|Branding||NBC 26 (general)
NBC 26 News (newscasts)
CW Augusta (DT2)
|Slogan||here for you.
TV Now (on DT2)
|Channels||Digital: 30 (UHF)
Virtual: 26 (PSIP)
26.2 The CW
(operated through JSA and SSA by Media General)
(WAGT Television, Inc.)
|First air date||December 24, 1968|
|Call letters' meaning||Augusta's Great Television|
|Former callsigns||WATU-TV (1968–1981)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
26 (UHF, 1968–2009)
|Former affiliations||dark (1970–1974)|
|Transmitter power||400 kW|
|Height||483 m (1,585 ft)|
|Public license information:||Profile
WAGT, channel 26, is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Augusta, Georgia, USA. WAGT's broadcast license is owned by Schurz Communications, and its operations are controlled (through joint sales and shared services agreements) by Media General, the parent company of ABC affiliate WJBF (channel 6). The two stations share studios on Augusta West Parkway, near the Augusta Mall in Augusta, and WAGT's transmitter is based in Beech Island, South Carolina.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|26.1||1080i||16:9||WAGT NBC||Main WAGT programming / NBC|
|26.2||480i||WAGT CW||CW Augusta|
The station began operations December 24, 1968 as WATU-TV, the third television station in Augusta. Two Washington, D.C.-based men, Harold Twisdale and David Steel, were the leaders of the original ownership group, operating as Augusta Telecasters Inc. On paper, the new channel 26 was an NBC affiliate at its launch. Unfortunately, the station became one of numerous UHF start-ups of that era that failed to obtain a foothold against long-established VHF competition.
Ever since WJBF had dropped its primary NBC affiliation in favor of a full ABC affiliation in 1967, NBC had been relegated to off-hours clearances on WJBF and CBS outlet WRDW-TV (channel 12). Even after WATU signed on, NBC allowed WJBF and WRDW to cherry-pick its stronger shows, most likely because most Augusta-area viewers still didn't have UHF-capable sets. WATU was thus left with most of NBC's news programming, as well as lower-rated entertainment shows. During this time, it was not unusual for tape-delayed NBC programs to air on both WJBF and WRDW between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. before the respective networks' prime-time feeds began for the evening. WJBF also aired the Today Show and WRDW-TV ran The Tonight Show. Another problem for channel 26 came from WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina, which not only provided least grade B coverage to most of the South Carolina side of the market, but aired the full NBC schedule. Mainly because of those situations, WATU-TV went off the air ("dark" in television terminology) in 1970.
Similar situations occurred in two other Southern markets that were "intermixed" with one UHF and two VHF channels. At the same time WATU was shut down, the owners of NBC station WRDU-TV (now WRDC) in Durham, North Carolina petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for help in its battle against then-CBS affiliate WTVD, which had been cherry-picking NBC programs for several years. In 1971 the FCC ruled that VHF stations in markets with three or more commercial outlets could be affiliated with only one network. This forced WTVD and, by extension, WAPI-TV (now WVTM-TV) in Birmingham to choose between one of the networks; WTVD ultimately chose CBS full-time while WAPI-TV went with NBC. Though this decision was too late to save WATU's first incarnation, a precedent was set which allowed the station to return to the airwaves. Channel 26 returned to the air in 1974 with a full NBC affiliation. As a result of that FCC decree, WATU's return forced WJBF and WRDW to drop NBC programming once and for all. Still, the station continued to struggle under the handicap of a fairly weak UHF signal.
Twisdale and Steel sold WATU to local businessmen J. Thomas Jones and Francis Robertson, in the late 1970s. Jones and Robertson, in turn, sold to present owner Schurz Communications in 1980. The new owners changed the station's call letters to the current WAGT in summer 1981, and for much of the next decade, the station used the on-air branding 26 Power. Even during a very prosperous period for NBC as a whole, WAGT continued to languish in the ratings even after the arrival of cable in the area mitigated the signal problem somewhat. It not only had to compete against WJBF and WRDW, but also had to contend with Columbia's WIS-TV, one of the strongest NBC affiliates in the nation. WIS was available on cable in much of the area (even in Augusta itself) well into the 21st century.
