|Columbia, South Carolina|
|Branding||WIS News 10|
|Slogan||Live. Local. NOW.|
|Channels||Digital: 10 (VHF)|
Virtual: 10 (PSIP)
10.2: Bounce TV → The CW (soon)
(Gray Television Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||November 7, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||Wonderful|
(from former radio sister)
|Former callsigns||WIS-TV (1953–1992)|
|Former channel number(s)|
|Former affiliations||ABC (secondary, 1953–1961)|
|Transmitter power||57 kW|
|Height||481 m (1,578 ft)|
|Public license information||Profile|
WIS, virtual and VHF digital channel 10, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Columbia, South Carolina, United States. The station is owned by Gray Television. WIS' studios are located on Bull and Gervais Streets (U.S. 1 and 378) in downtown Columbia, and its transmitter is located on Rush Road (southeast of I-20) in rural southwestern Kershaw County, outside Lugoff. On cable, the station is available on Charter Spectrum channel 3 in both standard and high definition.
The station first signed on the air on November 7, 1953. The station's first telecast was a college football game between the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina. The station was originally owned by the Broadcasting Company of the South, a subsidiary of the Liberty Life Insurance Company, owners of WIS radio (560 AM, now WVOC). Charles Batson signed the station on the air, and remained the station's president and general manager until his retirement in 1983. It was the fourth television station to sign on in South Carolina and the third in the Columbia market, signing on just four months after WCOS-TV (channel 25)—which ceased operations in 1956—and two months after WNOK-TV (channel 67, now WLTX on channel 19, where it moved in 1961). WIS is the third-longest continuously operating station in the state, behind WCSC-TV in Charleston and WNOK/WLTX.
WIS radio (whose call letters stood for "Wonderful Iodine State," in reference to the abundance of iodine in the South Carolina soil) received the last new three-letter call sign in the U.S. on January 23, 1930, and the call sign was later shared with its television sibling. The station has been an NBC affiliate since its sign-on, owing to its radio sister's longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network. However, until 1961, when channel 25 returned to the air as WCCA-TV (now WOLO-TV), it maintained a secondary affiliation with ABC, airing its programming outside of NBC network timeslots.
WIS-TV was a major beneficiary of an exception to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s "2½ + 1" plan for allocating VHF television bandwidth. In the early days of broadcast television, there were twelve VHF channels available, and 69 UHF channels (which was later reduced to 56 with the removal of high-band channels 70-83 in the early 1980s). The VHF bands were more desirable because signals broadcasting on that band traveled a longer distance. Because there were only twelve VHF channels available, there were limitations as to how closely the stations could be spaced. With the release of the FCC's Sixth Report and Order in 1952, the Commission outlined a new allocation table for VHF licenses and opened up the UHF band. Through these initiatives, almost all of the United States would be able to receive two commercial VHF channels plus one non-commercial allocation. Most of the rest of the country ("1/2") would be able to receive a third VHF channel. Other areas of the country would be designated as "UHF islands," since they were too close to larger cities for VHF service. The "2" networks became CBS and NBC, "+1" represented non-commercial educational (public television, usually affiliated with NET) stations, and "1/2" became ABC, which, as the smallest and weakest network then, usually wound up with the UHF allocation where no VHF allocation was available.
However, Columbia was sandwiched between Charlotte (which had respectively been awarded channels 3 and 9) to the north, Florence–Myrtle Beach (channel 8, later 13) to the east, Charleston (channels 2, 4, 5, and 7) and Savannah (channels 3, 9, and 11) to the south, Augusta (channels 6 and 12) to the west, and Greenville–Spartanburg–Asheville (channels 4, 7, and 13) to the northwest. This created a huge "doughnut" in central South Carolina where there could be only one VHF license. WIS-TV was fortunate to gain that license, providing many people in that part of South Carolina with their first clear reception of a television signal. One of the country's most dominant television stations, it has been the far-and-away market leader for most of its history.
Channel 10 originally broadcast from a self-supporting tower atop its studios on Bull Street. In 1959, WIS-TV activated its current transmitter tower in Lugoff; the tallest structure located east of the Mississippi River at the time, it more than doubled the station's coverage area and provided at least secondary coverage as far north as Charlotte, as far south as Augusta, as far west as Greenwood and as far east as Florence. This included all but five of the state's 46 counties; in fact, until the arrival of cable television in the market in the late 1970s, channel 10 was one of only two stations that brought a clear signal to much of the outlying portions of the market—the other being WRLK-TV (channel 32), one of the two South Carolina Educational Television stations that serve the area. It would remain the tallest structure in South Carolina until Florence's WPDE-TV activated its signal in 1981. The station's original tower is still used as a backup; it is a longtime fixture of Columbia's skyline and is turned into a "Christmas tree of lights" during the holiday season.
