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That new sound on WBT is ABC

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

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  • Charlotte newscasts

    Here are the numbers of viewers to key Charlotte newscasts as estimated by Nielsen during February sweeps and ratings percentage difference, year to year.


    6 A.M.
    6 P.M.
    10 P.M.
    11 P.M.

    Source: Nielsen

    * vs. 2013 newscast on sister station WMYT.

    Washburn’s analysis

    Two factors influenced February sweeps: the Olympics and a major winter storm. Ratings spiked during the Feb. 12-13 snow, which buoyed average numbers for the month.

    Olympics helped NBC affiliate WCNC (Channel 36) to its best month since the summer Olympics two years ago. Its late newscast, which ran after Olympic coverage and later than the rival 11 p.m. newscasts, was up two-thirds in audience despite the late hour. Late-night NBC Olympic coverage in the 11 p.m. hour also ate into news ratings at WBTV (Channel 3) and WSOC (Channel 9), which were virtually tied for the month. Also “NBC Nightly News,” with Brian Williams anchoring from Sochi, made a rare second-place appearance in Charlotte, where it almost always runs third against ABC and CBS.

    In 10 p.m. newscasts, WAXN (Channel 64) continues to record major gains. WCCB (Channel 18), which aired Fox programming last year and is now an affiliate of the lower-rated CW network, continues to retain two-thirds of the old news audience. WJZY’s (Channel 46) 10 p.m. newscast on the new Fox affiliate is down by half from its 10 p.m. newscast on sister-station WMYT last year.

Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often: WBT-AM (1110) is breaking up with CBS Radio.

Through most of its 92-year history, WBT has had a relationship with CBS. From 1929 to 1945, CBS actually owned WBT, which is among the first commercially licensed radio stations in the nation.

After selling WBT following World War II, CBS continued as its network provider. In the late 1940s, you could hear the radio show “Gunsmoke” on WBT, long before the show was recast into one of the longest-running series in the history of CBS television.

Bo Thompson, host of “Charlotte Morning News” and one who grew up listening to the station, remembers that WBT became an ABC affiliate in the mid-’80s, and had switched to an affiliation with NBC when he arrived as an intern at the station in 1990. Reporter Chris Miller, who also grew up listening to the station, dug into the WBT’s archives and says it was an ABC affiliate from 1973-1987, then switched to NBC. One advantage of being an ABC affiliate in those days was that you got the popular Paul Harvey news shows.

After a time with NBC, WBT returned to the CBS fold, where it has been for two decades. In most people’s minds, CBS and WBT are inseparable.

“It’s like … it’s like … well, I don’t know what it’s like,” says Ty Boyd, WBT morning host from 1961 to 1973, when he moved over to Channel 3. “It’s unthinkable.”

Jason Furst, WBT’s program director, says the move to ABC that started Monday was prompted by a desire to tap into ABC’s constellation of talent. “CBS is an excellent network,” he says. “But the resources ABC provides for the talk-show side of things is excellent.”

Already this week, the station has interviewed ABC correspondents like Ann Compton at the White House, Terry Moran from Crimea and Jim Ryan on domestic connections to the strife in Ukraine. Thompson’s morning show has been the beneficiary of such reports during drive time.

CBS Radio and Fox News Radio are also known for making talent available to affiliates, Furst says, but he thinks ABC offers more.

“I’ve been following the ABC News product for a long time. I think their two-way coverage is great, their breaking news coverage is great. … I felt this change put the right people on our air with our hosts.”

WBT puts together its own top-of-the-hour newscasts during the day and evenings, and will use the ABC network newscasts overnight.

Media Movers

Joining WJZY (Channel 46) is Kacie Hollins from Toronto, who most recently has been with Rogers SportsNet and the CBC network in Canada. An experienced sportscaster, she will work in news in her new assignment. …

Charlotte native Amanda Gullickson, 18, is among the models in the new Oxygen reality series “The Face” airing 10 p.m. Wednesdays. … Jennie Lyon, who has appeared in FX’s “Justified,” is co-starring in the new series “Saint George” (9 p.m., Thursdays, FX) opposite George Lopez. Lyon – daughter of Matthews United Methodist Church pastor Ken Lyon and wife Lydia – is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts. …

Yvonne Simons, assistant news director at WBTV (Channel 3) for five years, is departing for a similar position at the CBS affiliate in Sacramento … This week, WBTV launched an 8 p.m. newscast on its digital sub-channel 3.2 (Time Warner Cable channel 106) hosted by Brigida Mack and Delano Little.

Darrick “Brown” Williams moves up from program director of Radio One’s Charlotte stations WQNC-FM (“Praise” 92.7, 100.9) and WOSF-FM (“Old School” 105.3) to the company’s stations in Philadelphia, which use the same formats. Williams has brought up both Radio One stations in Charlotte to become consistent Top 10 finishers in the radio rankings. …

Goldsboro native Carl Kasell, turning 80, has decided to semi-retire from NPR’s weekend quiz show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me.” He’ll visit the show occasionally and will still lend his voice to answering machines as a prize. Kasell got his start in radio at age 16 at WGBR-AM in Goldsboro and then attended UNC Chapel Hill.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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