Why This Matters: Fast-growing Charlotte has a couple of new owners at its lively TV stations.
When BB&T and Suntrust agreed to a $66 billion merger, the banks chose Charlotte as home base for their new company. It was yet another win for North Carolina’s most populous city, where hardware giant Lowe’s is building a 23-story tower that will open next year, to house 2,000 tech employees.
Construction is going on all over town. “I’d love to be in the orange cone or crane business here,” Scott Dempsey, WBTV VP and general manager, said.
Charlotte is Nielsen’s No. 23 DMA. Apollo owns ABC affiliate WSOC, Tegna has NBC outlet WCNC, Gray holds CBS-aligned WBTV and Fox has WJZY and MyNetworkTV-affiliated WMYT. Bahakel-owned WCCB airs The CW.
Apollo and Gray are new to Charlotte. Deborah Collura, WCNC president and general manager, sees the changes as “a big disruptor” in the market.
Mike McClain was VP and general manager at WJZY-WMYT starting in October 2018. Fox announced July 22 he was shifting to GM at WOFL-WRBW Orlando, Florida.
Employing “Getting Results” branding, WJZY debuted 5 p.m. news in the fall, bringing its weekly total of local news to 481/2 hours. Morning show Good Day Charlotte “has seen real growth,” McClain said before his move was announced. “We’ve passed WCCB in morning news, and have our other competitors in our sights.”
WJZY adds Kelly Clarkson in the fall.
WBTV marked 70 years on the air July 15. In September, it debuts lifestyle show QC @ 3. (Charlotte is known as the Queen City.) That will bring the station’s weekly homegrown content to 52 hours. In September, WBTV will have no weekday syndication. “We have a better opportunity to do something unique and local,” said Dempsey.
WBTV plays bigger than its market size, in Dempsey’s view. “The caliber of product we put on the air is as good as anything you’d see in a top 10 market,” he said.
WCNC has a new take on morning shows with Wake Up Charlotte, which Collura said offers a “two-way conversation” with viewers thanks to its social components. “We’re trying to break the mold of the morning newscast,” she said.
The station partners with the Knight Foundation on “solution journalism,” said Collura, and houses Tegna’s fact-checking Verify unit.
Locally owned WCCB sees itself as the “community station” in Charlotte, according to station manager/general sales manager Gaston Bates. “We are constantly connecting with the community as we attempt to be in front of our viewers at as many events as possible,” he said.
Spectrum is the main pay TV operator.
WSOC and WBTV have a bare-knuckle fight in the ratings. At 6 a.m. in May, WSOC won viewers 25-54 and households. At 5 p.m. WBTV won both by a tenth of a point. At 5:30, the pair tied in 25-54 and WSOC won households. In the 6 p.m. race, WSOC had the upper hand. WBTV won prime, and posted a 3.1 in 11 p.m. households, ahead of WSOC’s 2.7. WSOC did a 1.0 in 25-54, just ahead of WBTV’s 0.9.
“WBTV and WSOC trade blows,” said Dempsey. “We win a book, they win a book.”
Charlotte’s growth has led to more traffic and housing issues, but the market is sorting it out. Said Collura, “It’s a city trying to keep up with its fast-paced growth.”
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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.
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