In a story run by Variety, but that I caught first from Herc over at AICN, it seems that Leno’s big move to primetime isn’t thrilling the folks over at NBC affiliate, WHDH, in Boston…which is ironic because it’s Leno’s hometown. WHDH announced on its website that, rather than going with Leno’s new weeknight primetime talk show, it’s instead planning to launch a 10 PM newscast. This of course isn’t sitting well with the Peacock crew. “WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” John Eck,
NBC TV Network president, said in a statement. “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.”
On the other side of the issue, Sunbeam chief Ed Ansin, who owns WHDH, told the Boston Globe that he decided to replace Leno with news because “it fundamentally is a better financial plan for us.” “We
don’t think the Leno show is going to be effective in primetime,” Ansin
said. “It will be detrimental to our 11 o’clock (newscast). It will be
very adverse to our finances.” The Variety article by Michael Schneider, which touches on all sides of the issue well, also makes mention that contingencies are already being considered and the legalities are of course being argued back and forth. A similar contract issue once happened in San Francisco, which resulted in NBC having to buy and affiliate a new station in that market, KNTV in San Jose.
Now I haven’t watched late night TV regularly in years, and I was always a Letterman man over Leno, but it’s undeniable that Leno has delivered for NBC for damn near two decades now and I can’t help the feeling that this entire forced move may bite them in the ass. I think when they made the announcement five years ago it came down to not wanting to lose Conan to another channel for an 11:30 PM show. But I still don’t see the logic in initially throwing one of their best assets under the bus in order to make that happen. In that situation it looks like they value Conan over Leno, even though they’re giving Leno a hell of a consolation prize. Since Leno’s pending 10 PM show is unprecedented, it remains to see how his numbers will work out, but I still can’t get past the notion that they’re eventually going to have to scale back from five nights a week.
We’ll see. Conan is set to take over the Tonight Show June 1st and Leno his new show in the fall.