For many years, WIS was one of two NBC affiliates that served the Florence–Myrtle Beach market, since that market was one of the few areas on the East Coast without its own NBC affiliate. It was the NBC affiliate of record for the Pee Dee (Florence) side of the market while Wilmington's WECT was the affiliate of record for Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand. However, most cable systems on the Myrtle Beach side of the market began carrying WIS in the mid-1980s. After the FCC passed the syndication exclusivity rule in 1989, WIS set up a "virtual station" for cable systems in the Florence–Myrtle Beach market that aired separate syndicated programming for the area. It also began selling advertising specific to the market as well, mostly on the Pee Dee side. This ended when Raycom Media signed on an NBC affiliate within that market, WMBF-TV, in August 2008.
WIS had modest viewership on the South Carolina side of the Charlotte market for several years, especially after that city's NBC affiliation moved to WRET (channel 36, later WPCQ-TV and now WCNC-TV) in 1978. WRET's UHF signal did not have nearly as much penetration as the VHF signal of former NBC affiliate WSOC-TV (channel 9). WIS was carried on many cable systems on the South Carolina side of the Charlotte market well into the 21st century. A similar situation prevailed in Augusta, where WIS provided a stronger signal than WATU/WAGT (channel 26, now defunct). It remained on most Augusta-area cable systems, including in Augusta itself, well into the new millennium.
The Broadcasting Company of the South acquired several other television stations over the years. It was renamed as the Cosmos Broadcasting Corporation in 1965, with WIS radio and television serving as its flagship stations. Later in the decade, Liberty Life reorganized itself as the Liberty Corporation, with Liberty Life and Cosmos as subsidiaries. Cosmos sold WIS radio in 1986, but kept the WIS calls for channel 10. Liberty sold off its insurance businesses in 2000, bringing channel 10 directly under the Liberty Corporation banner. In 1991, after being known on-air as "TV 10" for most of its history, the station began branding itself as simply "WIS" (this was one year before the "-TV" suffix was officially dropped from its callsign); this lasted until 2003, when it branded as WIS News 10 for both general and newscast branding purposes.
On August 25, 2005, Liberty agreed to merge with Montgomery, Alabama-based Raycom Media. At the time, Raycom had already owned Fox affiliate WACH (channel 57). Raycom could not keep both stations as FCC duopoly rules forbid common ownership of two of the four highest-rated television stations in a single market based on Nielsen total-day ratings data for a given calendar month. Additionally, Columbia has only eight full-power stations, one fewer than what ownership rules allow to legally permit a duopoly in any case. Raycom opted to keep WIS and sold WACH to Barrington Broadcasting.
In February 2003, the station signed on its digital signal, becoming the last "Big Three"-affiliated station in the Columbia market to broadcast a digital signal (after WLTX, which signed on its digital signal in May 2002, and WOLO, which signed on theirs later that year). WIS' broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009. For a week after the transition, some viewers lost access to NBC programming because WIS used its backup transmitter, which was not operating at full power. The station signed on a full-time digital transmitter from its Lugoff tower on June 19.
Sale to Gray Television
On June 25, 2018, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced it had reached an agreement with Raycom to merge their respective broadcasting assets (consisting of Raycom's 63 existing owned-and/or-operated television stations, including WIS), and Gray's 93 television stations) under Gray's corporate umbrella. The cash-and-stock merger transaction valued at $3.6 billion – in which Gray shareholders would acquire preferred stock currently held by Raycom – will result in WIS gaining new sister stations in nearby markets, including CBS affiliate WRDW-TV and NBC affiliate WAGT-CD in Augusta (while separating it from WFXG) in addition to its current Raycom sister stations. The sale was approved on December 20, and was completed on January 2, 2019.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|10.1||1080i||16:9||WIS HD||Main WIS programming / NBC|
|10.2||480i → 720p||Bounce||Bounce TV → The CW (soon)|
Out-of-market cable and satellite carriage
WIS is carried on cable systems as far southwest as Aiken and as far northeast as Wadesboro, North Carolina. Until late 2009 or early 2010, it had been available on cable in Augusta, Georgia, despite the presence of an in-market NBC affiliate, WAGT. Even though WIS is carried in Wadesboro, Charlotte NBC affiliate WCNC-TV operates a translator in nearby Lilesville, W24AY, which covers Wadesboro. WIS' analog signal tended to be more receivable along the U.S. 74 corridor between Wadesboro and Rockingham than the Lilesville translator. Until August 8, 2008, WIS was carried on digital cable in Rowland and Laurinburg, North Carolina. On that date, WMBF-TV signed on as the NBC affiliate for the Myrtle Beach-Florence market. DirecTV customers in Scotland and Robeson Counties in North Carolina received WIS as the default NBC station instead of WECT in nearby Wilmington. For many years, WECT has served this area, especially the town of Lumberton. Metrocast Cable (formerly Northland Cable)'s system in Bennettsville was one of the few providers in the Florence/Myrtle Beach/Lumberton market that did not drop WIS; it has since been dropped by that system also. Just outside that market, WIS remains on cable providers in many areas around South Carolina such as Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
When CATV was first introduced in the area in the 1970s, WIS was carried in many border counties in North Carolina such as Mecklenburg, Richmond, southern Moore, Scotland, Robeson and Columbus counties. Of these areas, WIS only remains available in the Anson County town of Wadesboro. In Georgia, the station was formerly carried in the Screven County town of Sylvania.
