Charlotte Observers

More residents, more ratings points in banking and NASCAR hotbed
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While the nation’s home foreclosures were a major blow for the banking industry, both in terms of image and business, bank-rich Charlotte, N.C., is nonetheless booming. The market was Nielsen’s 28th-largest DMA as recently as 2004 and is now No. 23, as some 400,000 more people have moved into the area.

Charlotte is home to Wells Fargo, which absorbed ailing Wachovia, as well as Bank of America. “The banks are actually advertising more,” says Tim Morrissey, president and general manager of WCNC. “That category has come back.”

There’s much more to Charlotte than banking. The region is of course a motor sports hotbed; the NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in Charlotte earlier this year (“Where the race lives on!” gushes the tagline). The city is also home to an increasing array of artsy offerings. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Culture celebrated its first anniversary in October, and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art will mark the same milestone in January; both give Charlotte a more sophisticated air.

Charlotte’s TV stations offer fairly sophisticated fare, too. Cox’s ABC affiliate WSOC won the morning, early evening, primetime and total-day household ratings races in the November sweeps. For the 11 p.m. news, WSOC and Raycom’s CBS outlet WBTV were deadlocked in households, both earning a 6 rating/12 share. WSOC held the late news advantage in adults 25-54 in November.

The market’s stations took in a total of $162 million in 2009, according to BIA/Kelsey. WSOC led with $42.6 million, while WBTV booked just over $38 million. BIA/Kelsey forecasts the total market revenue jumping to nearly $181 million this election year, then slipping back to $165 million in 2011.

Also in the race are Bahakel’s Fox affiliate WCCB; Belo’s NBC affiliate WCNC; Capitol Broadcasting’s CWMyNetworkTV duopoly, WJZY and WMYT; and Cox’s independent WAXN. Time Warner Cable’s News14 Carolina is a 24/7 news option. TWC is the primary pay-TV operator, while Charter has a presence as well.

Charlotte stations are looking to reach newly arriving residents with expanded local-content offerings. WAXN in September launched Eyewitness News This Morning on TV64 from 7-9 a.m. Last February, WCNC added the 11 a.m. local show Charlotte Today.

WBTV has the lone 7 p.m. local news in the market; the station added a 4 p.m. news on Sept.14. Dennis Milligan, WBTV news director, calls that 60-minute broadcast a “news in process” kind of program. “We felt it was an important time period to better serve our viewers,” he says. “We give the news as it stands at that moment.”

WSOC will go up against WBTV at 4 p.m. with Dr. Oz after Oprah Winfrey departs broadcast TV for cable next fall. WCNC also airs a 30-minute news at 4.

News14 Carolina offers both statewide news and Charlotte-specific weather, traffic and breaking news. The cable channel was wall-to-wall with local political coverage on Election Day. “The biggest thing we hear from viewers is [they like our] convenience,” says Alan Mason, VP/general manager of News14.

The Capitol duopoly has a strong local presence, too. WBTV produces the 10 p.m. news for WJZY, which also offers the public affairs show Charlotte Now. The program, which airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m., is hosted by talk radio veteran Mike Collins. Double runs of Family Guy, Two and a Half Men and New Adventures of Old Christine bookend the CW’s primetime lineup.

WJZY’s syndicated morning program The Daily Buzz features local weather and content windows inserted into the show. Shawn Harris, VP/general manager of WJZY and WMYT, wants an even more local Buzz. “We plan to have live news inserts in the [coming] weeks,” he says.

With such a broad geographical region to cover, the Charlotte stations tap into the community to add to their Web content. WCCB’s FoxCharlotte.com has “YouCharlotte,” which invites users to upload photos and video of everything from their pets to Charlotte’s expanding skyline at night.

But you don’t have to be cute, cuddly or particularly picturesque to have your photo on either WSOCTV.com or WCNC.com. Both feature slide shows of police mug shots from the region. (Izzie Mae Banner violated her probation, if you’re scoring at home.) WCNC’s site employs YouNews for more traditional user-generated content.

WBTV’s community sites initiative helps the station cover all corners of the market. Milligan says page views have climbed from 24,000 in its April debut to around 240,000 currently, and local organizations such as police departments are now sending news releases to the station for inclusion. “We expect it to grow substantially,” Milligan says. “We’re about a third of the way to where we want to be in terms of traffic.”

While the election season spelled a modest windfall, local TV business was up close to 10% through the first three quarters of 2010. Charlotte’s general managers are enjoying the revenue rebound and are hopeful it will continue into the new year. “Two years ago, we stared into the abyss,” offers WCNC’s Morrissey, “but things have come back dramatically.”

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

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