Charlotte’s WCCB (Channel 18) said Thursday it will pick up the CW network this summer, filling the void left when the station loses its 27-year affiliation with Fox.
CW programs – including “America’s Next Top Model,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Arrow” – had aired on WJZY (Channel 46), which was purchased by Fox along with sister station WMYT (Channel 55), in an $18 million deal signed in January. Fox has not said yet which of the two stations will carry its shows, which include the top-rated NFL football and “American Idol.”
Changes will take effect on July 1 when contracts expire.
Jim Babb, executive vice president of Charlotte-based Bahakel Communications, said WCCB’s morning and 10 p.m. newscasts will continue and may expand.
“Our only change would be in more news,” he said. “We plan on continuing what we’re doing, and to find ways to expand our local news and community affairs-type things.”
Babb said the station is close to arranging replacement programming on weekends, when the CW goes dark, but he said it was too soon to discuss the plans.
Audience shifts likely
While WCCB has lost the lucrative Panthers broadcasts on Sundays, it has retained the rights to the team’s four preseason games under a contract that has three more years to run.
Overall ratings and ad sales likely will sag at WCCB because the CW network, weakest of the major broadcast networks, carries shows that attract smaller audiences.
In January, for example, the highest-rated show in Charlotte aside from sports was Fox’s “American Idol,” which pulled about 260,000 viewers.
By comparison, the highest-rated show on the CW network in Charlotte was the superhero drama “Arrow,” which drew about 29,000 viewers.
Launched in 2006 as a partnership between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS, the CW ranks fifth in ratings among the five networks and targets its programming toward the demographic of women ages 18-34.
New branding campaign
Bishop Cheen, a Charlotte-based media analyst, said WCCB will have to adjust its business model to deal with lower revenue.
“They are experienced TV operators, they’re not hobbyists, so that helps,” Cheen said. “And they have a relationship in the community. But people don’t watch stations – they watch programs. There’s no loyalty to a particular station or network.”
Cheen said WCCB’s decades with Fox won’t give the station a boost when affiliations change.
“They’re going to have to go out and rebuild the image and performance of that station hour by hour. They’ve spent decades branding their station as a Fox affiliate. So all that good will and embedded branding is a moot point. They have to rebrand the station.”
Babb said WCCB likely will begin rolling out a new imaging campaign in May, when the networks’ summer season begins.
It already has dropped the Fox branding from its news broadcasts and evening magazine show.
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