WIS airs the entire NBC network schedule, which is aired in pattern; however as with most NBC affiliates, the station occasionally airs one hour of its The More You Know block on Saturday mornings prior to the station's weekend morning newscast in the event that NBC schedules a sports event during the noon hour on that day. Syndicated programs broadcast by WIS include Live with Kelly and Ryan, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Entertainment Tonight, Criminal Minds and Right This Minute.
Over the years, channel 10 pre-empted NBC programming in moderation—most notably, the soap opera Search for Tomorrow during its NBC tenure from 1982 to 1986. Although NBC has historically been far less tolerant of programming pre-emptions than the other networks, it was more than satisfied with WIS, which was one of its strongest affiliates. Although WIS broadcasts on a 24-hour schedule, the station is one of the few remaining U.S. television stations that continues to sign off during the overnight hours for reasons other than necessary transmitter maintenance, occurring annually during the early morning hours of Christmas Day.
In 1963, the station debuted a long-running children's program Mr. Knozit, which was hosted by weather anchor Joe Pinner, who had been hired by WIS-TV a few months before. Four years later, the series would receive a Peabody Award for excellence in public service by way of children's programming. The show ran for 37 years, airing its final episode in 2000. Pinner, known in his later years as "Papa Joe," went into semi-retirement in 2000, but continued to provide weather reports and feature segments on the Friday edition of its noon newscast. He retired for good on September 1, 2018 after 55 years at the station.
WIS maintains the local rights to the highlight program from the South Carolina State Bulldogs (which it airs on Sunday mornings during the college football season); it had held rights to the South Carolina Gamecocks coach's show until the University of South Carolina decided to move the program to regional sports network Fox Sports Carolinas. After the Gamecocks' joined the Southeastern Conference, WIS obtained the local television rights to Southeastern Conference football and men's basketball games (which made the station the home of the South Carolina Gamecocks); WOLO-TV (channel 25) and WKTC (channel 63) assumed rights to the games starting with the conference's 2010–11 athletic season.
WIS presently broadcasts 36½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays and two hours each on Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, the station produces the public affairs program Awareness, which airs Sunday mornings at 11:00. WIS is a partner in the Raycom News Network, a system designed to rapidly share information on-air and online among Raycom's and Meredith Corporation's widespread groups of television stations. In South Carolina, the company developed a regional network between WIS, WMBF, WCSC-TV in Charleston, WBTV in Charlotte and WHNS-TV in Greenville, in which stations share information, equipment such as satellite trucks and stories filed by the stations. Between them, these five stations cover almost all of South Carolina. Wilmington's WECT and Savannah's WTOC-TV also play a small part in the regional network.
For the better part of channel 10's history, its newscasts have dominated the ratings in Columbia. Its dominance was helped by the fact that it was the only VHF station in the market. From the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s, it was the only station in the market that offered a full schedule of local newscasts in all four dayparts (morning, midday, early and late evening). While WIS still leads overall, its dominance is not as absolute as it once was. In recent years, it has consistently lost the #1 ranking in the noon timeslot to WLTX (mainly because of that station's CBS Daytime programming lead-in), and the early morning ratings crown has switched between the two stations multiple times.
