|Tampa–St. Petersburg, Florida|
|Channels||Digital: 17 (UHF)|
Virtual: 28 (PSIP)
|Branding||ABC Action News (general/newscasts)|
|Slogan||Taking Action for You (general)|
Tampa Bay's Streaming News Leader (newscasts)
|Owner||E. W. Scripps Company |
(Scripps Broadcasting Holdings LLC)
First air date
|December 14, 1981|
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
(referring to original owner, Family Group Broadcasting, or its former network)
|HAAT||469 m (1,539 ft)|
Public license information
WFTS-TV, virtual channel 28 (UHF digital channel 17), branded as ABC Action News, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Tampa, Florida, United States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. WFTS-TV's studios are located on North Himes Avenue on Tampa's northwest side (across the street from Raymond James Stadium), and its transmitter is located in Riverview, Florida. On cable, the station is available on channel 11 on most systems in the market.
As an independent station
WFTS first signed on the air on December 14, 1981, operating as an independent station. As the flagship of the locally based Family Group Broadcasting, the station programmed a family-oriented general entertainment format with cartoons, off-network dramas, classic movies and religious programs. Its call letters originally stood for "Family Television Station". Family Group Broadcasting sold the station to Capital Cities Communications on April 22, 1984, becoming Capital Cities' first station in Florida, the group's first (and only) independent station, and the last station to be acquired by the group prior to its merger with ABC. Under Capital Cities, the station added more off-network sitcoms and reduced the number of religious programs and drama series on its schedule.
In March 1985, Capital Cities stunned the broadcasting industry with its announced purchase of ABC—a network that was ten times bigger than Capital Cities was at the time. Capital Cities owned several ABC affiliates, and two CBS affiliates: KFSN-TV in Fresno, California and WTVD in Durham, North Carolina (both are now ABC owned-and-operated stations). The company's combined assets exceeded Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits of the time, so Capital Cities decided to keep its CBS affiliates and change their affiliations to ABC, along with longtime ABC affiliates WPVI-TV in Philadelphia and KTRK-TV in Houston, and sold WFTS and the ABC owned-and-operated station in Detroit, WXYZ-TV, to the E. W. Scripps Company, while selling several other stations to minority-owned firms. The sale would be finalized in January 1986.
Scripps continued the general entertainment format on WFTS, running cartoons, sitcoms, movies and drama series. WFTS became the Tampa Bay market's Fox affiliate in 1988, after it was dropped by then-rival WTOG (channel 44). Just like channel 44, the station continued to program itself as an independent station until 1993, when Fox started its week-long programming schedule. It began to identify on air as "Fox 28", and soon after briefly identified its call letters as standing for "Fox Television Station". A 10 p.m. newscast was planned for the station, but ultimately did not come to fruition.
As an ABC affiliate
On May 22, 1994, New World Communications signed an affiliation agreement with Fox, that resulted in twelve of New World's stations, including Tampa Bay's longtime CBS affiliate WTVT (channel 13), being tapped to switch to the network. Among the stations making the switch were longtime CBS affiliates WJBK-TV in Detroit and WJW-TV in Cleveland. Not wanting to be relegated to the UHF band, CBS heavily wooed Detroit's longtime ABC affiliate, WXYZ, as well as Cleveland's longtime ABC affiliate, WEWS-TV. Both were owned by Scripps, who told ABC that it would switch WXYZ and WEWS to CBS unless ABC affiliated with three of its stations: WFTS, KNXV-TV in Phoenix (which was also slated to lose its Fox affiliation to New World-owned CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV), and WMAR-TV in Baltimore (the latter triggered an affiliation deal between CBS and all of Westinghouse Broadcasting's five stations). Scripps insisted on including WFTS and KNXV in the deal even though neither station had a news department.
As a result, on December 12, 1994, WFTS assumed the market's ABC affiliation from longtime affiliate WTSP (channel 10), which took over the CBS affiliation from WTVT. Most of WFTS' syndicated programs were then acquired by WTTA (channel 38), WTOG and/or WTMV (channel 32, now WMOR-TV), which would also air Fox Kids. In November 2004, WFTS became one of three Florida television stations, and one of the many Scripps-owned ABC affiliates that preempted Saving Private Ryan. At one time WFTS was the local over-the-air broadcast partner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club. It first aired four Lightning games during the 2002–03 season, and also served as the local broadcaster of the Lightning's 2004 championship victory against the Calgary Flames as part of the network's NHL coverage (which was the last game before a lockout that canceled the league's 2004–05 season and the transfer of the team's broadcast rights to Sun Sports and NBC's affiliate WFLA-TV for the 2005–06 season). The station would also broadcast the Monday Night Football games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including their Super Bowl XXXVII championship victory.
