DMA 25

WNCN, WRAL Swap Affiliations In Raleigh

Unable to reach an accord that would extend their 30-year affiliation, CBS and WRAL are parting ways. Come Feb. 29, WRAL will become the the market's NBC affiliate and Media General's WNCN will become its CBS affiliate.

Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (DMA 25) and CBS are breaking up after failing to come to terms on renewing their 30-year affiliation.

WRAL has signed on with NBC, while CBS moves to Media General’s WNCN.

The switch is effective Feb. 29.

“CBS’s business model and our business model are not compatible with one another,” said Steve Hammel, VP and GM of WRAL without getting into specifics.

After “many, many months” of negotiations, he said, “we needed to make a decision to go with a long-term partner that saw the value in a community-oriented broadcaster.”

Hammel said the breakup is CBS’s loss. WRAL has been CBS’s No. 1 affiliate in the top 25 markets, he said. “I don’t think one would want to make a change and lose its No. 1 station.”


Hammel added that he is happy to be part of the NBC family, noting that it airs the Olympics every other year and has been the No. 1 broadcast network in the 18-49 demo in primetime for the past three seasons.

He stressed that one of the merits of the NBC deal is that it is long term. How long, he wouldn’t say.

A source close to CBS said the root of the problem was reverse comp. After it it became clear that Capitol was not going to give WRAL “fair market value, CBS looked elsewhere.”

Ray Hopkins, president of network distribution for CBS, said in a statement that he was pleased that “Media General recognizes the unique value of being an affiliate of the No. 1 television network. This is a great deal for our partners at Media General, and a great deal for CBS. Together, we look forward to serving the viewers we share for years to come.”

Like Hammel, Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon suggested in a prepared statement that it was WRAL that walked away from the table. “It came down to the question, ‘What network do we believe is best positioned for the future of local broadcasting?’ It is clear to us that NBC understands the value that local affiliates bring to the entire network relationship. We’re local broadcasters first. As the industry continues to change, we believe this switch to NBC positions us well for the future.”

NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert said his network was pleased to have WRAL on board. “The Fletcher/Goodmon family’s WRAL is widely recognized as one of the best stations in the nation,” he said. “All of us at NBC are thrilled to combine our decades of dedication to network and local broadcasting in order to proudly serve the thriving Raleigh-Durham market.”

Media General CEO Vincent Sadusky chimed in with praise for his new broadcast partner in Raleigh. “CBS has been a longstanding and valued partner for many years, and we are pleased to build upon our relationship with a new affiliation in Raleigh,” he said. With Raleigh, Media General will count 23 CBS affiliates.

In a related development, Media General announced that it had renewed its NBC affiliations in 13 other markets.

The CBS-WRAL breakup is another sign of the rising tensions between the networks and affiliates as the networks keep upping their demands for reverse comp.

The is the second time in two years that CBS and an affiliate split over reverse comp. Last year, it cut loose Media General’s WISH in favor of Tribune WTTV. WISH is now affiliated with CW.

CBS, along with Warner Bros., is battling with Tribune over reverse comp for the CW. Tribune is the CW’s principal affiliate group, with outlets in six of the top 10 markets. If the CW partners cannot reach an agreement with Tribune, it may offer CW as a pay OTT service like CBS All Access.

Earlier this month, ABC said it was switching affiliates in Tri-Cities, Va.-Tenn., abandoning its longtime affiliate WPKT at the end of this month with nothing but MNT to sustain it in primetime. Media General figured in that drama, too. It’s CBS affiliate there, WJHL, won the ABC rights and will carry the network on a subchannel.

WPKT says ABC made the move because Media General is willing to pay more reverse comp. ABC says it simply needed a stronger affiliate in the market.

Comments (23)

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Rey Chavez says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Talk about going from Penthouse to Outhouse….. moving your affiliation from WRAL to WNCN? NCN is as bad as it gets…..

Matthew Castonguay says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm


Patrick Burns says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm

This shows that loyalty of affiliates & vice versa are 180 % gone,

The bean counters and lawyers win , ugh !!!!

