Newport News, Virginia
WGNT News Powered by NewsChannel 3 (newscasts)
|Channels||Digital: 50 (UHF)
Virtual: 27 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||27.1 The CW
27.2 Antenna TV
|Affiliations||The CW (2006-present)|
|Owner||Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, LLC
(operated through SSA by Tribune Broadcasting)
(Local TV Virginia Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||December 6, 1953
October 1, 1961
|Call letters' meaning||Greater Norfolk Television|
|Former callsigns||WTOV-TV (1953–1956)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
27 (UHF, 1953–2009)
|Former affiliations||DuMont (1953–1956)
Independent (1953–1956, 1961–1995)
|Transmitter power||1,000 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WGNT, virtual channel 27 (UHF digital channel 50), is a CW-affiliated television station that is licensed to Portsmouth, Virginia, United States and serves the Hampton Roads (Portsmouth-Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News) television market. The station is owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, LLC, as part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate WTKR (channel 3); Tribune Broadcasting (a subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company) operates WGNT and WTKR under a shared services agreement. The two stations share studios located on Boush Street in downtown Norfolk, WGNT's transmitter is located in Suffolk, Virginia.
WGNT is one of the oldest surviving UHF licenses in the country. It first signed on December 6, 1953 as WTOV-TV, a commercial independent station owned by Commonwealth Broadcasting. It was the third television station in the Hampton Roads area, and the second on the UHF band (WVEC-TV, which later moved to VHF channel 13, signed on over channel 15 three months earlier). WTOV later became an affiliate of the DuMont Television Network. Channel 27 was on the air for limited hours, and had very limited viewership because it was impossible at the time to watch UHF stations without buying a converter; television set makers were not required to include UHF tuners until 1964. Even with a converter, WTOV's picture was not very clear. As such, it was never a factor in the Hampton Roads market.
The death knell for channel 27 sounded in late 1955, when Tidewater Teleradio, owners of WAVY radio (1350 AM, now WGPL) won a construction permit for the area's second VHF station, WAVY-TV (channel 10). Combined with dwindling revenues and the impending loss of DuMont programming at the end of the 1955-56 season, WTOV went dark in 1956. The WTOV-TV call letters are currently used by an NBC-affiliated station on channel 9 in Steubenville, Ohio.
The CBN years
In 1961, M.G. "Pat" Robertson, son of Virginia United States Senator A. Willis Robertson and an attorney-turned-Southern Baptist minister, purchased the dormant channel 27 license. Under the ownership of Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, the station returned to the air on October 1 as WYAH-TV, with "YAH" standing for "Yahweh" according to some sources (including Pat Robertson's autobiography, Shout it From the Housetops) and "You are Holy" according to others. Pat Robertson's first choice for call letters was WTFC ("Television For Christ"). Those call letters were announced by Robertson to local media, before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) informed him that they were unavailable.
WYAH initially broadcast from studios on Spratley Street west of downtown Portsmouth. At first, WYAH was on the air four hours a day, 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and off the air Sunday. Most of these hours were occupied by a locally produced programs hosted by Robertson. The rest of the day was occupied by teaching programs produced by local churches and some syndicated televangelists' repeats of Sunday programs. The station almost went dark in 1963, and so it conducted a special telethon urging 700 people to donate $10 a month, continuing to hold such telethons bi-monthly. A few years later, the locally produced daily talk program would be named for the telethons, The 700 Club.
Beginning in 1966, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker hosted and produced a local children's program called Come On Over (later called Jim and Tammy). This consisted of puppet shows, skits, prayers, singalongs, games, stories and religious short films such as Davey and Goliath and JOT. The program was eventually seen in Canada, and achieved widespread syndication throughout the United States. Pat Robertson also appeared on-camera as well, as host of additional Bible-teaching programs. Weekends consisted of televangelists such as Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, and local church services. WYAH was one of the first Christian television stations in the United States and was a viewer-supported non-commercial station, though it sold blocks of time to other ministries. By 1964, the station was somewhat financially solvent. The station was on the air 5 hours a day and began Sunday operations in 1965.
In 1966, WYAH expanded its broadcast hours to six hours a day, signing on at 5:00 p.m. It began construction on a new, more powerful transmitter. The station also began color transmissions of shows produced in color. In mid-1967, WYAH began producing all its programs in color as well.
In September 1967, WYAH began commercial operation part-time about an hour a day. Initial fare was low-budget films, travelogues, and local productions. In 1968, the station expanded to 7 hours a day. Monday through Saturday the station ran 2 hours a day of secular shows. The first purchases included Fury, Of Land and Seas, The Roy Rogers Show, Lassie & Timmy/Jeff's Collie, and The Cisco Kid. In 1969, the station expanded to 8 hours a day. The 700 Club continued its live 10 p.m. run and was repeated at 3 p.m. the next day. The station also added Mister Ed and Leave It To Beaver that year.
In June 1970, WYAH activated a new, more powerful transmitter that boosted its effective radiated power to 2.25 million watts. This not only gave it a coverage area comparable to Hampton Roads' Big Three stations, but also provided secondary coverage to the eastern fringe of the Richmond market. Robertson sent a newsletter to donors boasting that channel 27 was now the most powerful station in Virginia. By then, the station was on the air 9 hours a day signing on at 3 p.m.
