|Huntington/Charleston, West Virginia
|City of license||Huntington, West Virginia|
|Branding||WSAZ NewsChannel 3
MyZTV & This TV West Virginia (on DT2)
|Slogan||Severe Weather and Breaking News: It Matters|
|Channels||Digital: 23 (UHF)
Virtual: 3 (PSIP)
|Translators||16 W16CE Charleston|
|Affiliations||NBC (exclusive since 1956; primary until 1956)|
(Gray Television Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||November 15, 1949|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
5 (VHF, 1949-1952)
3 (VHF, 1952-2009)
|Former affiliations||All secondary:
|Transmitter power||724 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WSAZ-TV, channel 3, is a television station located in Huntington, West Virginia, USA. Owned by Gray Television, it is the NBC affiliate for the Huntington-Charleston market, the second-largest television market (in terms of geographical area) east of the Mississippi River. The station serves 61 counties that cover central West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio. WSAZ operates studios in both Huntington and Charleston, and its transmitter is located near Milton, West Virginia.
WSAZ-TV's programming can also be seen in the Kanawha Valley on translator W16CE (channel 16) in Charleston. This station is carried on the Suddenlink Communications cable system in the eastern part of the market.
The oldest television station in West Virginia, WSAZ-TV began regular broadcasting November 15, 1949, on VHF channel 5. The station was originally owned by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch along with WSAZ radio (930 AM, now WRVC), and carried programming from all four networks at the time (NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont). However, it was a primary NBC affiliate due to WSAZ radio's long affiliation with NBC Radio. When WCHS-TV (channel 8) signed-on from Charleston in 1954, it took over the CBS affiliation and the two television stations shared ABC programming until WHTN-TV (channel 13, now WOWK-TV) signed-on from Huntington a year later. In 1955, WSAZ-TV dropped DuMont after the network shut down. It is the only commercial station in the market that has never changed its primary affiliation.
One story of how the station's call letters originated dates from WSAZ radio's origins in 1923. Radio engineer Glenn Chase applied to the Secretary of Commerce for a license to operate a small radio station in Pomeroy, Ohio (it moved down and across the Ohio River to Huntington in 1927). In the application, he reportedly claimed that since he was building most of the station's equipment himself, "it would probably be the worst station from A to Z." Chase asked that appropriate call letters be assigned. His request was promptly granted and the calls WSAZ were given to him meaning "Worst Station from A to Z." A more likely story was that the allocation of the call letters WSAZ were pure coincidence as they were assigned by the Department of Commerce in an alphabetical sequence just after WSAX in Chicago and WSAY in Port Chester, New York. However, the myth persists that the calls stand for "Worst Station from A to Z," which WSAZ radio itself helped spread by using it as a slogan for many years.
In 1950, WSAZ-TV received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permission to build a private microwave link to Cincinnati allowing viewers to get NBC programming live. As the nation's first privately owned microwave system, it was a remarkable feat for one of the smallest cities in the country at the time to have a television station. The first live broadcast was scheduled for a Labor Day baseball game, but the system broke down for four hours and forced WSAZ to broadcast a fire at a nearby hotel. The Cincinnati link was replaced in favor of one from Columbus, Ohio in 1952.
Also in 1952, the FCC released its Sixth Report and Order, which ended the four-year-long freeze in awarding station licenses and included a realignment of VHF channel assignments. As a result, WSAZ-TV moved to channel 3 in order to alleviate interference with fellow NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati. The channel move also created an opening for a new channel 5 station in Weston, which signed-on as WJPB-TV (now WDTV) in March 1954. As part of the frequency switch, the FCC granted WSAZ a boost in broadcast power, which at the time, was the highest ever authorized for a television station. This allowed the station to penetrate more of its huge viewing area, most of which is a very rugged dissected plateau. However, as the regulation of domestic television stations were normalized, WSAZ's signal strength was reduced to the same levels as others in 1956. The station's transmission tower was the tallest in North America until WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina activated a taller tower in 1959.
The Herald-Dispatch sold WSAZ-AM-TV to Goodwill Stations, owner of WJR radio in Detroit and WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan, in 1961. Goodwill was merged into Capital Cities Communications in 1964. Capital Cities spun off the WSAZ stations in 1971 as a result of its purchase of several stations from Triangle Publications, with WSAZ radio going to Stoner Broadcasting, and channel 3 being acquired by Lee Enterprises. Emmis Communications bought the station in 2000 after Lee decided to bow out of broadcasting. Emmis then sold WSAZ to Gray Television in 2005. The Gray purchase made WSAZ-TV a sister station to fellow NBC affiliate WTAP-TV (channel 15) in Parkersburg.
Being based in Huntington, WSAZ-TV is located fifty miles (80 km) away from West Virginia's state capital, Charleston. As such, the station opened a branch studio there in 1956. It also launched a low-powered repeater on UHF channel 23 to serve the Kanawha Valley in 1995. While Charleston and its close-in suburbs receive the main WSAZ signal very well, it was marginal at best in much of the Kanawha Valley due to the area's rugged terrain. The translator was moved to channel 16 in 2003.
Under federal must-carry rules, broadcasters can either allow cable TV systems in the market to carry their signals for free or charge a fee under retransmission consent provisions. On December 3, 2008, it was announced that Inter Mountain Cable (IMC), a cable provider serving parts of Eastern Kentucky, announced that it would drop WSAZ from its lineup unless an agreement was reached over retransmission consent. According to The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg, Kentucky, this dispute caused concern among officials in the city of Fleming-Neon where IMC holds the cable franchise. The city council in Fleming-Neon stated that the removal of WSAZ would violate IMC's franchise agreement.
