|Channels||Digital: 36 (UHF)
Virtual: 68 (PSIP)
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group
(sale to Deerfield Media pending, to remain operated by Sinclair thereafter)
(Birmingham (WABM-TV) Licensee, Inc.)
|First air date||January 31, 1986|
|Call letters' meaning||We've Got
(or, Alabama BirMingham
|Former callsigns||WCAJ (1986–1991)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
68 (UHF, 1986–2009)
|Former affiliations||independent (1986–1993, March–August 1998)
UPN (1995–March 1998, August 1998–2006)
|Transmitter power||885 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WABM, virtual channel 68 (UHF digital channel 36), is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station serving Tuscaloosa, Anniston and its city of license Birmingham, Alabama, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with CW affiliate WTTO (channel 21); Sinclair also operates WTTO satellite WDBB (channel 17) under a time brokerage agreement with owner Cunningham Broadcasting. All three stations share studio facilities located on Beacon Parkway West in southeastern Birmingham, WABM's transmitter is located at Red Mountain. Syndicated programming featured on WABM includes Jerry Springer, Judge Mathis, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Family Guy, Maury and The Arsenio Hall Show.
The station first signed on the air on January 31, 1986 as WCAJ, operating as a religious independent station. Some of the shows that initially aired on the station were Catholic programs from the Irondale-based Eternal Word Television Network, as well as programming from the Southern Baptist Convention's ACTS Network. The original studios were located on the campus of Samford University. The station struggled at first against Fox affiliate WDBB (channel 17) and its Gadsden-based satellite WNAL (channel 44, now WPXH-TV) and the market's leading independent station, WTTO (channel 21). Due to poor ratings, it began airing home shopping programming and infomercials with religious shows being relegated to part of the broadcast day.
In 1990, the station was sold to Krypton Broadcasting, who changed its call letters to WABM and reformatted the station into a general entertainment format that featured classic movies, dramas and westerns. In 1991, WDBB and WNAL became part-time satellites of WTTO, simulcasting that station's programming 21 hours a day. As part of the deal, WDBB/WNAL moved their stronger shows onto WTTO's schedule. This resulted in WTTO owning more prograns than it could air, so it sold the rights to some classic sitcoms and cartoons that it would have no room for on its own schedule to WABM.
Despite a strong format, WABM trailed WTTO in the ratings. The station had a disadvantage when it came to signal coverage; due to the acquisition of WDBB/WNAL, WTTO covered Birmingham as well as Gadsden and Tuscaloosa with a city-grade signal. WABM covered only Birmingham with a city-grade signal, while Tuscaloosa and Gadsden received a grade B signal. WTTO also had the market's Fox affiliation. WABM also suffered because Krypton was going through financial problems. Krypton sold WABM's sister stations in West Palm Beach and Jacksonville, Florida; WABM itself was sold in 1993, to a small ownership group which immediately entered into a local marketing agreement with Abry-owned WTTO. Under the LMA, WTTO and WABM began sharing certain programs (although both stations maintained separate schedules) and WTTO sold advertising time on WABM.
On January 16, 1995, WABM became one of the charter affiliates of the United Paramount Network. By that time, the Sinclair Broadcast Group had bought out Abry, and took over the LMA. It remained with UPN, even through the 1996 affiliation switch that saw longtime ABC affiliate WBRC (channel 6) switch to Fox. In March 1998, WABM dropped the UPN affiliation over concerns by Sinclair over ratings and monetary issues, as did several of the company's other stations in several markets after Sinclair signed a lucrative affiliation deal with The WB (which WTTO affiliated with in an unrelated deal two years earlier). For five months, the station reverted to being an independent station, though the only effect on the station's schedule was the replacement of UPN programming with syndicated film packages during primetime and Saturday afternoons, and infomercials in place of UPN Kids on Sunday mornings. In the interim, local cable providers piped in the network's New York City station WWOR-TV to keep UPN programming available in the Birmingham area. Sinclair would eventually reverse its decision and come to terms with the network, resulting in WABM rejoining UPN on August 10. WWOR was dropped from the few area cable systems it was carried on within days of re-acquiring the UPN affiliation.
Sinclair purchased WABM outright in 2001, creating a duopoly with WTTO. By the late 1990s, the station shifted away from classic sitcoms, movies and syndicated cartoons (such as Dennis the Menace and Sailor Moon) towards more recent sitcoms as well as adding talk, reality and court shows. It continued to air cartoons on weekday mornings until August 2003, when UPN discontinued its Disney's One Too children's block.
On February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of MyNetworkTV, a new network that would be operated by Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television that was created to compete against The CW, another upstart network that would launch at the same time that September (and originally consisted primarily of UPN and The WB's higher-rated programs) as well as to give UPN and WB stations that were not mentioned as becoming CW affiliates another option besides converting to independent stations. On March 1, 2006, Sinclair and Fox announced that WABM would become the market's MyNetworkTV affiliate, it joined the network on September 5, 2006; WB affiliate WTTO/WDBB became the area's CW affiliate when it launched on September 18. For a time, WABM had considered acquiring the local rights to 4Kids TV, the Fox network's children's program block. Sister station WTTO had continued to carry its predecessor, Fox Kids, even after it lost the Fox affiliation to WBRC in September 1996; it dropped Fox Kids programming in the fall of 2000, however WBRC did not pick it up, leaving it and future blocks programmed by 4Kids Entertainment unseen in the Birmingham market. WABM eventually picked up the Weekend Marketplace paid programming block in lieu of WBRC, when it replaced 4Kids TV in December 2008.
On July 29, 2013, the Allbritton Communications Company announced that it would sell its seven television stations, including WBMA-LD (channel 58) and its satellite stations, WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV (channels 33 and 40), to Sinclair. As part of the deal, Sinclair will sell the license assets of WABM and WTTO to Deerfield Media, but will continue to operate them through shared services and joint sales agreements.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|68.1||720p||16:9||WABM-MY||Main WABM programming / MyNetworkTV|
On February 2, 2009, Sinclair announced to cable and satellite television providers via e-mail that regardless of the exact mandatory switchover date to digital-only broadcasting for full-power stations (which Congress rescheduled for June 12 days later), the station would shut down its analog signal on the original transition date of February 17. WABM shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 68, at 11:59 p.m. on that date. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 36. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 68, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
- "News Corp. to launch new mini-network for UPN stations". USA Today. February 22, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- News Corp. Unveils MyNetworkTV, Broadcasting & Cable, February 22, 2006.
- Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (July 29, 2013). "Allbritton to sell 7 TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- "Sinclair Buying Allbritton Stations For $985M". TVNewsCheck. July 29, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WABM
- Hearn, Ted (February 2, 2009). "Sinclair Sticks To Feb. 17 Analog Cutoff". Digital Video Report. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- WABM68.com - Official website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WABM
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WABM-TV