NBC Affiliates Standing by 'Jay Leno Show'
Despite concern over so-called "Leno effect" on late news, station managers hold out hope for stronger showing against repeats
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/30/2009 12:25:39 PM
Despite some rough Jay Leno Show ratings around the country, the NBC affiliates are largely still exhibiting patience before calling the rookie program a hit or a miss. General managers at NBC stations say there are too many wildcards, such as Daylight Savings Time and the Major League Baseball post-season, to get an accurate reading on the show right now.
"I'm still optimistic," says WKYC Cleveland President/General Manager Brooke Spectorsky. "It's still early-we haven't gotten the time change yet, and we haven't had the awful weather. It's always dangerous to make a statement before the weather gets ugly."
The "Leno Effect," the phrase critics are using to describe The Jay Leno Show's drain on local late news, is now part of the lexicon, thanks to a cavalcade of negative media reports about the rookie strip. Various dispatches have mentioned WTVJ Miami seeing a 30% slide in late news, compared to last year; KNBC Los Angeles witnessing a 26% dip; and WNBC New York off 22%.
While most outside of the 24 Local People Meter markets will have to wait for the November sweeps to end before getting a fair reading on the show, some GMs cop to a mounting feeling of anxiety regarding Leno. "It's not quite what we've been promised," says WSAZ Charleston-Huntington (W.Va.) VP/General Manager Don Ray, who acknowledges that Leno is a work in progress. "It needs to be more topical, and the production is sometimes lacking."
Others tell a happier tale. WCBD Charleston (S.C.) VP/General Manager Rick Lipps says anecdotal evidence in his diary market suggests Leno's a hit, both with viewers and advertisers. "I've read the articles and heard the spin (about the Leno effect), but I go into my sales manager's office, and he tells me we're selling out Leno, we're tight in Leno," says Lipps. "That's the bottom line-it works where it counts."
Most affiliates are sticking to the party line they've uttered since the show was announced last year: The Jay Leno Show is a long-term play that should be judged after several months, not weeks. NBC's performance in the 10 p.m. hour is down over last year in multiple markets, but GMs at NBC affiliates are quick to point out that viewing is down across the board in many markets, thanks to a stronger batch of cable offerings, increased DVR penetration and the growing array of attention-sucking gadgets available to the public.
WKYC's 10 p.m. hour is off a little more than 10% compared to last year, says Spectorsky, but all-important late news is pretty much flat. WJAR Providence has seen late news off in the single digits, but VP/General Manager Lisa Churchville suspects that's more about her prime lead-in butting up against Major League Baseball.
"We're getting nice numbers [for Leno]," she says. "We're not dissatisfied."
NBC affiliates board chairman Michael Fiorile, sounding weary of addressing the Leno effect, says the affiliate group is not panicking. "It's early," he says. "We'll look at it when November's over. If it improves the way we hope it will, we're in it for the long haul. If not, we'll take a look."
A key selling point for Jay Leno is that it's fresh for 46 weeks out of the year, though some general managers were alarmed to see it fail to rise when CBS offered a batch of reruns the week of Oct. 26. One said ABC gained viewers, but the local NBC did not. Others are concerned about viewership dropping off throughout the course of the program-a sticking point that the affiliates, and Jay himself-worked hard to address in shaping the show. It's believed that a number of viewers are watching Jay's monologue and other early bits before dialing up DVR'd programming.
While it's hard to discount the importance of a robust lead-in, NBC affiliates have long learned to lure late-news viewers on their own merits. "If you're going to be a leading station, the lead-in helps," says WXII Winston-Salem President/General Manager Hank Price. "But you have to do it on your own."
A local powerhouse like WSAZ, which grabs around 40% of the revenue in the No. 65 DMA (according to BIA Financial), will get viewers to tune into late news no matter what airs before it. But others don't have that luxury."Viewers always seem to have found us," says WSAZ's Ray. "But for general NBC affiliates, I really worry about those folks."
You are wrong. I happen to have the 10P news numbers for the OCT09 rating book (that just ended THU) right in front of me for Chicago. Don't believe the HH numbers you read about in the press. Not one advertiser cares about HH numbers. The main news demo is actually Adults 25-54. WMAQ has lost 1/2 of a share point compared to last October. So, hardly anything. And actually, WLS also lost 3/10's of a share point too. Get your facts straight. WBBM's ratings are up due to their strong prime lead-in and the fact that WFLD's 10P news went away. They are taking very little viewers (if any) from WMAQ or WLS.
Joe - 10/30/2009 5:02:13 PM EDT
These station managers at these NBC affiliates can put a total spin on all this as much as they want to, but the bottom line is that this show has been a ratings and dismal failure and until those buffoons at NBC decide to cancel this pile of garbage once and for all, the NBC affiliate local newscasts will continue to suffer and suffer tremendously. Here in Chicago, WMAq is losing viewers to BOTH WLS and WBBM and yes, to even Family Guy reruns on WGN ojn a nightly basis and yet these affiliate managers are claiming he has been a good thing for their lead-ins? These station managers need to watch what they're saying or they could be getting the boot along with Leno.
Richard - 10/30/2009 3:24:25 PM EDT
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