It only took 227 years, but Delaware has a Big Four-affiliated TV station. Next month, WRDE, currently a MyNetworkTV-Cozi TV hybrid licensed to Rehoboth Beach, officially becomes an NBC affiliate—and provides local news for viewers who have grown accustomed to Baltimore fires, Washington traffic and Philadelphia crime on their NBC stations.
“We deserve our own NBC station,” says Bob Backman, president and general manager, who mentions the frustration of seeing Baltimore news breaks while watching Sunday Night Football. “I believe every area deserves its own NBC station.”
A somewhat stressed Backman was putting the finishing touches on the station, which is renting space in the Cape Gazette newspaper’s building in Lewes, Del. That involved awaiting equipment shipments, hiring reporters and ironing out carriage agreements before the mid-June debut of what will be called Coast TV. “It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done,” he says.
Delaware calls itself the First State for being first to ratify the Constitution. Part of the so-called Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) peninsula, the seaside town of Rehoboth— which is in southern Delaware (Lower Slower Delaware has its own Facebook page)—is part of the Salisbury, Md., DMA. That includes monster CBS affiliate WBOC and its dot-two Fox channel; WBOC covers the Delaware beach communities with a bureau in the region. Residents receive station signals from as many as four TV markets, though none of them are licensed to Delaware.
Both Backman and Alan Levin, director of economic development for the state, believe WRDE represents the first affiliated TV station in Delaware history. “It’s a really big deal,” says Levin, who’s based in Wilmington. “I think it points to the population growth downstate.”
Retirees from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, drawn to low property taxes and the seaside lifestyle, he says, are fueling the influx.
Backman, a former Pax TV exec, tapped radio vet Walt Barcus to head up the news operation, which will feature at least three reporters at launch, and will air 6 and 11 p.m. news, along with Today show cut-ins. Jean Dietze, NBC executive VP of affiliate relations, warmly received the newest member of the affiliate family. “We are delighted to welcome WRDE as an NBC affiliate and look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead,” she says in a statement.
WRDE will shift MyNet-Cozi to its dot-two channel. Backman promises “absolutely the latest cutting edge technology.” While he won’t share specifics, Backman says social media, newer solutions such as Skype, and multimedia journalists will be central to the news operation.
An informal poll of a half-dozen area residents revealed minimal recognition for either WRDE or Coast TV; an editor at the Cape Gazette, in the same building as the station, admitted she had barely thought about southern Delaware’s newest media entity. But Backman remains optimistic. “There are topics that are never covered here, and I think there are a lot of stories that need to be plumbed,” he says. “We are the ones to do it.”
NEW NEWS OPERATIONS IN MAINE, SAN ANTONIO
Mid-Coast Maine and San Antonio are getting new news operations. Maine newspaper mogul Reade Brower and Alan Hinsey debut independent station VStv, which launches in the fall with news at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Rockport-based VStv will also air a slate of locally produced shows, including the current affairs program Above the Fold and talker Soup du Jour.
Brower owns a batch of local newspapers that share a VillageSoup.com site.
“We think there’s a gap here,” says Hinsey, noting the market’s locale between Bangor and Portland. “We think there’s a great opportunity—a need and business model—for a hyper-local station.”
Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable launches a 24/7 news operation in San Antonio on June 2. “We look forward to serving the community by providing our brand of award-winning hyper-local coverage of news, sports, weather, politics and much more to San Antonians,” says Bernie Han, TWC VP of news.