Hell no, we won’t show Leno

NBC’s prime time schedule has been a disaster for some time now.

It’s all the fault of their incompetent co-chairman, Ben Silverman.

While formerly-solid series like “Heroes” circle the drain and new efforts like “Kath and Kim” outright suck, Silverman has adeptly managed to keep his job with corporate-politics tactics like throwing subordinates under the bus.

Witness this Page Six account where he blames all the network’s problems on someone else:

NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman isn’t going to get all the blame for the network’s lackluster fall schedule.

With yesterday’s cancellation of two NBC shows produced by sister company Universal – “Lipstick Jungle,” which starred Brooke Shields, and “My Own Worst Enemy,” which featured Christian Slater -culpability falls on Universal Media Studio President Katherine Pope, who oversaw both doomed series.

Pope, an original producer on “Heroes,” was promoted to the top studio job because of the success of that NBC show.

Almost one year later, with ratings for “Heroes” slipping, she isn’t working out the way NBC planned. Top network brass is now overseeing production of the series in an attempt to save it.

“They call her the black widow. Every program she touches turns to death,” growled our source. “She is on very thin ice.” Pope also produced flash-in-the-pan series “Bionic Woman.”

Another network insider told Page Six, “There are internal concerns that she took her eye off the ball.” A rep for Pope at Universal had no comment.

Of course, none of NBC’s other new shows – “Knight Rider,” “Kath & Kim” and “Crusoe” – has become a hit, either. But Silverman, 37, has been able to cut costs at the network and seems to be satisfying his bosses, particularly NBC chairman Jeff Zucker.

In fact, one network insider actually praised Silverman, saying, “The company is very happy with Ben. He is deep in negotiations to re-up his contract with NBC, and he has the network up 50 percent profit from year to year.”

TV analysts say ratings have become less important as the viewing audience has scattered to proliferating cable channels. Silverman told The Post last summer: “We’re managing for margins and not for ratings.”

Whatever he is managing for, the result is terrible television.

Silverman:  Carving up freshies while the network burns

In his latest genius move, NBC decided to jettison FIVE ENTIRE HOURS of scripted programming each week in favor of a Jay Leno nightly show at 10 pm.

Unable to come up with television shows that anyone wanted to watch, and hemmed in by their rash decision to promise Jay’s timeslot to Conan, Silverman and friends were all, “what the hell, how about MORE late night television…even earlier!”

Leno eagerly agreed, and is now going around claiming that 10 o’clock is the new 11:30:

“More people — and younger people — are going to bed at 11 o’clock because they carpool or they have to get up at 6.”

He totally made that up, BTW.

Silverman loves this plan, since it relieves him of 1/4 of his responsibility to fill the network’s schedule, and Leno loves it, because he doesn’t have to look for a new job.

Unfortunately, everyone else hates this plan because Jay Leno is lame, killing off scripted programming in favor of a pseudo-late-night show is weak, and quite frankly, the affiliates can do a lot better on their own, thank you very much.

Even Conan is pissed:

“I don’t think any of us were expecting a Monday through Friday thing for Jay like that. And there was a period where everybody was just trying to figure out: what does this mean? After about an hour and a half I just started asking if I was still going to be getting the ‘Tonight Show With Johnny Carson’ that I used to watch with my father in my living room in Brookline, Massachusetts.”

The stage was set for some fireworks, and now the first shoe has dropped.

Boston’s WHDH extended a giant middle finger to NBC yesterday, telling them “Leno? Hell no.”

WHDH-TV Channel 7, Boston’s NBC affiliate, is refusing to air Jay Leno’s new talk show in the lucrative 10 p.m. hour in favor of its own hourlong local news show, and NBC doesn’t like it one bit.

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

The decision to program local news instead of Leno, the longtime host of “The Tonight Show” who grew up in Andover, follows the runaway success of the 10 p.m. newscast on rival WFXT-TV Channel 25, Boston’s Fox outlet. WFXT’s newscast averaged 210,600 total viewers in the March ratings sweeps, while the 10 p.m. newscast on WHDH sister station WLVI-TV Channel 56 drew 43,800 total viewers. On some nights, WFXT’s newscast beats network shows in the city, with help from lead-ins such as “American Idol” and “House.”

Leno’s show is scheduled to launch in September.

Ed Ansin, owner of WHDH and WLVI, believes a local newscast at 10 p.m., which he plans to simulcast on both stations, will draw better ratings than Leno.

