|Syracuse, New York
|Branding||NBC 3 (general)
NBC 3 News (newscasts)
CNY Central (weekend simulcasts with WTVH)
CW 6 (DT2)
|Slogan||We Know What's
Central to You
TV Now (DT2)
|Channels||Digital: 24 (UHF)
Virtual: 3 (PSIP)
3.2 The CW
3.3 local news
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group
(WSTQ Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||February 15, 1950|
|Call letters' meaning||Syracuse Times Mirror|
|Sister station(s)||WSTQ-LP, WTVH,
|Former callsigns||WSYR-TV (1950–1980)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
3 (VHF, 1950–2009)
Digital: 54 (UHF)
|Former affiliations||NBC Weather Plus (DT3)
The Tube (DT4)
|Transmitter power||210 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WSTM-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station for Central Upstate New York that is licensed to Syracuse. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 24 (or virtual channel 3.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Onondaga. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the station is sister to low-powered CW affiliate WSTQ-LP and CBS affiliate WTVH. However, the latter is actually owned by the Granite Broadcasting Corporation but operated by Sinclair through joint sales and shared services agreements. All three outlets share studios together on James Street/NY 290 in the Near Northeast section of Syracuse.
The station began operations on February 15, 1950 with the call sign WSYR-TV. It was owned by Advance Publications (the Newhouse family's company) along with the Syracuse Post-Standard, Syracuse Herald-Journal, and WSYR radio (AM 570 and FM 94.5, now WYYY). It was Syracuse's second television station, signing on a year and three months after WHEN-TV (now WTVH). It originally had facilities at the Kemper Building in Downtown Syracuse. In 1958, WSYR-AM-FM-TV moved to new studios on James Street.
Unlike most NBC affiliates in two station markets, WSYR-TV did not take a secondary ABC or DuMont affiliation. WSYR-TV doubled as the NBC affiliate for Binghamton until WINR-TV (now WICZ-TV) signed-on in 1957. The station also operated a satellite station in Elmira until 1980; that station, first known as WSYE-TV and now WETM-TV, is now owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group and fed via centralcasting facilities of a Syracuse cross-town rival, which ironically now holds the WSYR-TV call letters. It remains affiliated with NBC.
The Newhouse family largely exited broadcasting in 1980 and sold WSYR-TV to the Times Mirror Company. Since the company was not interested in the radio stations, it changed the television station's calls to WSTM-TV (for Syracuse Times Mirror) and kept the James Street studios. Under Times Mirror ownership, WSTM was sister to fellow NBC affiliate WVTM-TV in Birmingham, Alabama (which later became network owned-and-operated and is now owned by Media General) as well as later Fox O&O's KTVI in St. Louis, Missouri, KDFW in Dallas-Fort Worth, and KTBC in Austin, Texas (KTVI is now owned by Tribune Broadcasting).
In 1986, Times Mirror sold WSTM to SJL Broadcast Management, a broadcast holding company controlled by George Lilly. SJL then sold WSTM to Federal Broadcasting in 1992. That company was bought out by Raycom Media in 1997. The WSYR-TV calls returned to Syracuse in 2005 after Clear Channel Communications purchased WIXT (formerly WNYS-TV) as part of the Ackerley Group acquisition three years earlier. The company changed WIXT's calls to match WSYR radio, which it had owned for several years.
On March 5, 1996, WSTM General Manager Charles Bivins died after collapsing at the Syracuse Track and Racquet Club. He was 48 and had previously suffered a mild heart attack two years earlier. Bivins was also a visiting professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications teaching television programming. In 2003, Raycom Media purchased Syracuse's low-powered UPN affiliate WAWA-LP from Venture Technologies Group, LLC for an undisclosed amount of money. The station had its call letters changed to WSTQ-LP (derived from WSTM) and given the on-air branding of "UPN 6, The Q". Raycom used "6" to reflect its cable slot as a result of the station becoming offered on the basic lineup of Time Warner on July 1.
