Yesterday, I wrote about how a Fox affiliate in Boise lost its network affiliation, and that the station is owned by the same company that owns WDRB here. The news led to rumors around town, coupled with some subtle changes in the station’s marketing, that WDRB and Fox might be splitting up.
Today I talked with WDRB exec Bill Lamb, who wants to put those rumors to rest. Lamb said WDRB is one of about 70 Fox stations across the country operating without an affiliation agreement, but said there’s little danger that Fox and WDRB will split up. He says he’s been working on a new agreement with Fox for more than a year, but doesn’t know when a new deal will be signed. He confirmed that the roadblock to an agreement is that Fox is negotiating for a higher retransmission fee – the amount paid by local stations to the network.
And Lamb says that WDRB is asserting itself as a brand not tied to the network, mentioning that many people continue to associate its product with the ultra-conservative Fox New Network, and that the station is gradually shifting away from being known as Fox41 and to WDRB. Even its website will shift from Fox41.com to WDRB.com.
“As a young station, Fox was a bigger part of our identity and who we were,” he said. “Fox is now less and less important to who we are. We are quietly evolving our brand. Nothing much is changing.”
The station’s billboards and marketing materials are beginning to reflect this change, and eventually even the station’s business cards will not say Fox41.
“Why continue to perpetuate confusion? We felt like it’s time to work on our branding to emphasize WDRB and who we are, and not get too tied to a third party and say that’s who our identity is. It’s not that we don’t want to be part of Fox, but we’re branding to our strength.”