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WLWT Cincinnati logo.png

WLWT Subchannel MeTV.png
Cincinnati, Ohio
United States
Branding WLWT 5 (general)
WLWT News 5 (newscasts)
Slogan Leading the Way
Channels Digital: 35 (UHF)
(to move to 20 (UHF))
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
Owner Hearst Television
(Ohio-Oklahoma Hearst Television Inc.)
First air date February 9, 1948 (69 years ago) (1948-02-09)
Call letters' meaning World's Largest Wireless Television
(sister to radio station)
Former callsigns W8XCT
(experimental, 1946–1948)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog:
  • 1 (VHF, 1946–1948)
  • 4 (VHF, 1948–1952)
  • 5 (VHF, 1952–2009)
Former affiliations
  • All secondary:
  • CBS/ABC/DuMont
  • (1948–1949)
  • UPN (January–September 1998)
Transmitter power 1000 kW
790 kW (CP)
Height 310.5 m (1,019 ft)
309.2 m (1,014 ft) (CP)
Facility ID 46979
Transmitter coordinates 39°7′27″N 84°31′18″W / 39.12417°N 84.52167°W / 39.12417; -84.52167
39°7′26.7″N 84°31′18.2″W / 39.124083°N 84.521722°W / 39.124083; -84.521722 (CP)
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.wlwt.com

WLWT, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 35), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation. WLWT's studios and transmitter are located on Young Street in the Mount Auburn neighborhood of Cincinnati.

On cable, the station is available in standard definition on Charter Spectrum channel 5 in Ohio and channel 7 in Kentucky, and on Cincinnati Bell channel 5. A high definition feed is carried on Spectrum digital channel 1005 in Ohio and channel 906 in Kentucky, and on Cincinnati Bell channel 505.


The Crosley/Avco years[edit]

WLWT was established by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, owners of WLW (700 AM), one of the United States' most powerful radio stations. Crosley Broadcasting was a subsidiary of the Crosley Corporation, which became a subsidiary of the Aviation Corporation (later known as Avco) in 1945. After starting experimental broadcasts in 1946 as W8XCT on channel 1,[1][2] the station began commercial broadcasts on February 9, 1948 on VHF channel 4, making it Cincinnati's first licensed television station and Ohio's second (after WEWS-TV in Cleveland). The station's studios were housed with WLW in the Crosley Square building, a converted Elks lodge in downtown Cincinnati.[3]

1969 Advertisement for The Bob Braun Show appearing in TV Guide.

WLWT counts itself as the first television station outside the Eastern U.S. (other than network-owned stations) to become a primary NBC television affiliate, but originally carried programming from all the major television networks of the time: NBC, ABC, CBS and DuMont. WLWT later affiliated exclusively with NBC in 1949, after WKRC-TV (originally on channel 11, now on channel 12) and WCPO-TV (originally on channel 7, now on channel 9) signed on during that year. Following the release of the FCC's Sixth Report and Order in 1952, all of Cincinnati's VHF stations changed channel positions.[4] WLWT was reassigned to channel 5, as the previous channel 4 allocation was shifted north to Columbus and given to sister station WLWC (now WCMH-TV).[5]

In addition to WLWT and WLWC, Crosley also operated stations in nearby markets, WLWD (channel 2, now WDTN) in Dayton and WLWI (channel 13, now WTHR) in Indianapolis. These four inter-connected stations were branded on-air as the "WLW Network", and their call letters were stylized with hyphens to further reflect their connections to each other—the Cincinnati station, the group's flagship, was known as "WLW-T".

The three WLW television stations in Ohio were NBC affiliates, and carried common programming along with WLWI in Indianapolis (an ABC affiliate). Most of these shows were produced at the WLWT studios on Crosley Square, and included The Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club (later hosted by Bob Braun after Lyons' retirement in 1967), the Paul Dixon Show and Midwestern Hayride. The programs were syndicated regionally and also appeared on two other stations outside of the Midwest that were owned by Crosley, WLWA (now WXIA-TV) in Atlanta and WOAI-TV in San Antonio.