In 1972, WYAH began airing for 12 hours a day, signing on at noon, with an expanded lineup of syndicated shows and religious programming, including airings of The 700 Club three times a day; Sundays were still devoted entirely to religious programs. At this point, Pat Robertson stepped down from his role as general manager and hired one to grow the station and be responsible for day to day operation, while Robertson would concentrate on taking his 700 Club program national. In the spring of 1973, WYAH began signing on at 10 a.m., and expanded its program offerings to include cartoons and some feature films, as well as westerns and sitcoms. In the fall of 1973, WYAH expanded its broadcasting to 19 hours a day of programming, signing on before 7:00 a.m. By then, shows included Bugs Bunny and Popeye cartoons, The Flintstones, The Little Rascals shorts, Leave It to Beaver, Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, The Lone Ranger and The Rifleman. WYAH began winning bids on more off-network syndicated shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, as well as acquiring shows like I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Munsters. About this time, the Bakkers left for the California-based Trinity Broadcasting Network before going on their own in 1975. The Hampton Roads area had become one of the smallest markets in the U.S. with a commercial independent station.
While WYAH had evolved into a conventional independent station by this time, its programming policy was decidedly conservative, in keeping with Robertson's Baptist/charismatic religious views. For many years, it muted any dialogue containing profanity. In some cases, it opted to preempt whole episodes out of concern for their subject matter. For example, at least two episodes of Gilligan's Island never aired on the station, because of content centering (albeit in a comical fashion) around ghosts and vampires. However, WYAH offered a wide variety of programming and was a stronger independent than many secular-owned independent stations at that time. Still, Hampton Roads viewers got other choices once cable arrived in the area in the late 1960s, as WTTG and WDCA from Washington, D.C. became available on cable systems as well.
With WYAH's growth and profitability, CBN began expanding to other markets. In June 1971, CBN signed on WHAE-TV (channel 46, which took the calls WANX in 1976 and is now WGCL-TV) in Atlanta, followed with the January 1972 purchase of KBFI-TV (channel 33, now KDAF) in Dallas. CBN later changed the calls of that station to KXTX-TV. In April 1973, Doubleday, which owned KDTV (channel 39, the current KXTX-TV) opted to donate their station to CBN; CBN then combined assets of channels 33 and 39 onto one station, and gave the channel 33 license to Doubleday, which in turn shut that license down and turned that over to the FCC. CBN's fourth station, WXNE-TV (channel 25, now WFXT) in Boston was launched in October 1977. These stations formed the Continental Broadcasting Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of CBN with WYAH as the flagship station. KXTX and WANX had formats similar to WYAH, while WXNE ran more drama shows and westerns (though WXNE would become a more conventional independent in the early 1980s).
In the late 1970s, WYAH continued to acquire off-network sitcoms and more movie packages. In 1980 WYAH, along with the rest of the Continental stations, began five to eight hours of general entertainment programming on Sunday afternoons, mostly extending the non-religious programming to syndicated theatrical shorts from Warner Bros., MGM and Paramount and weekly "theaters" dedicated to Shirley Temple, Abbott & Costello and Blondie and Dagwood movies. However, channel 27 lost some ratings ground locally to WTVZ (channel 33), which was launched in 1979 and aired programming that was too racy for Robertson's liking – mostly uncensored off-network programming and syndicated fare. The station also moved The 700 Club to 10:00 p.m. and added a prime time movie at 8:00 p.m. By the 1980s, shows such as Scooby Doo; The Jetsons; Diff'rent Strokes; Mork & Mindy; Barney Miller; The Jeffersons; WKRP In Cincinnati; Too Close For Comfort; Little House on the Prairie and Eight Is Enough, among others were added to the schedule.
By the late 1980s, Continental Broadcasting had become too profitable to remain under the CBN banner without endangering CBN's non-profit status. With this in mind, Robertson began selling off his over-the-air stations and eventually sold off his directly-owned cable network, The CBN Family Channel (the latter going to his son Tim's company, International Family Entertainment). In 1989, WYAH was sold to Centennial Broadcasting. The new owners renamed the station WGNT on September 13, which stands for Greater Norfolk Television.
After Centennial took control, WGNT initially ran shows inherited from the CBN days, but ended the station's decades-long practice of censoring the small amount of profanity from off-network syndicated programming. As the 1990s began, Centennial began mixing in more modern programming, such as talk shows like The Rush Limbaugh Show, Ricki Lake and Jerry Springer and syndicated fare like the Universal Action Pack block, the Prime Time Entertainment Network programming service and Baywatch. In 1991, it dropped the 11 p.m. repeat of The 700 Club. By 2003, the series was completely dropped from WGNT's schedule, removing the last link to its CBN days. However, it has aired on numerous outlets in the area in the years since then (it currently airs on WTKR).
