WSMV-TV

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WSMV-TV
Wsmv 2008.png
Nashville, Tennessee
Branding WSMV Channel 4 (general)
Channel 4 News (newscasts)
Heartland (on DT2)
Slogan Working 4 You
The Heart of Country (on DT2)
Channels Digital: 10 (VHF)
Virtual: 4 (PSIP)
Subchannels 4.1 NBC
4.2 Heartland
Affiliations NBC
Heartland (DT2; since 2013)
Owner Meredith Corporation
First air date September 30, 1950; 64 years ago (1950-09-30)
Call letters' meaning We Shield Millions (V for "Vision" added to differentiate from WSM radio)
Former callsigns WSM-TV (1950–1981)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
4 (VHF, 1950–2009)
Former affiliations All secondary:
ABC (1950–1954)
CBS (1950–1953)
DuMont (1950–1956)[1]
Telemundo (DT2; 2006–2010)
TNN (DT2; 2012-2013)
Transmitter power 60 kW
Height 413 m
Facility ID 41232
Transmitter coordinates Coordinates: 36°08′28″N 86°51′44″W / 36.1412°N 86.8623°W / 36.1412; -86.8623 36°08′28″N 86°51′57″W / 36.1410°N 86.8657°W / 36.1410; -86.8657
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
CDBS
Website www.wsmv.com

WSMV-TV, channel 4, is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. The station is owned by the Meredith Corporation. WSMV's studios and transmitter are located on Knob Road in west Nashville.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

WSMV first signed on the air as WSM-TV on September 30, 1950 at 1:10 p.m. It was Nashville's first television station and the second in Tennessee, behind WMCT (now WMC-TV, also an NBC affiliate) in Memphis. It was owned by the WSM, Inc. division of the locally-based National Life and Accident Insurance Company, along with WSM radio (650 AM and 95.5 FM); the AM station is renowned for broadcasts of the country music show The Grand Ole Opry, which has been heard on the station since 1925. The station took its callsign from its parent's slogan, "We Shield Millions."

The television station has been an NBC affiliate from its sign-on, although it also carried some programming from CBS, DuMont, and ABC. Its secondary affiliation with CBS ended in 1953, when WSIX-TV (channel 8, now WKRN-TV on channel 2) signed on as a primary CBS affiliate. WSM-TV shared ABC programming with WSIX-TV for a year until WLAC-TV (channel 5, now WTVF-TV) signed on as the market's new primary CBS affiliate, leaving WSIX-TV with ABC. During the first few years of operation, AT&T would not run telephone lines for WSM-TV to receive network programming until there was another TV station in town. This problem was solved by running microwave relay transmissions from fellow NBC affiliate WAVE-TV in Louisville, Kentucky.

Growth into the 1960s and 1970s[edit]

WSM-TV's studios were originally located at 15th Avenue South and Compton Avenue in south Nashville, near the present Belmont University. In 1957, the station attempted to a build a larger tower in west Nashville, near Charlotte Avenue. During the construction process, the new tower's supporting wires failed. This caused the tower to collapse, which took the lives of several people. Afterward, WSM-TV purchased its present property on Knob Road (farther west of the previous site) and built a tower there in a forested section away from potential damage to life and property.

WSM-TV shared its broadcast facilities with noncommercial station WDCN-TV (channel 2, now WNPT on channel 8) beginning in 1962. In 1963, National Life and Accident Insurance built new studios for WSM-AM-FM-TV adjacent to the transmission tower on Knob Road. This left WDCN-TV as the sole occupant of the south Nashville building, where that station remained until 1976. In 1974, NL&AI reorganized itself as a holding company, NLT Corporation, with the WSM stations as a major subsidiary.

The WSM stations' close ties to Nashville's country music business has meant that the Knob Road facility and/or its personnel was, from time to time, used for the recording of network and syndicated programs featuring Nashville-based performers. This was especially the case during the 1960s and 1970s. Most if not all of these shows were packaged by Show Biz, Inc., headquartered in Nashville and a subsidiary of Holiday Inn. Show Biz, Inc. produced The Porter Wagoner Show, That Nashville Music, The Bill Anderson Show, and several other programs seen throughout the U.S., especially on stations in the Southern and rural Midwestern U.S. The company dissolved in the late 1970s when its president, Jane Grams, became vice president and general manager of WTVC-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, the Show Biz programs were seen on some stations well into the early 1980s.

Ownership changes[edit]

Beginning in 1980, Houston-based insurer American General began purchasing blocks of NLT stock, eventually becoming NLT's largest shareholder and setting the stage for an outright takeover. However, American General was not interested in NLT's non-insurance businesses and opted to sell off the WSM division, which included the broadcasting interests, the Grand Ole Opry, the then-decrepit Ryman Auditorium, and Opryland USA. Gillett Broadcasting (operated by George N. Gillett Jr.) bought WSM-TV on November 3, 1981 and changed the station's callsign to WSMV (officially modified to WSMV-TV on July 15, 1982[1]), in order to trade on the well-known WSM identity while at the same time separating it from its former radio sisters (later, the television and radio stations would engage in news department cross-promotions).

