|Baton Rouge, Louisiana|
|Branding||Local 33 (general)|
Local 33 News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Baton Rouge Proud|
Louisiana Proud (45th anniversary variant)
|Channels||Digital: 34 (UHF)|
Virtual: 33 (PSIP)
|Affiliations||33.1: NBC (since 1977)|
33.3: Ion Television
|Owner||White Knight Broadcasting|
(Knight Broadcasting of Baton Rouge License Corporation)
|Operator||Nexstar Media Group|
|First air date||October 16, 1971|
|Call letters' meaning||Vetter LouisianA|
"A NeW Vision for Louisiana"
|Sister station(s)||WGMB-TV, WBRL-CD, KZUP-CD|
|Former callsigns||WRBT (1971–1987)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
33 (UHF, 1971–2009)
|Transmitter power||1000 kW|
|Height||522 m (1,713 ft)|
|Public license information||Profile|
WVLA-TV, virtual channel 33 (UHF digital channel 34), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. Owned by White Knight Broadcasting, the station is operated under joint sales and shared services agreements by Nexstar Media Group, making it a sister station to Fox affiliate WGMB-TV (channel 44) and two Class A outlets: CW affiliate WBRL-CD (channel 21) and independent station KZUP-CD (channel 19). The four stations share studios on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge; WVLA's transmitter is located near Addis, Louisiana. On cable, the station is available on channel 3 on most cable systems, and on AT&T U-verse channels 33 and 1033. The station is also seen via satellite through DirecTV and Dish Network.
The station first signed on the air on October 16, 1971 as WRBT, an ABC affiliate. The station was founded by Romac Baton Rouge Corporation, a consortium of Southern Educators Life Insurance Company and local businessmen Richard O. Rush and Ramon V. Jarrell, with its call letters standing for Romac Broadcasting Television. The station temporarily operated from Florida Boulevard before moving to studios on Essen Lane, where it stayed until 2000. Before WRBT began, ABC was limited to off-hours clearances on then-NBC affiliate WBRZ-TV (channel 2) and CBS affiliate WAFB-TV (channel 9). The station originally broadcast from 10:30 a.m. until midnight on Mondays thru Fridays; 7 a.m. until midnight on Saturdays; and 9 a.m. until midnight on Sundays.
In March 1976, Rush Broadcasting Corporation, owned by Jules B. LeBlanc and Cyril Vetter, purchased the station. Although Baton Rouge had been large enough on paper to support three full network affiliates since the 1950s, only two VHF licenses were allocated to that market—channels 2 and 9, occupied by WBRZ and WAFB, respectively. There was an effort to move the transmitter of proposed Houma television station KHMA to the Greater Baton Rouge area in 1964 to serve as the city's ABC affiliate, with that management of that station going as far as to establish an advertising office in Baton Rouge; however, the owners of WAFB and WBRZ successfully petitioned the FCC to block the transfer, citing the urge of UHF development in the area.
In the late 1970s, ABC became the most-watched network and was seeking out stronger stations, while NBC fell to third and last place in ratings. While WRBT was still trying to find its feet, WBRZ was the top-rated station in Baton Rouge. WBRZ approached ABC for an affiliation, and ABC readily accepted. More or less by default, WRBT joined NBC. WRBT swapped affiliations with WBRZ on September 5, 1977, and became an NBC affiliate with NBC Nightly News as its first aired program. In 1979, Vetter purchased LeBlanc's stake to become sole owner.
On May 2, 1986, WRBT was the first local station in Baton Rouge and the first NBC affiliate on in Louisiana to broadcast in stereo, after WYES and WNOL in New Orleans and KMSS-TV in Shreveport. It changed its calls to WVLA on November 26, 1987 after building a higher and more powerful tower that boosted its signal to a full five million watts. From April 1990 until February 1991, the station took a secondary affiliation with Fox by airing week-delayed episodes of The Simpsons, In Living Color, and Married... with Children.
Vetter owned the station until 1996, when he sold it to Lafayette-based White Knight Broadcasting, owned by Sheldon Galloway. This move created a partnership, as Communications Corporation of America, a company controlled by Galloway's father, Thomas, owned Fox affiliate WGMB. Around this time, WVLA began branding itself as NBC 33, which, with the exception of a brief period in the early 2000s, would remain the station's branding until 2015. Since then, WGMB, WVLA, WBRL, and KZUP have shared the same studios, moving to its current studios on Perkins Road in 1999.
On April 24, 2013, ComCorp announced the sale of its entire group to Nexstar Broadcasting Group. WVLA and KZUP were to be sold to Mission Broadcasting, but on August 13, 2014, Mission withdrew its application. The sale was completed on January 1, 2015. Nexstar would continue to operate WVLA and KZUP under a shared services agreement, with sister stations WGMB and WBRL.
On July 1, 2015, then-sister stations KADN and KLAF-LD launched NBC on 15.2 and 46.1 with a partial simulcast of WVLA. Cox Communications dropped WVLA from its Lafayette regional lineup and replaced it with KLAF as WVLA programming will be on the channel until January 2016. In June 2015, Nexstar relaunched WVLA and WGMB's website under one banner, www.brproud.com, and in September 2015, Nexstar upgraded the station's new set, hired additional talent, and began broadcasting newscasts in high definition. When the upgrades were completed, the station rebranded itself as Local 33 and adopted the news theme "Evolution" in place of "The Rock," similar to sister NBC affiliates KTAL-TV in Shreveport and KTVE in Monroe/El Dorado. In October 2016, WVLA celebrated their 45th anniversary of its original airdate.
