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Days after split, NBC Boston and WHDH angle for viewers’ affections

The NBC Boston studio (left); Ed Ansin, owner of WHDH, in his newsroom (right).
The NBC Boston studio (left); Ed Ansin, owner of WHDH, in his newsroom (right).Globe staff photos

NBC’s divorce from WHDH Channel 7 is only a few days old, but the competition for Boston’s affection is already underway.

With its new format of local news and some syndicated shows, WHDH was quick to trumpet a Jan. 2 ratings victory, beating every station, including the new NBC Boston, in most newscasts among adults 25 to 54, the target demographic for advertisers.

Not to be outdone, NBCUniversal noted NBC Boston ranked first among the same group with its broadcast of the NHL Winter Classic, its 6 p.m. newscast, and NBC Nightly News.

By Jan. 3, WHDH had lost its top ranking among most newscast slots, but still noted ratings wins in four newscasts among the 25 to 54 group, including the 6 p.m. slot. NBC Boston highlighted a ratings win with its noon newscast.


What can viewers glean from these ratings figures? Not much, said Tobe Berkovitz professor of advertising at Boston University. January is an unusual month for television viewers, he said. This year, Jan. 2 was a federal holiday; some people were still on vacation, and some network shows had not returned from holiday hiatus.

“Everybody should give it a week or a month before we really try to figure out what’s going on in the news market. It takes a little while for things to settle,” Berkovitz said. “Everybody is looking for bragging rights, and that’s what this is all about now. There will be ads popping up all over saying, ‘We’re #1’ in this or that.”

WHDH lost its NBC affiliation in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, becoming an independent news station. One of its biggest advantages could be viewer confusion over the loss of NBC programming on Channel 7, which most cable providers did not move to another spot on the dial, Berkovitz said.


After losing NBC programming to NBC Boston, WHDH increased its local news offerings from 7½ to 12 hours, with some syndicated shows peppered throughout the day. A Jan. 3 episode of “Family Feud” on WHDH nearly beat NBC’s new 8 p.m. game show, “The Wall,” in the Boston market’s 25 to 54 demographic, and trailed new episodes of “NCIS” on CBS, “The Middle” on ABC, and “New Girl” on Fox, according to overnight ratings data.

WHDH’s 9 p.m. newscast beat a new episode of NBC’s “Chicago Fire” at the 9 p.m. slot among 25- to 54-year-olds, but was behind new episodes of “Bull” on CBS, “Fresh Off the Boat” on ABC, and “Bones” on Fox.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.