Gaylord Entertainment Company purchased the remainder of WSM, Inc. nearly two years later, in 1983. Soon afterward, the radio stations moved out of the Knob Road facility into new studios on the Opryland Hotel campus.

WSMV-TV was later sold on June 8, 1989, to Cook Inlet Television Partners, an Alaska-based company which was a subsidiary of Cook Inlet Region, Inc., an Alaska Native Regional Corporation.[2]

Meredith Corporation ownership[edit]

Cook Inlet sold WSMV on January 5, 1995 to the Meredith Corporation.[3] WSMV was not part of the affiliation deal between several Meredith stations and CBS (however, two other Meredith stations, then-independent KPHO-TV in Phoenix and then-NBC affiliate WNEM-TV in Bay City, Michigan, were) because the purchase was announced more than one month after the affiliation deal had been finalized. As a result, WSMV became the only NBC affiliate in Meredith's present-day station group.

WSMV-TV served as the default NBC affiliate for the Bowling Green, Kentucky market for many decades. This ended in 2001 when WKNT dropped Fox, switched to NBC and became WNKY.

In early 2006, WSMV attracted some attention by becoming the largest NBC affiliate in terms of market size to refuse to carry the controversial NBC show The Book of Daniel on its schedule, after the premiere episode. This action, along with that of several smaller affiliates in the Midwest and South, prompted NBC to cancel the series after only three episodes.

In early March 2009, it was announced that WSMV's master control operations would be hubbed at Meredith-owned sister station WGCL-TV in Atlanta. The new hub operation launched in summer 2009.

Past staff and programs[edit]

The station's former staff include Pat Sajak (announcer and weekend weatherman from 1974 to 1977), Robin Roberts (sports anchor and reporter from 1986 to 1988), John Tesh (news anchor from 1975 to 1976), John Seigenthaler Jr. (weekend anchor in the late 1980s) and Huell Howser (features reporter in the 1970s).

Ralph Emery, the longtime country music disc jockey on WSM radio for many years, hosted morning (and at times, afternoon) shows on channel 4 from the mid-1960s until 1993; for much of that time, The Ralph Emery Show was the highest-rated locally-produced early morning shows on American television. Although the show included regular news briefs, its main focus was on general entertainment, including a heavy emphasis on live country music performed in studio. It featured acts by prominent country stars like Tex Ritter and current star Lorrie Morgan; also, the studio band consisted of top-notch Music Row session musicians. Emery would achieve widespread fame by hosting a national version of the show, entitled Nashville Now, weeknights on The Nashville Network from 1983 to 1993. Upon Emery's retirement, WSMV briefly produced a local version of NBC's Today to serve as a lead-in to the national show. As Nashville Today failed to live up to expectations, WSMV finally programmed full-scale newscasts in early mornings, becoming the last of the three major Nashville stations to do so.

Larry Munson, WSM-TV's sports director from 1956 to 1967 and later known as the play-by-play announcer for radio broadcasts of Georgia Bulldogs football, created and hosted a long-running hunting and fishing show called The Rod & Gun Club. Paul Eells replaced Munson as sports director in 1967. Like his predecessor, Eells served as the voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores football team during his time at WSM. Eells left to become the sports director at KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978. There, he also served as radio play-by-play announcer for the Arkansas Razorbacks for 28 years until his death in 2006. Munson died in 2011.

Dan Miller was co-anchor of the main evening newscasts for nearly 40 years, except from August 1986 to March 1995. During this period, Miller spent time in Los Angeles as a news anchor at KCBS-TV, and as sidekick to friend and former WSM-TV colleague Pat Sajak on his short-lived late-night talk show The Pat Sajak Show. Miller returned to WSMV in 1992 to host 5 O'Clock with Dan Miller, which ran from 1992 to 1993. Miller returned to anchoring duties for the evening newscasts in March 1995, continuing until his death. Miller died unexpectedly of a heart attack on April 8, 2009, while visiting The Masters golf tournament in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia.[4]

In 1974, Bill Hall, joined the staff as a weather reporter. He briefly worked as a weekend news anchor in 1976 before moving into his role leading the weather team in 1977. His unique style and personality made him one of Middle Tennessee's most well known local television personalities. He punctuated his weather discussions with comments about gardening, cooking, and hunting and fishing. During his channel 4 career, Hall also hosted Land and Lakes, an outdoors show focusing on local hunting and fishing adventures. Hall retired in 2005, and later died on December 23, 2011.[5][6][7]

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[8]
4.1 1080i 16:9 WSMV-HD Main WSMV-TV programming / NBC
4.2 480i 16:9 WSMV-TN Heartland[9]

WSMV previously carried the NBC-owned Spanish-language network Telemundo on its second digital subchannel,[10] since the Nashville market lacked a standalone Telemundo affiliate of its own. The subchannel debuted in the summer of 2006, and was discontinued on December 31, 2010. This move left the Nashville area with TeleFutura (Now UniMás) affiliate WLLC-LP (channel 42) as its only Spanish-language outlet.

