The Glory Days of the old NECN…part two

In 2010, the channel went through a much needed visual makeover. In the fall of that year,  the design firm Trokia had designed what was one of the channel’s best graphics package to be seen. It was textbook example of the throwback to it’s earlier years, after that clunky branding at inception. It had black, red and white. If there was a trademark color of black and red with white or black, it would go to NECN. Seeing this brought back the memories of the earlier days

The most ironic thing was NECN’s format really didn’t change. They were still live at certain hours, on tape at other dayparts. At this point, they didn’t give a damn about handing off a reporter that “she’s live” even if you landed at NECN at 1:12 in the afternoon, because I think the management expected that viewers would know.

The eye-candy part was a timecode on the bottom an something that would indicate “hairline”, as if someone was editing video in a Non Linear Editing application, you would get it. This was at the time many local media outlets nixed Betacam, early DVCPRO, or SuperVHS ENG gear to all file-based workflows (meaning you shoot on a media card and drop a file on a computer or server)

NECN’s graphics package at this time basically was innovative. Because before there was Dark Mode, the crawlspace and bug had a high contrast for the day, and for night was inverted. Unfortunately I did not record local media at this time, and the videos online are not master clips (that do not feature the bugs and crawl space, that would be the last stop to air)

The bloated blue graphics package didn’t go away immediately. This look took time, there was no rush, because I remember both packages on different dayparts, if I can recall properly the last program that didn’t switch over was This Week in New England Business (circa 2013)

Present day, and Legacy?

I recommend people to travel to places, even in their own locale. When I would stay over the White Mountains, or watch NECN on digital cable on Cablevision’s Stamford, CT (since Fairfield County is part of the NY market, and Cablevision wouldn’t put NECN on the basic lineup), it gave me perspective. I used to make insulting names to NECN for a while like MACN because it was so Massachusetts-centric that in some of their copies they’d read, they just put the town’s name instead. I realize if someone who was living outside the Boston market, it gave them a perspective of stories further away from home, but in the home region. For most of it’s years, they were equal to the 6 states, but Boston or Massachusetts would always take precedence in the lead of the stories.

The legacy of NECN has already been written of according to your joe-shom-minifig-newsgather. Since the move to the clustered facility for NBCUniversal in early 2020, the station’s format had suddenly changed.

I noticed a change when the branding went to all lowercase “necn” in late 2014. They addressed the stereotype of “repeated” newsblocks by doing a live wheel from 9:00 to 1:00pm, the 1:00pm was repeated for 2 times leading up to 3:00. It was very apparent it was automation driven, handoffs to segments would be rough, or it didn’t seem too structured.

From what I could tell, NECN was developing a new format, behind the viewers back. I remember watching NECN in early 2020 with their traditional format. By the following week they moved to Needham, and what actually resulted was a new format.

(BTW: the the reason why I shot this on my iPhone is when I am not in my production bay, where I have access to my capture equipment.)

Around that time, the station ran a promo touting the audience wanted “lots of information”. Same-day stories? Humm, that’s not what I had seen. From what I know from a source familiar to the cluster, the anchors tape their stuff and it’s gets packaged up for air during the dayparts. For instance, the weekday afternoon anchor likely is in studio for say a certian amount of time reading the wrappers to the packages and handoffs to the meteorologists, etc.

The format was very alarming to things NBCU had done a decade before, to the O&O stations at the time. One alarm was the “Lifehacks” segments produced by LX. Any typical or intelligent New Englander would realize a) it’s fluff and b) if you are a fanboy of objects of local news, you would also know that LX was also a brand almost destroyed local media properties like I dunno WNBC?

And it wasn’t even over a decade before!

In fact, I am not going to lie, I used to visit my now estranged-aunt in the Tristate side of Connecticut, and would watch WNBC, but this really turned me off so much in the times I have been in the New York area, Channel 4 doesn’t register in my default channel choices. It’s been either WABC-TV or WNYW (before it really got Fox News ridden at the local flagship) It was that bad to the station’s reputation, even if in present day the ratings had recovered.

Basically NECN was NBC’s 2020 reattempt for the “Nonstop”, another failed attempt at local hyperlocal media from Great Recession Era at NBCU. It’s sad to see.

I understand in the world of the Web, streaming apps, etc. regional news channels were always on the advertisers side, and potential audience, rather than the ratings system because these channels like NECN are seen at my local Pizza Hut (analog Channel 19), to boatloads of diners, to mom and pop restaurants, etc. If management knew a thing or two, they would try to poll audiences where they would see it, and NECN was clearly a channel for the out-of-home audience. It was then and will be their legacy. But the legacy of this format, whether or not it’s a success, is clearly turning away the loyal audience. NECN employed long time Boston TV anchors and reporters where they got too expensive for the local TV, and NECN was their last stop to retirement. Lots of legends, that someone of my age was old enough to know what the Boomers grew up watching.

I can say with certainty there is at least 5 Full Time Equivalents on camera, and perhaps a dozen off camera. It was clearly obvious the launch of WBTS/NBC 10 was they were inheriting a newsroom. But even that, there was ways to keep the NECN format, and talent and news quality without cutting corners. If anything simulcasting NBC10 News say at 11:00 on weeknights or on weekend evenings would be would probably not be a bad thing, and again thinking of viewers of Southeast Kingdom, to Cape and Islands, remote from the Boston area, this would matter to them.

As much as I bill myself of objectfying-objects (that is graphics and alike), that black and red is their color that if you asked me 50 years from now, from a designer’s perspective, that’s what I would identify. As much as I admire the peacock, we – the viewers in the market, know the reason why the peacock is on screen, it’s just a visual reminder it’s owned by NBCU.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *