|Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York/|
Niagara Falls, Ontario
|City||Buffalo, New York|
|Branding||Fox 29 (general)|
Channel 2 News (during WGRZ-produced newscasts)
|Slogan||On Your Side (newscasts)|
|Channels||Digital: 14 (UHF)|
(to move to 32 (UHF))
Virtual: 29 (PSIP)
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
(WUTV Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||December 21, 1970|
|Call letters' meaning||UlTraVision|
(reference to its broadcast frequency)
WGRZ (newscast production)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
29 (UHF, 1970–2009)
|Transmitter power||1,000 kW|
|Height||299.5 m (983 ft)|
329 m (1,079 ft) (application)
|Public license information:||Profile|
WUTV, virtual channel 29 (UHF digital channel 14), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Buffalo, New York, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYO-TV (channel 49). The two stations share studios on Hertel Avenue near Military Road in Buffalo; WUTV's transmitter is located on Whitehaven Road (near I-190) in Grand Island, New York.
WUTV signed on the air on December 21, 1970 as a general entertainment independent station; its schedule included cartoons (such as Astro Boy and Yogi Bear), sitcoms (such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Patty Duke Show, and The Munsters), sci-fi shows (such as Lost in Space, Ultraman, The Invaders and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), along with classic movies and drama series. WUTV's original studios were located at the transmitter site in Grand Island, New York. The station was owned by Ultravision Broadcasting Company, from which the "UTV" in the WUTV callsign originates (the WUTV call sign was originally to be used for a station on VHF channel 3 in Indianapolis, Indiana under the ownership of department store William H. Block Co., which never went on the air; the call sign was later issued to another station in Youngstown, Ohio with a construction permit on channel 21 that also never launched, with NBC affiliate WFMJ-TV purchasing that permit and moving from channel 73 to the channel 21 allocation that the Youngstown WUTV permit was originally intended to broadcast on). Ultravision was owned by Stan Jasinski, who also owned Buffalo's WMMJ (1300 AM) at the time; shortly thereafter, Jasinski spun off WMMJ to country musician Ramblin' Lou Schriver, who turned it into present-day WXRL. Jasinski had first filed an application for the station's license in 1963.
WUTV was the only independent station in Buffalo for many years and was the first commercially successful UHF station in Western New York; previous efforts on the UHF dial, including WBES-TV (channel 59), WBUF-TV (channel 17) and WNYP-TV (channel 26) all had failed within a few years of their debuts. Ultravision Broadcasting sold the station to Whitehaven Entertainment Corporation in 1977. The station was acquired by Citadel Communications, a Bronxville-based company not related to the larger radio station owner Citadel Broadcasting, in 1984.
On October 9, 1986, WUTV became one of the original charter affiliates of the newly launched Fox network. At the time, Fox only aired late night programming five days a week, so WUTV was still essentially programmed as an independent station. However, by 1989, WUTV was one of several Fox affiliates nationwide that were disappointed with the network's weak primetime programming offerings, particularly on Saturday nights, which were bogging down WUTV's otherwise successful lineup. Fox then signed an agreement with WNYB-TV (channel 49, now WNYO-TV) to become its new Buffalo affiliate, and WUTV reverted to being an independent station full-time. Later that year, WNYB-TV's owner, Act III Broadcasting (a company controlled by Norman Lear), offered to buy WUTV, and Citadel accepted. The sale was finalized in June 1990, and Lear moved WNYB-TV's stronger programming to WUTV, and brought the Fox affiliation back to the station in turn. He then sold WNYB-TV to Tri-State Christian Television (Act III was known for such acquisition practices).
ABRY Partners, forerunners to the current Nexstar Media Group, purchased WUTV in 1994 following its acquisition of the Act III group. On January 16, 1995, WUTV became a secondary affiliate of the upstart United Paramount Network (the UPN affiliation subsequently moved to WNGS (channel 67, now WBBZ-TV) and WONS (channel 21, WVTT-CD) in 1997, and then to WNLO (channel 23) in 2003). Sinclair Broadcast Group acquired WUTV as part of its purchase of some of ABRY's assets in 1997; Sinclair then bought WNYO-TV in 2001, creating a duopoly with WUTV. Since the 1994 NFL season, the station has aired Buffalo Bills games via the NFL on Fox; they are given at least two games a season to air, usually when the team plays host to an NFC team at New Era Field; although the station has seen more games aired since 2014 when the NFL instituted cross-flex rules, meaning that games can be arbitrarily moved to the station from WIVB, which airs most of the team's games.
WUTV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 29, at 11:59 p.m. on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later moved to June 12); this made WUTV the first television station in Buffalo to switch to digital. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 14. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 29.
As part of the SAFER Act, WUTV kept its analog signal on the air until March 3, 2009 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters. WUTV, along with PBS member station WNED-TV (channel 17) were the only Buffalo television stations that did not terminate their analog signals on the new June 12 date.
After Sinclair came to a retransmission consent agreement in February 2007 nationally with Time Warner Cable, WUTV and WNYO-TV's high definition feeds began to be carried locally by the provider. WUTV's HD feed was not available on the region's other cable provider, Atlantic Broadband, until 2012. The Time Warner Cable agreement was to expire at the end of 2010, and the two companies were late in reaching an agreement. In the event Sinclair had pulled WUTV from TWC, a separate agreement allows Fox programming to be piped in from out of market (likely involving Nexstar Media Group, whose stations have been used as out-of-market superstations in the past to temporarily replace in-market network affiliates displaced due to carriage disputes). This made WUTV particularly vulnerable to a prolonged blackout. It does not produce any local content, serving mostly as a "pass-through" for automated programming. Much of its syndicated programming can be seen on other cable channels (such as TBS, WGN and TVGN), and much of its daytime programming consisted of infomercials. The dispute was resolved without a blackout.
