NBC Boston Is A-Comin’ (The Holy War of NBC and their non-owned affiliates, part two)

A major change to Boston TV will occur in the first time in nearly twenty-two years. NBC will no longer be affiliated with WHDH-TV Channel 7 beginning on New Years and will be moving to a weak digital UHF station in New Hampshire and a translator in the Greater Boston Area. Most of the cable systems will be on channel 10, HD on ether 710 or 810. Some of the stations that carried New England Cable News’ HD feed will be on that channel while NECN HD will be reassigned. (Check your local listings.)

Since my writings in January, I’ve learned more about NBC’s antics against large market affiliates not owned by larger entities. And the man who founded the largest fraudulent autism organization, may exhibit signs of Asperger’s Syndrome himself.

The rest of the story features the history of NBC and their agenda to affiliates for 30 years. Some of this was online research and some content came from Bob Wright’s The Wright Stuff memoir who apparently wanted his reputation to be “wright”. It was published a month after my first series of posts about NBC. Also, CNBC’s 10 year anniversary has finally been found on the Internet that originally aired in the spring of 1999, which another source of many lies spread by NBC Mismanagement. Also was research on the affiliate wars in Miami and San Francisco.

In The Wright Stuff, the only Ed in the back of the book was Ed Anser, in reference to Autism Speaks if memory serves me. Ed Ansin, the owner of Sunbeam (Channels 7 in Miami and Boston was not mentioned at all, but the KRON saga of the year 2000 was mentioned – good enough for this post.)

Mid 1980: GE Buys RCA/NBC – Beginnings of Affiliate Micromanagement

NBC did some really sketchy thing that were atypical for the 3 established networks at the time, ABC CBS and NBC. Fox came on the air in April of 1987. NBC was bipolar in ratings, and was poorly managed by the Radio Corporation of America. RCA was bought by General Electric in 1985 with the deal closing in 1986. RCA despite having “radio” in it’s name had a reputation of owning strange assets such as radio stations, carpet makers and auto rental businesses. RCA missed out in the computer business and got out of mainframes in the 1960s. GE’s intent of buying RCA was to only keep the NBC Television Network and within a couple years disposed all the other assets once owned by RCA. Chair and CEO of GE, Jack Welch who bought the company had said they got “NBC for free” after the aforementioned sale of properties.

Shortly after the acquisition, Welch appointed a GE executive named Bob Wright to be the chairman and CEO of the National Broadcasting Company. Even owning the TV network, plus six owned-and-operated stations, GE treated the unit as if it was broken and felt the network should be treated like any other unit of GE like jet engines, light bulbs, etc. Strange quality and business processes such as “Six Stigma” was applied to the network where risk was tolerated and creativity was supported elsewhere in the industry (even cable in it’s early years!)

“Synergies”, the normal practice in business is to pool resources that may result ether cost reduction or value was encouraged at NBC ether on an engineer or journalistic level. The result? “News” programs typically pimped primetime entertainment programs in the form of news reports; or tried to find “news” value of some show to “report” on. NBC News Today  would become The Today Show and for the three or four hours plug in shows like ER or some other “Must See TV” show and hard news would ether not be top priority or cheapened the process (i.e. cut jobs) for “serious” news. These practices also enabled Access Hollywood (a daily entertainment news show syndicated by a unit of the NBC family) to digitally store on NBC Universal’s servers the infamous 2005 Billy Bush interview of Donald Trump and have the news division report on it; which is so ethically strange on so many levels. Access Control Lists in “news” gathering storage servers? Not in the NBC way!

NBC Affiliates: Wright is “Wrong” for treating us like children!

