Local TV

Market Eye: New Life in Charlotte

New brands, new owners, new affiliations in DMA No. 25 4/08/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What’s Working in Charlotte

About a year and a half ago, WCNC management made the decision to position the Belo station as the market’s consumer watchdog with its “Looking Out for You” credo. No staffer personifies that better than Bill Mc- Ginty. McGinty anchors the 5:30 p.m. news and holds a consumer/investigative reporter title, hosting “Get McGinty” advocacy segments that run three to five times per week. “Those allow Bill to look out for the little guy,” says Corrie Harding, WCNC executive news director, “taking on whatever problems the consumer might have.”

The segments debuted in February. A set of promos with a comic-book motif likens McGinty to an old-time crime fighter, sorting out the market’s swindlers and heels as a deep-voiced narrator barks, “Get McGinty!”

Harding says McGinty was the perfect fit for WCNC’s revamped mission. “His talents, plus the opportunity we had in Charlotte, and how well it fit with Looking Out for You,” he says, “made it a natural.” —MM

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Stations are rebranding in Charlotte, N.C., to reflect closer relationships with
their affiliated networks and, in one case, a split with the net. Last fall, WCNC
dropped its Newschannel 36 branding in favor of the bold “NBC Charlotte,”
a handle that was indicative of the network’s triumphant, albeit shortlived,
return to primetime eminence.

Across the street, WCCB goes by “Fox Charlotte,”
though not for long. In January, Fox served WCCB
with divorce papers when the network agreed to buy
WJZY-WMYT for $18 million from Capitol Broadcasting;
the net will turn one of the two stations into a Fox
O&O. WCCB, which will split from Fox on July 1, is
already making some breaks. Its 10:35 p.m. talk show
Fox News Edge now goes by the name WCCB News Edge.

Jim White, WCCB VP and general manager, says
staffers were shocked when they got the news about
Fox but are staying the course as parent Bahakel
Communications plots its next move. Insiders suspect
WCCB will go independent, but White said no
decisions have been made. “We have several options
and we’re vetting them all,” White said. Whatever the
change is, we’ll embrace it.”

It’s been a lively time in DMA No. 25. Charlotte hosted
the 2012 Democratic National Convention, an event
that pumped a reported $150 million into the local
economy. Stations put their best foot forward to greet
the delegates and other visitors. WSOC, for one, trotted
out a new set and graphics package.

Cox Media Group’s WSOC is a longtime leader in
Charlotte. “WSOC’s commitment to providing relevant,
investigative local news is why our viewers
continue to trust us,” said Joe Pomilla, WSOC VP and
general manager.

Cox also owns independent WAXN.

It’s a heck of a ratings race. WSOC and Raycom CBS
affiliate WBTV were virtually tied in total-day ratings
(household and adults 25-54) for the February sweeps.
WBTV won primetime by a landslide and grabbed the
11 p.m. news race in households, its 6.3 rating/12.9
share a little better than WSOC’s 6/12.2. The two
were virtually deadlocked in the 25-54 late news race.
WSOC won early evenings and a.m. news.

WBTV thrives on CBS’ rocking primetime and a
comprehensive local approach that includes 4 p.m. and
7 p.m. newscasts and two editorials per week delivered
by Nick Simonette, VP and general manager. “We’re
creating a conversation in the market,” Simonette
said. “We’re getting the market to talk about its issues
and challenges.”

An editorial board offers input on the GM’s “Speak
Out” segments. A recent one examined the concept of
year-round school in Charlotte.

Belo owns NBC affiliate WCNC. The station introduced
a new set before the Olympics last July. In late
2011, WCNC debuted the tagline “Looking Out for
You.” Research showed a need for a local news watchdog,
said Corrie Harding, WCNC executive news director.
“People in Charlotte were concerned that no
one was looking out for their interests,” Harding said.
“It was an opportunity for us to really get a toehold
and try to grow a bit.”

When WCNC switched to the NBC Charlotte branding,
the network’s primetime was booming on the backs
of The Voice and Sunday Night Football. Then came
NBC’s plummet back to the primetime basement. Harding
says the new branding shows a long-term commitment
to the network and attributes such as the Olympics,
a strong summer slate and those fall cornerstones.
“We’re not being reflexive in our reaction to one sweeps
month,” he said.

Those are not the only local outlets going through a
rebrand. In its 11th year on the air, Time Warner Cable’s
News 14 is likely to switch to Time Warner Cable News,
though Alan Mason, VP and general manager, says talks
on the matter are ongoing. News 14’s topical talk show
Capital Tonight debuted a year ago, and Mason says the
convention played to the channel’s strengths. “Politics is
a huge emphasis of ours here,” he said.

The Charlotte economy appears stable. MetLife is
moving into the market, bringing in a whopping 1,300
jobs. “We’re optimistic that things are getting better in
’13,” said Mason.

WJZY is a CW affiliate and WMYT is a MyNetworkTV
station. One will take over the Fox affiliation upon Fox
getting regulatory approval for its acquisition. Karen Adams,
former GM at WGHP Greensboro (N.C.), recently
took over the stations. She was not available to speak, as
Fox had not closed on the deal at presstime.

WBTV has a contract to produce the news for
WMYT through 2013.

All eyes are on the affiliation switch; some competitors
privately say the state of flux spells opportunity for
them. White hopes to maintain head count at the new
WCCB. “There are 22 hours a day that we’re not Fox,”
he said. “It’s not like we have to rebuild the station.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone

What’s Working in Charlotte

About a year and a half ago, WCNC management made the decision to position the Belo station as the market’s consumer watchdog with its “Looking Out for You” credo. No staffer personifies that better than Bill Mc- Ginty. McGinty anchors the 5:30 p.m. news and holds a consumer/investigative reporter title, hosting “Get McGinty” advocacy segments that run three to five times per week. “Those allow Bill to look out for the little guy,” says Corrie Harding, WCNC executive news director, “taking on whatever problems the consumer might have.”

The segments debuted in February. A set of promos with a comic-book motif likens McGinty to an old-time crime fighter, sorting out the market’s swindlers and heels as a deep-voiced narrator barks, “Get McGinty!”

Harding says McGinty was the perfect fit for WCNC’s revamped mission. “His talents, plus the opportunity we had in Charlotte, and how well it fit with Looking Out for You,” he says, “made it a natural.” —MM

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