ⓘ WVTM-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Birmingham, Alabama, United States. The station is owned by the ..



WVTM-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Birmingham, Alabama, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications. WVTMs studios and transmitter are located atop Red Mountain, between Vulcan Trail and Valley View Drive in southeastern Birmingham, adjacent to the Vulcan Statue and next to the studios of Fox affiliate WBRC.

On cable, WVTM is available on Charter Spectrum channel 8 in the immediate Birmingham area channel 5 in outlying areas, and Comcast Xfinity and AT&T U-verse channel 13 in standard definition; and in high definition on Spectrum channel 1008 channels 705 or 1005 in outlying areas, Dish Network, Xfinity and AT&T U-verse channel 1013.


1.1. History Early history

The station first signed on the air on May 29, 1949, as WAFM-TV, originally carrying a limited schedule of local programming. The station began carrying select network programming on July 1, operating as a primary CBS and secondary ABC affiliate; channel 13 began carrying an expanded schedule of programming from ABC and CBS on October 1. It was originally owned by The Voice of Alabama, Inc., along with radio stations WAPI 1070 AM, and WAFM then at 93.3, now WJOX-FM at 94.5 FM. It is the longest continuously operating television station in Alabama. During the summer of 1949, most programs aired by WAFM-TV aired during the daytime hours, allowing radio electronics and department stores to demonstrate television set receivers to potential customers. In January 1953, the Federal Communications Commission FCC approved an application to increase the stations transmitter power from 26.000 to 316.000 watts.

In July 1953, The Birmingham News bought the Voice of Alabama and changed the stations call letters to WABT for A labamas B est T elevision". The following year on July 4, 1954, WABT traded primary network affiliations with WBRC-TV channel 6 and joined NBC; however it retained a secondary affiliation with ABC as did WBRC-TV, which took over the CBS affiliation as its then-new owners, Storer Broadcasting, had maintained a strong relationship with the network. On January 26, 1956, newspaper publishing company Newhouse Newspapers now Advance Publications purchased the News. The station changed its callsign again in 1958 to WAPI-TV for A labama P olytechnic I nstitute and WSYE-TV respectively, were already affiliated with the network; in addition, the companys chairman did not have a great personal relationship with CBSs president William S. Paley. At the same time that WAPI and WBMG aligned with the respective networks, WCFT-TV channel 33, now Heroes & Icons affiliate WSES in Tuscaloosa and WHMA-TV channel 40, later WJSU-TV and now Heroes & Icons affiliate WGWW in Anniston, two UHF stations respectively serving the western and eastern portions of Central Alabama, also became full-time affiliates of CBS; like WBMG and WAPI prior to becoming exclusive network affiliates, WCFT and WHMA - both of which signed on the air in the late 1960s - started as affiliates of both CBS and NBC. Prior to that time, the prime time schedules of the Tuscaloosa and Anniston stations virtually mirrored that of WBMG, because of WAPIs exclusive rights to network programming shown on that station for the entire viewing area.

Newhouse exited the broadcasting industry in the early 1980s to focus exclusively on its newspaper holdings. In 1979, the company sold its television stations, including WAPI-TV, to the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company; the WAPI radio stations were sold to Dittman Broadcasting. Following the completion of the sale, the station, due to an FCC rule in place at the time that stated that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership had to have differing call letters, changed its call letters to WVTM-TV for V ulcan T imes- M irror; the "V" referencing both the cast-iron statue in Vulcan Statue as well as its location atop Red Mountain at Vulcan Park, where WVTMs transmitter tower was located on March 28, 1980.


1.2. History New World Communications and NBC ownership

In March 1993, Times Mirror sold WVTM, along with its three sister stations to Argyle Television Holdings in a two-part deal. Under the structure, WVTM and KTVI were the first two stations to be sold to New World, which respectively bought the stations for $45 million and $35 million; the purchase of the entire group was completed in December of that year following securement of financing for the deal.

In May 1994, New World Communications, which would sign an affiliation deal with Fox on May 22, agreed to purchase the four outlets from Argyle – in a deal structured as a purchase option – for $717 million. However two weeks earlier on May 5, New World also decided to purchase four television stations from Great American Communications, among them WBRC, for $350 million in cash and $10 million in share warrants. New World was able to finalize its purchase of WBRC on October 12, 1994 because the transfer applications for the Argyle stations were not submitted to the FCC until after those involved in the purchase of the Citicasters to which Great American Communications was subsequently renamed stations was already finalized.

