Knocking Off the Ratings King in Charlotte

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It hasn't happened in 26 years, but WSOC has lost a rating book.

When final numbers are tallied for the  Charlotte ratings, stations are officially announced WBTV will have won the Feb book over rival WSOC in all key newscasts. 

The Charlotte Observer writes that not since February 1990, when WSOC wrested the lead and went on to dominate local news numbers for 25 years, has there been such a shift in the city’s bitterly competitive TV news battle.

WBTV has been closing the gap with WSOC for the last two years and overtook its rival in the November ratings sweeps in the 6 a.m. and noon newscasts.

Assistant news director Kim Saxon said Wednesday that WBTV’s accelerated digital and social media strategies have paid off in overall prominence of the news department.

A half-million-dollar news set makeover and emphasis on the branding slogan “On Your Side” for investigative and consumer stories has also been part of the station’s strategy over the last 18 months, said Dennis Milligan, Channel 3’s news director for the last 15 years.

“It’s led to steady and consistent growth,” he said.

He also cited the station’s Alert center, an innovation that WSOC has copied, which helps get news on the air quicker during broadcasts because someone is already on the set and able to deliver a quick report on a specialty topic.

WSOC has seen the departure of several key news personalities in the last year to bigger jobs in bigger cities including Natalie Pasquarella, who went to New York, and Blair Miller, who left for Boston.

Industry veterans reflecting on that period used to joke that all the television dials in the area were rusted on Channel 3.

But WSOC nibbled away at Channel 3’s lead, then began to surpass the longtime leader about the time Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. In February 1990, WSOC took the lead in all local key newscasts and maintained domination afterward, even as WCNC (Channel 36), WCCB (Channel 18) and WJZY (Channel 46) added news departments.