|Channels||Digital: 23 (UHF)
Virtual: 15 (PSIP)
|Owner||Howard Stirk Holdings
(HSH Lancaster (WLYH) Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||October 25, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||Assigned by Howard Stirk Holdings|
|Former channel number(s)||
|Transmitter power||500 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WXBU, virtual channel 15 (UHF digital channel 23), is a television station serving South Central Pennsylvania. Licensed to Lancaster, the station is owned by Howard Stirk Holdings. WXBU's transmitter facility and advertising sales offices are located on Butler Road in West Cornwall Township (with a Lebanon postal address).
The station first signed on the air on October 25, 1953 as WLBR-TV, operating as an independent station. Originally licensed to Lebanon, it transmitted its signal at one kW on a 572 feet (174 m) tower located just north of Mount Gretna. The station was originally owned by the Lebanon Television Corporation, a joint venture of the Lebanon Broadcasting Company (owner of WLBR radio [AM 1270] and WQFM [FM 100.1, now WQIC) and the Lebanon News Publishing Company (owner of the Lebanon Daily News). In October 1954, the station went dark after Hurricane Hazel knocked out the power to its transmitter.
In 1957, Triangle Publications bought the share of the dormant channel 15 license that had been owned by the Daily News. The station returned to the air with increased power in August 1957. Under Triangle ownership, the station became a part-time ABC affiliate and received other programs from then sister station WFIL-TV (now WPVI-TV) in Philadelphia. Triangle bought full control of the station in 1959, and the station's call letters were changed to WLYH-TV (representing its service area of Lebanon, York and Harrisburg). In 1961, it became a CBS affiliate as part of the Keystone Network, a three-station network serving South Central Pennsylvania that also included WHP-TV (channel 21) in Harrisburg, and WSBA-TV (channel 43, now WPMT-TV) in York. This arrangement was necessary in the days before cable television gained much penetration; South Central Pennsylvania is very mountainous. It created a strong combined signal with 55 percent overlap, and was a major factor in the decision to collapse South Central Pennsylvania into one giant market two years later.
Originally, the three stations aired the same programming, though they were separately owned. Later in the 1960s, WHP-TV began airing separate programming outside of network hours, while WLYH and WSBA-TV continued simulcasting for most of the day. All three outlets ran primetime programming, most of the daytime shows, and most of the weekend offerings from CBS. All three stations preempted moderate amounts of CBS programming. However, through a longstanding agreement, any shows that WSBA-TV and WLYH preempted aired on WHP-TV and vice versa. This allowed most of the market to view the entire CBS schedule.
Triangle was forced out of broadcasting in 1970 after then-Governor Milton J. Shapp claimed the company had used its three Pennsylvania television stations (WLYH, WFIL-TV, and WFBG-TV in Altoona) in a smear campaign against him. WLYH was among the last to be sold, going to Gateway Communications as part of a group deal with WFBG-TV (now WTAJ-TV) and WNBF-TV (now WBNG-TV) in Binghamton, New York in 1972.
In the 1980s, Gateway moved the station's city of license to Lancaster. Channel 43 left the Keystone Network in 1983 to become an independent station under new calls, WPMT. WLYH and WHP-TV continued as CBS affiliates, airing separate non-network programming and maintaining their longstanding agreement calling for programs preempted on one station to air on the other. By this time, the two stations had about 75 percent signal overlap.
Even though cable had gained significant penetration in the region by the mid-1980s, WLYH remained a CBS affiliate rather than become an independent. This was mainly because at the time, South Central Pennsylvania was not large enough to support what would have essentially been two independent stations; even after WPMT joined Fox in 1986, it was still programmed as an independent (as was the case with most Fox stations until 1993). Even without this to consider, Philadelphia's WPHL-TV and WTAF-TV (now WTXF-TV), had been available on cable for years. These two factors made Gateway balk at the added cost of buying an additional 16 hours of programming per day. WLYH did, however, add a secondary affiliation with UPN when the network launched on January 16, 1995.
