Once one of the nation’s most vibrant two-newspaper towns, Boston’s dailies are reeling from a combination of the recession and seismic changes in the business. The very popular Boston Globe, which at one time out-billed all the TV stations combined, is now losing about $1 million a week. In April, Globe parent The New York Times Co., crippled by $1.1 billion in debt (the same sum it paid for the Globe 16 years ago), threatened to close the paper, unless it got $20 million in union concessions. The Globe has already cut about 50 jobs from its newsroom (12 percent of the staff). To make more money, the paper now sells advertising on its front page. The second largest paper, The Boston Herald, is also suffering. Earlier this year, it offered buyouts to employees, with the goal of cutting about 50 jobs. The recent reductions came on top of layoffs last summer of 100 employees.

While the fate of the two big dailies remains uncertain, the market’s TV stations have not been without drama. For a few weeks, WHDH-TV, Sunbeam Television’s NBC affiliate, played a game of brinksmanship with NBC, at first refusing and then agreeing, to air Jay Leno at 10 p.m. this fall. It was all about the late news at 11 p.m. WHDH, is a distant No. 2 in the 25-54 demo in late news behind WBZ, CBS Television’s owned-and-operated station. WFXT, Fox Television’s O&O, airs both 10 p.m. (where it’s a clear winner) and 11 p.m. (where it ranked first among 18-34 demo and No. 2 among 18-49) late newscasts. CW affiliate WLVI, which airs a 10 p.m. newscast produced by its duopoly partner, WHDH, is a distant No. 2.

Morning news is very competitive, with WFXT winning the 5–9 a.m. block among all demos, while WHDH comes in No. 2. When Mike & Juliet go away in June, the station plans to air a fifth hour of morning news. Early news is dominated by WCVB, Hearst-Argyle Television’s ABC affiliate, which enjoys the lead-in from Oprah. Chronicle, the station’s daily news magazine, even after 26 years, is still a big ratings performer and is consistently No. 1 in its time period at 7:30 p.m.

In local cable, Comcast is in talks to acquire the 50 percent of New England Cable News it does not own, from Hearst-Argyle Television, whose two stations in the area, WCVB and WMUR, the ABC affiliate serving Manchester, N.H. currently provide some content. The New York Times Co., which owns 17 percent of New England Sports Network, is looking to sell its share.

Radio stations are coping with the transition to the first monthly portable people meter ratings for the month of March. For the most part, top stations held their ground, with the rankers changing slightly. WXKS-FM, Clear Channel Radio’s Top 40 station, took over the top-rated position, while WBZ-AM, CBS Radio’s News/Talk station, slid from No. 1 to No. 3. Greater Media’s Adult Contemporary WMJX-FM, moved from No. 3 to No. 2. WODS-FM, CBS’ Oldies station, rose from No. 6 to No. 4, followed by WROR-FM Greater Media’s Classic Hits station, which jumped from No. 11 to No. 5. WJMN-FM, Clear Channel’s Rhythmic station fell from No. 3 to No. 8.

In addition to its dominant position in radio, Clear Channel also has nearly all of the premiere poster panels and much of the bulletin inventory, as well as the bus shelters, commuter rail, taxi, malls and advertising at Boston Logan International Airport. CBS offers bulletin inventory and mall advertising. Titan Worldwide has bus and rail advertising. JCDecaux manages transit street furniture.

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