On January 16, 1995, WGNT became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network and branded itself as "UPN 27". In 1997, Paramount Stations Group bought WGNT for $42.5 million, making it a UPN owned-and-operated station. This made WGNT the only network-owned station in the Hampton Roads market. Viacom, Paramount's owner, later bought CBS as well. When Viacom split into two separate companies in November 2005 with its broadcasting properties remaining with the original Viacom, which was restructured as CBS Corporation, WGNT and the other UPN O&Os became part of the new company through its CBS Television Stations subsidiary.
On January 24, 2006, CBS and Time Warner announced that UPN and The WB would shut down to form a new jointly-owned service featuring series from both networks as well as newer series, The CW Television Network. As part of the announcement, the new network signed a 10-year affiliation deal with 11 of CBS' UPN stations, including WGNT. Channel 27 rebranded itself as "CW 27" in the summer of 2006 and officially became the Hampton Roads area's CW affiliate on September 18, 2006. On June 14, 2010, Local TV, owner of CBS affiliate WTKR, acquired WGNT. Shortly after the announcement, Local TV took over WGNT's operations through a local marketing agreement as the company's first CW station, making it a sister station to WTKR (eventually creating the first legal duopoly in the Hampton Roads market once the purchase was finalized).
On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced it was merging with Tribune Company in a $2.75 billion deal. At the time, Tribune owned The Daily Press in Newport News. Due to FCC regulations barring newspaper-television crossownership within a single market (although Tribune has maintained crossownership waivers for its newspaper-television station combinations in four other media markets), Tribune announced it would spin off WTKR and WGNT to Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, an unrelated company owned by former Tribune Company executive Ed Wilson. Tribune will provide services to the stations through a shared services agreement, and will hold an option to buy back WTKR and WGNT outright in the future. Tribune later announced on July 10, 2013 that it would spin off its newspaper division (including the Daily Press) into a separate company, the Tribune Publishing Company, in 2014, pending shareholder and regulatory approval. The sale was completed on December 27.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|27.1||1080i||16:9||WGNT||Main WGNT programming / The CW|
WGNT became a charter affiliate of Antenna TV on January 4, 2011, it is carried on WGNT digital subchannel 27.2. Originally, the channel was planned to be on sister station WTKR digital subchannel 3.2. Coincidentally, several shows seen on Antenna TV have aired locally on channel 27 during the 1970s under CBN ownership.
WGNT began digital broadcasts on channel 50 on July 15, 2002. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 27, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 50, using PSIP to display WGNT's virtual channel as 27 on digital television receivers.
Since the station qualified for the nightlight clause in the DTV Delay Act (due to the fact that CBS owned the station until 2010), it was required to keep its analog signal on for one month to inform viewers of the digital television transition. From June 12 to July 12, 2009, the analog signal consisted of a loop of public service announcements regarding the digital transition, while the digital channel was used for normal programming.
In 1995, WTKR began to produce the market's first prime time local newscast, a half-hour program at 10 p.m. called NewsChannel 3 at 10 on UPN 27. The newscast was cancelled in late 1997, due to low ratings. Since then, the 10 p.m. time period has been used for off-network repeats.
In July 2011, WGNT management announced that local news programming would return to the station. The station debuted a two-hour morning newscast from 7 to 9 a.m., featuring the anchor team from sister station WTKR's morning program. Initially slated to launch on August 29, the newscast's debut was moved up to August 25 to provide coverage of Hurricane Irene. At some point afterwards, a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast began airing on weekends (unusual as primetime newscasts on most television stations typically air either seven nights a week or Monday through Fridays only), followed by a half-hour program recapping stories sister station WTKR broadcast over the past week in their "Taking Action, Getting Results" franchise.
On July 7, 2014, WGNT debuted a half-hour 7 p.m. newscast featuring former morning anchor Laila Muhammad, Les Smith and chief meteorologist Patrick Rockey. It is the first and only newscast at that time slot in the Hampton Roads area.
- Interview with Pat Robertson. Archive of American Television (October 15, 2003).
- 'Gilmore Girls' meet 'Smackdown'; CW Network to combine WB, UPN in CBS-Warner venture beginning in September, CNNMoney.com, January 24, 2006.
- Local TV Acquiring CBS Owned WGNT Broadcasting and Cable June 14, 2010.
- Channick, Robert (July 1, 2013). "Acquisition to make Tribune Co. largest U.S. TV station operator". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
- Pawloski, Sarah J. (July 2, 2013). "Daily Press owner Tribune Co. to buy 19 TV stations, including WTKR". Daily Press. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- "Transferee Exhibit 15 Agreements and Summary of Transaction". FCC document. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "Tribune Co. to Split in Two". New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- Company Completes Final Steps of Transaction Announced in July, Tribune Company, 27 December, 2013
- RabbitEars TV Query for WGNT
- List of Digital Full-Power Stations
- FCC.gov Appendix B All Full Power Station By DMA, Indicating Those Terminating Analog service On Or Before February 17, 2009
- Walzer, Philip (August 25, 2011). "Channel 27 newscast gets early start". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
- Half–hour news at 7pm
- Official website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WGNT
- Query TV Fool's coverage map for WGNT
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WGNT-TV