At some point in the early-2000s, the station began to manage and promote the area's cable-only WB affiliate "WBAU". The service signed-on in 2000 but was originally operated by a separate entity. In early-2007, WAGT once again changed its identity to prepare for the digital phase-out of channel numbers in February 2009. This time it became "NBC Augusta" which resulted in the complete phase out of the channel number. In 2008, the station began branding in several voice promos and during newscasts referring to themselves as "NBC Augusta 26". However, there were no major graphical changes due to the new "NBC Augusta" graphics being created by Giant Octopus.
In 2009, the bug logo on the newscasts introduced a modified "NBC Augusta" logo with a bold Century Gothic typeface "26" off to the right of the logo. There have been several voice-over sequences within promos and graphics that have updated the branding to "NBC Augusta 26" without a change in graphics. However the main station graphics, its website, and the station's weather cut-ins during programming hours still brand as "NBC Augusta". At this point, WAGT brands as either "NBC Augusta" or "NBC 26". Newscast graphics were redesigned in 2009 to reflect the new "NBC Augusta 26" brand although the website still brands as "NBC Augusta".
On January 24, 2006, The WB and UPN announced that the networks would end broadcasting and merge. The new combined network would be called The CW. The letters would represent the first initial of corporate parents CBS (the parent company of UPN) and the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner. On February 22, News Corporation announced that it would start up another new network called MyNetworkTV. This new service, which would be a sister network to Fox, would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television. MyNetworkTV was created in order to give UPN and WB stations, not mentioned as becoming CW affiliates, another option besides becoming Independent. It was also created to compete against The CW. WRDW offered UPN on a second digital subchannel which was announced as the area's MyNetworkTV affiliate. As a result of WAGT's association with WBAU, it received rights to carry The CW. Schurz decided to do away with the fictional call sign upon launching a simulcast of the station on a new second digital subchannel of WAGT.
In October 2009, Schurz and WJBF's owner, Media General, announced that the two would enter into joint sales and shared services agreements in January 2010. This resulted in the two combining news operations, sales, and other operational services. It was later announced that WJBF would control all of WAGT's news and advertising operations while that station handled programming and the maintaining of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. Most of WAGT's managerial staff were dismissed and other employees were reassigned to different positions. Media General had initially intended to move WAGT into an expanded wing of WJBF's studios on Reynolds Street in downtown Augusta. However, that facility, built in 1956, was unable to sustain the expansion needed to house both stations. Media General instead chose to renovate the former Barnes & Noble store at Augusta West, which would allow both stations to retain their news identities with sharing efficiencies. The new facility was expected to be completed by April 2011, but was ultimately pushed back until October.
For at least the first quarter of a century on-the-air, WAGT aired virtually no local newscasts apart from brief news and weather cut-ins during Today on weekday mornings and the early evenings and late evenings on weeknights. On September 21, 1995, the station finally established its first ever news department with broadcasts under the name 26 News. Initially included in the launch was a nightly show at 11. Soon after, a nightly newscast at 6 and a weekday morning show were added to the schedule.
The latter program was expanded in June 2003 to a full two-hours (from 5 until 7) in the morning resulting in WAGT being the first outlet in the market to make such a launch. In addition, there was also a thirty-minute news and lifestyle show weekdays at noon called Top 'o the Day. Although that program would eventually be dropped, the station added a new midday newscast at 11 on September 10, 2007 that aired for a half-hour.
For the most part over the years, WAGT has traditionally maintained a third place ranking among the area's other big three affiliates. The station has changed its branding several times in attempts to improve ratings and increase viewership by adopting variations including 26 Action News. It finally re-branded in 2003 as WAGT News. Between 2003 and 2005, Action News was completely phased out along with the "3D Weather" (a.k.a. "3 Degree Guarantee") weather segments. In 2005, its newscasts were branded as NBC 26 News phasing out the call letters "WAGT" in most but not all station graphics and logos. This was due to the fact the graphics package produced by Television By Design was less than a year old and still carried the WAGT News moniker. Along with this re-brand came other changes such as updates to the studio set, graphics package, and the regional Doppler weather radar.
After WJBF renovated its studios in 2004, the station entered into a news share agreement with Fox affiliate WFXG (then owned by Southeastern Media Holdings and operated by Raycom Media). The outsourcing arrangement resulted in a nightly prime time newscast to debut on that station. Known as Fox 54 News at 10, the thirty-minute program originated from WJBF's studios on Reynolds Street in Downtown Augusta. The broadcast featured different on-air graphics and modified WJBF's existing set with separate duratrans in order to conceal WJBF's logo. The principal look of the set and on-air graphics for Fox 54 News at 10 remained the same from the newscast's launch and always used Gari Media Group's "The X Package" as its music theme.
