On Oct. 2, two weeks into the fall season, I wrote a piece saying it looked as if we had a preliminary answer to the question of the TV year: How will Jay Leno do in prime time for NBC?

That answer: Not very well.


I also said that while the troubled NBC is probably willing to  live with being a low-cost alternative to the other networks in prime time, affiliates like Baltimore's WBAL (Channel 11), looked as if they were going to be feeling some real pain in the pocketbook from reduced sales on their late newscasts as a result of NBC's bold move. I wondered how long they would be willing to live with it.

After four more weeks, the October ratings are in, and the news is even worse than I predicted for Leno and WBAL in Baltimore. At 10 p.m., not only does Leno get beat by prime-time entertainment programming on the other network owned and affiliated stations in the market, WBFF Fox-45 beats Leno with its 10 p.m. newscast.

I'm talking about the key sales demographic of viewers 25 to 54 years of age, because that is what the stations live or die with in the real world. And when you extend the look at those figures into 11 p.m., the news only gets worse for WBAL.

For decades, the story of the late news was one of a back-and-forth struggle between WBAL and WJZ for leadership.

Say goodbye to that story line in the new post-Leno era. WJZ not only is firmly established in first place, it doubles WBAL's audience in the key demographic. In fact, WBFF gets a bigger audience at 10 for its news than WBAL now does at 11.

The rating for viewers 25-54 goes from a 3.8 for NBC programming in prime time up until 10 p.m., to 2.2 for Leno from 10 to 11. After that, it is 2.0 for WBAL's late news, followed by only 0.9 for Conan O'Brien's "Tonight" show -- and 0.5 for Jimmy Fallon.

These are the numbers of a failed programming move made by NBC that its owned and affiliated stations like WBAL must now live -- and suffer -- with.