On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WUTV, allowing them to continue carrying the network's programming until 2017. GritTV was added to a subchannel in October-November 2014.
The second subchannel was affiliated with The Country Network until early 2017 when it was announced to be switching over to TBD. On June 1, 2017, both digital subchannels were replaced, 29.2 with the previously announced TBD and 29.3 with Charge!.
Averted loss of Fox affiliation; near-sale to Fox
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The deal is expected to receive FCC approval sometime in the first half of 2018. The deal has brought concerns by Fox who see Sinclair as a competitor towards conservative-leaning news, as well as increased leverage by Sinclair on reverse compensation to air Fox programming.
On August 2, 2017, it was reported that Fox Television Stations was in talks with Ion Media to create a joint venture that would own their respective stations. The partnership was said to include plans to shift affiliations from Sinclair stations in favor of Ion-owned stations, such as those whose affiliation agreements are soon to expire. In Buffalo's case, this would include shifting Fox from WUTV to WPXJ-TV (channel 51). In the event that WUTV loses its Fox affiliation, the station may return to independent status.
The chances of WUTV keeping its Fox affiliation increased in October 2017 when Ion elected its stations to have must-carry status instead of retransmission consent, which the FCC ruled Ion must keep for three years. However, must-carry only applies to a main signal, allowing Fox to possibly affiliate with a digital subchannel on WPXJ-TV and other Ion stations.
On December 6, 2017, it was reported that Sinclair and Fox were working on a deal that would see its Fox affiliates renew their affiliation agreement in exchange for Sinclair selling some of its Fox affiliates directly to Fox Television Stations. The deal would see between six and ten Fox affiliates owned by Sinclair and Tribune (all in markets with an NFL team) become Fox owned-and-operated stations. It is not known if WUTV will be one of the stations sold, although the stations being sold to Fox are expected to be from Tribune Media (notably KCPQ in Seattle, where Sinclair already owns KOMO-TV), many of which were previously owned by Fox. A sale to Fox would make WUTV Buffalo's first Big Four network O&O since WBUF-TV (channel 17, now PBS member WNED-TV), which was owned by NBC from 1955 until its sign-off in 1958. On May 9, 2018, Sinclair announced that seven Fox affiliates would be sold to FTS, but WUTV was not included and an affiliation renewal was announced for that station instead, keeping WUTV with Sinclair.
Until 2013, WUTV did not air news programming, making Buffalo the largest television market in the United States whose Fox affiliate did not offer any newscasts at all (Sinclair is believed to have paid a large fee to Fox to avoid the network's mandate that its affiliates carry local news). The station long opted to air syndicated programming instead of carrying news programming, as it is within range of the Toronto market and features advertising targeted at Southern Ontario viewers, along with the large number of stations within the Buffalo market and those receivable in the market from Hamilton and Toronto that already produce local newscasts.
This lack of local news programming ended on April 8, 2013, as the 10 p.m. newscast produced by NBC affiliate WGRZ channel 2 moved from WNYO-TV to WUTV. Along with the move, it was expanded to seven nights per-week, and the station also announced plans to air an encore of the final hour of WGRZ's morning show on a one-hour delay. These moves were part of an effort to better compete against the WIVB-produced newscasts in the same timeslots on CW affiliate WNLO—both of which have been historically more successful even though WGRZ has surpassed WIVB in most of its main newscasts. Under the terms of the agreement to carry WGRZ's newscasts on WUTV, Sinclair Broadcast Group has no editorial control over the newscasts.
In addition to carrying WGRZ's newscasts, WHAM-TV meteorologists provide "Fox 29 Weather Updates" between programs.
Notable current on-air staff
- Maryalice Demler - weeknights at 10:00 p.m.
Notable former on-air staff
- Kevin O'Connell - chief weather anchor (fired in 2018 due to an endorsement dispute)
- "Digital TV Market Listing for WUTV". RabbitEars.Info. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
- WUTV Petition for Rulemaking
- WNLO Petition for Rulemaking Channel 36 - 10.26.2018
- All Full-Power Television Stations by DMA, Indicating Those Terminating Analog Service Before or on February 17, 2009, Federal Communications Commission, February 16, 2009
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "UPDATED List of Participants in the Analog Nightlight Program" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. June 12, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Sinclair Reups With Fox, Gets WUTB Option, TVNewsCheck, May 15, 2012.
- Pergament, Alan (October 22, 2014). "Grit TV aims to capture men when it comes here shortly via sub-channel". The Buffalo News. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
- "New WUTV sub-channel coming aimed at millenials". The Buffalo News. BH Media. January 10, 2017.
- Pergament, Alan (June 20, 2017). "Answers to reader questions about the Mets, high-def & 'This is Us'". The Buffalo News. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
- Economist, Business Section, May 13th-19th 2017, page 6
- Harry A. Jessell (May 9, 2017). "Tribune Didn't Make Sense For Nexstar". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
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- Baker, Liana; Toonkel, Jessica (May 7, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast nears deal for Tribune Media". Reuters. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
- Stedman, Alex (May 7, 2017). "Sinclair Reportedly Near Deal to Buy Tribune Media". Variety. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
- Sakoui, Anousha (August 2, 2017). "Fox in Talks With Ion Media to Operate Local TV Stations, Source Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
- Jones, Scott (November 30, 2017). "Exclusive! Sinclair to Sell 6-10 Stations to Fox Television". FTV Live. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
- Littleton, Cynthia. 21st Century Fox finalizing deal with Sinclair to acquire six TV stations. Variety. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Pergament, Alan (March 27, 2013). Ch. 2's 10 p.m. newscast headed to WUTV. The Buffalo News. Retrieved March 27, 2013.