“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.”

Ansin wants to air Leno’s show at 11 p.m., but he said NBC told him that “would not be feasible.” For now, Ansin doesn’t plan to air Leno at all, instead airing a local news show at 10 p.m., following it with the current news half-hour broadcast at 11, and Conan O’Brien’s show at 11:35 p.m. when it begins this summer.

“There are a lot more viewers available at 10 o’clock,” added Ansin who also owns Miami’s WSVN-TV, a Fox affiliate that reaps strong ratings and revenue with its 10 p.m. newscast. Said Ansin, “It fundamentally is a better financial plan for us.” Of WHDH, he added, “We are already suffering from weak lead-ins.”

After dominating the lucrative 11 p.m. news race for more than a decade with its flashy graphics and focus on sports news, WHDH has seen its 11 p.m. newscast plummet to third place in the ratings in the last year, behind WBZ-TV Channel 4 and WCVB-TV Channel 5. The station laid off its executive news producer and two anchors, including longtime newsman Randy Price, who was replaced by Kim Khazei. The station recently unveiled its late night anchor team of Khazei and Frances Rivera – the only female duo on a Boston anchor desk. Channel 7 also redesigned its news desk and revamped its graphics to broadcast in high-definition.

Industry officials have noted that having Leno at 10 p.m. would cost a fraction of what a network might pay for a scripted series in that hour. The refusal to air Leno in prime time in the country’s seventh-largest market could cost NBC much-needed ratings. The network has been in a ratings slump in recent years.

NBC officials are hopeful about Leno’s arrival in prime time. His show will be similar to “The Tonight Show,” which is a late-night ratings leader.

“The NBC affiliates are very excited about the new Leno show weeknights at 10 p.m.,” Michael Fiorile, NBC affiliate board chairman, said yesterday in a statement to the Globe. “Jay is a true star with enormous appeal.”

Ansin said his contract with NBC differs from those of affiliates that are owned and operated by the network.

“We have the option of not airing Leno at 10 o’clock.”

Now, we think Ed Ansin is a douche who ruined a formerly-solid WHDH newscast and replaced it with ludicrous “NEWS HAPPENS FAST!!” exploitative, hyperventilating yellow journalism.

But it seems like he is on to something here. The Leno show is a real loser for a lot of the affiliates, and a symptom of NBC’s complete lack of programming creativity.

This could be the first of several struggles as affiliates fight back against late-night-show creep.

Variety reports that the natives are restless

The first great NBC-affiliate battle over the new primetime Jay Leno show is poised to take place in Boston — the host’s hometown.

WHDH-TV, Boston’s Peacock affiliate, announced via its website Thursday that it plans to launch an hour-long 10 p.m. newscast in the fall.

That would pre-empt Leno’s new, still-untitled 10 p.m. series. NBC swiftly responded, warning WHDH that such a move would make them in breach of their pact with the net — and that the Peacock wouldn’t hesitate to yank the station’s affiliation.


Insiders said NBC is already looking at contingencies in Boston should WHDH go ahead with its plans — including turning its Telemundo station in the market, WNEU (Channel 60), into an NBC outlet.

[…]Ansin told the paper that WHDH had asked for permission to push Leno to 11 p.m., but the network said no. Instead, he has no plans to run Leno at all, and will continue to air an 11 p.m. newscast leading into “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” at 11:35.

Ansin also claimed that WHDH held a clause in its affiliation contract that would allow the station to dump the 10 p.m. Leno show — an assertion that NBC also vehemently denied.

“That is absolutely wrong,” said NBC general counsel Rick Cotton. “It is clear that WHDH is contractually required to air NBC programming as scheduled by the network.”

The radical move by WHDH comes as several affils nervously wait to see how NBC’s primetime Leno series evolves and ultimately impacts their business.

Now, WHDH is leading this charge not purely due to Leno-hate, but because they are getting spanked in the local news ratings.

As the story above noted, they recently axed longtime anchor Randy Price (who’s sort of a more dapper version of Michael McKean’s character from Best in Show) and are desperately trying to regain their stranglehold on the Boston news audience.

Dunno, guys, maybe people are sick of your ridiculous overhyping of unimportant stories, broadcasting canned pieces from other parts of the country, completely uninformative sports broadcasts, and pathetic roster of imbecilic “talent”?

