that advises clients worldwide on markets and business sectors, thinks Local TV’s not as bad off as radio and newspapers, but it’s not quite healthy, either:  “We believe the local TV business is in secular decline,” Greenfield writes on his blog.  “While revenues/profits may bounce whenever the economy recovers, we have a hard time believing that local news, weather, traffic and sports at 7 a.m./5 p.m./ 6 p.m./11 p.m. can sustain viewership levels, and in turn, advertiser interest over the next several years.”

I’m not a financial analyst, Wall Street guru, or Financial Times subscriber.  But I do know this: if your advertiser-supported business cannot “sustain advertiser interest,” you have a serious problem.  And, as I’ve been arguing here, I believe Local TV has an Everything-Must-Change problem.  The thing is, I don’t sense that most companies that own television stations have much interest in changing.

Or maybe they simply don’t know how to change.  The problem is, other companies are already working on that, and they will not share the fruits of their efforts with local stations when their new model becomes profitable.  And NBC may be one of those companies.  (Don’t feel relieved just yet, NBC affiliates, you might not be invited to the peacock’s party–in your own town)

Here’s NBC’s affiliate relations chief, John Eck, talking last month to TVNewsday about building deeper, stronger ties between the network and its affiliates:  “We invited all affiliates — whether our agreement is expiring this year or several years down the road — to talk about how we could modify the existing arrangements so that we could participate on more platforms together.”

The Bird:  Bullish on Local, Just Not Necessarily Local Stations

The Bird: Bullish on Local, Just Not Necessarily Local Stations

And then there was the big, bold, rah-rah smack on the affiliates’ lips from NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker at the NBC affiliates’ meeting in May, as quoted by Broadcasting & Cable:  “Let me set the record straight once and for all,” said Zucker. “Standing here on the stage of one of the most famous broadcast studios in the world–created for radio, rebuilt over the years for television, then color TV, then digital broadcasting–let me be as clear as I can be: We are not abandoning the business of broadcast network television. We are not going direct to cable. We are renewing affiliation agreements. And we are going to be in business together for a long, long time.”

A long, long time, eh?  I guess it depends on what your definition of being in “business together” means.  To NBC, it means getting a taste of affiliates cable and satellite retransmission deals, and in exchange, affiliates get a piece of NBC’s local online news and entertainment businesses.

Uh, did you say NBC’s local online businesses?

Oh yeah, you didn’t hear?  The peacock’s got big plans for local media, whether they own stations in local markets or not.  For NBC affiliates, the network’s offering a “gold” package, wherein the station and NBC cooperate on a local website, among other platforms, in exchange for a renewed and reinvigorated relationship in this troubled times.  “We’d be willing to go long, long for a gold package,” John Eck told TVNewsday.  What if stations don’t want to share the local web pie?  “Your affiliation arrangement is going to be much shorter term,” said Eck.

NBC station owners and managers have obvious reservations about the NBC offer.  NBC Affiliates Board Chair Mike Fiorile (COO of Dispatch Broadcast Group) talked about the “gold” plan with TVNewsday’s Harry Jessell:

“Do you want to be partners with NBC on local Web sites? For instance, they would want you to be NBCindianapolis.com.

Frankly, I don’t have a lot of interest in that. I’m already NBC Indianapolis. If someone does a search for NBC Indianapolis, I’d sooner they come to a site that I own as opposed to a site that I’m a partner with somebody else on.

Well, this could be a second site for you because NBC is proposing lifestyle sites as opposed to the news site you’re now doing.

Yes, but I’d rather have all the NBC Indianapolis traffic come to visit me.”

We're NBC in This Town, Thanks Very Much

We're NBC in This Town, Thanks Very Much

All well and good.  It’s completely understandable that the guy whose station, WTHR, has historically been NBC in Indianapolis, would like his website to be the source for news and information and all things Indy and NBC.

Well, here’s the interesting thing about NBCIndianapolis.  It already exists, and WTHR doesn’t own it.  GE does.  In fact, a quick survey of URL listings reveals that in market after market, NBC’s been on a domain-buying spree in cities where there are no NBC O&Os.

