We have an “embarrassment of programming riches” on Wednesday, Feb. 13. This is a rare instance when two highly-anticipated programs are scheduled on WRAL at the same time … sort of.
On that night in the Triangle, WRAL will televise the biggest sports rivalry in the area and one of the highest-rated television shows of the season, the basketball game between the University of North Carolina and Duke University. Coverage begins at 9 p.m. We are under contract to air this game and have had it on our schedule for months.
Everything was fine until a few weeks ago when CBS posted its programming schedule for February. It includes the 90-minute season premiere of "Survivor" from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Suddenly what looked like a great television night on WRAL has become a dilemma with no easy solution.
Please don’t think for a moment that decisions such as these are taken lightly or that there is any standard playbook to call on for the answer. We analyze every programming decision individually, and based on the anticipated viewing, limitations of our various platforms and rules from CBS, we work to find the best possible solution under the circumstances.
So first I will give you the answer to the question, “What will air where and when that night?” Then I will answer the questions we expect you to naturally ask.
Q: Isn’t there a better solution?
A: Actually no. We exhausted every possibility. Our favorite was asking CBS to feed us the program ahead of time, so we could air it from 7:30 to 9 p.m., followed by UNC/Duke from 9 to 11. Unfortunately between protecting the secrecy of the ending of "Survivor" and the operational challenges of merging all of the commercials and promotional messages, they could not.
Q: You are a CBS affiliate, so why are you carrying the game, especially since it’s also on ESPN?
A: We signed a contract several years ago committing to carry this and other ACC games. We have a long-standing relationship with Raycom Sports, the company that packages the ACC games for over-the-air television stations.
With the advent and growth of ESPN and other sports channels, it has become harder and harder to ensure key local or regional games remain available to all households, especially those without cable or satellite. WRAL supports this effort. To air local games of interest on WRAL, we periodically must preempt CBS programming. '
We certainly understand that this particular night, the game is interrupting a popular show, but with your patience and a bit of effort, we should be able to get through it.
Q: Wouldn’t more people be interested in "Survivor"?
A: Actually, no. Last February, the estimated viewing on WRAL of the premiere episode was 156,000 people, and the Duke/UNC game was viewed by 217,000 people. We all know ACC basketball is big in the Triangle.
Q: I didn’t know this was going to happen. Why didn’t you warn me?
A: CBS promotion and public relations have been doing their job effectively across the country to promote "Survivor."
We obviously can’t block that, but we are using every means available to us to alert viewers ahead of time. Notices on our website, stories in our newscasts, crawls on the bottom of the screen, Facebook and Twitter posts and this blog, all have been an effort to help viewers plan for this.
Q: Wasn’t "Survivor" supposed to be a two-hour show?
A: CBS began promoting a two-hour episode several weeks ago, and then a week prior to the air date changed the schedule.
Q: If I set my DVR, will I get the entire second half of the program?
A: Yes, you should.
We are even going to special lengths to instruct the program listing services that provide the information to your electronic guide and DVR to show the late night segment as 35 minutes in length.
We don’t want you to miss the ending. However to be safe, it is still a good idea to extend the record settings or record the next show.
Q: What do I do if I don’t have a DVR?
A: Watch it online at cbs.com. Watch it on prime time on demand on satellite or cable. We know these are not options for everyone, but as I mentioned above, this schedule is the best we can do considering CBS’s rules and other programming issues.
Q: Why don’t you play "Survivor" earlier such as after the late news?
CBS has to watch out for the best interest of all of its shows. As such, they are not okay with preempting David Letterman and Craig Ferguson, even for another CBS show. Frankly, even at midnight, I suspect most people would use their DVRs to record it.
Q: Why don’t you replay the full show at another time?
A: CBS’s agreements with the various unions and guilds in Hollywood only permit one airing of the program.
In this case we did receive special one-time-only permission to simulcast the first hour and show the second hour in two different time periods. That was the best we could do.
Q: Is "Survivor" available online?
A: Yes, but not until the next morning. It becomes available for streaming on your computer at cbs.com sometime overnight.
Q: Why can’t I get WRAL2 on satellite or U-Verse?
A: WRAL, like all other television stations in the country, continues to push all of the cable and satellite providers to carry our secondary channels. To date, we have not been successful with DIRECTV, DISH Network, and AT&T U-Verse. If you want to let them know how much you want WRAL2, please do.
Q: Isn’t there some other way for me to receive WRAL2?
A: Yes there is. Even many satellite homes can tune in WRAL2 by adding a digital antenna.
The technical quality and the design of digital antennas have improved dramatically in the past several years. It is simple to connect a nice looking indoor antenna to most newer television sets, and if you live in a strong reception area, you can watch WRAL2 with a simple push of a button or two. Our engineers have provided instructions that make the purchase and siting of an antenna easy.
Q: Why can’t I see it on WRAL2 in HD?
A: WRAL’s signal is only so big. After we devote the bulk of it to making sure our primary signal looks great, the remaining bandwidth is shared between WRAL2 and WRAL Mobile. As such, standard definition is the optimal solution for WRAL2.
I hope we have answered all your questions. If not, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, please accept our apology for any inconvenience this may cause you.
And one more thing: May the best team win!