Comcast Plan to Drop WBOY Shakes Morgantown Media Scene

News that regional cable provider Comcast plans to drop TV station WBOY from its lineup is causing region-wide frustration and protest.

Starting March 14th, Comcast will change its channel lineup for Monongalia and Preston county subscribers to replace the NBC affiliated Clarksburg based WBOY with Pittsburgh’s WXPI. While this won’t mean major changes for national NBC programming, the switch will mean that Comcast subscribers in those counties will not have WBOY as an option for local news, sports, or weather.

The issues stem from the boundaries of media markets. These “Designated Market Areas” are boundaries drawn by ratings groups (in this case, the Nielsen ratings group) which help media companies determine how many viewers they have. The more viewers a market has, the higher the prices that can be charged for advertising. Monongalia and Preston Counties are looped in with the Pittsburgh media market, the 23rd largest market in the U.S. The Clarksburg-Weston media market is ranked 169th. Here’s a link showing a nation-wide map of Nielsen markets.

A previous agreement allowed Comcast to provide WBOY for regional news, weather, and sports programming, since Morgantown news is rarely reported on Pittsburgh media outlets. WBOY has a news studio in Morgantown, and broadcasts portions of daily news from that studio. According to a letter from Comcast to Morgantown’s City Government, that agreement is about to expire.

Dissatisfied customers have been left confused about where to place their frustration. WBOY responded in a statement that the decision was fully Comcast’s: “If you disagree with Comcast’s decision, we urge you to contact them directly at 1-800-266-2278.” The Dominion Post is reporting that Comcast is redirecting concerned citizens to local governments, and some subscribers are reporting on Facebook that Comcast is blaming Nexstar for the inability to renegotiate a second agreement. The issue was discussed at both Morgantown City Council and Monongalia County Commission this week. Newly appointed Morgantown City Manager Paul Brake is looking into the matter with both Nextar and Comcast, hoping to keep the station’s out-of-market broadcast available for local subscribers.

WBOY’s statement noted that it still intends to broadcast news from Monongalia and Preston Counties. Viewers in these areas will need to purchase antennae to receive the station’s over-the-air broadcast.

The shake-up in the cable offerings is another example of how national changes in news and communication methods are impacting our local community. Especially in light of April’s Morgantown City Council elections, it has never been more important to be connected to respected media outlets. Losing easy access to WBOY will mean that thousands of local cable subscribers will have to work that much harder to remain connected to the civic life of the community.