In Boston, where Sunbeam’s NBC station, WHDH has had a bumpy partnership with the network–most recently threatening not to air Jay Leno’s new primetime show–NBC’s ready to roll into the market with or without Ed Ansin.  NBCBoston.com is owned by GE.  Whether WHDH considers the domain simply a placeholder purchased by a network just in case station and affiliate ever wanted to team up on a site, or rather a threat to compete directly with WHDH’s whdh.com for local clicks–and dollars–is not something the station wanted to talk about.  “We are aware of NBC local,” WHDH’s Chris Weyland said in an email.  “We have no comment.”

Perhaps NBC’s just thinking ahead and buying up domains before some joker can get to them first, and has no plans for using NBCBoston.com to compete against its own NBC station.  But keep this in mind:  NBC’s business model has already moved beyond call letters.

NBCNewYork:  Peacock Yes, Station Call Letters No

NBCNewYork: Peacock Yes, Station Call Letters No

Jeff Zucker explained his thinking clearly in a quote on lostremote: “WNBC.com or WNBC4.com is an extension of the television station, it’s not a real scaled game. We don’t want to play just in that game. We want to play in the entire New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or whatever city you want to call it online media space and we can’t do that by just limiting ourselves to the call letters of our traditional analog TV station.”

“Or whatever city you want to call it.”  If you work at an NBC affiliate, punch in NBC and your city.  Is the domain taken?  Is that why NBC’s smiling even as the over-the-air business for stations fades away?

I’m just asking.  NBC, by the way, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Filed under Local News 2.0

Lost in the Layoffs: The Non-Reporters, Non-Anchors Who Don’t Make the Paper

Sony_MVS-8000a_lgI can’t operate a switcher to save my life.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been in and around control rooms, they’ve never failed to give me the creeps (the low light and monitors, glowing buttons and standys and takes and, of course, all that shouting) I’ve always been far more comfortable out in the middle of a hurricane or elbowing my way into the pack to get my mic in front of some indicted public official.

But the honest truth is this:  if I lose my job, odds are it’ll get mentioned in the newspaper (I treasure my New York Daily News headline:  No More Joyella in Mudville upon my departure from WNYW).

But lay off the entire control room, and not only will the newscasts look darn bumpy that night (you can just forget that quad box and custom wipe you were hoping for), but the people who lose their jobs will almost certainly not be mentioned in the next day’s paper.

Unless, of course, it’s “15 laid off at Channel 6–but fear not, it’s nobody you know…the wacky weatherman’s safe, the salty and avuncular anchor’s hanging on for another day, and that cute morning traffic girl will be back in the morning in that news-director-ordered tight sweater. The layoffs?  Just some, you know, behind the scenes people.”

Very rarely does the firing of a longtime but unseen employee merit mention in a newspaper by name.  It happened recently when Alan Henney, a weekend assignment manager at WUSA/DC put himself on “permanent furlough” and left the station with a blistering memo that suggested that the station’s longstanding tradition as a home of serious journalism was in danger, if not dead already.

It happened again when KARE/Minneapolis parted ways with a behind-the-scenes player considered the “heart and soul” of the KARE newsroom, Senior Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley.  His layoff was made newsworthy when the entire newsroom, led by talent with connections to print writers, voiced their outrage.

For most, though, it’s pink slip, then silence.  You walk out the door you’ve been reporting to for decades, and as far as viewers know, nothing’s even happened.  I know it’s part of the downward spiral stations across the country are in.  Only the lean have a shot at surviving.  Got it.  And yet, there’s something about all the pity pouring out for the poor dethroned anchors and reporters, who, after all, have their name to fall back on.

On this blog, the most popular comments continue–even months after the fact–to involve a laid off weatherman in Denver, and fired reporter/anchors in Washington, DC and Tampa.

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

This week the New York Daily News reported that former WNBC reporter Jay DeDapper’s started his own production company, DeDapper Media.  I applaud Jay and wish him well.  I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’d be the first to admit that having any kind of “name” is one card to play when you’re up against it.  “The jobs, they’re not just disappearing and they’ll be coming back; they’re disappearing permanently,” DeDapper told the Daily News’ Richard Huff. “There will be very few places in journalism on television for good people.”

