Delaware has its first in-state affiliate of one of the top four broadcast networks, as WRDE-TV in Rehoboth Beach is relaunching as an NBC station branding itself "Coast TV," serving the rural Delmarva Peninsula area.
Channel president Bob Backman (pictured below) obtained the NBC affiliation some two years after first approaching Comcast-owned NBCUniversal about the idea. He then obtained retransmission-consent agreements with Comcast, the biggest multichannel video programming distributor in the Delmarva area, and with Dish Network, according to Matthew Davidge, who has been working with WRDE as a consultant.
Backman wrote directly to Steve Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal, according to Davidge. "Steve Burke passed the letter on and it made it to Jean Dietze’s desk, the head of affiliate relations at NBC. We then developed a good relationship with Jean and [NBCU's] Gary Ventolo over time and eventually voila! They realized the need was there -- why should someone on the Delaware beach or the Maryland shore be watching NBC 'local' news from a Big 10 city over 100 miles away? It makes no sense."
A Comcast spokesman said the company is still evaluating what changes might be made to the local lineup in the Sussex County, Del., region as a result of WRDE's joining as an NBC affiliate in June. Currently the company imports NBC affiliate signals from Philadelphia (WCAU) and Baltimore (WBAL). Customers will be notified about any possible changes in the coming weeks, the company said.
WRDE, a low-powered digital station, in June will convert from being a retro-programmed MyNetwork TV and COZI TV affiliate and create local news, weather and sports programming for 6 and 11 p.m. on Coast TV.
The "MyNetwork COZI TV" broadcasts will shift to 31.2 and continued on Comcast and over the air. WRDE Coast TV will be over the air on channel 31.1 and shown on Comcast in high definition and standard definition (channel 9) and in standard definition on Dish. Davidge said retransmission carriage talks are under way with other providers in the region, namely DirecTV, Mediacom Communications (which has carried WRDE on channel 99) and Verizon FiOS TV.
Davidge said the Delmarva region is served by stations that air CBS and Fox programming (WBOC-TV) and ABC and CW programming (WMDT-TV), but both of those are based in Salisbury, Md. The Salisbury market area is designated as No. 142 by Nielsen, containing about 162,000 homes.
"I've been privileged to have lived in Rehoboth Beach for six years and to be a member of this wonderful community," Backman said in a statement to be released Thursday. "The people in Rehoboth Beach deserve their own NBC station with in-depth coverage of the concerns of the coastal community. Well, now they have one!"
The release also has laudatory quotes from the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce and Delaware Economic Development Office chiefs.
Davidge said credit goes to Backman for his community efforts and to NBCU and Comcast for recognizing the value in having a local Delaware NBC affiliate and then negotiating a retransmission agreement to put it on the local cable system. The Delmarva area is flat and rural and receives programming from relatively nearby media markets Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., he said, but had local news and concerns of its own that Coast TV will seek to serve.
"It is amazing to me that in all these years of broadcasting this hasn't happened before," Backman told me in an email Wednesday. "We're really excited about bringing a local NBC station to Rehoboth Beach and Delmarva and we're going to make sure it was worth the wait."