However, WBRC and fellow ABC affiliate WGHP in High Point, North Carolina were immediately placed in an outside trust company as Citicasters restructured its plans for both stations and decided to sell them directly to Foxs owned-and-operated station group, Fox Television Stations, once it discovered New Worlds plan to purchase the Argyle stations both purchases conflicted with two aspects of the FCCs media ownership regulations; the purchases of WBRC and WVTM would have violated rules that forbade a single company from owning two television stations in the same market and both group deals would have given New World three more stations than the agency allowed at the time under its 12-station national television ownership limit. In January 1995, while the group awaited the Argyle purchase to receive approval by the FCC, New World took over the operations of the Argyle stations, including WVTM, through time brokerage agreements. The transfers of WBRC and WGHP to the trust were completed on April 3, 1995 while the New World purchase of the Argyle stations closed on April 14. New Worlds purchase of the remaining three Argyle stations was finalized on April 18, 1995.

As a result of New Worlds option to sell WBRC to Fox, WVTM retained its NBC affiliation, whereas KNSD broadcast on the UHF band; the group sold its only other station not affected by the Fox affiliation deal, WSBK-TV in Boston, to the Paramount Stations Group in November 1994); KTVI, KDFW and KTBC, meanwhile, all became Fox affiliates. Fox Television Stations operated WBRC as an ABC affiliate until August 31, 1996, as its contract with that network had one year left until its expiration when Fox formally purchased the station from the trust WBRCs conversion into a Fox owned-and-operated station on September 1, 1996, led to a six-station affiliation swap in Central Alabama in which WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV became satellite stations of ABC affiliate low-power W58CK channel 58, now WBMA-LD; Fox affiliate WNAL-TV channel 44, now Ion Television owned-and-operated station WPXH-TV in Gadsden took over as eastern Alabamas CBS affiliate and Fox affiliate WTTO channel 21 and its Tuscaloosa satellite WDBB channel 17 became independent stations).

On May 22, 1996, New World Communications announced that it would sell WVTM and KNSD to NBCs owned-and-operated station group, NBC Television Stations, for $425 million. This deal came two months prior to then-Fox parent News Corporations acquisition of New World on July 17, in an all-stock transaction worth $2.48 billion, in which it would acquire New Worlds remaining twelve Fox-affiliated stations which would also become owned-and-operated stations of the network; The sale of WVTM and KNSD to NBC was finalized in July 1996. In November 1996, the station changed its on-air branding from "Alabamas 13" which it adopted in 1991 to "NBC 13".


1.3. History Media General ownership

On January 9, 2006, NBC Television Stations announced that it would place four of its smaller-market owned-and-operated stations - WVTM, WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, WCMH-TV in Columbus, and WNCN in Raleigh, North Carolina - up for sale. On April 6, 2006, NBC Universal and Media General announced that the latter would purchase WVTM-TV as part of a $600 million four-station deal between the two companies. Due to clauses in the FCCs regulations for television duopolies that prohibits any broadcasting company from owning two of the four highest-rated television stations within the same media market, Media General subsequently announced that it would it seek a buyer for its existing station in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston market, WIAT which it had owned since the groups merger with Park Communications in 1997, and was instrumental in that station becoming more competitive with WVTM and WBRC, choosing to keep WVTM, which at the time was the higher-rated of the two stations in terms of total day viewership.

The FCC subsequently granted the company a temporary waiver of its ownership rules that allowed it to keep both WVTM and WIAT for six months after the purchase of the former was completed; Media Generals purchase of all four stations was finalized on June 26, 2006. On August 2, Media General announced that it had sold WIAT and fellow CBS affiliate KIMT in Mason City, Iowa to New Vision Television for $35 million; that sale was finalized on October 12, 2006. Under Media General, WVTM retained its existing "NBC 13" branding until 2009, when it restored "Alabamas 13" as its on-air branding.


1.4. History Hearst Television ownership

On March 21, 2014, LIN Media entered into an agreement to merge with Media General in a $1.6 billion deal. Because LIN already owned CBS affiliate WIAT, due to the same FCC duopoly restrictions based on total day viewership that prompted Media General to sell WIAT to New Vision eight years earlier, the companies were required to sell either WVTM-TV or WIAT to another station owner in order to comply with the agencys ownership rules; the sales that Media General and LIN voluntarily chose to conduct in that situation were also in response to planned changes to the FCCs media ownership regulations, which would prohibit sharing agreements involving two or more television stations in the same market.