The advantage to having a name, is being able to use it to find the next thing.  “The idea is, basically for 20-some-odd years, what I’ve done more than anything else is tell stories for a living,” he told the News. DeDapper has contacts and he’s a known entity.  And when a guy like Jay DeDapper decides on a new path, that itself becomes worthy of a news article, which never hurts when you hang out a shingle and start looking for business.

The laid off TD isn’t so lucky.  Brilliant in those dimly-lit control rooms, working magic on a Sony MVS 8000 (“I can give you eight boxes, but we don’t have eight live sources”) but separated from the control room, then what?  No newspaper mention, and no clear next step.  No, they’re not storytellers like reporters, who can find other ways of assembling information and telling stories, whether its for a production company, a PR firm, or as a TV pitchman.  Had there not been an injustice of Epic Proportions, I’d be playing the role of a TV type on the new season of HBO’s True Blood (I’m not bitter, mind you, just disappointed.  I don’t carry a grudge).

So how does the live truck op, the satellite engineer, the camera operator or the TD sit down, stare at their resume (which shows a clear flow from college to today that screams “I’m damn good at what I do!”) and think, this only gets me the job I just lost?

30shift2_190

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a San Francisco based executive coach and partner at Next Step Partners, a firm that specializes in guiding clients through career transitions.  She says in the current business climate, about a third of the firm’s business involves helping clients answer that question, “now what?”

“Formulate a hypothesis,” she says.  “Even a crazy daydream.”  What was it you wanted to do before you ended up in local news?  Actor?  Pastry chef?  Try and remember.  Zucker asks her clients to think back to the peak experiences–outside of work–in their lives.  “A time when you felt like you were thriving, alive, confident, competent and at the top of your game,” she said.  The exercise involves looking at those times and figuring out what made them so special.  Was it intellectual or artistic challenge?  Was it cooperation or collaboration?  Whatever it was, these are the keys to your own personal satisfaction, and knowing what they are will help you figure out what kind of work will make you happy.  “The reasons (those experiences) felt so great were because you were completely expressing your own values,” said Zucker.

Zucker urges clients to read Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity, which offers tips for mid-career professionals on reinventing themselves–and enjoying the result.  Key piece of beginner’s advice?  “Don’t try to analyze or plan your way into a new career,” write Ibarra.  (Take that you over-analytical technical directors and producers!)

Zucker suggests trying out new ideas, even a bunch of new ideas.  If you think it could be pastry chef, figure out who you can invite to lunch for an informational interview.  Does it feel natural?  Could you see yourself doing that kind of work?  Attend a conference or a class.  Small steps.  “They’ll find out which doors they want to shut, and where they want to dive deeper,” says Zucker.

Oh.  And here’s a big one:  don’t obsess about what others are telling you.  What would you do for a living if your friends, former co-workers, spouse, and family didn’t get a vote?

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Filed under layoffs

Lost in the Layoffs: The Non-Reporters, Non-Anchors Who Don't Make the Paper

Sony_MVS-8000a_lgI can’t operate a switcher to save my life.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been in and around control rooms, they’ve never failed to give me the creeps (the low light and monitors, glowing buttons and standys and takes and, of course, all that shouting) I’ve always been far more comfortable out in the middle of a hurricane or elbowing my way into the pack to get my mic in front of some indicted public official.

But the honest truth is this:  if I lose my job, odds are it’ll get mentioned in the newspaper (I treasure my New York Daily News headline:  No More Joyella in Mudville upon my departure from WNYW).

But lay off the entire control room, and not only will the newscasts look darn bumpy that night (you can just forget that quad box and custom wipe you were hoping for), but the people who lose their jobs will almost certainly not be mentioned in the next day’s paper.

Unless, of course, it’s “15 laid off at Channel 6–but fear not, it’s nobody you know…the wacky weatherman’s safe, the salty and avuncular anchor’s hanging on for another day, and that cute morning traffic girl will be back in the morning in that news-director-ordered tight sweater. The layoffs?  Just some, you know, behind the scenes people.”

