WRAL explored renewing its network affiliation with CBS, but the station’s owner ultimately decided that switching to NBC was the smart play.
“We had a choice and we chose NBC,” Goodmon said. He called it “a business decision for the future.”
WRAL announced Friday that it was shifting from CBS to NBC, currently the top-rated network, as of Feb. 29. That move triggered a domino effect that ends up with WNCN, the current NBC affiliate, shifting affiliations to CBS.
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“We are so excited to have this opportunity to be the CBS provider for Raleigh-Durham,” said Doug Hamilton, vice president and general manager of WNCN, who touted CBS’s ratings as being stronger locally than they are nationwide.
He also noted that CBS airs “March Madness” and a robust lineup of daytime shows that will be moving to the station, including: “The Price is Right,” “Let’s Make a Deal,” “The Talk,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless.”
Doug Spero, a former TV news director and associate professor of mass communications at Meredith College, said WRAL’s move “shows that strong local TV stations are not going to be held hostage by the networks any more.”
Spero said that WRAL is one of the few local stations in the country that “own the market” – that is, dominate the ratings.
“Because they’ve got such a strong ratings share in almost every category, they can afford to tell CBS ... to go take a walk,” he said.
“NBC, obviously, would be idiots not to jump off of WNCN and onto WRAL,” Spero added. “It’s a win-win for NBC.”
Spero said that NBC’s “Today Show” will be a stronger lead-in to WRAL’s local morning news programming, in terms of ratings, than the “CBS Morning News.” That’s especially important because local news is the biggest money-maker for TV stations – and the morning news is the most lucrative of all.
The relationship between stations and networks have become strained in the past decade as the networks have sought to ratchet down payments they make to stations for carrying their national programming – in some cases even demanding that the stations pay them. The networks also have been demanding a piece of the fees that cable and satellite companies pay to carry local stations.
Goodmon, wearing an NBC hat, told WRAL news anchor David Crabtree in the online interview that CBS’s proposal for renewing its contract was one-sided.
“A contract tells a story. It defines a relationship,” Goodmon said. “There wasn’t any way that I could consider the CBS agreement a partnership. It was a one-way, ‘this is how we do this.’”
The “tone and thrust” of the CBS proposal, Goodmon said, “was: Here’s the programming. You pay for it. You run it. That’s the deal.”
By contrast, he said, NBC subscribed to the notion that “we’re in this together and we’re going to make this work.”
Goodmon didn’t respond to a request for additional comment on Tuesday.
Jim Hefner, a former vice president and general manager at WRAL who is now a professor at the school of journalism and mass communications at UNC-Chapel Hill, said changing affiliates is a significant move.
“I’m sure that Mr. Goodmon doesn’t make that decision without a lot of thought,” said Hefner, who stressed that he had no inside knowledge about the reasons behind Capitol’s decision. “Affiliate changes create disruption in the marketplace, and that can be bad for your business.”
WNCN’s Hamilton agreed the change “will absolutely be confusing to viewers. We are going to do our best to over-deliver on their expectations and help them find their favorite shows.”
WNCN plans to mount a media campaign – on-air, online and in social media – to alert viewers that the station will be home to the CBS lineup of shows.
The network switch also will have an impact on local programming.
Goodmon said the daily 4 p.m. newscast featuring the WRAL news team that currently runs on WRAZ, the local Fox affiliate – which also is owned by Capitol Broadcasting – will move to WRAL when the network shift takes place at the end of February. He did not specify the reason for the change.
Meanwhile, WNCN is looking at whether it will continue to air an 11 a.m. local newscast versus airing the CBS show “The Price is Right” in that time slot. But Hamilton said that the station won’t reduce the amount of time it devotes to local news.
“Our commitment to the news is firm,” he said.
WNCN was once owned by NBC’s corporate parent, NBCUniversal, which sold the station to publicly traded Media General in 2006.
WRAL, meanwhile, started out as an NBC affiliate in 1956.
“So, welcome back, NBC,” Goodmon said. “Welcome home.”
WRAL blackout hits DirecTV
Local television channels WRAL and WRAZ have been blacked out on DirecTV after Capitol Broadcasting failed to negotiate a new contract with the satellite television provider.
In a message posted on WRAL.com, Capitol said it has been negotiating with DirecTV since November, extending its contract several times, including this past weekend so that DirecTV viewers could watch the NFL playoff games.
The Super Bowl, as well as this Sunday’s AFC Championship game, are scheduled to be broadcast on WRAL on Sunday and Feb. 7.
Capitol engaged in similar drama with DirecTV in early 2013. A compromise in that situation was announced half an hour before the station had promised to shut down its signal to DirecTV.
Capitol is currently offering a $50 discount on the purchase of an antenna, which enables viewers to watch WRAL and WRAZ over-the-air.
The dispute is over how much in carriage fees DirecTV will pay Capitol to broadcast its stations. Both Capitol and DirecTV said in statements that they are working to reach an agreement.