The Jersey Shore's NBC40 broadcasts out of a converted Frito-Lay factory off Route 9 in Linwood, home to cerebral weatherman Dan Skeldon, sports nice guy Pete Thompson, and steady news anchor Michelle Dawn Mooney.
For thousands of loyal viewers in Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties, NBC40's 6 a.m. news is the first show they watch in the morning, and the station's hyperlocal advertisers seem as familiar as the nearest Wawa.
There's Pastor David McGettigan from St. Andrews by the Sea, Doug and Linda from Beachcomber Collectibles, and Bill Kassner of the Chapman Auto Group in Egg Harbor Township. He pitches Fords, Mazdas, and Lincolns, sitting on a stool in his Black Horse Pike showroom - "Wait till you see the MKX," he says in his homespun commercials, "right here at Chapman Lincoln."
Starting midnight on Wednesday, though, they will be history as personalities on NBC40 when the station fades to black - a victim not of the cratering Atlantic City casino economy but broader forces in the TV and telecom industries.
Comcast Corp.-owned NBCUniversal has pulled the station's NBC affiliation so it can consolidate viewership in the regional TV market under NBC10 in Philadelphia.
NBC40 and NBC10 existed symbiotically for decades by sharing news-gathering resources. But NBCUniversal ultimately considered NBC40 a "duplicate" in the Philly TV market, an NBCUniversal spokeswoman said.
NBC40's relatively new owner, LocusPoint Networks of California, is expected to sell the TV station's valuable wireless spectrum at a government-managed auction, possibly in 2016. The company describes itself on its website as an "early-stage wireless communications company."
LocusPoint has acquired other peripheral stations - in the Detroit, New York, and Orlando TV markets - as part of this anticipated broad restructuring of the nation's wireless spectrum that will make new airwaves available for the booming growth of smartphones and tablets.
But the National Association of Broadcasters warns repurposing the wireless spectrum also could lead to independent, marginally profitable TV stations suffering the same fate as NBC40.
"The reality is that the auction will drive a lot of small independent TV stations out of the business," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said recently. "You will see dozens of foreign-language, religious, and independent stations go bye-bye so that Verizon and AT&T can charge you more for faster downloads."
There are about 1,800 TV stations nationwide.
LocusPoint Networks is expected to air programming on what is NBC40, or technically WMGM-TV, to preserve its government broadcasting license and to earn revenue until the auction, though the company has not announced what that programming will be. The company's management agreement with Access.1 Communications, which currently runs the station, also expires on Dec. 31.
LocusPoint did not respond to e-mail requests for comment on Friday. It theoretically could keep the local newscast, but that is highly unlikely, insiders say.
Access.1 has held out hope to NBC40 viewers that the local programming could be revived in some form in 2015, perhaps on a low-power TV station.
A "plan calls for our new company to be comprised of our current news, sales, management, and administration teams and would expand to nine counties in southern New Jersey, filling a much-needed void for news, weather, and sports coverage here in South Jersey," the station said in a statement posted on its website this month.
The station employs 60. Access.1 officials had no comment Friday.
"It's a shame," said Kassner. "It's the way of the world. The larger conglomerates are trying to take everything. Believe it or not, a lot of local people watched it. They like to see the local news breaking."
Kassner advertised on NBC40 for two decades and says the niche will be hard to replace for his dealership. He has spent $8,000 to $10,000 a month on the commercials. The same type of ratings points and exposure on a Philadelphia station like 6ABC, he said, would cost $35,000 a month, which prices out a lot of small businesses.
Ron Smith, who was sales manager and general manager over a 23-year career at the station, said that when he retired in 2013, NBC40 "wasn't raking in lots of money but it was wasn't losing money."
While Smith was there, NBC40 had the No. 1-ranked local morning news in Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties, and the No. 2-ranked local news at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., he said. The top-ranked network in the nighttime news slots was 6ABC, he said.
NBC40, Smith estimated, spends about $1 million on its local news and he still considers it a viable station.
TV viewers connect with NBC40 through Skeldon, the lanky, native New Englander whose weather forecasts and social-media postings were followed throughout the Jersey Shore before, during, and after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and the derecho of June 2012.
Skeldon even organized a truck drive after Sandy and filled 14 loads of supplies, driving the truck himself.
Thompson, the sports guy, has been a familiar figure at countless high school games, mostly in Atlantic and Cape May Counties, often with the camera hoisted on his own shoulder, doing the highlights, the interviews, writing and editing the newscast, and then anchoring the high school-centric sports segment.
Anchor Mooney is known both for her on-air newscasts and her singing, usually for a charitable cause.
Their fans have taken to Facebook to express appreciation and sadness. Said Phyllis Ragazzi of Absecon on Facebook: "Thanks, Dan for everything!!! You are by far the Best and Sweetest Meteorologist that I know. We will miss you very much, and all of the Team!!!"
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said he was sad to see the local TV newscast washed away like beach sand. "Some days I'm with them three, four, five times," bouncing from event to event, Guardian said. "There's nothing like having a hometown station."