In 1957, WLWT became the first station in the Cincinnati market to begin color television broadcasts.[6] It later became the first station in the nation to broadcast entirely in color,[7] giving Cincinnati the nickname "Colortown U.S.A." by 1962.[3] For a period during the 1970s, the station's slogan was "5, The Originator", in reference to all of the local programming that was produced by the station.

The Crosley broadcast division took the name of its parent company in 1968, becoming Avco Broadcasting Corporation. In 1969, the FCC enacted its "one-to-a-market" rule, which enforced a ban on common ownership of AM radio stations and television stations with overlapping coverage areas under certain conditions while grandfathering some already existing instances. Avco's ownership of WLW radio (a 50,000-watt, clear-channel station) and WLWT, and the Columbus, Dayton and Indianapolis television stations was initially protected under the new rule. WLWT's channel 5 coverage area covered a large amount of the Dayton and Columbus markets, while WLW radio could be heard throughout much of eastern North America at night.

Also in 1968, when the Cincinnati Bengals were enfranchised by the American Football League, channel 5, through NBC, which held the league's TV rights, became the station of record for the team. This partnership would continue through the end of the 1997 season, when WKRC took over as the default station of record for the team. The station airs Bengals games nowadays when they are featured on NBC's Sunday Night Football as well as ESPN's Monday Night Football, a benefit of WLWT owner Hearst's 20 percent stake in the sports network.

Later years[edit]

In the mid-1970s, Avco decided to exit broadcasting and sold all of its stations to separate buyers. WLWT was the next to last to be sold, going to Multimedia, Inc. (along with Avco's production division Avco-Embassy Television, and the syndication rights to The Phil Donahue Show) in 1976.[8] As a result, the stations all lost their grandfathered protection, which led to an ownership conflict situation which Hearst-Argyle (predecessor to today's Hearst Television) would encounter two decades later (the FCC has since relaxed its adjacent-market ownership rules). All of the "WLW Network" stations except for flagship WLWT would change their call signs, leaving WLWT as the only one with any physical evidence that it was connected to WLW radio, a station that ironically would be a sister station to WLWT's rival WKRC-TV years later.

Logo used by the station from 2004 to 2013.

The Gannett Company bought Multimedia in 1995. As Gannett had owned The Cincinnati Enquirer since 1979 (and remains the newspaper's owner to this day), the company had to obtain a temporary waiver of an FCC cross-ownership rule which prohibited common ownership of a television station and a newspaper in the same market in order for Gannett to close on the Multimedia group. When the waiver expired in December 1996, Gannett opted to keep the Enquirer and swap WLWT and KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Argyle Television Holdings II in exchange for WGRZ in Buffalo, New York and WZZM in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a deal which was finalized in January 1997.[9] Argyle merged with the broadcasting unit of the Hearst Corporation to form Hearst-Argyle Television in August 1997. Hearst had owned WDTN (the former WLWD) since 1981, but the merged company opted to keep the larger WLWT and sell WDTN the next year. WLWT's licensee name under Multimedia and Gannett ownership, "Multimedia Entertainment, Inc.", survives to this day as the licensee name for WGRZ. In 1996, WKRC-TV and WCPO-TV traded networks, leaving WLWT as the only Cincinnati television station to never change its affiliation. Additionally, the purchase by Hearst made WLWT sister stations with Hearst flagship stations WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh and WBAL-TV in Baltimore, leading to all three stations to have a friendly rivalry with each other during the NFL season, as all three local NFL teams (Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens) are division rivals in the AFC North.

WLWT briefly aired UPN programming during the early morning hours on weekends at certain points in 1998, after that netlet was displaced from its previous affiliate WSTR-TV (channel 64) by The WB, before UPN finally affiliated with the former WB affiliate WBQC-CA (channel 25) later in 1998.