Grace PARK says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Holy crap! Talk about a late Friday afternoon bombshell!

Brad Dann says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:50 pm

CBS cut my station loose in the early 90″s for what they perceived was a better deal. There has NEVER been anything more than loyalty in words.

Joe Jaime says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Just not good business for either WRAL or CBS! Money trumps good judgement here. This is one of the most progressive and future thinking owners in the business. Perhaps networks are trying to squeeze local stations bottom line in an effort to negotiate multiple distribution paths in the future and bypass local stations if the numbers look better.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 15, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Ever think that perhaps the progressive/future thinking is what caused the issue? WRAL most likely wanted the ability to show Network Programming etc on their mobile devices etc, and this caused the showdown.

Wagner Pereira says:

January 15, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Remember that WRAL was the long time ABC Affiliate until CapCities picked up ABC in 1985, taking the ABC Affiliation with them to owned WTVD. So now WRAL will have had a relation with all 3.

    Michael Castengera says:

    January 15, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    WRAL signed on with NBC.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 16, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Then the circle is complete

Sean Smith says:

January 15, 2016 at 8:58 pm

It’s just more of the sorry state of television these days. Loyalty does not translate into dollars for the mom-and-pop stations.. If WRAL had been part of a group ownership, this would not have happened. All of the networks are squeezing the mom-and-pop stations, the small owners of maybe one, two or three stations. There are more of these to come, and believe me, there are more to come. Folks like Ed Ansin can fight it all they want, but the networks will always win.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 16, 2016 at 5:53 am

    Incorrect. It happened to a non-Mom and Pop in Indy.

    Sean Smith says:

    January 18, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Insignificant. It’s more noticeable to a mom-and-pop station.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    You cannot have it both ways.

James Diaz says:

January 15, 2016 at 10:37 pm

I admire the Goodmon family and their commitment to their community and I don’t think they’ll miss a beat swapping out a network.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 16, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Considering Charter of the Corporation states that 50% of profit must go to charities, not a lot of choice.

Jean Garneau says:

January 16, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Probably stating the obvious but this is all about retrans revenue. MEG and WNCN would give them anything they want if they think it might improve their lead-in and Moonves has already shown that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll take his affiliation elsewhere, a la WISH-TV. MEG and WNCN have very little to lose and I’m sure NBC is thrilled to finally be totally free of that dog.

Carol Grubbe says:

January 16, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Actually, I think it could be a good thing for WNCN. Given a bit of affiliate development work on the news end, the local unit news unit could be beefed up. I did watch WRAL’s 6:00 news only as there was only so much I could take from their anchors & reporters. If I watched morning news, it was WTVD because I couldn’t stand Bill Leslie or Renee Chou. On the network news end, I watched CBS in the morning & evening so I’m good. With the exception of local news, the change will be fairly seamless for me. I’ll just need to change DVR settings unless TWC does it internally. Good riddens Jim Goodman & Capital Broadcasting. You won’t be missed by me.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 18, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Considering CBS Morning and Evening skews VERY old, you have identified why WRAL wanted to go with NBC and was willing to leave you to WNCN.

Keith ONeal says:

January 16, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Could it be that CBS may be charging their affiliates higher programming fees than ABC, NBC, or FOX? Is that the reason that CBS lost WISH (Indianapolis) and is losing WRAL (Raleigh)?

Steve Ingram says:

January 17, 2016 at 7:48 am

CBS is showing its stupidity and arrogance. They have enjoyed their rise on the backs of broadcasters who are strong stations in their respective communities. One day, when they have fallen back to the #3 or #4 network, maybe someone will figure it out. No one at Fox has yet, but look at all the changes in leadership they have gone through.

Greg Johnson says:

January 18, 2016 at 11:08 am

Not sure WHDH would agree that NBC is a more ideal partner for affiliates. As the first broadcast network in a major market to move away from OTA broadcasting to cable and IP distribution, major market affiliates have no reason to feel safe. WRAL has now run out of natural partners as it as “test driven” the traditional broadcast networks.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    January 18, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Haven’t seen Fox on WRAL….or Univision either for that matter.