Before the purchase, Time Warner had refused to carry WAWA. The same "must-carry" rules that kept the station off the cable system eventually got WSTQ on. The must-carry rules give full-powered stations the option of "retransmission consent" or requiring compensation from cable systems as a condition of carrying a station's signal. In this case, full-powered WSTM can require cable systems like Time Warner to offer WSTQ on their systems as a condition of carrying WSTM.
On March 27, 2006, Raycom Media announced the sale of WSTM and WSTQ to Barrington Broadcasting. The sale was finalized that August. On March 2, 2009 as a result of low ratings and slow advertising sales, it was announced that WTVH would enter into joint sales and shared service agreements with WSTM. Initially, the station continued to operate out of its own Jame Street studios a block away but was eventually merged into this station's facilities. WTVH was also integrated into WSTM's website. On September 6, 2009, WTVH's transmitter was damaged after a power failure. While Granite Broadcasting worked to fix the signal, WSTM's third digital subchannel carried that station. On September 12, the signal was restored.
On February 28, 2013, Barrington Broadcasting announced the sale of its entire group, including WSTM-TV and the SSA for WTVH, to Sinclair Broadcast Group (which announced that it would not renew the SSA with WTVH when it expires in March 2017). To comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership regulations, Sinclair initially announced its intent to transfer its existing Syracuse station, WSYT, and the LMA for WNYS-TV, to Cunningham Broadcasting. Had the transfer been approved, Sinclair would have continued to effectively own WSYT because nearly all of Cunningham's stock is controlled by trusts in the names of the children of Sinclair's principals. However, in an updated filing that August, Sinclair would instead sell WSYT and the LMA for WNYS to Bristlecone Broadcasting, a company owned by Stainless Broadcasting Company owner Brian Brady. Upon the completion of the sale, Sinclair will continue to operate WSYT and WNYS through a transitional services agreement for six months, until May 2014. Those transactions were finalized on November 25.
Through cable coverage, this station serves as the de facto NBC affiliate for the Watertown and Ithaca/Finger Lakes region of New York State. WSTM provides some news coverage of these areas. Interestingly, the channel also carries substantial news stories from Utica and Herkimer County even though that area has its own affiliate WKTV that produces local news. WSTM's analog signal reached parts of Southeastern Ontario and was carried on Cogeco systems in Kingston until February 2009 when it was replaced with Buffalo's WGRZ-TV. It is still (after customer protest) carried on Time Warner systems in Ogdensburg and Gouverneur along with replacement WPTZ.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||720p||16:9||WSTM||Main WSTM-TV programming / NBC|
|3.2||WSTQ||Simulcast of WSTQ-LP|
Due to its low-powered status, WSTQ's off-air signal is only attainable in the immediate Syracuse area (northern and eastern boundary is roughly NY 481/Interstate 481; southwestern reach is NY 173). Therefore, in order to expand the station's broadcasting radius, it is simulcasted in 720p high definition on WSTM's second digital subchannel.
WSTM-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on June 14, 2009, two days later. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 54, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to UHF channel 24. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
Local news offerings on this station originally consisted of ten minute long capsules; this effort would not be not expanded to thirty minute full newscasts until the 1960s. For the past two decades, WSTM's newscasts have been second overall in the viewership ratings behind longtime dominant WSYR. As of July 2008, that station remains number one in Central New York for the whole day-part. However, it remains in a tight battle with WSTM for weekday mornings and weeknights at 11. WSYR makes up for this with huge leads during the week at noon, 5, 5:30, and 6. In two periods during its broadcasting history, WSTM station have used the popular Action News branding.
From 1996 until 2000 through a news share agreement, this NBC outlet produced a prime time newscast for Fox affiliate WSYT. Known as Fox 68 News at 10, the broadcast could be seen every night for thirty minutes. After WSTM declined to renew the arrangement, WSYT then partnered with WTVH to keep the broadcasts continuing. Meanwhile, in 2003, WSTM brought back a weeknight prime time news show for newly acquired sister station WSTQ. Although WTVH would terminate its arrangement with WSYT in April 2006, the nightly 10 o'clock broadcasts were WTVH's most successful having soundly beat WSTM's effort on WSTQ.
