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Charlotte stations revealing branding strategies

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

A month from now, you can expect intensive marketing blasts from WCCB (Channel 18) and WJZY (Channel 46) as the stations prepare for the first affiliation switch in Charlotte in 35 years.

On July 1, Fox programs will move from WCCB to WJZY and CW network shows will move the opposite direction.

Fox bought WJZY and sister-station WMYT (Channel 55) in January. It notified WCCB – its Charlotte affiliate since the network launched 27 years ago – that it would be taking its programming that way when current contracts expire.

Included in the $18 million acquisition was the WJZY property off Interstate 85 in west Charlotte, assessed at $1.4 million.

It’s the first network change since 1978, when WSOC (Channel 9) became an ABC affiliate and WCNC (Channel 36) took NBC from WCCB, which became an independent station.

WJZY has begun running promos with its new branding identity: Fox 46 Carolinas. This is a good strategy that not only targets the border region (WJZY’s coverage area includes counties in Upstate South Carolina as well as North Carolina to the Virginia border) but avoids confusion with WCCB’s old trademark, Fox Charlotte.

While WCCB hasn’t disclosed what it will call itself after the transition, Charlotte-based Bahakel Communications, which owns the station, has reserved the Web domain CharlottesCW.com through the next two years.

Already, the station’s Web address has been changed to WCCBCharlotte.com from FoxCharlotte.com, and Fox branding has been dropped from WCCB’s local news shows.

Bahakel executive Jim Babb has said that WCCB won’t drop its local news programs after the affiliation switch and may even increase the amount of time devoted to news. Fox has not disclosed whether it will launch a news department for WJZY, but it is all but certain because all major Fox-owned stations produce their own news.

WBTV (Channel 3) now produces a 10 p.m. newscast anchored by Molly Grantham that recently switched from WJZY to sister-station WMYT. That contract runs through the end of the year, giving Fox plenty of time to ramp up its own newsroom.

At WJZY, Karen Adams has taken over as general manager, the position she held at Greensboro’s WGHP (Channel 8) when it was owned by Fox before being sold in 2008. Other newly named key executives are Lynda Grahl as vice president of finance and Jay Abbattista as vice president for sales. Both come from Fox-owned stations. WJZY is advertising for a human resources director on the Fox Television Stations corporate website, which would round out the top level of management.

Media Movers

New faces coming to WBTV (Channel 3) in June are Brody O’Connell as general assignment reporter from the NBC affiliate in Traverse City, Mich., and Ashton Pellom as S.C. reporter from the NBC affiliate in Albany, Ga. ...

FCC approval came this week for Norberto Sanchez’s Norsan Media, which controls three local Spanish radio stations and the weekly newspaper Hola Noticias, to acquire a low-power television station on Channel 16. Sanchez is in negotiations with Spanish TV networks for an affiliation, which would be Charlotte’s first Hispanic TV channel. According to a new report from Nielsen, Charlotte is the nation’s fastest-growing Hispanic TV market, with a 168 percent increase since 2000 ...

Charlotte media veteran Jerry Hancock, longtime host of WTVI’s (Channel 42) “Final Edition,” has launched an Internet radio venture, “Men in Balance,” which focuses on men’s spirituality and relationships at meninbalanceradio.org. ... Geof Knight, producer of “ Paul Schadt in the Morning” on WKKT (“Kat” 96.9), is honored with a distinguished alumni award from student media at UNC Charlotte. He’s a ’92 grad. ...

Society Charlotte magazine names Katie Toussaint as managing editor and Catherine Riddick as associate editor. ... Andres Guillama of Waynesville will be featured on the next season of “Food Network Star” debuting 9 p.m. June 2 on the Food Network. Guillama, who coaches youths about obesity and nutrition, works in his family bakery, Mindy’s, in Sylva. ...

WBTV’s Steve Crump will moderate a May 21 public forum at CPCC’s Dale Halton Theater featuring all the living Charlotte mayors: Anthony Foxx, Pat McCrory, Richard Vinroot, Sue Myrick, Harvey Gantt and Eddie Knox. Crump has been at Channel 3 for 27 years and has covered them all, one way or another.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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