State College, Pennsylvania
|City of license||Altoona|
|Branding||ABC 23 (general)
Fox 8 (on DT2)
|Channels||Digital: 24 (UHF)|
|Subchannels||23.1 ABC HD
23.2 Fox HD
23.3 This TV SD
|Translators||WWCP-TV 8.2 Johnstown|
|Owner||Palm Television, L.P.
(operated through LMA by Horseshoe Curve Communications, LLC)
|First air date||November 28, 1974|
|Call letters' meaning||Altoona Television
|Former callsigns||WOPC (1974–1986)
|Former channel number(s)||38 (UHF analog, 1974–early 1980s)
23 (UHF analog, 1986–2009)
|Former affiliations||Fox (1987-1988, as satellite of WWCP)|
|Transmitter power||1,000 kW
9.3 kW (WWCP-DT2)
368 m (WWCP-DT2)
WATM-TV is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Allegheny area of Pennsylvania that is licensed to Altoona. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 24 from a transmitter on Wopsy Mountain east of Dysart. Owned by Palm Television, the station is operated by Horseshoe Curve Communications through a local marketing agreement (LMA). This makes it sister to Fox affiliate WWCP-TV and the two share studios on Scalp Avenue (PA 56) in Johnstown. Syndicated programming on WATM includes Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and The Dr. Oz Show. The station can also be seen on WWCP's second digital subchannel (VHF channel 8.2) from a transmitter on Laurel Mountain along U.S. 30. In addition to the main studios, WATM operates sales offices in State College (on West Beaver Avenue) and Altoona (on East Walton Avenue).
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|23.1||720p||16:9||WATM-HD||Main WATM-TV programming / ABC|
|23.2||WWCP-HD||Simulcast of WWCP-TV|
This station originally signed-on November 28, 1974 as WOPC-TV and was an ABC affiliate broadcasting in analog on UHF channel 38. At the time, Altoona/State College and Johnstown were separate markets. The station was unable to afford a network feed. For most of its history, engineers simply switched to and from the signal of WTPA-TV (now WHTM-TV) in Harrisburg. It did not help matters that Scranton's WNEP-TV had long operated two outlying translators (one presently) in State College, the second-biggest city in the area.
Already struggling for viewership, WOPC was dealt a fatal blow in 1982 when Johnstown and Altoona/State College were collapsed into a single market. The station's signal was all but unviewable in the western portion of the enlarged market. As a result, it went dark shortly afterward. For the next few years, the ABC affiliation in this vast market was split between three stations in neighboring markets. WHTM was the de facto ABC affiliate for Altoona, WNEP served State College, and WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh served Johnstown.
In 1986, the area's soon-to-be Fox affiliate, WWCP, faced a problem. It had originally been slated to be a Pittsburgh station, but its owners petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move the license to Johnstown. In their petition, WWCP's owners cited lower programming costs in the Johnstown/Altoona/State College market. They also cited possible interference with WJW in Cleveland. The FCC granted the request on condition that WWCP build its transmitter in a location that would allow Pittsburgh to get a Grade B signal from the station. However, this meant channel 8 would be virtually unviewable in the eastern portion of the area. WWCP's owners solved this problem by buying the dormant channel 38 license and moving it to channel 23. As a result, the old WOPC returned to the air on October 13, 1986 as WWPC-TV, a satellite of WWCP.
At the time, WHTM and WTAE both preempted moderate amounts of ABC programming and it soon became obvious that Johnstown/Altoona/State College needed its own affiliate. As a result, WWPC split from WWCP and became an ABC affiliate on August 27, 1988 under new calls, WATM-TV. The station was later sold to Palm Television in order to comply with FCC ownership regulations regarding network affiliates. However, WATM is still managed by WWCP under a local marketing agreement as Peak Media, channel 8's former owner, feared that if allowed to operate separately both stations would be put in jeopardy of going dark. On February 17, 2009, the original date for the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, WATM remained on its pre-transition channel number, 24. The station shut down analog transmissions and began broadcasting exclusively in digital. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display its virtual channel as 23.