On September 5, 2006, WSAZ launched a new second digital subchannel to be the area's MyNetworkTV affiliate. Although it is a digital subchannel, many local cable companies air WSAZ-DT2 as a separate channel on their systems. On August 29, 2009, WSAZ-DT2 dropped its previous overnight lineup of infomercials and began a secondary affiliation with This TV carrying programming from that network usually overnights and on weekends.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WSAZ-HD||Main WSAZ-TV programming / NBC|
|3.2||480i||4:3||My Z TV||WSAZ-DT2 / MyNetworkTV & This TV|
WSAZ-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 23. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
Largely because of its pioneering status in the state, WSAZ is one of the country's most dominant television stations. It has been the far-and-away market leader for as long as records have been kept, usually boasting some of the highest-rated newscasts in the country. WCHS and WOWK have rarely come close. The station came in a close second to WCHS for a short period in late 2009-early 2010 due to lower lead-in numbers originated by The Jay Leno Show. WSAZ has since regained first place in all timeslots. In May 2012, WSAZ had the highest rated nightly news at 6:00 pm of any station in the top 100 television markets in the United States, with its 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts ranking number-two among the Top 100. The station has always devoted significant resources to its news department, resulting in a higher-quality product than conventional wisdom would suggest for what has always been a small-to-medium market.
Since 1956, WSAZ's newscasts have featured two news anchors with one at the main studios in Huntington and the other in Charleston. NBC studied the format and used it as the basis for the Huntley-Brinkley Report anchored by Chet Huntley in New York City and David Brinkley in Washington D.C.. All of the big three networks have used this approach at one time or another since then.
Since the 1995 launch of its low-power translator in Charleston, WSAZ has used it to provide viewers with a "split" newscast. Weeknights at 5:30, 6 and 11, the two anchors appear together on screen until a certain point (usually 10–15 minutes into the newscast) when the show will "split." For the last 20 minutes of the newscast, viewers in the 28 counties of the Kanawha Valley who watch channel 16 and Suddenlink will see a newscast targeted specifically to them while viewers in the other 33 counties (as well as satellite viewers) will see a newscast featuring coverage from Kentucky and Ohio as well as West Virginia. WSAZ calls this concept "two-city news."  Outside of the previous mentioned newscasts, all shows originate from the Huntington facilities. The weather and sports departments are also based there. In July 1993, WSAZ's weeknight First at Five broadcast was launched.
Since the station has traditionally been one of NBC's strongest affiliates, the network has been rumored on several occasions to buying WSAZ. However, NBC Universal has recently sold off many of its stations outside the top 15 markets. Huntington/Charleston is currently the 63rd market (the only market in the state in the top 100). Also, NBC has owned only one television station located outside the top fifty markets.
Rumors abounded soon after the Gray Television purchase of WSAZ that WTAP would scrap its news department and simulcast WSAZ's newscasts instead. WSAZ has always covered Parkersburg events anyway and has long been available on cable on the West Virginia side of that market. However, WTAP's broadcasts bring in as much revenue as WSAZ in part because WTAP is the only full-power station in Parkersburg.
WSAZ-DT2 formerly produced a prime time newscast every night for a half-hour; originally known as MyZTV Ten O'Clock News, however when the station bought full-power WQCW, it moved its 10 PM news to that station, today WSAZ-DT2 only repeats the second hour of WSAZ NewsChannel 3 Today weekdays at 7:00 a.m.
WSAZ remodeled the Huntington and Charleston newsrooms in late 2010 to prepare for high definition broadcasts. On June 26, 2011 at 6 p.m., WSAZ launched the first high definition newscast in the Charleston-Huntington market. This was second station in the state of West Virginia, following sister station WTAP in Parkersburg. Before the transition, the Charleston-Huntington market was the largest without a newscast in either high definition or 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen.
Out of market carriage
In West Virginia, WSAZ is carried in Glenville, Gilmer County in the Clarksburg market. In the Bluefield-Beckley market, it is carried in Ansted, Fayetteville and Page in Fayette County. It is carried as far north as Parkersburg, Wood County alongside sister station WTAP-TV. In the southern part of the state, Suddenlink Cable in Beckley, Raleigh County carries WSAZ alongside that area's NBC affiliate, WVVA from Bluefield. In McDowell County, it is carried in Panther and Welch. WSAZ is also carried on Horizon Telecom in Chillicothe, which is in the Columbus, Ohio market. During the CATV era of the late 1970s into the early 1980s, WSAZ was picked up on numerous cable outlets in Southwest Virginia including Wise, Dickenson and Buchanan counties.
- "WSAZ-TV; Folsom, McConnell attend opening event." Broadcasting - Telecasting, November 21, 1949, pg. 57. 
- "TV coverage; RTMA predicts expansion." Broadcasting - Telecasting, May 19, 1952, pg. 78. 
- "WJR officials sign to purchase WSAZ-AM-TV." Broadcasting, February 6, 1961, pg. 51. 
- "The dam breaks in station sales." Broadcasting, April 3, 1961, pp. 33-35. 
- "Another group gets bigger." Broadcasting, March 2, 1964, pg. 64
- "Capcities sells its AM in Huntington, W.Va." Broadcasting, May 25, 1970, pg. 50. 
- "Another spin-off by Capcities: WSAZ-TV goes next, to Lee Enterprises for $18 million." Broadcasting, April 13, 1970, pg. 46. 
- Farley, William (2009-01-14). "Neon council upset by threat of TV changes". The Mountain Eagle. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WSAZ
- Digital Television Information
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "The Charleston Split". WSAZ-TV. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
- Official website
- Official website – WSAZ-DT2
- Official website – This TV West Virginia
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WSAZ-TV
- Query the FCC's TV station database for W16CE