Charlotte television stations are already pouring tens of thousands of dollars into covering Septembers Democratic National Convention, gearing up for what is probably the most extensive local story since Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.
One big-ticket item is the cost of renting mezzanine suites where stations can set up anchor teams to broadcast from Time Warner Cable Arena.
Basic suites for the week go for about $19,000, depending on size. After customization, the cost could come to around $25,000.
WSOC-TV (Channel 9) has rented one, and will probably get the most for its money because it has so many newscasts. Local news starts at 4:30 a.m. on the station and goes through 7 a.m., then sister station WAXN-TV (Channel 64) does another two-hour news broadcast, followed by news shows throughout the day and evening.
News director Julie Szulczewski says in the evenings, the ABC World News newscast will probably be pushed back a half an hour to 7 p.m. so the station can do a straight two-hour block beginning at 5 p.m. during the convention.
WSOC is also considering expanding its 10 p.m. newscast on WAXN and 11 p.m. news on Channel 9 to an hour each.
WBTV-TV (Channel 3) plans to broadcast out of the CBS compound behind the podium, and some newscasts will likely be expanded, said news director Dennis Milligan.
Channel 3 will focus extensively on the conventions impact on the city.
Theres a story inside the arena, but everyone knows the outcome of that. Thats not the crux of the story, he said.
Our belief is that at least 80 percent of the DNC story is outside. This is going to impact life all over the city.
Milligan said the station is planning to brief staffers on safety precautions they should take in case protests get out of hand. We hope its uneventful, but youve got to be prepared for the worst.
At WCNC-TV (Channel 36), safety briefings will be conducted by the companys corporate owners in the next few weeks, said news director Corrie Harding. WCNC is still discussing whether it will expand daily newscasts, he said.
WCNC has rented a suite next to NBC at the arena. It has also paid thousands of dollars for a spot on the floor of the convention and one at Bank of America Stadium, where President Barack Obama is expected to deliver his nomination acceptance speech Sept. 6.
Outdoor studio rising
Fox Charlotte (WCCB, Channel 18) has paid for a stand-up position inside the arena, which costs about $7,000. It is in an unusual position because its 10 p.m. newscasts will air while the convention and Obamas speech are still going on, said Ken White, news director.
Fox Charlotte is building an outdoor set on scaffolding in the parking lot of the Villa Francesca restaurant at Caldwell and Seventh Streets in First Ward. It will provide backdrops of uptown and will be used extensively for its Fox News Rising and Fox News Edge shows, White said.
Political ads help ease cost
Though the costs of covering the story will be high, the stations are already reaping tens of thousands of dollars in political advertising, led by Channel 9, which reports Obamas campaign has already reserved 194 commercial spots in August for $164,225, and Mitt Romneys campaign has reserved 108 for $144,075.
At Channel 3, the numbers for August are 56 Obama spots for $35,200 and 120 Romney spots for $180,925; at Channel 18, 9 Romney spots for $10,950; and Channel 36, 32 Obama spots for $20,750 and 61 Romney spots for $53,075.