After becoming operated by WSTM, WTVH shut down its separate news department and merged it with the NBC outlet. This resulted in the elimination of forty jobs at the CBS station. Only Michael Benny was retained to solo-anchor the weeknight newscasts on WTVH from its separate studios (less than a block away on James Street from WSTM's facility) using other personalities from WSTM for all other content. The system set up by WTVH to use all videotaped footage (including interviews) shot by WSTM was filled with problems with staffers from WSTM actually walking to WTVH's old studios to deliver raw video to be edited for its weeknight news programs. Neither station attempted to offer newscasts outside traditional time slots to compete with WSYR (such as weekdays at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., or weeknights at 4 and 7) despite a plan originally announced. However, WSTM eventually expanded WSTQ's weeknight prime time newscast to an hour on August 30, 2010.
In October 2009, Barrington Broadcasting began to produce separate weeknight newscasts on WTVH from a new secondary set at WSTM's facility. Otherwise, at that time, the CBS and NBC stations would simulcast each other on weekday mornings (except the first hour at 4 a.m. on WSTM), weekdays at noon, and weekend evenings. Although WTVH retained unique branding, music, and graphic aspects of the separately-produced news broadcasts on weeknights, coverage was essentially the same with re-purposed and packaged stories from the NBC affiliate airing on WTVH. WSTM usually featured more live reports from the field during a breaking news event.
In mid-December 2010, WSTM became the first television station in the market to produce local newscasts in 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen with the shows on WTVH being included in the change. Although not truly high definition, the broadcasts match the aspect ratio of HD television screens. Rival WSYR upgraded to full high definition on January 29, 2011. Initially, only the newscasts seen on the digital cable feed of WSTQ aired in enhanced definition since its over-the-air low-powered analog and digital (on WSTM-DT2) signals remained in pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition. In January 2013, the CW subchannel was upgraded to high definition allowing the WSTQ shows to be aired terrestrially in widescreen.
On April 13, 2015, WTVH reintroduced separately-produced local newscasts airing weekday mornings (from 5 to 7 a.m.) and weekdays at noon (seen for a half-hour) with a dedicated anchor and meteorologist that do not appear on WSTM. At the same time, the CBS station also began to feature its own meteorologist for the weeknight newscasts rather than sharing an on-air personality with WSTM. WTVH already has a separate news anchor seen weeknights exclusively on the station. The CBS station continues to simulcast local news with WSTM on weekend evenings. These broadcasts use the two station's shared branding, CNY Central. There can be a pre-emption or delay on one channel due to network obligations most notably sports programming.
WSTM was the first in Syracuse to use Doppler weather radar in 1985 and launched its own system in 2000. This consisted of its own radar at the transmitter site in Onondaga as part of a network including WHEC-TV/SUNY Brockport in the Rochester area and WIVB-TV in Buffalo. However, WIVB and WSTM have since shut down their individual radars. During current weather segments, WSTM features three live NOAA National Weather Service radars in Montague, Binghamton, and Buffalo. On-air, this is known as "Live Triple Doppler" and the radar beams are superimposed over the on-screen image.
Notable former on-air staff
- Jim Axelrod – reporter (1990-1993, now with CBS News)
- Bob Costas – NBC Sports
- Joe Castiglione – Boston Red Sox radio play-by-play
- Dan Kloeffler – ABC News
- Steve Kroft – 60 Minutes reporter
- Dave Ryan – CBS College Sports
- Fybush, Scott. A Great Voice is Stilled. NorthEast Radio Watch. March 2, 2009.
- [Syracuse's Channel 5 cuts at least 40 workers, guts news division] 
- [Central New York television stations join forces] 
- Malone, Michael (February 28, 2013). "Sinclair's Chesapeake TV Acquires Barrington Stations". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- Cogeco to replace channels:Syracuse feeds to be lost, MIKE KOREEN, Kingston Whig-Standard, January 2009
- RabbitEars TV Query for WSTM
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Central New York television stations join forces : News". CNYcentral.com. March 2, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- "Jim Axelrod bio". CBS News. Retrieved 13 March 2013.