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Boston Passes on Prime-Time Jay Leno, NBC Promises Station Break

Jay Leno, Tonight Show Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Not everyone will be able to get their before-bed Jay Leno fix come September.

Boston's NBC affiliate, WHDH-TV, is opting to air an hourlong local newscast in the 10 p.m. hour instead of sticking with the network's new talk-show vehicle for Jay Leno, who will bow out as host of the Tonight Show May 29.

"We feel we have a real opportunity with running the news at 10 p.m.," station owner Ed Ansin told the Boston Globe. "We don't think the Leno show is going to be effective in prime time," Ansin said yesterday. "It will be detrimental to our 11 o'clock. It will be very adverse to our finances."

But NBC doesn't plan to stand idly by so that Bostonians can tune into the Channel 7 news.

"WHDH's move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC," said NBC TV Network President John Eck. "If they persist, we will strip WHDH of its NBC affiliation. We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market, including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC-owned and -operated station."

The controversial (in theory, not content) Jay Leno Show will launch in September, thereby officially ending NBC's tradition of showing scripted dramas at 10 p.m. (The tradition symbolically ends with tonight's ER finale.)

Conan O'Brien is poised to take over the Tonight Show June 1.

Boston is the seventh largest TV market in the U.S. Ansin told the Globe that WHDH's contract with NBC allows it the option of passing on Leno in favor of news.

It remains to be seen whether this will be the beginning of a nationwide revolt.

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