B+C Station Awards: How Chad Matthews Gets Even More From Standout ABC Stations

ABC Owned Television Stations president Chad Matthews
Chad Matthews (Image credit: ABC Owned Television Stations)

The ABC Owned Television Stations, including WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles and WLS Chicago, have long been market leaders in terms of morning, early evening, late news and other daily news battles. But garnering the most Nielsen ratings points does not always translate to digital domination. 

With that in mind, each of the eight ABC-owned stations launched a 24/7 streaming channel in January. The digital channels offer unique newscasts, such as new 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekday newscasts on WLS, breaking news, upbeat Localish stories and other exclusive content. 

Users are watching them. ABC’s stations had between 276% and 1,278% more streamed hours on their apps and websites than the next best station in their markets this year, the group shared. 

Chad Matthews, ABC Owned Stations president, said the products “came out of the gate on fire.”

“We’ve seen incredible performance,” he said. “Every time I look at it, I pinch myself.”

Besides WABC, KABC and WLS, the ABC-owned stations are WPVI Philadelphia, KGO San Francisco, KTRK Houston, WTVD Raleigh-Durham and KFSN Fresno. Matthews conceded being a news leader in a given market, and having a robust network news partner, gives a station a giant advantage in the digital derby. “How can you go wrong with the No. 1 local news and No. 1 network news in the country?” he said.  

It’s been an extraordinary rise to group chief for Matthews. He was named president of ABC Owned Stations in January 2022, following a year as WABC president and general manager, after three years as the news director. (He was B+C’s GM of the Year in markets 1-25 in 2021.) 

Asked about a learning curve in his latest role, Matthews, who entered the WABC newsroom in 2000, stresses that he knows local news intimately, and that is the backbone of the station business. Matthews cites Debra OConnell, his predecessor as WABC general manager, and now president, networks, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, as “a tremendous resource who has been there for me every step of the way.”

The ABC group enjoys enviable resources in its corporate portfolio, including ABC News, ESPN, Hulu and FiveThirtyEight, and uses those to enhance both content and distribution. 

The ABC stations have become known for their groupwide reports, including those under the Our America banner, which Matthews described as “a spotlight on underrepresented and underserved communities”; and the Neighborhood Safety Tracker, which investigates crime in individual neighborhoods. An Our America report titled “Lowballed” looked at housing inequality in America. It debuted on the stations’ streaming channels and apps, as well as Apple TV and Hulu, starting December 2, and was on air at the eight stations starting December 5. 

Another Our America report, subtitled “Mission Montford Point,” examined the first Black men to serve in the Marines. World War II veteran John L. Ramos finally got the medal he had long been due after seeing the one-hour documentary.  

The ABC group has a data journalism department to provide critical context to reportage. Matthews said “putting data and numbers behind [stories] puts things in perspective for viewers.” A race and culture department also gives stories extra pop. 

Viewers across the country have been bombarded with unpleasant news over the last few years, including the pandemic and battles over racial inequality. The ABC stations are all over those important stories, but reporters also make an effort to find positive news in their communities as well. Matthews said “audiences want a mix.”

“People are looking for an escape,” he added. “They want to see bright spots in life.”

OConnell said Matthews is off to a solid start as group president. “First of all, Chad is an incredible journalist,” she said. “He also had a wonderful business mind and is a fantastic leader.”

Matthews shared that, as long as the ABC station newsrooms continue to crank out rock-solid, compelling local content, they’ll retain the crowns they wear in their markets. “The power of our stations is the power of our news brands,” he said. “We’re the most powerful brands in local television and we don’t take that for granted. Our teams come in every day, looking to produce the most impactful content for our communities.” 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.