Jay Leno in Little Rock: Not Bad for KARK at 10 pm

Jay Leno

The Leno Effect: Not terrible in Little Rock

The big media news today is no doubt the disaster that has been NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show,” which seems to be coming to head in the least surprising way possible. The bottom line: NBC’s experiment with Leno in primetime is a spectacular failure, forcing the third-place network to contemplate putting the former late-night king back in late night while somehow honoring its commitments with new “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien, himself a ratings disappointment.

Good luck with all of that.

But why all the wailing and gnashing of teeth? Leno’s primetime numbers are performing about where NBC expected — only about 5 million viewers per night. But a large audience wasn’t necessarily part of NBC’s plan. The plan was to produce a cheap nightly show that would draw a guaranteed audience, one that could easily be sold around and bring profits to the network.

The fatal flaw? Local affiliates need a strong ratings lead-in to their late local news, which in many cases is the most significant source of revenue those affiliates have. Leno’s low ratings, they complained, were driving viewers to other networks — or cable — where they were less likely to come back to the NBC affiliate’s late news.

In larger, metered TV markets — markets where the previous night’s ratings are delivered to affiliates the next morning — affiliate station general managers were watching their late news ratings drop like a brick. And many began complaining to NBC. Consider the scene in Baltimore a few months ago:

Baltimore may be called Charm City, but for WBAL — the local television station that carries NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” — there isn’t much to smile about lately.

Usually, WBAL is in a neck-and-neck race for viewers against arch rival WJZ. But since NBC debuted “The Jay Leno Show” in prime time five weeks ago, the station’s 11 p.m. newscast — where silver-haired Rod Daniels’ 25-year run as anchor is the longest in Baltimore history — has been shellacked in the ratings. Now WBAL is a distant second.

And there was this from an NBC affiliate owner in Detroit:

Alan Frank, who runs two NBC stations including the affiliate in Detroit, told the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable over the weekend: “The handwriting is on the wall. The only question is what [NBC] is going to do about it.”

Here in Little Rock, NBC affiliate KARK-TV, Channel 4, has been running third place among most daily newscasts, including at 10 p.m. What’s the Leno Effect been like for the Nexstar Broadcasting-owned station? Advance numbers from latest November ratings book, which came out in late December, might surprise you.

It shows KARK, while still in third place, gaining audience at 10 p.m., going from a household rating/share of 5/11 in November 2008 to 6/14 last November. In fact, KARK logged bigger share gains at 10 p.m. than any of its local competitors, which each saw about a 1-point bump. Some demographic numbers (men and women 25-54) were also up slightly, as were all but one competitor.

In fact, this last November ratings period almost returned KARK to its November 2007 10 p.m. ratings level of about 6/13.

And there was another surprise looking at estimates for NBC primetime (7-10 p.m.) performance locally. Those numbers were up slightly as well, going from a 4/7 in November 2008 to 5/8 last November.

No doubt both NBC in prime and KARK at 10 p.m. have have seen stronger ratings in the past. And there are myriad factors that go into ratings, not to mention that these numbers are estimates based on paper surveys of only a sampling of the local TV audience. Still, it’s the best evidence we have, and it suggests that the Leno Effect might not be such a bad thing in Little Rock.

More on November Ratings in Little Rock

KATV, KTHV Still Tops in Latest News Ratings

More on NBC, Leno and Conan

Blame Jay Leno – Gawker

Late-Night Shift Sinking, NBC Wants Leno Back in Old Slot – New York Times

An Open Letter to NBC – Videogum

(Disclosure: I appear regularly on KTHV-TV, Channel 11, a Gannett-owned CBS affiliate that is a direct competitor to KARK and other local TV affiliates in the Little Rock market.)


Media Notes: Lottery Advertising RFP, NWANews.com Lock Down and Hacked Twitter Docs

Rounding up the latest from the media-sphere, navel-gazing at its best:

GambleThe lottery’s advertising RFP is out. Now it’s time for Arkansas agencies to make their play for the five-year advertising and marketing account.

July Surprise — On the heels of another layoff, Gannett Co. swings to a second-quarter profit. That’s good! But newspaper ad revenue falls 27 percent. That’s bad!

The Wall Goes Up — 79 comments and counting! The Fayetteville Flyer is ground zero for the paid vs. free debate in northwest Arkansas, where the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is finally locking down newspaper content on its Web site. Upside: Judging by the Flyer’s comments, at least some people are still passionate about news.

You Are Not Alone — The editor of the Financial Times, also locked down to subscribers, says most news Web sites will charge for content in about a year.

All A-Twitter — Michael Arrington continues to be a huge ass, publishing hacked internal Twitter documents in another bid to maintain relevance. The first docs — possibly outdated revenue projections — went up here. Meanwhile, Gawker’s editor thinks it’s funny that Twitter execs are whining about this violation of privacy.

Cozying UpFolks in the media are huge brown-nosers. Flash.

Salary Cuts at Gannett Hit KTHV

Ugh. It’s another challenging day for Gannett Co.-owned CBS affiliate KTHV-TV, Channel 11.

Arkansas Business’ Mark Hengel has the local angle on Gannett’s latest cost-cutting measures, which you might have noted brewing for several days now on the Gannett Blog:

The company that owns Little Rock’s CBS affiliate is imposing permanent wage cuts of up to 6 percent on employees, according to a memo leaked Tuesday to a blogger. The cuts will take affect July 1.

The cuts are the latest in a rash that has affected several media companies since the economy began to struggle. The company imposed furloughs in January.

The Gannett Blog obtained two memos sent to employees of Gannett Co.’s broadcast division – including KTHV-TV, Channel 11 – that outlines the cuts. The cuts result from a “permanent reset of the American economy on the other side of the economic storm,” division president Dave Lougee wrote.