As of the 2016–2017 TV season, Tampa–St. Petersburg–Sarasota is the sixth largest market with a major network affiliate broadcasting on the UHF band (14–51) and WFTS is currently the largest ABC affiliate by market size that is on the UHF band; although most digital television stations broadcast on a UHF frequency, most also identify through the use of a PSIP virtual channel as being on the VHF band, corresponding with the stations' former analog channel numbers. Because WFTS was formerly on UHF analog channel 28, it continues to use channel 28 as its channel number through the use of PSIP (though as described below, it has not used its channel designation in any branding the last 16 years). The larger markets with a major network in the UHF channel range are Atlanta (CBS-affiliated WGCL-TV, virtual channel 46), Boston (Fox-affiliated WFXT, virtual channel 25), Houston (Fox O&O KRIV, virtual channel 26), Philadelphia (Fox O&O WTXF, virtual channel 29), and Chicago (Fox O&O WFLD, virtual channel 32). WFTS is also the third-largest Big Four affiliate to not use its terrestrial channel number as part of its branding, behind NBC owned-and-operated stations KNTV in San Jose, California and WBTS-CD in Boston.
Possible duopoly with WXPX-TV
On September 24, 2020, a consortium made up of Scripps and Berkshire Hathaway announced the proposed purchase of Ion Media. If the deal is successfully closed, as there are no regulatory complications within the Tampa–St. Petersburg market, Ion Television station WXPX-TV (channel 66) would become a sister station to WFTS-TV.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|28.1||720p||16:9||WFTS-HD||Main WFTS-TV programming / ABC|
|28.4||WFTS D4||Court TV|
WFTS-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 28, 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 29, using PSIP to display WFTS-TV's virtual channel as 28 on digital television receivers.
WFTS-TV presently broadcasts 45 hours, 5 minutes of locally produced newscasts each week (with 7 hours, 35 minutes each weekday; 4 hours, 5 minutes on Saturdays; and 3 hours, 5 minutes on Sundays). WFTS currently uses Weather Services International's Titan HD weather system for its forecasts. WFTS is one of ten television stations that airs consumer reports from John Matarese of ABC-affiliated sister station WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. The station also serves as the graphics development hub for the Scripps stations, with the group's 2009, 2012 and 2020 packages design language being developed at the station (rival WTVT serves a similar purpose for the Fox Television Stations group).
During its days as an independent station and then as a Fox affiliate, WFTS presented hourly news and weather updates, featuring a person reading the day's headlines or the current forecast. During the station's first few months on the air, the newsbreaks were provided by WNSI-AM (1380, now WWMI) in an audio-only format, over a News Check slide. Later on, news updates began to feature on-camera newsreaders at WFTS's studios. By the late 1980s, the news and weather updates were titled 28 Newsbreak or 28 Weatherbreak. These news updates were discontinued in December 1994 upon the station's switch to ABC.
WFTS launched a full-scale news department and began airing regular long-form newscasts on December 12, 1994, branded as 28 Tampa Bay News. The newscasts initially originated from Telemation studios in Clearwater, since WFTS's studios on Tampa's east side (at the corner of I-4 and Columbus Drive) were not large enough to house a full-sized newsroom or a news set. The station's news department then moved to its new studio facilities on Himes Avenue, across from Raymond James Stadium, in 1996. The station, which initially aired half-hour newscasts at 6 and 11 p.m. nightly when the news department began operations, gradually added a two-hour morning newscast from 5–7 a.m., a half-hour noon newscast, and an hour-long 5 p.m. newscast (the latter of which created 90-minute block of news from 5–6:30 p.m.).