In June 1999, WLWT moved its studios from Crosley Square to the Mount Auburn neighborhood, in a building that once served as the corporate headquarters of WKRC-TV's founding owners Taft Broadcasting.[10] This is because after abandoning local non-news program production, the station found that Crosley Square, with its two-story ballrooms and basement newsroom, was built more for live entertainment broadcasts than a news operation.[3]

In June 2007, WLWT announced that it would partner with WLW (AM) to provide news and weather for the radio station. As a consequence, WLWT's news and weather updates were heard nationwide on WLW's XM Satellite Radio channel, at channel 173; the agreement with XM ended in the summer of 2008. WLWT and WLW shared news and weather operations for years while both were owned by Crosley Broadcasting, but eventual separate ownerships of the two stations (WLWT to Argyle, then Hearst Television; WLW to Clear Channel) led to WLW radio using the resources of WKRC-TV for several years until the renewed partnership with its former television sister. The modern WLW-WLWT partnership ended on March 31, 2010; WLWT currently provides news and weather to several Cincinnati radio stations.

The transmission tower seen at the beginning of the 1978-1982 CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati actually belonged to WLWT—it was located at the WLWT transmitter at 2222 Chickasaw Street. That red and white tower stood side-by-side with WLWT's current strobed tower until 2005, when it was dismantled.[11]

On July 9, 2012, WLWT's parent company Hearst Television was involved in a dispute with Time Warner Cable, leading to WLWT being pulled from Time Warner Cable and temporarily replaced with Nexstar Broadcasting Group station WTWO in Terre Haute, Indiana;[12][13] Time Warner opted for such a distant signal like WTWO, as it does not have the rights to carry any NBC affiliate closest to them.[14] The substitution of WTWO in place of WLWT lasted until July 19, 2012, when a carriage deal was reached between Hearst and Time Warner.[15]

In 2014, the station aired a Thursday Night Football game from CBS in lieu of affiliate WKRC-TV, who exercised their option of the right of first refusal. The station today airs up to four Cincinnati Bengals games a year, usually as part of NBC Sunday Night Football or ESPN's Monday Night Football. The latter usually means the delay of The Voice to the timeslots normally occupied by a rebroadcast of the fourth hour of Today and Mad Money, with voting limited to the internet on the program's normal timeslot.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[16]
5.1 1080i 16:9 WLWT-HD Main WLWT programming / NBC
5.2 480i WLWT-ME MeTV

NBC Weather Plus ceased network operations in late 2008;[17] however, WLWT continued to broadcast local weather programming as "News 5 Weather Plus" on its digital subchannel until June 30, 2011. The subchannel switched to MeTV on July 1, 2011.[18] MeTV competes with Retro Television Network, which is shown on WBQC-LD subchannel 25.3.[19]

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WLWT discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television.[20] The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 35,[21] using PSIP to display WLWT's virtual channel as 5 on digital television receivers.

As part of the SAFER Act or called by most "Nightlight" service of 30 days past the DTV transition date,[22] WLWT kept its analog signal on the air until July 12 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.

Cincinnati Reds[edit]

The Cincinnati Reds baseball team, also owned by Crosley until 1961, broadcast its games over WLWT from 1947 through 1995. The station also fed the games to a network of stations that covered Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and Tennessee (and included some of its Crosley-owned sister stations). Citing economic reasons along with pressure from NBC, channel 5 did not renew its contract following the 1995 season.[23] Waite Hoyt was the original play-by-play announcer on WLWT, in a simulcast with WLW Radio. George Bryson, Sr. replaced him in 1956. When Ed Kennedy became the play-by-play announcer in 1961, he would remain for 11 seasons, working with Frank McCormick for 8 seasons. Also calling games on WLWT included: Ken Wilson, Charlie Jones, Bill Brown, Ray Lane, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan.[24]

News operation[edit]

WLWT presently broadcasts 37½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and five hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). As of February 2012, WLWT generally has the third-rated local newscasts in the Cincinnati market, however, it has been showing steady ratings growth in its newscasts during the last couple of years. WLWT now places #1 or #2 in all newscasts in the key adult demographics. Its website WLWT.com and mobile application are both #1 in users in Cincinnati.

