Call it the Boston Jay Party. NBC is threatening to strip WHDH Boston of its affiliation after the Sunbeam-owned station said it will launch a 10 p.m. newscast in the fall—in place of the new Jay Leno program. The network suggests it will take over the NBC affiliation there if WHDH carries out its plan.
NBC TV Network President John Eck called the move “a flagrant violation” of WHDH's contract with the network. “We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market,” he said in a statement, “including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC owned-and-operated station.”
One scenario would see NBC air network programming on its Telemundo affiliate WNEU and run Telemundo on a digital channel.
Affiliates are thankful that Leno is not jumping to another network, but fearful the program will post middling ratings and harm late-news viewership. Time will tell if other stations stand with WHDH in defiance of the network.
The NBC affiliates board remains committed to Leno. “We've been engaged in an open dialogue with NBC about the format of the show,” says chairman Michael Fiorile. “We're looking forward to working with Jay and the entire team to make it a huge success.”
Sunbeam/WHDH would not comment on the matter.