Very rarely does the firing of a longtime but unseen employee merit mention in a newspaper by name.  It happened recently when Alan Henney, a weekend assignment manager at WUSA/DC put himself on “permanent furlough” and left the station with a blistering memo that suggested that the station’s longstanding tradition as a home of serious journalism was in danger, if not dead already.

It happened again when KARE/Minneapolis parted ways with a behind-the-scenes player considered the “heart and soul” of the KARE newsroom, Senior Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley.  His layoff was made newsworthy when the entire newsroom, led by talent with connections to print writers, voiced their outrage.

For most, though, it’s pink slip, then silence.  You walk out the door you’ve been reporting to for decades, and as far as viewers know, nothing’s even happened.  I know it’s part of the downward spiral stations across the country are in.  Only the lean have a shot at surviving.  Got it.  And yet, there’s something about all the pity pouring out for the poor dethroned anchors and reporters, who, after all, have their name to fall back on.

On this blog, the most popular comments continue–even months after the fact–to involve a laid off weatherman in Denver, and fired reporter/anchors in Washington, DC and Tampa.

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

This week the New York Daily News reported that former WNBC reporter Jay DeDapper’s started his own production company, DeDapper Media.  I applaud Jay and wish him well.  I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’d be the first to admit that having any kind of “name” is one card to play when you’re up against it.  “The jobs, they’re not just disappearing and they’ll be coming back; they’re disappearing permanently,” DeDapper told the Daily News’ Richard Huff. “There will be very few places in journalism on television for good people.”

The advantage to having a name, is being able to use it to find the next thing.  “The idea is, basically for 20-some-odd years, what I’ve done more than anything else is tell stories for a living,” he told the News. DeDapper has contacts and he’s a known entity.  And when a guy like Jay DeDapper decides on a new path, that itself becomes worthy of a news article, which never hurts when you hang out a shingle and start looking for business.

The laid off TD isn’t so lucky.  Brilliant in those dimly-lit control rooms, working magic on a Sony MVS 8000 (“I can give you eight boxes, but we don’t have eight live sources”) but separated from the control room, then what?  No newspaper mention, and no clear next step.  No, they’re not storytellers like reporters, who can find other ways of assembling information and telling stories, whether its for a production company, a PR firm, or as a TV pitchman.  Had there not been an injustice of Epic Proportions, I’d be playing the role of a TV type on the new season of HBO’s True Blood (I’m not bitter, mind you, just disappointed.  I don’t carry a grudge).

So how does the live truck op, the satellite engineer, the camera operator or the TD sit down, stare at their resume (which shows a clear flow from college to today that screams “I’m damn good at what I do!”) and think, this only gets me the job I just lost?

30shift2_190

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a San Francisco based executive coach and partner at Next Step Partners, a firm that specializes in guiding clients through career transitions.  She says in the current business climate, about a third of the firm’s business involves helping clients answer that question, “now what?”

“Formulate a hypothesis,” she says.  “Even a crazy daydream.”  What was it you wanted to do before you ended up in local news?  Actor?  Pastry chef?  Try and remember.  Zucker asks her clients to think back to the peak experiences–outside of work–in their lives.  “A time when you felt like you were thriving, alive, confident, competent and at the top of your game,” she said.  The exercise involves looking at those times and figuring out what made them so special.  Was it intellectual or artistic challenge?  Was it cooperation or collaboration?  Whatever it was, these are the keys to your own personal satisfaction, and knowing what they are will help you figure out what kind of work will make you happy.  “The reasons (those experiences) felt so great were because you were completely expressing your own values,” said Zucker.

Zucker urges clients to read Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity, which offers tips for mid-career professionals on reinventing themselves–and enjoying the result.  Key piece of beginner’s advice?  “Don’t try to analyze or plan your way into a new career,” write Ibarra.  (Take that you over-analytical technical directors and producers!)