On April 20, 2013, WLWT became the fourth and final Cincinnati television station to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Prior to the upgrade, its newscasts aired in 16:9 widescreen standard definition. With the switch to HD, WLWT debuted a new set, as well as the new Hearst-mandated standardized graphics and music package ("Strive" by inthegroovemusic).[25]

The station maintains a weather beacon atop the Radisson Hotel in Covington dubbed the "Weather Lights".[26]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ Cooper, Bob (2000-02-15). "Why don't US TV Sets have a Channel 1?". Official WTFDA Club Website. Worldwide TV-FM DX Association. 
  2. ^ Thomas, David (2002). "Liberace, Springer Only Part Of WLWT's History". WLWT.com. Hearst-Argyle Television. 
  3. ^ a b c Kiesewetter, John (1999-06-06). "This is Crosley Square … Signing off". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Gannett Company. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  4. ^ "TV coverage; RTMA predicts expansion." Broadcasting - Telecasting, May 19, 1952, pg. 78. [1]
  5. ^ "Crosley is granted; FCC okays channel changes." Broadcasting - Telecasting, December 15, 1952, pg. 41. [2]
  6. ^ "WLW Radio & Television". Cincinnativiews. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  7. ^ Barry M. Horstman. "John T. Murphy". Great Living Cincinnatians. Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Liquidation of Avco group nears the end." Broadcasting, June 16, 1975, pp. 38-39. [3] [4]
  9. ^ "Gannett license reapplication order". Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "WLWT to leave downtown". Cincinnati Business Courier. American City Business Journals. 1998-09-03. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  11. ^ http://www.fybush.com/site-030130.html
  12. ^ Adweek: "Hearst and Time Warner Cable Part Ways Over Retrans", July 10, 2012.
  13. ^ Adweek: "Imported Signals in Retrans Fight Raise Regulatory Questions", July 10, 2012.
  14. ^ Orlando Sentinel: "WESH off Bright House; Pennsylvania station is substitute", July 10, 2012. Archived 14 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Broadcasting & Cable: "Hearst TV, Time Warner Cable End Viewer Blackout", July 19, 2012.
  16. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WLWT
  17. ^ Greppi, Michele (2008-10-07). "NBC Shutting Down Weather Plus". TelevisionWeek. Crain Communications. 
  18. ^ WLWT To Launch Me-TV
  19. ^ Kiesewetter, John (2011-04-26). "Ch 5 Adding Classic TV Channel". Cincinnati.com. Gannett Company. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  20. ^ List of Digital Full-Power Stations
  21. ^ "DTV Transition Status Report". Federal Communications Commission. January 2008. 
  22. ^ "UPDATED List of Participants in the Analog Nightlight Program" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. June 12, 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  23. ^ http://search.everyzing.com/viewMedia.jsp?res=0&dedupe=1&index=47&num=16&col=en-all-public-ep&e=19562204&start=32&ci=28&expand=true&match=none&channel=132&filter=1
  24. ^ http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/pressbox/downloads/y2008/cin/media.pdf
  25. ^ Multimedia: WLWT debuts new HD set & newscast
  26. ^ "What Do The Weather Lights Mean?". WLWT.com. Hearst Television. 2009-04-17. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  27. ^ [5]
  28. ^ [6]
  29. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15392044/
  30. ^ "Greater Cincinnati Broadcast Hall of Fame". Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  31. ^ "Anne Marie Tiernon bio". WTHR. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  32. ^ http://www.adweek.com/tvspy/meteorologist-valerie-abati-saying-goodbye-to-wlwt/51490.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]