'LX New York' Is Alive at FiveAfter scrapping evening newscast, WNBC’s 5 p.m. formula finds footing 1/31/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Some 16 months after launching a lifestyle show
in place of its 5 p.m. news hour, WNBC New York
executives are increasingly bullish on the landmark
shift. The critics—and competition—howled when NBC
Local Media’s flagship swapped in
the live, 60-minute LX New York
for news. Ratings were anemic,
but key changes to the format—
and new personnel on both sides
of the camera—have bolstered
the numbers substantially.
A year ago, Morgan Hertzan,
founder/general manager of
NBC Local Media’s LX.TV, sat
with new executive producer
Amy Rosenblum to map out
what was and was not working
with LX New York. “We found
the intersection of New York and
pop culture seemed to pop,” says
Hertzan. “We drilled down on
that, and it really started a reaction with the audience.”
Prior to its launch, LX New York’s creators spoke of their
desire to reach suburban women who are more likely to
watch programming on the Food Network and Lifetime at
5 p.m. While few would call the show edgy, producers have
pushed to give it more substance. They have upped the energy
level and created more informational takeaways for viewers.
LX New York started using the city more, with cooking
segments done out on the streets and in restaurants instead
of in a studio. The hiring of former WNBC anchor Jane Hanson
early last year to cohost offered viewers a familiar face.
Producers have also employed an aggressive, and multifaceted,
social media campaign. A live
online viewer chat about the show,
which Rosenblum monitors carefully,
drives real-time producing decisions.
LX New York features celeb interviews,
cooking segments, news snippets and
the hosts’ take on the topic of the day.
It also features branded integrations,
such as grocery chain Fairway sponsoring
cooking bits. “We can show [advertisers]
in a way we couldn’t in a newscast,”
says Michael Jack, WNBC president/GM.
Ratings remain modest, and could only go up after LX
New York’s listless start. WNBC posted a 0.57 rating among
persons 25–54 at 5 p.m. in November, earning a third-place
finish in the hour. It was a 138% gain over November 2009’s
0.24 rating, when the station placed
sixth. Moreover, LX New York’s 0.87
rating among women 25–54 was a
172% spike over the previous November.
A WNBC representative says the
average viewer is 3½ years younger at
5 p.m., compared to November 2008.
Critics said LX New York would kill
WNBC’s 6 p.m. newscast, but ratings
for the Chuck Scarborough–helmed
program were up 107% among viewers
25–54 last November compared to a year
earlier. The 6 p.m. news’ 25-54 rating of
0.95 is second in the time period.
Jack notes that LX is one of many
programs—including The Nate Berkus
Show, Ellen and the 11 p.m. newscast—
that are showing substantial ratings growth on WNBC.
Yet skeptics continue to say LX will do damage to WNBC’s
news brand. “They’re not talking to a news audience anymore,”
says one senior Gotham newsie. “As a competitor, I’m
happy they’re not doing news [at 5]. But it’s sad for New York.”
After the past year’s overhaul of LX New York, Hertzan believes
he has struck the right formula. “We’re always tweaking,
fixing, changing,” he says. “But if something’s working,
you don’t mess with it.”