The unusual situation of two separately-owned and programmed Big Three affiliates in one market that aired most of the same network programming would continue until 1995. That fall, Clear Channel Communications (which had just bought WHP-TV) entered into a 20-year local marketing agreement with Gateway. Under this agreement, WHP-TV took control of WLYH's operations, with the combined operation housed at WHP-TV's studios in Harrisburg. As part of the deal, WLYH ceded all rights to CBS programming in the area to WHP-TV and became an exclusive UPN affiliate on December 16, 1995. In 2000, Gateway sold all of its stations to SJL Broadcasting.
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. On May 18, it was announced that WLYH would become the area's CW affiliate when it launched on September 18. Meanwhile, WHP created a new second digital subchannel to air programming from another new network, MyNetworkTV. Nexstar Broadcasting Group purchased WLYH and WTAJ from SJL in late 2006.
On April 20, 2007, Clear Channel entered into an agreement to sell its entire television station group (including WHP and the LMA with WLYH) to the private equity firm Providence Equity Partners. On July 19, 2012, Newport Television announced the sale of WLYH's LMA partner, WHP-TV, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group instead of Nexstar. The LMA with WLYH was included in the deal, and Sinclair also obtained an option to purchase the station's license from Nexstar. This purchase option would later be terminated on March 20, 2014, as part of a restructuring of Sinclair's purchase of the broadcast holdings of Allbritton Communications, including ABC affiliate WHTM-TV, to address ownership conflicts between the three stations. Under the original deal, Sinclair would have retained the higher-rated WHTM and traded the license assets of WHP-TV to Deerfield Media, though Sinclair would have retained control of WHP-TV under shared services and joint sales agreements. The license assets of WLYH would have been reassigned to Howard Stirk Holdings, a holding company controlled by Graham Williams Group CEO and political commentator Armstrong Williams, should the option be exercised. However, the FCC ruled that this would have effectively created a new LMA between WHTM and WLYH even though the FCC had ruled in 1999 that such agreements made after November 5, 1996 covering more than 15% of the broadcast day would count toward the ownership limits for the brokering station's owner. Under the restructured agreement, Sinclair announced that it would terminate the sale of WHP-TV to Deerfield and instead sell it to another third-party buyer, with whom Sinclair would not enter into any operational or financial agreements and would be given the rights to the LMA with WLYH. Sinclair ultimately retained WHP and the WLYH LMA and sold WHTM to Media General. Sinclair closed on the Newport group deal on December 3, 2012. Howard Stirk Holdings revealed in its January 2015 application to purchase Las Vegas station KVMY that it again planned to acquire the WLYH license from Nexstar. The sale was completed on November 12, 2015. The time brokerage agreement between WLYH and WHP-TV expired on December 31, 2015; Nexstar had, on December 11, 2014, elected to not renew the agreement. To reflect its new ownership, the station changed its callsign to WXBU on March 11, 2016.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
WXBU (as WLYH-TV; then owned by Nexstar) previously carried TheCoolTV on 15.2. WLYH dropped that network in favor of the Live Well Network on August 1, 2012.
It also dropped the Live Well Network on 15.2 in late December 2014 and replaced it with Grit TV.
On February 1, 2016, the simulcast of "The CW Central PA" (which moved to sister station WHP 21.3) ended, and GRIT moved up from 15.2 to 15.1, with Comet also moving up from 15.3 to 15.2. 15.3 went dark.
WXBU-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 15, on February 17, 2009, to conclude the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 23, using PSIP to display WLYH-TV's virtual channel as 15 on digital television receivers.
In December 2015, sister station WHP-TV added a second subchannel on 21.3, which duplicated the WLYH CW main 15.1 channel and was created in order to become the new home of the WLYH CW15 programming. In addition, the station changed its on-air branding from The CW15, to The CW Central PA on January 1, 2016. On February 1, 2016, The CW Central PA on 15.1 was discontinued, with the subchannels each moving up one spot.
WXBU sold its spectrum for $108 million in the 2016-2017 FCC incentive auction and the station will have to cease broadcasting on its current digital channel 90 days after it receives payment from the FCC. The station claims to have a channel-sharing agreement with another (unnamed) station in the market.