WIS has won numerous awards for station quality and its news productions, including the Southeast Emmy Award for Best Newscast, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and several of the South Carolina Broadcasters Association's "Best Station of the Year" designation. In August 2007, Craig Melvin was named "Anchor of the Year" by SCBA. The station's on-air staff are named in the Best of the Media awards by the Columbia Free Times, and the station has been voted the "Best" by readers of The State newspaper several times.
Cosmos/Liberty made it a point to pour significant resources into its stations' news departments from the 1950s onward. This resulted in a higher-quality product than conventional wisdom would suggest for a market of Columbia's size. Although Columbia was the state's largest city for most of the 20th century and well into the new millennium, it has always been a small-to-medium-sized market because the surrounding suburban and rural areas are not much larger than the city itself. The station took full advantage of its near-statewide coverage to establish a tradition for strong local news coverage that continues today.
Another factor behind WIS' long dominance has been talent continuity. These staffers included news anchors Ed Carter and Susan Audé, who gained notoriety for her accomplishments as a reporter and anchor. Audé used a wheelchair due to having been paralyzed in an automobile accident. Carter became the station's main anchor in 1972, and Audé—by then known as Susan Audé Fisher (she divorced in 2000)—joined him at the anchor desk in 1982. The two remained paired together on its weekday evening newscasts until Carter retired in 1998; Audé later retired in 2006. As mentioned above, Joe Pinner served as a weatherman and children's host at the station from 1963 until his retirement in 2018. Channel 10 continues to enjoy a staff with remarkably long tenures for a market of Columbia's size, including Jack Kuenzie, Judi Gatson, Dawndy Mercer Plank, Ben Tanner and Rick Henry, some of whom have been figures at the station for two decades.
In 1963, WIS moved its evening newscast from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., in hopes of taking advantage of having The Huntley-Brinkley Report as a lead-in. It was one of only a few stations in the Eastern Time Zone at the time to air a local newscast at 7:00 p.m. Most of Cosmos/Liberty's other stations followed WIS' lead and moved their early newscasts to 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. in the case of Cosmos' stations in the Central Time Zone). It added a 6:00 p.m. newscast in 1991 as part of increased coverage of the Persian Gulf War. In 1970, WIS-TV premiered Awareness, a weekly public affairs program focusing on social and political issues concerning the minority population of the Midlands. In 1996, WIS entered into a news share agreement with Fox affiliate WACH to produce a 10:00 p.m. newscast for that station, which—buoyed by WIS's ratings dominance—became one of the highest-rated primetime newscasts in the United States; the agreement ended in March 2007, when WACH launched its own news department.
In 2006, WIS built a new set for its newscasts in preparation to an upgrade to high definition; the new set debuted in January 2007. On November 4, 2010, WIS became the second television station in the Columbia market (after WOLO) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. With the upgrade, the set received a refresh and a modified graphics package was introduced; the station also changed its weather branding to "First Alert Weather". On June 16, 2013, WIS expanded its news programming on weekend mornings with the debut of the market's first Sunday morning newscast, airing at 10:00 a.m.
Notable former on-air staff
- Susan Audé (Fisher) - anchor (1978–2006; retired)
- Angie Goff (now at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.)
- Craig Melvin (now at MSNBC; won a Regional Emmy Award in 2006)
- "Raycom Media - WIS". Retrieved 14 April 2013.
- "Facility No. 13990 Callsign History". FCC CDBS.
- http://gallery.bostonradio.org/2003-03/columbia/100-00933-lrg.html WIS-TV tower
- Retrieved on 2009-06-25.
- "GRAY AND RAYCOM TO COMBINE IN A $3.6 BILLION TRANSACTION". Raycom Media (Press release). June 25, 2018.
- Miller, Mark K. (June 25, 2018). "Gray To Buy Raycom For $3.6 Billion". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- John Eggerton (June 25, 2018). "Gray Buying Raycom for $3.6B". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media.
- Dade Hayes (June 25, 2018). "Gray Acquiring Raycom For $3.65B, Forming No. 3 Local TV Group". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation.
- "FCC OK with Gray/Raycom Merger", Broadcasting & Cable, 20 December 2018, Retrieved 20 December 2018.
- "Gray Closes On $3.6 Billion Raycom Merger". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. January 2, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
- "Gray Completes Acquisition of Raycom Media and Related Transactions", Gray Television, 2 January 2019; Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- Miller, Mark K. "The CW Moving To WIS-TV Columbia In Fall". TV News Check. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
- David Travis Bland (September 1, 2018). "He was Mr. Knozit, a weatherman, a news reporter and more. Now Joe Pinner is retired". The State.
- WIS Launches Sunday Morning Newscast TVSpy, June 14, 2013.