Zucker suggests trying out new ideas, even a bunch of new ideas.  If you think it could be pastry chef, figure out who you can invite to lunch for an informational interview.  Does it feel natural?  Could you see yourself doing that kind of work?  Attend a conference or a class.  Small steps.  “They’ll find out which doors they want to shut, and where they want to dive deeper,” says Zucker.

Oh.  And here’s a big one:  don’t obsess about what others are telling you.  What would you do for a living if your friends, former co-workers, spouse, and family didn’t get a vote?

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If Your Website’s All About Your TV Station, You’re Dead.

WEAR/Pensacola Has Anchor Heads Up Top, Clutter Everywhere

WEAR/Pensacola's Website Has Anchor Heads Up Top, Clutter Just About Everywhere Else

Considering the basic business of local television has always been, you know, television… and the people who do the news get hired in part for their energy, personality, and knowledge (don’t bother emailing, I know I should’ve said “youth, inexperience and willingness to work for pizza”), it must mean something that the most boring blogs and video-dead websites on the internet all seem to belong to local televisions stations.  

Here’s what it means:  Local newsers?  You still don’t get the internet.

So local news director?  GM?  Give me a moment of your time and let me spell it out for you. Ready?  You’ve got it precisely backward.  The station website isn’t a tool to drive people to your newscasts.  Your newscasts are tools–until they become obsolete and cease to exist in their current form–to gather up an audience for your website.  The future is online, and the sooner you start planning for that, the better chance you’ll have of surviving.

"Buzz Maven" Scott Clark

"Buzz Maven" Scott Clark

Scott Clark, a business strategist and search marketing guy knows his websites.  And back in January, he took a close look at how stations were performing with their sites, especially at times of maximum potential traffic: right after a huge regional ice storm.  His conclusion?  “You’re doing it wrong.”

Clark takes the sites apart for assuming everyone who shows up online watches their news (and knows the anchor heads plastered all over the screen), for failing to understand search engine optimization, for failing to keep video posts current and updated, and for just having some damn ugly and annoying sites to look at: “Basic human interface design is a mature industry. You don’t even need to hire someone, but at least do some reading or buy a book and learn a bit about web design.”

It pains me to say it, but the most advanced local news website thinking seems to be emerging from the corridors of NBC, which instituted its “Locals Only” sites on O&Os this year.  The sites have little or nothing to do with the local station, though stories appear and if you dig deep enough on the site, you can find a programming schedule.  But trust me, check out NBC New York and you’ll conclude quickly the powers that be at NBC don’t see the future in building up Channel 4.  Rather, WNBC is a vehicle to build the NBC New York brand, which will likely, at some point, outlast Chuck, Sue, and the 6:00 news.

 

Theres Not Much WCAU on the NBC Philadelphia Site

There's Not Much WCAU on the NBC Philadelphia Site

So local news managers?  Think about it.  You’ve still got power in your broadcast brand.  But think very carefully every time you send a viewer over to your website for “more information.”  On the sites I’ve seen, those lame anchor tags and web bugs may get you a click, but they also may convince a person to never bother with your website again.  Go have a look for yourself.  And think about it this way:  if you didn’t have a tv station on the side, could this website be your entire business?  Is it good enough to BE the franchise?

No?  Then you’re already behind.  And your competitors probably won’t slow down to let you catch up.

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Filed under Local News 2.0, Social Media

Ron Burgundy’s Memo to Chuck Scarborough: “Stay Classy, and Go Home.”

The Man, the Myth, the Legend:  San Diegos Ron Burgundy

The Man, the Myth, the Legend: San Diego's Ron Burgundy

Ron Burgundy has a message for mega-anchors like WNBC’s living legend Chuck Scarborough:  “fly off into the sunset while there’s still a dash of news left.”

Okay.  The quote’s not technically from Burgundy himself (admittedly, a fictional character and all) but from the closest thing we have to Burgundy this side of Will Ferrell, “Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy” co-writer Adam McKay, who writes in today’s New York Post that the day of the big time local news anchor is officially over.  “So farewell perfectly parted ones,” McKay writes.  “Adieu teleprompter readers.”

