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HD-less NBC4 in D.C. Defies Leno Lead-in News Trend

Viewer loyalty apparently still rules over new technology, at least in the Washington, D.C. local news market.

While nearly all local stations in the major markets from coast-to-coast have transitioned to HD for their local news, one glaring exception (at least to Northern Virginia-based HD Notebook) is WRC-TV (NBC4), the NBCU O&O in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Despite widespread late-night news ratings declines for NBC affiliates in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and other major markets due to the current lead-in numbers from Jay Leno’s weeknight primetime show, longtime NBC4 co-anchors Doreen Gentzler and Jim Vance not only have maintained their ratings lead for their late night casts (a lead that’s lasted for more than two decades) but the duo is now pulling in more local viewers at 11 p.m. than the primetime Leno show itself, according to the Washington Post.

Such unconventional viewer behavior appears to poke holes in the conventional wisdom that many viewers don’t bother to change channels after viewing their favorite 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CT) programs, regardless of what channel they’re tuned to on any given evening. Unlike NBCU, the three competing news outlets in D.C. all jumped to local HD newscasts quite a while ago.

Perhaps also gratifying to the NBCU-owned outlet is that it’s keeping its viewers despite the fact that Gentzler, upon signing a new contract last spring, took the entire summer off through Labor Day to spend more time with her family.

No word yet on when NBC4 may finally make the jump to (in NBC’s case) 1080i locally.