|Florence/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina/
Lumberton, North Carolina
|Branding||ABC 15 (general)
ABC 15 News (newscasts)
|Channels||Digital: 16 (UHF)
Virtual: 15 (PSIP)
15.2 local weather
15.3 Comet TV
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group
(WPDE Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||November 22, 1980|
|Call letters' meaning||Big and Little Pee DEe Rivers|
|Former channel number(s)||15 (UHF analog, 1980–2009)|
|Transmitter power||421 kW|
WPDE-TV is the ABC-affiliated television station for South Carolina's Pee Dee and Grand Strand areas licensed to Florence. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 16 (virtual channel 15.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Pee Dee Church Road in Dillon (across from CBS affiliate WBTW's tower).
Owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, WPDE operates CW/CW Plus affiliate WWMB (owned by Howard Stirk Holdings) through a local marketing agreement (LMA). The two outlets share studios on University Boulevard (SC 544) in Conway.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|15.1||720p||16:9||WPDE-HD||Main WPDE-TV programming / ABC|
The station signed-on November 22, 1980 with an analog signal on UHF channel 15. It was the area's second commercial outlet after CBS affiliate WBTW. It has always been an ABC station. Before WPDE's arrival, ABC was relegated to secondary status on WBTW. Viewers in the Grand Strand could get the full ABC schedule via WWAY in Wilmington. The call letters stand for the Big and Little Pee DEe Rivers. Unofficially, the calls also represent the station's commitment to viewers: "We're People Dedicated to Excellence."
The former Florence Civic Auditorium building on South Cashua Drive was transformed into the station's first facilities. This location would serve WPDE for twenty-two years. Dedication of WPDE's first studio in Florence was conducted in early 1981 with remarks by then-Governor Richard Riley. Diversified Communications of Portland, Maine acquired the station in 1985. WPDE would eventually be purchased by Barrington Broadcasting in 2006. WPDE's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.
During the analog era, WPDE's over-the-air signal was spotty at best in much of the market, as was typical with most UHF stations at the time. At one point, the North Carolina side of the market obtained a weaker signal from WPDE compared with WWAY and/or WTVD from Durham. It survived mainly due to the very high penetration of cable in the region. As of the digital transition, this station can now be regularly picked up in North Carolina because its digital signal is much stronger. In addition, the southern areas of Greensboro got a better signal from WPDE than from their home affiliate WXLV-TV in Winston-Salem until the latter station moved their tower in 2009. WTVD has good reception in that area as well due to its powerful digital signal on VHF channel 11. This station's reception area includes eastern areas of the Charlotte and Columbia markets.
Historically, WBTW has been the dominant station in Florence/Myrtle Beach according to local Nielsen ratings. This is in part because that station essentially had the area to itself for over a quarter-century with the only real competition being Grade B signals from WECT in Wilmington and Columbia's WIS (both affiliates of NBC). WPDE's launch offered a second option of newscasts from WBTW. In 1996, sister station WWMB began airing the market's first prime time news on weeknights. Produced by WPDE, the show aired for thirty minutes and was originally known as NewsChannel 15 at 10 on TV 21. It was initially anchored by Steve Hawley until late-1996 when he left the station.
The program was then alternately hosted by Dave Gilbert and Tiffany Cochran. After the latter personality departed WPDE and Gilbert died in 1997, the show was renamed UPN 21 News at 10 and anchored by Leo Stallworth (later Audra Grant) until its cancellation in 2000. In 2003, WPDE introduced another prime time newscast on WWMB under the title WPDE NewsChannel 15 at 10 on UPN. Now airing every night, it was anchored on weeknights by Jim Heath. This second generation of the show featured interactive segments such as "Say What?" and "Quick Hits" in a more fast-paced format.
WWMB began having competition to its broadcast in 2004 when Fox affiliate WFXB entered into a news share agreement with WBTW. This partnership resulted in the area's second prime time broadcast at 10 seen weeknights for a half-hour. On September 18, 2006 with the launch of The CW, WPDE's production on WWMB became known as NewsChannel 15 at 10 on CW 21 and featured an updated graphics theme. There was a further expansion of local newscasts in 2007 when WPDE added a third hour of its weekday Good Morning Carolinas broadcast to WWMB. This was seen from 7 until 8 and was the first local show to debut in the time slot and partially air against the national weekday morning show seen on the big three networks. For an unknown reason, the production was ultimately dropped.
On January 26, 2009 days after anchor Jim Heath left WPDE, WWMB's nightly 10 o'clock show was canceled. A repeat of NewsChannel 15 at 7 was subsequently added in its place on weeknights with live weather updates. Eventually, this program was dropped as well. WWMB airs a rebroadcast of WPDE's Carolina & Company Live in the weeknight 10:30 p.m. time slot. On August 19, 2013, WPDE revived a weeknight prime time newscast on WWMB with this incarnation of the program known as The CW21 News At 10. In March 2008, WBTW became the first station in the market to upgrade newscasts to 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen. Although not true high definition, broadcasts match the aspect ratio of HD television screens. Since its sign-on August 7, 2008, NBC affiliate WMBF-TV has been offering local news in full high definition. WPDE remained the last outlet with pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition news until October 26, 2010 when it upgraded to 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen. Corresponding with the change came a new set and updated graphics package.
Weekdays at noon, the station airs a lifestyle/entertainment show called Carolina & Company Live. Airing in a magazine-type format from a secondary set, the broadcast is hosted by Cecil Chandler (formerly at WBTW for 36 years), Amanda Kinseth, and meteorologist Darren Stack. During the program, there are various interview segments and business spotlights. Until 2016, WPDE did not offered newscasts at 5 and/or 5:30. It maintains partnerships with local radio stations WYEZ-FM 94.5, WRNN-FM 99.5, WWRK AM 970, and WRNN-AM 1450. In addition to its main studios, WPDE operates a bureau on South Floyd Drive in Florence nearby WMBF's bureau on South Cashua Drive.
The station's studios on most weeks originate the weekly national public affairs program The Right Side with Armstrong Williams, which is aired by most Sinclair stations; Williams, a political commentator, holds an interest in WPDE's parent Sinclair Broadcast Group, including purchasing several stations through them via his holding company Howard Stirk Holdings, which holds the license and transmitting facilities for WWMB.
On April 22, 2015, WPDE NewsChannel 15 changed their long time logo and branding to ABC 15. The upgrade came with broadcasting in HD and a refresh to the studio.
Notable former on-air staff
- Malone, Michael (February 28, 2013). "Sinclair's Chesapeake TV Acquires Barrington Stations". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
- McFadden, Naeem (5 March 2013). "Williams lands WWMB, WPDE sold". Marion Star and Mullins Enterprise. Retrieved 24 December 2014.