The digital conversion significantly improved WATM's coverage in the market. Previously, it had been plagued for most of its history by its weak 708,000 watt analog signal. The station's signal was marginal at best even in Altoona, five miles from the transmitter. It only provided Grade B coverage of Johnstown and State College, and most viewers in this vast market could only watch it on cable. However, with the station's digital transmitter licensed for a full one million watts(the equivalent to five million watts for an analog UHF transmitter) WATM gained a coverage area comparable to the other major stations in the market. Additionally, the station was picked up on WWCP's digital subcarrier, and carries an HD simulcast of WWCP on one of its subchannels. In November 2010 it was announced that Horseshoe Curve Communications would acquire Peak Media's assets including WWCP and its 14 year old agreement to operate WATM. In February 2011 WATM added a third channel to their lineup in the form of an SD feed of ThisTV.
On July 22, 2013, Horseshoe Curve Communications agreed to sell WWCP to Cunningham Broadcasting for $12 million. The LMA for WATM is included in the deal. Sinclair Broadcast Group, who already owns NBC affiliate WJAC-TV, will assume operations of both WATM and WWCP through shared services and joint sales agreements.
WATM and WWCP began airing local newscasts in 1992. WWCP produced an hour-long broadcast at 10 pm from Johnstown while WATM aired a nightly program at 11 pm from State College. As a result, these newscasts focused on their respective areas and barely registered as a blip in the ratings against longer-established WJAC-TV and WTAJ-TV, who had market-wide coverage. Due in part to continued ratings struggles, WATM's separate news department was shut down in December 2002 and merged with WWCP in Johnstown.
On November 28, 2007, The Tribune Democrat reported that the shared news department of WATM and WWCP was going to shut down. According to a written statement, the two stations had been operating at a loss for years and the move was needed. The closure resulted in all reporters being released from their contracts. NBC affiliate WJAC had on-air positions open but no personalities from those two stations were hired. Effective January 14, 2008, WJAC assumed production responsibility of the prime time show (still known as Fox 8 News at 10) which was reduced to 35 minutes on weeknights and thirty minutes on weekends. The WJAC-produced news uses the same music package and some voice-overs seen during segment opens as the former operation did. A new graphics package slightly different from WJAC and new logos similar to the WWCP promo logo introduced in 2007 were created specifically for the 10 o'clock program.
Since WJAC has prior commitments with news and weather cut-ins during Today, WATM still produces its own Good Morning America news and weather cut-ins that are seen Tuesday through Saturday mornings. Former WWCP co-anchor Sherry Stalley, who was still under contract when the news department shut down, anchored the updates. The cut-ins use news video from the previous day's WJAC-produced WWCP broadcast and the same graphics package. On Sunday and Monday, the cut-ins are filled by WATM promos. In October 2010, Stalley was hired by WJAC to return as the anchor for Fox 8 News, but on Monday, March 14, 2011, Stalley's picture was removed from the Fox 8 Website, indicating that she is no longer with the station. While a replacement for Stalley was sought, WJAC anchor Marty Radovanic served as anchor for the station's 10:00 p.m. newscast, and the Good Morning America news and weather cut-ins still produced by WATM were filled by former WWCP/WATM Executive Producer Josh Bandish. On March 22, 2011, former WWCP/WATM reporter Christine Strugala returned to the station to take on anchoring duties for the Fox 8 News and WATM's Good Morning America cut-ins.
WJAC's nightly 11 o'clock newscast was simulcast on WATM and branded as ABC 23 News from January 2007 until March 2011 when it was replaced by syndicated episodes of Seinfeld.
- CDBS Print
- Application For Consent To Assignment Of Broadcast Station Construction Permit Or License , Federal Communications Commission, 12 August, 2013
- WATM-TV / ABC 23 website
- WATM-DT3 This TV
- WWCP-TV / FOX 8 website
- WJAC-TV website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WATM-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WATM-TV