On August 20, 2014, Media General announced that it would reacquire WIAT and sell WVTM, along with WJCL in Savannah, Georgia, to Hearst Television. Media General completed its merger with LIN on December 19; Hearst closed on its purchase of WVTM and WJCL three days later on December 22. In March 2015, WVTM phased in Hearsts standardized station imaging, and dropped the "Alabamas 13" brand for the second time, in favor of branding by its call letters as "WVTM 13", similar to other Hearst-owned stations.


2.1. Digital television Digital channels

The stations digital signal is multiplexed:

In September 2004, WVTM-TV launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 13.2, as a charter affiliate of NBC Weather Plus; after the network formally ceased operations on November 30, 2008 due to NBCUniversals purchase of The Weather Channel under a joint venture between The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, it was replaced by NBC Plus, a localized default feed of the network that replaced Weather Plus on most of its affiliates. In January 2008, Media General reached an agreement with Equity Media Holdings to affiliate WVTM with the Retro Television Network; the station began carrying the network on its second digital subchannel on May 1, 2009. WVTM replaced the Retro Television Network with Me-TV on 13.2 on September 26, 2011 as part of a groupwide affiliation agreement with Media General under that deal, Me-TV replaced RTV on some Media General-owned stations in other markets.


2.2. Digital television Analog-to-digital conversion

In November 2002, WVTM-TV signed on its digital television signal on UHF channel 52. The station shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, 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 stations digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 52, which was among the high band UHF channels 52-69 that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its former analog-era VHF channel 13 for post-transition operations. WVTM was one of more than ten television stations around the country that requested for a power increase due to problems with the reception of VHF digital signals in areas within their markets of service following the transition. The station then moved back to channel 13 for its post-transition operations.


3. Programming

WVTM-TV carries the entire NBC programming schedule, although it airs the networks weekend overnight lineup on a one-hour tape delay due to paid and syndicated programming. Syndicated programming broadcast by WVTM-TV as of September 2017 includes Extra, Matter of Fact with Soledad OBrien which is produced by parent company Hearst Television and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

While channel 13 tried to carry the most popular NBC and CBS shows, a lot of fairly popular programs aired by either network were never seen in the Birmingham market because of this arrangement even though WAPI carried selected CBS and NBC network programs in a 4½-hour block preceding its late-evening newscast, which then aired at 11:00 p.m., and the lack of a third station to carry the remaining programs. One of the more popular CBS shows that WAPI-TV did not air was The Ed Sullivan Show, which resulted in Central Alabama viewers missing The Beatles debut American performance on the variety series in February 1964, unless they were lucky enough to be able to get reception of CBS affiliates in the adjacent markets of Atlanta WAGA-TV, now a Fox owned-and-operated station, Huntsville WHNT or Montgomery WCOV-TV, now a Fox affiliate. On a similar note, one of the NBC shows that channel 13 turned down was The Tonight Show, which WBMG aired instead until WAPI began clearing the program in September 1969; even then, due to the expanded prime time scheduling under the dual-network arrangement with CBS and NBC, it delayed Tonight to 11:30 p.m.

WAPI-TV strongly favored NBC for national news programming; as a byproduct of this, when CBS and NBC expanded their early-evening news programs to 30 minutes in 1963, the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite did not air in Birmingham for the next two years. This was due, of course, to the fact that both networks fed their newscasts to their affiliates at 5:30 p.m. Central Time as they continue to do today. Channel 13 aired its local newscast at 6:00 p.m., and prior to the passage of the Prime Time Access Rule by the FCC in 1971, prime time network programming began at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. This left no available room on WAPIs schedule to allow it to air the CBS Evening News, even if station management had wanted to broadcast it, clearing only The Huntley-Brinkley Report in its normal time slot Huntley-Brinkley was the only network evening newscast that was televised in Birmingham from 1963 to 1965, as WBRC-TV did not carry ABCs evening newscasts during that period.

During the 1970s, WAPI ran a distant second to WBRC in local news and general viewership, but was far ahead of WBMG, which was one of the lowest-rated commercial television stations in the U.S. at the time. It was only in western and eastern Alabama that the CBS affiliates, WCFT and WHMA, were competitive against WBRC and WAPI, particularly in local newscasts designed specifically for those areas of the state. After it exclusively aligned with NBC, channel 13 chose to fill the now-vacated 10:00 p.m. hour with off-network syndicated reruns to serve as a lead-in to its late newscast, which itself would move to 10:00 in 1977; however, the station continued to delay The Tonight Show by one hour in favor of running syndicated programming until September 1993, when it moved the program to its network-standard 10:35 slot.