Meanwhile, WAGT decided to establish its own weeknight prime time newscast at 10 in 2004 to offer an alternative against WFXG's effort. The production launched a few days after that outlet's show and was initially seen on Class A Independent station WBEK-CA (ironically Augusta's original Fox station) through a similar outsourcing agreement. Known as WBEK 16 News at 10, this program was soon cancelled due to low ratings and inconsistent viewership. The broadcast was unable to directly compete against WFXG's news because that broadcast was very successful in the time slot from its start.
After being retooled, WAGT's weeknight prime time newscast was relaunched on "WBAU" and became known as WB 23 News at 10. With that station's September 2006 affiliation switch to The CW, WAGT renamed the broadcast CW Augusta Now and tailored its format towards a younger audience as was the case with the newly formed network. On April 23, 2007 in an attempt to boost continual anemic ratings, WAGT decided to drop the CW Augusta Now title and its fast-paced format replacing it with a more traditional newscast. However, NBC Augusta News at 10 was still unable to mount a strong challenge and alternative to WFXG's newscast so it was cancelled in April 2008.
Following a national trend among television stations, WAGT's continual third place ranking and low advertising sales resulted in Schurz Communications handing over daily operations to Media General and rival WJBF. The ABC outlet continued producing WFXG's Fox 54 News at 10 despite the operational agreements with WAGT. As a result, some reporters and video footage from this station began to be seen on WFXG. In January 2010, WAGT dropped its weekday midday show and added a weeknight newscast at 7 that can currently be seen for a half-hour. This show remains the market's only local broadcast seen in the time slot.
Although physical operations of WAGT and WJBF remained based at their respective facilities for the time being, later plans called for this outlet to move into expanded space at WJBF's studios on Reynolds Street. Media General ultimately decided to construct a new combined facility at the Augusta West Shopping Center in a former Barnes & Noble bookstore. After completion in October 2011, WAGT and WJBF finally upgraded newscasts to full high definition. Rival WRDW became Augusta's first television station to add 16:9 widescreen enhanced definition broadcasts on August 17, 2010 and upgraded to full high definition (another area first) on January 24, 2011.
On September 26, 2011 after terminating a seven-year-old news share agreement with WJBF, WFXG launched its first ever in-house news operation. Corresponding with the launch, the Fox station became the second outlet in Agusta to broadcast local newscasts in high definition. On the same day, WJBF introduced another prime time broadcast at 10 on WAGT-DT2. Known as NewsChannel 6 at 10 on The CW, the news is seen every night for thirty minutes. Despite airing on a second digital subchannel of WAGT, the program has WJBF branding and features anchors from that station. Like all CW Plus affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, WAGT-DT2 airs the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz on weekdays from 6 until 9.
Currently, WAGT and WJBF operate news departments that are technically separate. There is, however, a considerable amount of sharing between the two when it comes to coverage, video footage, and the use of reporters. The outlets do maintain their own primary on-air personalities (such as news and sports anchors) that only appear on one station. WAGT and WJBF maintain separate sets at the Augusta West Shopping Center studios allowing them to maintain individual on-air identities and offer local news at the same time. The two stations also use different graphics schemes respectively, although both are used by other Media General stations.
Recently, WJBF was named number 1 by the readers of Augusta Magazine, and was named Best of Augusta for 2012. WAGT was named number 2, followed by WRDW which placed a distant 3rd. WFXG did not place in the Best of Augusta poll. WAGT forecaster Jay Jefferies, morning anchor Liz Hill, and evening anchor Paige Tucker, each took home Best Of awards for Best Weather Personality, Best News Personality, and Best Hair respectfully.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1969
- "Networks, V's balk at aid for UHF's." Broadcasting, September 21, 1970, pg. 40. 
- "One (network) to a customer." Broadcasting, March 29, 1971, pg. 68. 
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1979
- "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, June 2, 1980, pg. 46. 
- WATU-TV/Schurz Communications advertisement. Broadcasting, August 18, 1980, pg. 39. 
- Emerson, LaTina (2009-12-30). "WJBF, WAGT still negotiating with on-air personnel". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- Emerson, LaTina (2010-12-02). "WBBQ, other stations to move to new locations". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-12-05.