When talking to a child from ether the 1980s or 1990s, you’d tell the kid a TV network would be formation of two hundred individual TV stations, and the strength both on financial and business purposes would be in the number of affiliates and the profits they make. FCC ownership even if there wasn’t any restrictions with a country so large like the US, the network couldn’t own all 200. They’ve struggled with just ten before the Comcast acquisition.  GE/NBC felt everything should be controlled from New York and according to Wright’s memoir “conservative” practices in terms of risk was used. As previously posted, NBC was the least tolerated network of pre-emptions imposed by local affiliates, mostly because NBC paid local stations to be affiliates annually; in Boston, WHDH was making $4 million, in San Francisco in 2000 (the last year as an affiliate) was receiving $7 million. The compensation was a reward for running most of the programming annually.

While CBS and ABC gave the 4:00 (ET/PT) hour back to local affiliates for programming in the mid 1980s; NBC did the polar opposite. While CBS dialed back on game shows like Press Your Luck to pave way for local control, ABC also gave stations the 4:00 hour for syndicated programs. Well Sorta.

(ABC tried an innovative approach to syndicated programming. While they officially handed 4:00 back to local stations; they were behind new talk show hosted by Oprah Winfrey from their O&O at WLS at the time. ABC bought into her idea by going to the syndicator – King World IIRC in bulk, so at least four of the major O&Os would air the show at 4:00. This lead to programming consistency to the stations they owned; since syndicated shows would air on different channels in different markets since it was a local control – but costly at the ownership level.. The former Belo Corporation followed suit, owning stations in Texas, California and Virginia that bought into Oprah as a group and not just one or two stations. Belo had owned stations with the 3 affiliations.)

NBC didn’t want to be efficient and give quality to viewers. They treated stations like children and Wright was acting like meanie daddy, giving affiliates about 3 hours of local programming outside the 5 and 6:00 and 11:00 news. So NBC loaded up the lineup of Today from 7:00 to 9:00 am, game shows like Super Password, Sale of the Century from 9 or 10:00 to noon; the soaps like Days from 1:00 to 3:00, and some more shows then handed off local shows around 4:00 or so.

These new mandates would enable NBC financial security running network programming for at least eight hours a day, and split half of the profits with the affiliates. Preemptions for local shows meant NBC would loose money. Wonder how Evening Magazine ended in the first place? Two of the Group W affiliates were NBC, and both were under siege by NBC management.

Cable NBC, *coughs* the Consumer News and Business Channel

This was Step One of trying to do a cable strategy. NBC’s grandiose view of NBC was to become a cable like network. NBC allegedly had proof, the six O&Os  (NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, Colorado and D.C.) were “loosing” money. What was their defense tactic?

Step Two while waiting for affiliates to cave in: Create a cable network. Focus on business during the day, talk at night, then do this creation within 4 months. And be sure to pull a fast one amongst the naive affiliates – assuming all of them will cave in. CBS & ABC invested in networks, but didn’t own them outright or manage them. The experiment was called CNBC, known publicly as the Consumer News and Business Channel; internally known as Cable NBC or NBC on Cable. Using the clunkier name made affiliates less panicked about a big 3 networking going into cable.

(There is conflicting facts, while NBC was putting their guts into CNBC, supposedly New York’s Cablevision had a dummy company that owned cable networks. NBC from what I gathered got a controlling stake so they could claim CNBC was a pure NBC asset.)

First word of such was reported in The Wall Street Journal in December of 1988, that NBC was looking into going to cable business news; nearly two months after NBC ditched the local radio stations, where in New York they treated the sale like it was a death. In fact this story – at least for one person was actually a “help wanted” if you will to Sue Herrera, who was at the Financial News Network in L.A. This article was actually how she was one of the first talent to be hired and help launch it.

Another concern was to also go against an established business channel – FNN that was starting to have financial problems and got caught with wire fraud and other 80s greed crimes in the corporate world. (This was the reason why Sue had jumped ship.)