We could go on for paragraphs slamming their News Team, but here are a few of our least-faves.

Lead anchor Frances Rivera is just weird, sports guy Joe Amorosino is a doofus, Lauren Pryzbyl really needs to change her name – it’s TV news, what the hell is wrong with you?! – and Grant Greenberg looks and reports as if he’s about five years old.

Brandon Rudat constantly appeared on air looking like the walking undead, until they fired him.

Their last high-profile hire, pageant queen/sports gal Julie Donaldson, was almost immediately embroiled in an amazing sex-tape scandal involving booze, courtroom testimony and a “former Slamball player.”

Donaldson: Went down in a blaze of glory.

This after their former news director flipped out at Logan Airport and got arrested. “I’m a big shot in Boston and I’ll have your fucking jobs.” Or, you’ll get fired.

Other than competent weatherman Pete Bouchard, WHDH pretty much stinks at news.

(Oh yeah, and Sorboni Banerjee is kinda cute.)

Consequently, their fall from grace in the nation’s seventh-largest market might not be completely a Silverman-related issue.

However, as the informed commenters at TV by the Numbers point out, this Leno scheme is a real loser for NBC:

Doc Michaels says:

As Ed Ansin (WHDH’s head honcho) points out in the article, WHDH has a unique licensing agreement with NBC — one that was established when WBZ became a CBS outlet — that allows them to do this. He’s incredibly cagey and they don’t make decisions recklessly — they obviously believe they can do this because of their arrangement with NBC, which leads me to think they can and will.

NBC has all kinds of options, there are indie stations like WSBK (which is now owned by CBS) where they can put Leno on. That said, the reach of whatever outlet they go with will pale in comparison to WHDH. And at this point, with NBC falling apart, maybe Ansin feels losing NBC wouldn’t even be the worst thing in the world.

This is bad, bad news for NBC, no doubt about it, especially it happening in Leno’s hometown.

Frank J says:

“Do they really think Leno is going to do worse leading into their newscasts than Law & Order, My Own Worst Enemy, Lipstick Jungle, and Dateline?”

The answer is apparently yes. Or at least they feel NBC should be putting new, and better, scripted shows or reality shows during that hour instead of settling for Leno. I’d be curious to see the ratings breakdown for the Boston area. I bet its slightly different than the country as a whole. In fact, I’d be curious to see Leno’s current ratings for the Boston viewing area.

Jack says:

I work for one of the bigger affiliates and WHDH is not going to be the only one playing this hand. NBC can claim breach of contract but they drew first blood. We are not confident that Leno can maintain any kind of numbers for long in that slot. To take up every 10PM slot is a slap in the face of the affiliates who are confident they can gain bigger ratings with news or alternate programming. NBC shoved this down our throats in an effort to keep Leno from going to FOX. They don’t even have confidence in his ability to hold the numbers for long. NBC hopes to keep him around long enough to give Conan a chance to build up his audience before Leno fails at NBC and does Late Night on FOX. We are afraid that Leno’s ratings will be lower in a month than the lowest NBC rated show is right now.

Boston Born and Raised says:

This is not about Jay Leno at all. This is about channel 7 and it’s fundamental goal of being the tv news leader in Boston. Since buying channel 56 and broadcasting it’s 7 News at 10 o’clock on it, Ansin has been repeatedly embarrassed about being crushed in the ratings by Fox 25. Ansin and his team have been searching for an idea to shake up the situation. After several attempts to tweak the format and change anchors, the idea of moving the newscast to the station with the stronger image is a last resort. Ansin has been amazed that 7’s 10 o’clock news has perfomed so badly next to the smaller operation at Fox 25. He is determined to win and I do not believe he takes NBC’s threats seriously, no matter what the affiliate contract states. NBC’s options are pretty lousy. They are not going to take on the expense of starting an owner operated station in Boston, and even if they were to, it would take close to a year to get on the air. The second option of switching to an independent is highly unlikely. The most obvious, TV 38, would be a step down in visibility in an important market for NBC. Plus, TV 38 is part of the CBS family and they are unlikely to approve an NBC affiliation. The other independents in the market would be a huge step down in visibility for NBC.

NBC – what a frickin’ mess.

As long as Silverman hangs onto his job, things are not likely to improve. And with affiliates jumping ship on the Leno plan, further trouble is in store.

We call it Must Poop On TV.

About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

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