On April 1, North Shore native Chris Wayland takes over as President and General Manager of all of NBC Universal’s Boston properties. The unprecedented appointment makes Wayland the only general manager in the county to oversee four news stations at once, and comes on the heels of the opening of NBC’s brand new, state-of-the-art Boston Media Center.
Since February 2019, Wayland has worked as Vice President and Station Manager for NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston, and NECN. As NBC’s Michael St. Peter retires, Wayland will take the reigns as President and General Manager of all three stations, and will tack on the NBC Sports Boston general manager gig for good measure.
“Chris’s appointment to General Manager is an unprecedented position for NBC Universal, and really for any general manager,” said Kathryn Shehade, NBC Boston’s director of community and communications. “So he won’t say it, but it’s a pretty big deal for him and this market and the country to dominate over four stations.”
“My official title is,” said Wayland, “well, it’s long so my wife and kids make fun of it—it’s NBC’s President and General Manager of Boston-Owned Properties and Regional Sports Networks.”
“Don’t tell me it’s a big job,” he laughed. “I pretend that it isn’t.”
After childhood in Winthrop, Wayland attended Elmira College in upstate New York where he played college hockey, and was invited to play in the East Coast Hockey League right after graduation, which he did for a year. “Then I took my very first job working for WQRZ, 99.9 FM, on Cape Cod as a salesperson, and that was the beginning of my career.”
Following other stints at Magic 106.7, Channel 56, and Channel 7 (WDHD), he was asked to head down to Miami as the General Manager of Sunbeam Television. “My wife and kids hated me for that,” he said. Those two Miami years did pay off, though, when Wayland was asked to join the corporate team at Tribune in New York, and then, finally, to return to Boston in early 2019.
“To be honest, I didn’t really want to leave Boston in the first place,” he said, “But, you know, sometimes you don’t get to decide that.” He explained how both he and his wife grew up together in Winthrop, and much of their families still live there. They had their first date at TGI Fridays in Danvers, just over twenty years ago.
Wayland said that his positions outside of the Massachusetts market gave him a unique, new perspective on the business. “You have to be in tune with the particular market that you’re doing business in and talk to that market appropriately, because it’s not one size fits all for news,” he said. “Oklahoma City is a completely different market than Miami, so you have to be thoughtful about how you approach creating news in those marketplaces and telling those stories.”
Tribune was for sale during his whole tenure there. He said that getting that team of people to believe they could still be a successful business was an “enormous challenge,” but he loved it. With that experience under his belt, he comes to NBC Boston ready to invigorate the company culture, preparing them to hold their own against legacy stations like WHDH and WBZ.
NBC’s new $125 million Boston Media Center opened last month in Needham and consolidated all branches of all stations under one roof for the first time. “The whole building is a studio pretty much,” said Shehade, “so you can plug in everywhere. There’s a gym, there’s a kitchenette, there are courtyards, it’s absolutely spectacular.” She explained that this new building will play a big factor in the success of this new era for NBC Boston.
Wayland savvily considers his biggest challenge his best opportunity, too: “to protect the unique personality of each [station], while creating a culture for the entire operation that goes across all four businesses.” It’s no small feat, but he believes that if he and his team do their jobs correctly, NBC10 could become the number one station in the market.
He’s already working on connecting better and more deeply with the area’s audience. NECN, which used to stand for New England Cable News, now stands for New England Connection, and they’ve changed the target demographic from men over 65 to female millennials, ages 25 to 40, to more accurately reflect the makeup of Boston today.
“We’re trying to reimagine how we can create local content and distribute it differently, so it reaches the audience that we struggle to reach currently with our traditional formats,” Wayland said.
Meanwhile, he projects that Telemundo will become the area’s destination for all Spanish-language media, while NBC Sports Boston, along with continuing to be the home of the Celtics, will also become the destination for information about all of Boston’s major sports teams. With the stations’ combined resources, Wayland says they’ll be able to cover stories in a way that no one else in the market can.
“We’re all kind of looking up to Chris to see what he’s going to do and how he’s going to lead,” said Shehade, “and everyone has the utmost confidence in him for it.”