McKay’s op-ed comes on the heels of a rough week for high-salaried, deep rooted local newsers, like Paul Moyer in LA and Len Berman in NYC.  Both announcing unexpected departures from NBC O&O’s, and raising questions about the network’s continued investment in superstar anchors like New York’s Chuck Scarborough.

When Anchors Ruled the World:  WABC's Grimsby and Beutel

When Anchors Ruled the World: WABC's Monster Duo: Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel

As McKay writes, “Their avuncular baritone voices reassured us in times of crisis and made us laugh when there was a frog leaping contest or a cat who had befriended a pig.  But slowly their days are coming to an end.”

McKay has a pretty good grasp on the changing local news landscape, noting that “gone are the days of only three networks, the days when these men were gods.”  And sure enough, he’s right.  I realized earlier this week that I may have been clouded by my own emotions–rooted in the local news of my childhood, with three stations doing news and big, oversized anchors chuckling and clearly ruling the Earth–when I wrote that it would be nuts for NBC to get rid of Chuck.

The movie man may have a better grasp on my biz than I do:  “Let’s face it,” McKay says.  “Local news has always been pretty sugary, but these days it looks like the National Enquirer and the Weekly  World News had a baby and taught it to only speak drug shootings and Madonna affairs.  It’s orange, loud, dumb and absolutely devoid of any news whatsoever outside of the occasional baby food recall or toxic spill.  I’m convinced their entire audience consists of people looking to see if they got on TV while waving their hands behind a reporter in the field.”

Ouch. 

Detroits One and Only Bill Bonds

Detroit's One and Only Bill Bonds

I’m tempted to defend my dear local news, with an impassioned argument of the irreplaceable role of local newsers in informing communities in the face of dangerous weather and in the aftermath of horrible tragedies.  But the impulse passes quickly.

McKay offers this to the goliaths who still toil in TV:  plan your exit, and plan it now, while you still can.  “What does a retired anchorman do?  He can yell at the neighborhood kids not to play in his yard in a pitch-perfect non-geographically specific voice.  He can watch the local anchor in Clearwater, Florida, and mumble ‘punk kid’ to himself.  Or he can host a PBS news show and bask in the joy of no producer handing him copy about a dog trapped in a drainage ditch.”

Too bad PBS isn’t hiring.

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The Inescapable Truth: NBC’s Secret Evil Plan to Destroy Local News as We Know It

NBC:  Out to Destroy the Local News

NBC: Out to Destroy the Local News


Who knows?  We may look back on this era and think, “Man, NBC was so far ahead of the curve!” They knew the model of local news many of us grew up with:  the big, well-paid anchors, the choppers, the liveshots, the stable of seasoned reporters–those were all, you know, expendable. In the future, the local news would come from content centers:  awkward, low-ceilinged newsrooms where recent college graduates would produce quick and dirty stories that air in endless repetition on digital cable channels somewhere between monster truck shows and classic movies. Oh!  And you can also get the stuff (sorry–the “content”) on your phone.

Well anyway, this Secret Evil Plan to dominate the next evolution of local news is well underway at NBC.  That conclusion is now inescapable.  A few cases in point from the past few days:  the departure of Paul Moyer in Los Angeles, and NBC’s enraged response to WHDH/Boston’s decision to ditch Jay Leno in favor of an hour of local news at 10 p.m.

KNBC's Paul Moyer: An Unexpected "Retirement"


First, LA.  Earlier this week, I wrote about the splashy yet debatable Defamer report that NBC had plans to kill off two of its golden geese:  Moyer at KNBC and Chuck Scarborough at WNBC/NY. Showing my bias as a kid who grew up watching local news in New York, I largely dismissed the idea as almost-too-stupid-even-for-NBC. The next day, Moyer announced his “retirement.”  As the LA Times reported, “Moyer, whose last day has yet to be determined, would not comment on the reasons behind his unexpected announcement.”

The reason is this:  NBC is over big money anchors and believes young and nameless (and by definition easily replaceable) is the way of the future.  And now, more than ever, I wonder how long Chuck and Sue will sit at the desk in New York.  Sources this week confirmed what I had only jokingly suggested:  that yes, NBC has had “brainstorming sessions” that have focused on a WNBC without its longtime anchor.  If your goal is translating local news to an ever younger demographic, the thinking goes, why stay tied to a guy who, you know, is only getting older?

