Why This Matters: Boston, where well-entrenched local news outlets command loyalty, can be a tough town to relaunch in.
There are hot streaks, and then there’s what’s happening in Boston. The Red Sox won the World Series in October, and the Patriots grabbed the Super Bowl in February. And while Boston is notorious for brutal winters, the current one has been OK. Four inches of snow fell one day in mid-February, which one GM said was, to date, the winter’s worst.
“Winter hasn’t been bad,” said Mike St. Peter, president and general manager of WBTS, WNEU and New England Cable News. “Although bad weather is good for ratings.”
NBCUniversal seized the NBC affiliation from Sunbeam Television’s WHDH at the start of 2017, launching WBTS as NBC Boston. The station was rechristened as NBC10 a year ago. “Not everyone was able to find us,” explained St. Peter, who said the station is “right on pace” with expectations.
WHDH went independent. It has Family Feud 8 to 9 p.m., and local news at 9, 10 and 11 p.m. The station does a staggering 12 and a half hours of news a day. “It’s easy for me to say I’ve got the hardest working crew in Boston,” said Jimmy Rogers, VP and general manager of WHDH and The CW-aligned WLVI.
Further adding to the tumult in market No. 9 is the sale of the Cox Media Group stations, including Fox affiliate WFXT, to Apollo Global Management.
Boston is a challenging market to relaunch in. Viewers have well-established loyalties to well-entrenched stations, such as Hearst Television’s ABC outlet WCVB and CBS-owned WBZ.
WCVB topped WFXT in the 6 a.m. race in November (adults 25-54 Monday-Friday), and beat runner-up WBZ at 5 and 6 p.m. At 11 p.m., WCVB did a 1.24, while WBZ was at 0.87.
“A case could be made that, despite decades of market leadership, WCVB has never been this dominant,” said Bill Fine, president/ general manager.
The station added a regular Saturday 7 p.m. newscast last month.
WBZ marked its 70th anniversary last year and is expanding its reach with podcasts such as Studio BZ, which covers “Boston and beyond.”
“It’s just another way to connect with our audience, bring them to our brand,” president and general manager Mark Lund said.
WBZ is the proud Patriots station. Super Bowl LIII did a 57 rating and an 84 share. “Off the charts,” Lund said.
Comcast is the dominant pay-TV player. Besides WBTS, it has Telemundo station WNEU, news network NECN and NBC Sports Boston. All will be in one Needham facility in the fall. “It’s a really spectacular, state-of-the-art facility,” St. Peter said.
Princell Hair is general manager of NBC Sports Boston, which has been busy covering all the championships. “We’ve captured the tone and voice of fans in the marketplace,” he said.
There’s more to cheer about than sports. The market’s diverse economy — tech, elite colleges, finance, health care — is robust.
“There’s never a lack of activity going on in Boston,” Fine said. If you’re a local sports fan, he added, “you have to adapt to having the world jealous of you.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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