4.1. News operation News department history

Channel 13 launched the first full-scale television news department in Alabama in 1951. For most of the last half of the 20th century, channel 13s newscasts were a solid, if usually distant, runner-up to long-dominant WBRC. This remained the case even during the second half of the 1980s, despite having the benefit of NBCs powerful prime time programming lineup of that period which included such series as Hill Street Blues, The Cosby Show and The A-Team as a lead-in to its 10:00 p.m. newscast.

However, after WBMA-LP replaced WBRC as the markets ABC affiliate in September 1996, WVTM had to fend off a spirited challenge from the upstart station. Since the start of the new millennium, it has also had to contend with a resurgent WIAT, whose news ratings prior to the February 1998 relaunch of its news department had generally languished at a very distant fourth place for much of its history up to that point. Indeed, since 2006, WIAT has consistently beaten WVTM in the late news ratings. In contrast to WIATs renewed performance under Media General ownership, ratings averages for WVTMs newscasts slipped to fourth place among the markets five major television news operations ahead of WVUA-CD channel 7 and behind WBMA-LD and WIAT) during the companys ownership of channel 13, where it remains to this day.

In 2004, WVTM began utilizing a Doppler weather radar system originally branded as "Skywatch Doppler One Million" in the 11:30 slot. This was followed three weeks later on September 8 by the launch of an hour-long late afternoon newscast at 4:00 p.m. On April 27, 2015, the station expanded its 6:00 p.m. newscast to one hour, with the second half-hour replacing the cancelled sports talk show Alabama Tonight.


4.2. News operation Notable former on-air staff

  • Rene Syler – weekend anchor 1990–1992; later at KTVT in Dallas–Fort Worth then at CBS as host of The Early Show
  • Bill Fitzgerald – anchor/reporter 1999–2004; now at WTVR-TV in Richmond, Virginia
  • Cliff Holman "Cousin Cliff" – childrens program host 1954–1969; later at WJSU-TV; deceased
  • Sophia Choi – weekend morning anchor 1991–1996; now at WSB-TV in Atlanta
  • Charlie Van Dyke - Announcer now announcer for their rival WBRC
  • James Spann – meteorologist 1979–1983; now at WBMA-LD
  • KABC - TV in Los Angeles, WPVI in Philadelphia, WTVJ in Miami, WBTV in Charlotte, WTVT WFTS in Tampa St Petersburg, WPTV - TV in West Palm Beach, WVTM - TV and
  • from 1949 to 1954 and secondarily from 1965 to 1970 now WVTM - TV and affiliated with NBC WHBQ - TV Memphis, Tennessee was affiliated with CBS from 1953
  • WCFT - TV also aired network programs from CBS and NBC that were not cleared for broadcast in the Birmingham market by WAPI - TV channel 13, now WVTM - TV which
  • channel 2 in Daytona Beach, Florida WXII - TV channel 12 in Winston - Salem, North Carolina and WVTM - TV channel 13 in Birmingham, Alabama the latter
  • NBC or CBS. Three weeks later, New World agreed to buy NBC affiliate WVTM - TV channel 13 and three other stations from Argyle Television Holdings CBS
  • professional career at WSET - TV the ABC affiliate in Lynchburg, VA as a general assignment reporter. She next worked at WVTM - TV the NBC affiliate in Birmingham
  • original staff was Cousin Cliff Holman, who left WAPI - TV channel 13, now WVTM - TV in 1969 after that station moved his cartoon showcase series, The Popeye
  • owned - and - operated stations WVTM - TV in Birmingham, WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, WNCN in Goldsboro, North Carolina and WJAR - TV in Providence South Bend, Indiana - based
  • WAPI - TV now WVTM - TV in Birmingham, Alabama KTVI in St. Louis WSYR - TV now WSTM - TV in Syracuse, New York and its satellite station WSYE - TV now WETM - TV
  • signal comparable to those of ABC affiliate WBRC - TV channel 6, now a Fox affiliate and NBC affiliate WVTM - TV channel 13 In contrast, WABM provided only
  • December 19, and Hearst closed on its purchase of WJCL and Birmingham - based WVTM - TV the latter of which was acquired due to an ownership conflict with WIAT

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