Regardless in the 1989 launch affiliates started to freak out, since afterall they were making money, money that was funneling to 30 Rock and management thought NBC was broken. Affiliates won the battle in a form of a concession, that CNBC would not use the Peacock logo, but still felt CNBC was a threat financially as they feared cable would canelbize the affiliate’s revenue. NBC bought FNN in 1991 on a technicality in Federal Bankruptcy court after an intense bidding war. Bob Wright had to be “right” to use a pun yet again to make sure CNBC would not fail. CNBC lacked homes and ratings at the time. The NBC in CNBC gave them more credibility to install TVs in trading floors since one couldn’t go wrong with having NBC in the office. FNN despite being a bias towards the trader community with excessive jargon and the ticker, they never gained any credibility to have a TV set on the floor. It wasn’t unusual however to have FNN in a local newsroom…

Nearly six years later, the affiliates were yet again under attack by mismanagement at 30 Rock. Wright stood behind Bill Gates in a meeting in the building introducing MSNBC, an Internet venture with Microsoft and NBC. Microsoft would produce content on the digital side while NBC News would handle the cable network. This new network would replace America’s Talking, a talk show channel focusing on current events – with a right of center bias. The network lasted a couple of years leading to the launch of MSNBC in July of 1996, but was already DOA during that 1995 announcement less than a year in. Affiliates freaked out yet again, but Wright dismissed concerns like children. Wright mentions a GM of a Batton Rouge affiliate by name and spoke negatively of the individual during this decision because he was skeptical of the network and the venture.

(On another sidenote: Roger Ailes, who ran both networks was not invited to the event, and according to a book in the early 2000s on the history of the cable news networks; would shout F-bombs on his closed circuit feed in his Fort Lee, New Jersey office. After feeling like being betrayed too, he jumped the Hudson to launch the Fox News Channel, four months after the launch of MSNBC.)

By the year 2000, NBC did another experiment with the Sydney Olympics, ran live events on CNBC and MSNBC; which less time ran on the traditional affiliates; which meant a loss of revenue at stations that weren’t owned by the Peacock. Since then, Olympic programming is on multiple channels and in 2016, NBC had a ratings crisis, to the point they ran without commercials at times and more live events.

Despite the Rio Olympics on the same time zone, NBC could not help themselves to stay on a regular schedule for The Today Show and NBC was so desperate for viewers, they cut commercials. Your’s truly who loves the Olympics and doesn’t care for globalism or other global sports, feels it’s a treat to run live events on a major network, and not female, touchy-feely like puff stories about the athletes.

Micromanaging non O&O affiliates as if they were O&Os

Since writing about the $1 billion sale of KRON in San Francisco (2016 dollars of course), Wright had admitted in his own book about what could be argued as one of the most invasive affiliation agreements. Since the last post, he stated they also “wanted access to their digital operations” . Whatever that meant.

The tile of that chapter was called “Rebooting Network/ Affiliate Relations”. After twenty years of trashing affiliates, somebody should “Repair” over “reboot”. Wright, in his alleged Aspergerian like charm, almost poison pilled the reader to believe that the Silicon Valley station “was willing to pay” NBC $300 plus million dollars in ten years in a “reversed compensation” trick, that in fact they couldn’t afford it in the first place. Earlier in this post, I described how NBC affiliates were compensated for being an affiliate. The tables turned beginning with KRON. The war between KRON and NBC was the blueprint for all other networks in future deals. Wright assumes the reader wouldn’t read into the history of the competing station in Silicon Valley’s KNTV or Granite Broadcasting. Granite, like NBC have no loyalty to the stations they serve because they are owned by bankers. Granite typically buys and sells stations to get a “profit”. NBC so wanted an O&O and obviously at some point they’d get the station. The affiliation agreement that required $37 million a year times ten for the agreement was designed for NBC to buy them out. It got into the feathers in late 2002 following the sale to NBC by Granite after realizing how much debt they would accrued after signing the agreement.

When GE bought NBC in 1986, they introduced a simple 6 feathered peacock that once represented the divisions of the company that had since changed rather quickly because one of the colored feathers was the radio division of which the network ended in 1987 and the several radio stations by the end of 1988. The new logo meant NBC could push out for stations to use to show off they are an NBC affiliate. NBC was so insistent if stations threw the feathers in the faces of viewers in local news, that they would watch the network programs. I don’t think this is even a scientific theory. Some NBC O&Os today in 2016 have newscasts with high ratings, while the network is behind in the ratings.

