NAB Show 2022: WRAL-TV and WRAZ-TV VP and GM Joel Davis Sets Expectations

Joel Davis
Joel Davis (Image credit: Capitol Broadcasting)

Broadcasting+Cable has been checking in with various broadcasters about their expectations for this year’s NAB Show, scheduled for April 23-27 in Las Vegas. Senior content producer, finance Mike Farrell recently spoke with Joel Davis, VP and general manager of Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL and WRAZ in Raleigh, North Carolina. An edited transcript follows. 

B+C: What are your plans for attending the show this year? Is this bigger or about the same size as you have done in the past?

Joel Davis: We are taking about six people from the company and the No. 1 thing is to reconnect with business partners and friends we haven’t seen in two years because of COVID restrictions. The reconnection part of this year is huge. We’re a relatively small broadcasting company, so we really thrive on the interaction we get with others in the industry, and it's just been way too long since we’ve been able to do that. This is about the same size [of people] as we’ve sent before. But we’ve got a little backlog on things we hope to accomplish since we haven't been able to be there for a while. 

B+C: Others have pointed to the vibe around the NAB Show, how it’s different than some other shows because of the opportunity to bump into people on the show floor and strike long-term relationships. Do you agree?

JD: I think there is a sense of human connection that we’ve all been missing in this industry, and the collaboration that comes even when you’ve got different people from different companies preparing notes on how things are done. It’s one thing to do a demo over Zoom, it’s another thing to see things in actuality. The rate that the industry is changing. Look at just what’s happened here in the past couple of years — the move with the 24/7 streaming channel. We purchased another broadcast station in town and have turned it into WRAL Sports Plus. We’re looking at the best technology to run that efficiently and own local sports content in a way that hasn’t been possible before. We’re really approaching this as a streaming channel that just happens to be broadcast TV and cable as well. 

We’ve got sports contracts with the local major soccer team, the Durham Bulls baseball team, we’ve broadcast all of those events. But this is the kind of sports channel that can get down to broadcasting the Youth Soccer Game of the Week. We need tools to be able to do that in a really cost-effective way. There’s a lot of stuff that’s new in the market in the past two years that we just haven’t had a chance to get our hands on. So, we’re interested to see some of the tools that are out there that will help with some of the new products we have since the last NAB.

B+C: What are your feelings about the new structure of the show, around the three pillars of Create, Connect and Capitalize? Does that make it easier to do some of the things you’re talking about?

JD: It does. In a practical sense, you kind of know where to go now. One of the things that’s always a little bit daunting with the show is that it’s massive. Having it a little bit compartmentalized into three major categories, helps to frame your mind around what is there and where to go to get it.

B+C: You mentioned streaming. Are there any other technologies that you’re interested in exploring at the show? 

JD: There are a number of things we’re interested in. ATSC is the future for all of us, so, looking at what companies have put together that make it easier for us to implement the advantages of [ATSC 3.0] is important. We are looking at things that help us be more efficient in what we do, like our archives project, where we’re able to look at what we’ve put together over all these years and how we can best maximize its use in the future. We want tech to exist to be able to efficiently identify and access all the great stuff that sits in our building now, but is just collecting dust unfortunately at the moment.   

B+C: A lot of trade shows are geared toward the bigger companies in particular industries, and sometimes smaller firms can get lost in the shuffle. That doesn’t seem to be the case at NAB. Do you agree?

JD: We’re one of the smallest broadcasting companies out there, and where other broadcasting companies have gone wide, we’ve gone deep. We own local news, weather and sports in the community where we live and work. We’ve come out of every NAB with a purchase list just like other companies do. We may purchase different things, we may be looking at different things strategically, but I get as much benefit out of going to NAB with Capitol Broadcasting as I did when I was a general manager with Scripps, perhaps even more so. If I see something that is really cool, I’ll call up the president of our company and have him come take a look at it, and we may have a purchase by the time we leave Las Vegas. ■ 

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.