|Channels||Digital: 36 (UHF)
Virtual: 68 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||68.1 MyNetworkTV (HD)|
|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 (January 1986-January 1993, March–August 9, 1998)
PTEN (January 1993-1995)
UPN (January 1995-March 1998, August 10, 1998-September 2006)
|Transmitter power||885 kW|
WABM is the MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station for Central Alabama, serving the cities of Birmingham, Anniston, Gadsden and Tuscaloosa. It broadcasts a high-definition digital signal on UHF channel 36 (or virtual channel 68.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter located at Red Mountain. Owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, it is sister to CW affiliate WTTO and its satellite WDBB, and all three share studios on Beacon Parkway West in southeastern Birmingham.
|68.1||720p||16:9||WABM-MY||Main WABM programming / MyNetworkTV|
On February 17, 2009 at 11:59 p.m., WABM ceased its analog broadcast on channel 68, and began broadcasting exclusively in digital on channel 36.
It started in 1986 as WCAJ, a religious station. Some of the shows that initially aired on the station were Catholic shows from the nearby 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/WNAL and the market's leading independent, WTTO. Due to poor ratings, it began airing home shopping programming and infomercials with religious shows part of the day.
In 1990, the station was sold to Krypton Broadcasting, who changed the call letters to WABM and switched the station to a general entertainment format with old movies, dramas and westerns. In 1991, WDBB/WNAL ended their own programming schedule, and began simulcasting WTTO. As part of the deal, WDBB/WNAL merged their stronger shows onto WTTO's schedule. This resulted in WTTO owning more shows than it could air, so it sold to WABM some classic sitcoms and cartoons that WTTO would have no room to keep.
Despite a strong format, WABM trailed WTTO in the ratings. WABM 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 Fox affiliation.
WABM also suffered because Krypton was going through financial problems. Krypton sold WABM's sister stations in West Palm Beach (WTVX, channel 34) and Jacksonville (WNFT, channel 47, now WTEV-TV), then in 1993 WABM itself was sold to a small ownership group which immediately began a local marketing agreement with WTTO, which was then owned by Abry. Under this local marketing agreement, WTTO and WABM pooled shows, the stations ran separate schedules, and WTTO sold ad time on WABM.
In early 1995, WABM became one of the charter affiliates of the UPN television network. By that time, the Sinclair Broadcast Group had bought out Abry, and continued the LMA. It remained a UPN affiliate even through the 1996 affiliation switch that saw longtime ABC affiliate WBRC switch over to Fox. In March 1998, Sinclair and UPN had a fallout, and as a result, WABM dropped UPN for five months and returned to being an independent, airing syndicated movies in primetime instead. In the interim, UPN programming was brought in out-of-market from WWOR/New York City on Birmingham area cable providers. People living in Birmingham without cable couldn't get UPN programming. Sinclair and UPN would eventually come to an agreement, and WABM once again became a UPN affiliate. Also, when WABM reaffiliated with UPN, the station asked those cable providers to drop WWOR from their lineups. Sinclair would buy WABM outright in 2001. Over the years, the station moved away from classic sitcoms, movies and syndicated cartoons, such as Dennis the Menace, and Sailor Moon and aired more recent sitcoms as well as talk, reality and court shows. It still continued to air cartoons on weekday mornings until the fall of 2003 when UPN ended its cartoon block nationally.
On March 1, 2006, Sinclair and Fox announced that WABM would become an affiliate of News Corporation's second U.S. broadcast network, MyNetworkTV, in the fall of 2006, when UPN and the WB merged to form the CW Television Network, which is seen on WTTO. WABM was also considering taking Fox's 4Kids TV Saturday morning kids block. WTTO had aired Fox Kids after losing the main Fox affiliation from 1996 until 2000, after that, it did not even air on WBRC, a situation that continued as 4Kids TV. This took effect on September 5, 2006.
On July 29, 2013, Allbritton Communications Company announced that it would sell its entire television group, including WBMA-LD and its satellite stations, WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV, to Sinclair. As part of the deal, Sinclair will sell the license assets of WABM and WTTO to Deerfield Media, but will still operate them through shared services and joint sales agreements.
- 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.
- WABM68.com - Official Website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WABM
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WABM-TV