The newscast title was changed to 28 News briefly in 2002, before being changed again to ABC Action News later that year due to viewer confusion with the "ABC 28" branding. The universal Action News branding for newscasts and general promotion is also shared with NBC-affiliated sister station KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Missouri. In the fall of 2005, the station expanded its weekday noon newscast to one hour, following the cancellation of the ABC soap opera Port Charles. On July 28, 2007 beginning with the 6 p.m. newscast, WFTS-TV became the first television station in the Tampa Bay market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; WFTS surprisingly beat out rivals WTVT and WTSP who were both rumored to be competing to launch the first high definition newscast in Tampa Bay. WFTS was the first Tampa Bay station to broadcast its weather segments in true high definition in October 2007, rival WFLA-TV (channel 8) soon followed.
Until December 2009, WFTS was one of two stations in the market to have two women regularly anchor an evening newscast: Wendy Ryan and Linda Hurtado anchored the station's 5 p.m. news broadcast; while Denise White and Kathy Fountain anchored the 5 p.m. newscast on WTVT (Fountain retired on December 30, 2009, leaving Ryan and Hurtado as the only all-female anchor team in Tampa Bay; this changed again in the summer of 2010 when Jamison Uhler joined WFTS from WCAU-TV in Philadelphia as 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. co-anchor). On April 25, 2012, WFTS launched ABC Action News Now, an exclusive newscast and weather station available mainly to smartphone and tablet users and designed with a program schedule designed with those devices in mind, rather than a traditional "news wheel" schedule seen on most news/weather-only subchannels. During severe weather and breaking news events, the channel is also carried on-air over 28.2 and local cable television providers in lieu of Laff.
Since its launch, WFTS' news department has been a solid competitor in the Tampa Bay market. It has spent most of the new millennium in a spirited four-way battle for first place with longer-established WFLA-TV, WTVT and WTSP. This stands in contrast to other former Fox stations had switched to ABC, NBC or CBS at the time as a result of Fox's affiliation deal with New World Communications. Many of them have had no success competing with long-standing (mostly VHF) news stations, and some of them shuttered their news departments altogether as a result. On December 3, 2015, longtime evening anchor Brendan McLaughlin announced his departure from WFTS on December 18; with this, Denis Phillips is the only member of WFTS's current on-air news staff that has remained with the station since the news department's launch.
In November 2012, WFTS overtook all other local stations in all evening and late news ratings in the demographic of Adults 25–54. This marked the first time ever WFTS won at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. in the key demographic during one ratings period.
Notable former on-air staff
- Jay Crawford – sports director (1998–2003; later at ESPN until April 26, 2017, now at WKYC in Cleveland)
- Scott Hanson – sports anchor (1994–2000; now at NFL Network)
- Walt Maciborski – anchor/reporter (2005–2009; now main anchor at KEYE-TV in Austin)
- Nannette Miranda – reporter (2000–2003; now reporter at KNTV-TV In San Francisco)
- Elaine Quijano – reporter (1998–2000; now with CBS News)
- Sage Steele – reporter (1998–2001; now at ESPN)
Broadcast, cable and satellite carriage
The station is not available in Comcast's Venice service area (in southern Sarasota County) due to the presence of WWSB (channel 40), an ABC station formed as the signal of WTSP, the Tampa–St. Petersburg market's previous ABC affiliate, provided insufficient over-the-air coverage in the Sarasota area. As a result, WFTS is not available to over 91,000 cable subscribers.
- "Digital TV Market Listing for WFTS". RabbitEars.Info. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- "Fox Gains 12 Stations in New World Deal". Chicago Sun-Times. May 23, 1994. Archived from the original on October 11, 2013. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- Tampa, Fla., ABC affiliate among those pre-empting violent war movie broadcast, Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, November 12, 2004. Retrieved June 8, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
- Cimilluca, Dana. "E.W. Scripps Agrees to Buy ION Media for $2.65 billion in Berkshire-Backed Deal". Retrieved September 24, 2020.
- List of Digital Full-Power Stations
- CDBS Print
- "WFTS-TV First in Tampa to broadcast news in High Definition".
- Deggans, Eric (November 28, 2012). "ABC Action News comes out on top in evening and late night November sweeps ratings". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- "Elaine Quijano Bio". CBS News. February 2, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- "Steele Sage bio". ESPN. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- ABCActionNews.com – Official website
- WFTS-TV in the FCC's TV station database
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WFTS-TV
- mcsittel.com: 1990s DX screengrabs from Tallahassee – includes WFTS "Fox 28" screengrabs from 1992 and 1993
- "Tampa Bay Live" website used from 1999 to 2000. Still works a bit.
- WFTS billboard taken in 1985.
- 28 News Documentary.