WLYH established a full news operation in the early 1960s that focused on the eastern portion (including Lebanon and Lancaster) of its large viewing area. Since it has broadcast over a UHF signal during the analog era, the station's coverage area was limited due to the nature of such signals. UHF signals usually do not enjoy as much of a broadcasting radius in mountainous areas as stations operating on VHF do. During the 1960s, WLYH operated a bureau in the W. W. Griest Building in Downtown Lancaster, in addition to its main studios in South Londonderry Township.
In the early-1970s, an entirely new base of operations for color television and updated news film processing were constructed as part of the new Park City Center in that city. WSBA simulcasted WLYH's newscasts until the arrangement ended in 1983 with the former severing ties after becoming WPMT. After WHP took over operations of WLYH in the fall of 1995, the former shut down WLYH's separate news department. The following year, in September 1996, a news share agreement was established between WLYH and WHP, resulting in WHP producing a primetime newscast at 10 p.m. for channel 15.
The effort competed with WPMT, which also aired a primetime news broadcast in the 10 p.m. timeslot. Due to low ratings and inconsistent viewership, the 10 p.m. newscast on WLYH was canceled in 2003. In January 2009, WHP launched a primetime newscast on this station for a second time. This incarnation of WLYH's newscast initially only aired on weeknights before expanding to a seven-night-a-week broadcast at some point in time. Like the previous effort, the WHP-produced half-hour 10 p.m. newscast competes with WPMT's longer-established hour-long primetime newscast. In addition to its main studios in Harrisburg, WHP also operates bureaus in Lancaster and York.
- "Digital TV Market Listing for WXBU". RabbitEars.Info. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- Obituary of Walter Annenberg from Slate
- "Triangle spins off last seven stations." Broadcasting, December 6, 1971, pg. 38. 
- "FCC grants approval of $16 million in Triangle transfers." Broadcasting, September 25, 1972, pg. 12. 
- "End of an era." Broadcasting, November 6, 1972, pg. 36
- 'Gilmore Girls' meet 'Smackdown'; CW Network to combine WB, UPN in CBS-Warner venture beginning in September, CNNMoney.com, January 24, 2006.
- UPN and WB to Combine, Forming New TV Network, The New York Times, January 24, 2006.
- "Clear Channel Agrees to Sell Television Station Group to Providence Equity Partners" (Press release). Clear Channel Communications. 2007-04-20. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
- Newport Sells 22 Stations For $1 Billion, TVNewsCheck, July 19, 2012.
- Kreisman, Barbara A. (December 6, 2013). "Letter to Sinclair and Allbritton legal counsel" (PDF). CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
- Sinclair Offers to Sell Stations Ahead of FCC Decision, TVSpy, March 21, 2014.
- Sinclair Proposes Restructuring Of Allbritton Transaction In Order To Meet Objections Of The Federal Communications Commission, The Wall Street Journal (via PRNewswire), March 20, 2014.
- "Application For Consent To Assignment Of Broadcast Station Construction Permit Or License (KVMY)". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. January 28, 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
In Addition, HSH Lancaster (WLYH), LLC and HSH Lancaster (WLYH) Licensee, LLC, Owned by Howard Stirk Holdings II, LLC, will be filing an Assignment of License Application to acquire the license WLYH-TV, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Facility ID No. 23338, from Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.
- Consummation Notice - Federal Communications Commission
- Notice of Non-Renewal of Time Brokerage Agreement of WLYH-TV Lancaster, PA 11 December 2015, Retrieved 4 March 2016
- Second Amendment To Assignment 15 October 2015, Retrieved 4 March 2016. "9.1 TBA. At the closing of the Agreement, Assignor and Assignee shall assume the rights under that certain Time Brokerage Agreement, dated October 31, 1995 (the “TBA”), by and between Nexstar, as successor in interest to Gateway Communications, Inc., and Assignor, as successor in interest to Clear Channel Television, Inc., provided that the TBA shall be terminated and shall no longer be in effect as of January 1, 2016."
- Call Sign History - WXBU
- List of Digital Full-Power Stations
- "Changes coming to the CW in central PA". WHP-TV. December 25, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
- Davis Hudson, Eileen (March 6, 2000). "Market profile". Mediaweek. Retrieved April 15, 2010.
- "WHTM cuts jobs, pay, worker says". The Patriot-News. January 31, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2010.