Jay Leno, Key Component of NBCs Secret Evil Plan

Jay Leno, Key Component of NBC's Secret Evil Plan


And then there’s Boston.  A key component of NBC’s Secret Evil Plan is the move of Jay Leno to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, bringing his sleep-inducing show from its position AFTER the local news, and putting it on as a LEAD-IN to local news.  Once upon a time, NBC produced excellence in the 10 o’clock hour:  dramas that were so good, the network and its local stations worked together to seamlessly move from the last frame of the drama right into the first tease of the local newscast, so as not to lose a single eyeball.  It was designed to deliver a profitable payoff for stations, especially NBC’s O&Os.

Now comes Leno.  An hour.  Every weeknight.  Imagine how tired you’ll be by the time 10:58 rolls around.  Ed Ansin, no stranger to maximizing an audience at ten o’clock, decided he’d be better off in Boston doing an hour of news.  As Ansin told the Boston Globe, “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 prime time,” Ansin said yesterday. “It will be detrimental to our 11 o’clock [newscast]. It will be very adverse to our finances.”

Even more interesting than Ed Ansin’s pushback against NBC (and do you think he’ll be the only one?) is the enraged response from the network:  “WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” John Eck, president of NBC Television Network, told the Globe. “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.”

So much to dissect in that statement.  But let’s go with the craziest first.  NBC would invest in starting its own station in Boston?  Over Leno?  The network’s been trying for months to offload some of the best local stations in the country, with no luck.  Clearly, NBC thinks owning stations is a losing proposition.  A year ago, LostRemote reported on a revealing NBC memo:  “We’re in the process of re-engineering the way we think, shifting our focus from a traditional stations business to becoming full-service local-media-production centers,” NBC Local Media president John Wallace said in an internal memo obtained by Broadcasting & Cable.

WHDH/Boston:  Ed Ansin Wants 7 News, Not Leno

WHDH/Boston: Ed Ansin Wants 7 News, Not Leno


So it’s really not about having a station in Boston.  It’s about destroying local news as we know it. And damn Ed Ansin if he still believes in local news as a profit center!  Not only that, but how rude of WHDH!  Leno grew up in Andover, Mass!  You’re basically stabbing a local boy in the back in the name of a few bucks!

Oh wait.  That’s what NBC does every day.  Never mind.

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20 and Out: WNBC Fires Len Berman. Anything, It Seems, to Save a Buck at NBC.

WNBCs Len Berman

WNBC's Len Berman


“I do not want to retire,” Len Berman told Richard Huff at The New York Daily News.  But after 20 years as main sports anchor at WNBC, Berman’s getting the boot, the latest goliath to fall at a station that was once known far and wide for having assembled a stellar collection of New York journalists, many of them, like Berman, a nationally-known name with his appearances on Letterman and his “Spanning the World” segment. But hey, there’s that nasty downside to being a “name.”  You know, that oversized salary.

So Berman’s gone.  Not because WNBC’s eliminating sports, as some other cash-strapped and struggling local stations are doing.  This is all about the money.  WNBC news director Vickie Burns writing in a newsroom memo:  “Going forward, we remain committed to our local sports franchise and will announce new plans for our coverage soon.”  You gotta love those “we’ll figure out the rest soon memos.  It basically tells you the key thing was getting rid of a superstar and his salary.  How they’ll fill the big man’s shoes?  Eh.  We’ll figure it out. The key thing is we just knocked off a legend and saved a TON of cash.  You can almost imagine the relieved high-fiving going on among the suits.  That wasn’t so hard!  Maybe we should ditch Sue next?

Spanning the World for 20 Years

On the Daily News website this morning, they’ve got a poll:  “Are you sad to see Len Berman go?”  The overwhelming answer:  “Yes.  He’s a New York City icon,” with 84%.  You’d like to think this was a not all that funny April Fool’s joke from Channel 4.  And then you remember.  It’s NBC.  No sense of humor.  No sense of history.

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Filed under layoffs