Hoping old viewers, unlike old dogs, are capable of learning new tricks, Baltimore's big-three network affiliates have begun educating the public about next year's Great Affiliate Shake-up.
Beginning Jan. 2, Baltimore-area TV viewers will have to learn a new network lineup. WMAR-Channel 2, now affiliated with NBC, will switch to ABC. WJZ-Channel 13, losing ABC, will pick up CBS. And WBAL-Channel 11 will shift from CBS to NBC.
At a meeting of the Advertising Association of Baltimore Wednesday night, the general managers of the three stations sought to reassure advertisers that everything will be OK when the switch is made. Viewers, they emphasized, will stick with programs they know, regardless of what channel they're broadcast on.
The stations' plans for helping viewers prepare for the switch were not discussed in detail. WJZ started the education process last month, however, when it opened a telephone line ( WATCH13) viewers can call for assurance and general information.
WMAR General Manager Joe Lewin took graphics to the Wednesday session, including a logo that teaches viewers new math ("A+B+C=2"), to illustrate his pitch. And Steve Marks, general manager of WBFF-Channel 45, Baltimore's Fox affiliate, pointedly reminded everyone his is the only station not switching.
For the most part, however, the station executives were content to go over old ground: explaining why the affiliate moves were made (essentially, because of a bidding war started when Rupert Murdoch began luring stations to Fox with big-bucks contracts), why the shifts were announced more than six months before they happened (Channel 13 insisted on having the time to prepare for the move), and how viewers will benefit (the new alliances were driven strictly by corporate, not viewer, concerns).