The cuts will not affect employees making less than $30,000.

Hengel has more details on the cuts and how they break down, as well as comments from Larry Audas, KTHV’s president and general manager, here.

The Gannett Blog has more on today’s moves here, including word on possible cuts in Gannett’s newspaper division, which includes giants like USA Today — and the Baxter Bulletin in north Arkansas.

* Disclosure: Arkansas Business and THV have a news sharing partnership, and I appear on THV news programs to deliver business news headlines.

The Return of Media Notes: Why Print Beats Kindle, and Google’s New Flipper

Google Flipper

Google Flipper

At long last, another round-up of media notes from the world over:

Red All OverSlate’s Farhad Manjoo on how print newspapers are still better than the new Kindle. Oh — and so’s getting your news on the iPhone.

They Call Him FlipperGoogle’s working on another new tweak to Google News called “Flipper,” a visual way of sifting through the day’s news online. All this news innovation, and yet none of it from newspapers themselves. As usual!

That’s The Way It IsTV news icon Walter Cronkite is “gravely ill.”

Sick Leave – Gannett Co. CEO Craig Dubow takes medical leave, increasing worry about the state of the media company.

Face the BookAuthors ready a Facebook tell-all soaked with money, sex and greed. Of course.

iPhone Fail – WSJ tech guru Walt Mossberg waited in line today, but couldn’t get his iPhone. Will Jeff Hankins have better luck?

It’s Round 2 of Furloughs at Gannett Co.

Gannett Co., which owns KTHV-TV, Channel 11, in Little Rock and the Baxter Bulletin newspaper in Mountain Home, announced Monday a new round of cost-cutting furloughs as company revenue continues on a “downward slide.”

The memo from CEO Craig Dubow to employees is available in full here and at the Gannett Blog, which has been all over the story this morning.

You’ll remember that Gannett announced in January a furlough program for its first quarter, in which it asked employees to take a week of unpaid leave. This second-quarter program is different and will vary by department and location, as Dubow explains:

The length of the furlough for employees will vary somewhat by division or location, depending on the division’s operating needs and results.

Our higher salaried employees will be asked to make an additional sacrifice. This could be a second furlough week or a week’s furlough plus a temporary salary reduction equivalent to one week’s pay for the quarter, depending on the division and/or location.

Some hourly employees will not be required to take a full week. Each division or location will have different requirements for employees in this category.

Click here to see how the furloughs will affect each of the companies divisions, including broadcast and newspapers.

Furloughs, pay cuts, fewer benefits, etc., have become standard operating procedure for all sorts of media companies in this recession, as we’ve noted before.

Dubow said the program comes as Gannett enters a new quarter “without any real relief in sight from this unprecedented economic downturn.” This is more bad news for media companies who were hoping for an early rebound.


Another newspaper company, Advance Publications, owner of the Newark, N.J. Star-Ledger and others, also announces furloughs.

(Full disclosure: My employer, Arkansas Business, has a news sharing arrangement with KTHV, and I appear daily for business reports on KTHV newscasts.)

THV Tweets, Plus More Arkansas Twitter Noobs

Here it is, another in our series of ongoing updates on the ever-expanding Arkansas Twittersphere. See our barely organized, unofficial Official Arkansas Twitter Guide here. And below, for your consideration, are the latest Tweeps to blast into the ‘sphere:

Today’s THV: Latest local news headlines from our partners at the Gannett-owned Little Rock CBS affiliate.

Johnathan Powell, the #tweetjuror: The infamous Tweet Juror, as if you didn’t already know.

Jeff Matthews, B98.5: Your morning drive-time friend!

Southwest Times Record: Proudly joining the ranks of Arkansas newspapers on Twitter.

Kevin Kelly, Fox 16 Anchor: K², weeknight anchor for the Little Rock Fox affiliate, gets his feet wet. No Tweets as of yet, though!

Jeremy Baker, Fox 16 Weather: WX updates from Fox 16.

Rick Bagley, news director, KFSM:  Rick’s still learn’. Hopefully the tweets are coming soon.

Democrat-Gazette Newsroom Takes Furloughs; Wehco Cuts Costs at All Newspapers

The Arkansas Times popped their note here about more cost-cutting measures at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Arkansas Business media writer Mark Hengel follows up with more here, including word that all of publisher Walter Hussman’s Wehco newspapers are trying to contain costs in some way or another as ad revenue dries up.

General Manager Paul Smith tells Hengel that each of the company’s newspaper departments were asked to find ways to cut costs. At the Democrat-Gazette, the newsroom chose furloughs, taking off one day every four weeks, thereby cutting wages by 5 percent:

“This keeps as many people on the job as possible,” [Deputy Editor Frank] Fellone said.

He said he does not expect the newspaper’s news coverage to shrink.

“I’m confident we can cover all the news we need to cover even if we need to throw a rookie like me out there,” he said.

This is the latest attempt by the newspaper to stop the slide. Last week, layoffs. Before that, a request for workers to voluntarily cut hours. Before that, a salary and wage freeze.

The D-G isn’t the only Arkansas newspaper facing tough times, of course. Stephens Media, owner of the daily Southwest Times Record at Fort Smith, the Pine Bluff Commercial and The Morning News at Springdale, as well as the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, suspended its 401(k) match program last month. And it previously laid off workers at its Washington D.C. bureau.

And furloughs are nothing new to Gannett Co. employees, including those at KTHV-TV, Channel 11, and the Baxter Bulletin.


In the spirit of this dispiriting newspaper death watch, Real Clear Politics has listed 10 newspapers that are on the the bubble. Included on the list when it was released last week: the Rocky Mountain News, which indeed folded Friday. Others on the list, and their vitals: