At 7 a.m. Monday in WRAL’s master control room, Jim Goodmon is scheduled to push a button with a peacock on it.
At that signal from Capitol Broadcating CEO Goodmon, NBC’s Today Show is to beam into the Triangle on television station WRAL for the first time since 1962.
WRAL, a CBS affiliate for the past three decades, is making a Leap Day leap back to NBC, where it was founded as an affiliate in 1956. Five hours earlier at 2 a.m., station WNCN ends its 21-year affiliation with NBC to become a CBS station for the first time, broadcasting CBS’s overnight news programming.
Representatives from both stations say their station benefits from the network exchange, though WRAL appears to have initiated the swap by independently electing not to renew its most recent 5-year contract with CBS. WNCN, on the other hand, was informed by its corporate office of the shift to CBS six weeks ago, according to Doug Hamilton, WNCN’s vice president and general manager.
The stations announced the switch on Jan. 15 and have launched campaigns to help viewers navigate any resulting confusion.
“A lot of people set up the DVR for a time instead of for a show,” Hamilton said. “They need to make sure that they’re following the show and not the time period. This is confusing for a lot of people who think we’re changing channels, but we’re not. We’re just changing networks.”
Hamilton also recommended over-the-air viewers re-scan their channels to ensure their receiver is correctly interpreting the stations’ digital signals.
Viewers and recording devices will be tested right out of the gate on Monday, when NBC’s hit show “The Voice” makes its season debut on WRAL at 8 p.m. Fans of the show who mistakenly tune into its former home on WNCN Monday night – or try to record “The Voice” there – will instead encounter the CBS drama “Supergirl.”
WNCN has made a swath of cosmetic changes to help viewers adjust, including repainting and redecorating its newsroom. The station has also rebranded its news trucks to feature the CBS logo instead of NBC’s peacock.
“We want to make sure that transition is super smooth,” WNCN Director of Marketing Kristen Byrum said. “We have a phone bank of people answering questions. If a signal is down in a viewer’s house, we will actually go to their house.”
WRAL’s branding seldom uses the CBS logo, meaning its news trucks and general aesthetic will remain largely unchanged.
“There are satellites that will have to be changed so we can pick up NBC’s programming,” WRAL General Manager Steve Hammel said. “There’s big things like programming and small things like business cards, and maybe 300 nitty-gritty things we’ve had to take care of.”
Viewers might also notice slight editorial changes in the stations’ news broadcasts. Hammel said NBC’s emphasis on local news was most responsible for WRAL’s decision to switch networks.
“I really can’t get into details of the contract,” he said. “But I can certainly tell you that we felt a lot more comfortable with the commitment NBC has towards local broadcasting.”
Hamilton said WNCN would embrace CBS’s broader editorial scope. The station will now focus more on statewide news coverage than metro reporting, he said.
Correction: In a previous version of this story, Capitol Broadcasting was misspelled. A quote from WRAL General Manager Steve Hammel misidentified the network with which the station’s new satellites must be compatible.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @hgargan