NBC didn’t care. Refusing to use the Peacock could be ding against your agreement. KRON’s branding was the channel 4 logo shaped like the Golden Gate Bridge.  NBC also manipulated smaller market stations to use “NBC [channel number]” for branding. Call signs were not recommended to be their primary brand (remember, we aren’t talking about WMAQ and “NBC 5”, we are talking about markets in middle of nowhere.) Wright used “WXYZ-TV” to use the example of calls in The Wrong Stuff; the irony was he didn’t use WNBC-TV because not only WXYZ is an ABC affiliate, that was once an O&O! (If only he was smart enough or had a better ghostwriter!)

NBC lead the crusade of eliminating neighborhood stations that was considered to be “duplicate” (or overlapping larger market) affiliates. The concern at 30 Rock was say a White River, Vermont affiliate would only serve most of central NH and VT, that the Platsburgh, New York affiliate (that had overlap) would loose eyeballs and pennies to the dollar to the larger audience for that area. I mean really WNNE was not a real financial threat; but as a result during the 2001 period, the station suddenly stopped producing local news in White River Junction, and served a bureau for the Upstate NY station. By this point the 2 stations were owned by Hearst, as a defensive play in the form of owning multiple NBC affiliates and possibly starting that reversed compensation, this is how Southern Vermont viewers could still get NBC in their home state.

NBC’s “Death”

A lot of NBC’s downfall from 2005 to present (at least to your’s truly) was linked to one man Jeff Zucker. Zucker was a 22 year old in 1986 working as a producer for the network, and through butt-kissing worked his way up to Executive Producer to Today then vice president to CEO of the merger of NBC and Universal Studios in 2004. The cable style network for the big NBC would come into fruition as Universal had a few cable networks and was the final nail in the affiliate right’s coffin. NBC had control of everything, and cable providers would have the financial backing and rights over station owners at a broadcast station.

As a result most of the top viewed shows during the 1993 to 2004 era known as the “Must See TV” era ended, by the producers ending the runs from Friends to Frasier as Hollywood knew New York would ruin the network. Dramas like ER got canceled a few years later as they were unable to sutain an audience with weaker shows like The Office . The Must See TV era also had great lockin for the viewers as hit shows were back to back, causing leadins from other hit shows the same night.

2004-2010 Affiliates Were Really “Wright” About His Wrongdoing

However as evil as Zucker, Wright engineered the massive failure of NBC, everything that Wright lectured of the ten year vision, of NBC loosing money if they didn’t “change” had his last laugh. Wright went to found Autism Speaks the following year after the NBCU merger; and Zucker took over.

Wright was dimmer than a G.E. light bulb. The only way he was so bright was his circle of friends who understood his perverted vision of devaluing local stations and mimic a cable network metaphor. Anyone who questioned or attacked Wright during the CNBC, MSNBC experiments were considered by Wright as people not seeing his vision; and the similarities to self advocates in the autism spectrum disorder was almost identical.

At the rate of Wright’s destruction of NBC, G.E. would’ve been luckier to take an executive of an LED light division of Phillips across the pond and have a better business instead!

Wright had the right vision – at some point “the Big Four” needed two sources of revenues, advertising and subscribers – and it wasn’t fair for cable networks to get such “dual revenues”; but in an affiliate heavy business, changes had to be done in several years over a few months or a couple of years. He and Zucker combined destroyed jobs in the name of corporate politics and feelmegood forward thinking visions.

After researching during the NBC drama with Sunbeam, I’ve had less respect to Wright over the last year. He’s a pure dimwit who had no business messing around with NBC in the first place. He destroyed network TV, and the micromanaging of 200 stations was a proven way of how to waste a company’s time and resources which enabled them to have cheap programming that no one was watching; that he in turn would blame the same groups that had to fall for his vision.

I suggest a reader, to buy The Wright Stuff  used and don’t read every page. Almost the four hundred page book is nothing but self gratification of a dimwit.

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