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February 29, 2016: WRAL rejoined NBC!!!

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February 29, 2016: WRAL rejoined NBC!!!
On January 15, 2016, WRAL-TV announced that it would switch to NBC on February 29, 2016. Concurrently, CBS announced that the existing NBC station, Media General-owned and Goldsboro-licensed WNCN (channel 17), would replace WRAL-TV as the Triangle's CBS affiliate the same day. Capitol Broadcasting president and CEO Jim Goodmon stated that CBS would only renew its affiliation with WRAL if it entered into a reverse compensation agreement—under which Capitol would be required to pay the network for the local rights to air its programming. NBC, on the other hand, took the line that an affiliation deal was a partnership. Goodmon saw the switch to NBC as "a business decision for the future." On the day the switch took effect, WRAL ceremonially launched the new affiliation at the end of its morning newscast by having Goodmon press a button decorated with the NBC peacock to switch to Today.

Meredith College professor Doug Spero suggested that WRAL's overall dominance in the Triangle was so absolute that it was in a position to become one of NBC's strongest affiliates, much as it was one of CBS' strongest affiliates. The feeling was mutual; according to NBC News correspondent Harry Smith, NBC officials felt like they had "just won the lottery" when they learned WRAL was rejoining NBC. Indeed, on the first day of WRAL's return to NBC, several dayparts saw NBC jump from third to first in the Triangle ratings at one stroke. Notably, Today, the NBC Nightly News, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon immediately saw major ratings gains in the market after their move to WRAL. The former two shows tallied their highest ratings on record in the Triangle on the day channel 5 officially returned to NBC, showing gains of well over 200 percent compared to their previous showings on WNCN. By contrast, CBS's competing programs lost more than half their audience share.

The delay in the affiliation switch kept CBS' coverage of Super Bowl 50, which featured the Carolina Panthers (based in nearby Charlotte) as champions of the National Football Conference, on WRAL-TV. As an NBC station, channel 5 carried the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it one of the few stations that aired the Super Bowl and Olympics from different networks in the same year.

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