Originally, WSMV management had indicated that programming on WSMV-DT2 would not be replaced, and that the subchannel's spectrum would be used for purposes other than over-the-air broadcasting. However, on October 29, 2012, it was announced that the new incarnation of The Nashville Network (now known as Heartland) would affiliate with WSMV-DT2, upon the network's November 1, 2012 relaunch (WSMV's former sister radio station WSM was one of the founders of the original TNN in 1983 as a cable channel). Heartland also can be seen on Charter Communications cable channel 91, and Comcast cable channel 230.[11]

Mobile DTV channel[edit]

Channel PSIP Short Name Programming
4.10 WSMV-HD Mobile DTV simulcast of 4.1

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WSMV-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 10.[12][13] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 4.

News operation[edit]

WSMV-TV broadcasts 41½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among all broadcast television stations in the Nashville market.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, WSM-TV developed a strong news division that, in the 1980s, won numerous regional and national awards (Peabody Awards among them) for in-depth and investigative reporting. Mike Kettenring was the news director for much of that period. For most of the last two decades, WSMV has been a solid runner-up to WTVF in the Nashville ratings. Generally speaking, the station takes a softer approach to news than WTVF. The reverse was true in the 1980s, as WSMV earned awards for hard-hitting investigative stories, while WTVF took a more cautious approach. While WTVF usually leads the way in the city of Nashville itself, WSMV generally leads in Nashville's more conservative suburbs, as well as outlying rural parts of the market, many of whose residents recall readily the station's past association with WSM-AM.

On March 5, 1973, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive recorded off the air of WSM-TV a special broadcast of Today aimed toward veterans of the Vietnam War returning home to the U.S.[14] Two months later, on May 1, another broadcast of Today was recorded concerning the Watergate scandal.[15] On both of these broadcasts, Pat Sajak, who had recently joined the WSM radio and TV staff, anchored the five-minute cut-in local newscasts. As it was not the general policy of the Archive to record special programs such as these or local Nashville programming, these probably represent the only known broadcasts of WSM-TV news before 1980 or so available for public viewing, prior to the widespread popularity of video cassette recorders in the late 1970s. The only other ones were local cut-ins to NBC coverage of national elections. Because of the equipment at the time, though, the broadcasts were recorded in black and white. The Archive, prior to the advent of satellite technology in the 1980s, taped all NBC News broadcasts from the airwaves of WSM/WSMV.

In September 1973, WSM/WSMV decided to fill the 6:30–7 p.m. time slot opened up by the Prime Time Access Rule in 1971 by expanding its 6 p.m. newscast to one hour. This has proven so successful that to this day WSMV programs a newscast from 6 to 7 p.m. (although it is now broken up into two 30-minute segments). Upon the success of the expanded 6 p.m. newscast on channel 4 (and after years of low-rated syndicated offerings in the 6:30 slot), WTVF followed suit in 1989 by expanding its 6 p.m. newscast to one hour. WSMV and WTVF are among the few stations in the Central Time Zone to run newscasts at 6:30 (stations elsewhere have attempted it since the 1970s with varying degrees of success). WKRN is the only traditional network affiliate in the Nashville market to run only a half-hour of news at 6 p.m., with Wheel of Fortune (hosted by former WSM personality Pat Sajak) airing at 6:30.

During the May sweeps period that began on April 26, 2007, WSMV debuted its own news helicopter known as Air 4, becoming the second station in Nashville to do so (WTVF's news helicopter Sky 5 debuted a year earlier, in 2006). On September 15, 2008, beginning with the 5:00 p.m. newscast, WSMV became the second television station in Nashville (after WTVF) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.

On May 26, 2011, WSMV debuted an hour-long 4 p.m. newscast, serving as a replacement for The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ended its 25-year run the day before; this came on the heels of the expansion of other non-news local programming such as More at Midday and Better Nashville, indicating a decreased reliance on syndicated programming.[16] On January 25, 2014, WSMV was the first station to expand its weekend morning newscast to 5:00 a.m. in the Nashville TV market. [17]

In the early 1980s, WSMV introduced the Snowbird character, a scarf- and earmuff-wearing anthropomorphic penguin, as a brand for its weather-related school closing reports. Snowbird appears on-air in both animated and puppet form. Snowbird reports are shown on the station primarily in the winter, but the branding is also used for unexpected school closings caused by other natural events, not necessarily limited to snow and ice. Due to the character's popularity, Snowbird serves as a year-round mascot for the station, with a six-foot-tall costumed version making appearances at community events and station promotions. The station has also engaged in giving away Snowbird-themed apparel and tchotchkes as prizes during sweeps promotions. The Snowbird character has since been licensed to television stations in other markets, including WRCB in Chattanooga, Tennessee, WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and WTOV-TV in Steubenville, Ohio.

Notable current on-air staff[edit]

Notable former on-air staff[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]