On December 3, 2018, Nexstar announced it would acquire the assets of Chicago-based Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. The deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected closure late in the third quarter of 2019—would give the WVLA/WGMB/WBRL/KZUP virtual quadropoly sister stations in Tribune's legal duopoly of ABC affiliate WGNO and CW affiliate WNOL-TV in New Orleans.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|33.1||1080i||16:9||WVLA-TV||Main WVLA-TV programming / NBC|
WVLA had carried NBC Weather Plus as channel 33.2, a digital subchannel, before that network ceased national operation on December 1, 2008. From 2008 until September 2012, the subchannel carried This TV before WVLA lost the affiliation to WBTR, a sister station to rival WBRZ. Channel 33.2 then began airing weather forecasts and rebroadcasts of NBC 33 News under the title "NBC 33 Always On," before going off the air in January 2015, shortly after Nexstar management took over. The subchannel remained dark until late August 2016 when it was reactivated to carry programming from Laff due to an extensive deal between Nexstar and Katz Broadcasting to carry its diginets. On October 28, 2017, WVLA added Ion Television to its third channel, bringing the network over the air in Baton Rouge for the first time since 2002.
WVLA-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 33, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 34. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 33. Due to its signal strength, the station can be seen in a good portion of the towns in the Lafayette (Acadiana region) and New Orleans markets.
In mid-September 1983, the station received national attention when it pulled Late Night with David Letterman and replaced it with All in the Family reruns due to poor ratings. After 3,500 LSU students presented Vetter with a petition to bring the show back to Baton Rouge, Vetter told them he would only reinstate Letterman if every student maintained at least a C average for the fall semester. Other Baton Rougeans, including then-Secretary of State Jim Brown, lobbied WRBT to keep Letterman on the air, and this compelled Vetter to reinstate the program by late September. Eventually, many residents of New Orleans tuned to WRBT to watch Letterman when NBC affiliate WDSU preempted the show in favor of Thicke of the Night. In 1992, WVLA cancelled Letterman again, citing poor ratings, and replaced it with Rush Limbaugh's talk show. The station, however, aired Late Night with Conan O'Brien when it premiered the next year.
WVLA used to air nightly 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts during the 1980s. In 1987, the 6 p.m. newscast moved to 5 p.m.; however, both newscasts were canceled in 1989, citing poor ratings, with reruns of off-network sitcoms airing in their place. Vetter supported this move with a desire to make channel 33 a complete entertainment station, taking into account the station's poor primetime news ratings against WAFB and WBRZ. Nonetheless, this proved successful ratings-wise, as the station's share jumped from 3 percent to 7 percent after the move. Later that year, it premiered a morning news program called Morning Edition that aired before The Today Show, originally lasting a half-hour before expanding a full hour; this newscast was cancelled in January 2005 in favor of airing NBC's early morning newscast Early Today in the slot. In the early 1990s, the station had an information hotline service for viewers to call to get news updates.
The station's latest generation of newscasts debuted on January 8, 2007, with weeknight shows at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The 6 p.m. shows began airing on January 29, 2007. On August 28, 2007, WVLA launched a 30-minute newscast titled NBC 33 News Morning Edition, which airs weekdays at 6 a.m. On August 11, 2008 NBC 33 News Morning Edition began airing for one hour, and later became a two-hour broadcast.
WVLA began airing weekend editions of its newscasts on September 13, 2008; the weekend newscasts were produced by sister station KETK-TV in Tyler, Texas. This has led to several errors when the show ultimately aired in Baton Rouge, including on November 16, 2008, when an entire newscast from the previous Sunday was shown. On September 22, 2008, WVLA changed the format for its 10 p.m. weekday newscast with the Ten at 10; it promised all the important local news and a full weather forecast in the first ten minutes.
On April 28, 2009, most of the news staff was let go, including the main anchors, and WVLA announced that the 5 and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts would originate from KETK; however, the station's weekday morning newscast NBC 33 News Morning Edition still originated from Baton Rouge.
In April 2010, BP Oil's Deepwater Horizon Rig exploded, then sank; oil began leaking from a well and was threatening coastal Louisiana. WVLA began once again producing local newscasts entitled Crisis on the Coast, although the sportscast was still anchored from Tyler, Texas.
On July 5, 2010, WVLA began broadcasting their newscasts in 16:9 standard definition widescreen. In August 2011, WVLA expanded its weekday morning newscast, now running from 5 to 7 a.m., then less than a month later on September 12, WVLA launched a half-hour weeknight newscast at 6:30 p.m.
WVLA-TV's newscasts began to be simulcast on Lafayette sister station KLAF-LD when that station joined NBC on July 1, 2015; the arrangement lasted until KLAF launched its own newscasts on April 1, 2016.
On September 8, 2015, on-air personality Derek Myers was fired from WVLA-TV after asking Senator David Vitter, who was running for Governor, about an allegation that the elected official frequented prostitutes. After Myers asked the question, Vitter's campaign pulled hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in advertising from the NBC station in an attempt to silence the story. Vitter admitted to the prostitution allegations as part of the “DC Madam” scandal, and the scandal became a game-changer in the race for the Governor's mansion. The Senator went on to lose the run-off election by more than 12%, with the history of prostitution allegations being cited as the main reason for his downfall.
On September 21, 2015, WVLA changed its branding to Local 33 News, matching the trend of several of its sister stations. The station also debuted a new set, graphics, and began broadcasting news in high definition and moved its 6:30 p.m. newscast back to 6:00 p.m.
Notable current on-air staff
- Jeanne Burns – news anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Fred Hickman – news anchor, now at WDVM-TV in Hagerstown, Maryland
- Isiah Carey – news reporter, now at KRIV in Houston
- Cole Wright – sports director, now at NFL Network
- Stone Grissom - main anchor, now at News 12 Long Island
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