WWL-TV, virtual channel 4, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The station is owned by Tegna Inc., as part of a duopoly with Slidell-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WUPL. The two stations share studios on Rampart Street in the historic French Quarter district and transmitter facilities on Cooper Road in Terrytown, Louisiana.
On cable, the station is available on Cox Communications channel 3 in both standard and high definition Coxs local origination channel YurView Louisiana is carried on channel 4. WWL-TV formerly served as the CBS affiliate of record for the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi, until ABC affiliate WLOX channel 13 in Biloxi launched a CBS-affiliated digital subchannel in 2012.
1.1. History Early history
The station first signed on the air on September 7, 1957. Coincidentally, it was the fourth television station to sign on in the New Orleans media market, behind WDSU-TV channel 6 - which signed on in December 1948, WJMR-TV channel 61, now WVUE-DT on channel 8 - which signed on in November 1953, and WYES-TV channel 8, now on channel 12 - which signed on in April 1957, five months before WWL-TVs launch. It was originally owned by Loyola University of the South now Loyola University New Orleans; it was one of a very few handful of commercial TV stations owned by a university, which also owned radio station WWL 870 AM. WWL-TV has been an affiliate of the CBS television network since its inception, as WWL radio had been and still is an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network now CBS News Radio since 1935. Channel 4 competed head-to-head with NBC affiliate WDSU for first place during the 1960s and 1970s. However, after Edgar B. Stern, Jr. sold WDSU to South Carolina-based Cosmos Broadcasting in 1972, it began deemphasizing local features in favor of its highly regarded newscasts. By comparison, WWL-TV, as the only locally owned station, heavily stressed its local roots. By the early 1980s, WWL-TV had emerged as the markets ratings leader.
In 1988, WWL-TV and Cox Cable, the major cable provider serving areas of Greater New Orleans located south of Lake Pontchartrain, entered into a joint venture to form a cable-only news channel called NewsWatch 15 named after the cable slot on Cox where the channel is carried. It debuted on October 20, 1989. NewsWatch 15 was one of the first regional cable news channels in the United States at the time. The channel airs rebroadcasts and live simulcasts of local newscasts seen on WWL-TV, along with breaking news coverage that does not necessarily warrant extended coverage on channel 4.
In 1989, Loyola sold its media properties to different owners. WWL radio and its FM sister station, WLMG 101.5 were purchased by Keymarket Communications, while WWL-TVs employees formed a group called Rampart Broadcasting. Led by general manager J. Michael Early and longtime news director and station editorialist Phil Johnson, the employees group bought the station. It was the first and thus far, only time that an employee-investor group acquired a U.S. television station.
In 1990, WWL-TV began running one of the most successful station image campaigns in the United States with the debut of its "Spirit of Louisiana" promotions. The one-minute spots focus on the regions musical and cultural heritage, and also showcase life in southeastern Louisiana. Many of the ads in the campaign, which continues to this day, feature well-known area musicians and singers.
1.2. History Belo ownership
The stations local ownership came to an end in 1994, when the station was bought by the Dallas-based Belo Corporation. That year, channel 4s status as the unofficial "home" station of the New Orleans Saints came to an end after CBS lost the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference television package to Fox in December 1993. WWL-TV had aired most of the Saints games since the teams inception in 1966, when CBS was the broadcast rightsholder for the pre-merger NFL, and continued upon the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League in 1970 with CBS becoming the NFC rightsholder. After CBS lost the NFC broadcast rights, the Saints telecasts moved to then-Fox affiliate WNOL-TV channel 38 for the 1994 and 1995 seasons, before moving again to WVUE-TV channel 8 upon that stations switch from ABC to Fox in January 1996. Today, WWL-TV only carries select games televised by CBS, primarily those in which the Saints play host to an AFC opponent at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome although NFL cross-flexing procedures established in 2014 now allow for road games or NFC home games to be carried by CBS. The station also aired the Saints victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
In 2005, Viacom - which owned UPN station WUPL-TV channel 54, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate at the time through its Paramount Stations Group subsidiary - had made an offer to acquire WWL-TV, which would have created a duopoly with WUPL and turned channel 4 into a CBS owned-and-operated station. However, after Belo rejected Viacoms purchase offer for WWL, Viacom instead reached a deal to sell WUPL to Belo in July of that year for $14.5 million. The deal was slated to close by the end of 2005, but was placed on hold when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Greater New Orleans area in late August. As a result, on February 9, 2006, CBS filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the Belo Corporation over the failure to finalize the sale of WUPL to Belo. The litigation was later settled on February 26, 2007, with Belo announcing that it would complete its purchase of WUPL. The deal had already received Federal Communications Commission approval, and was finalized on February 26, 2007; Belo moved WUPLs operations into WWLs Rampart Street studio facility in mid-April 2007.
1.3. History Hurricane Katrina
Two days prior to Hurricane Katrinas landfall, WWL-TV began 24-hour continuous coverage of the storm on August 27, 2005 from its Rampart Street facility. Following a meeting between chief meteorologist Carl Arredondo and then-news director Sandy Breland on enacting a plan to evacuate station staff, at 10:45 p.m. on August 28, the station moved its operations to the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge - which had agreed the year prior to allow WWL to use the journalism school as a backup facility in the event that a major hurricane forced the station to evacuate from New Orleans. 20 employees were evacuated to the LSU campus, 20 more were moved to the transmitter site in Gretna and an additional 28 staffers remained at the Rampart Street facility those staffers eventually evacuated to the Hyatt Regency Hotel as conditions worsened. LSU students and staff helped produce the telecast with WWL-TV staff in a "bare bones" fashion.
The station briefly returned to its Rampart Street studios in New Orleans on August 29 at 4:00 p.m. Flooding forced the station to again move operations back to the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, as well as a foyer used as a makeshift studio at the Gretna transmitter site, which did not sustain significant damage as the facility - built in 2000 - was constructed to withstand 140-mile-per-hour 230 km/h winds with the transmitter building positioned 15 feet 4.6 m above ground on concrete; the transmitter site was evacuated on August 30 due to looting concerns. WWL was the only New Orleans station that was able to provide coverage of the storm and its aftermath uninterrupted, as it relayed its signal via fiber optic relay and used a satellite truck loaned to the station by Houston sister KHOU-TV to provide live field reports and helicopters loaned from KHOU and Dallas sister station WFAA. Due to overcrowding with WWL and other Belo station staffers at the Manship School building, on September 1, the station moved operations again, this time to the studios of Louisiana Public Broadcasting station WLPB-TV in Baton Rouge. This provided WWL with a much larger facility and expanded its audience to include LPBs statewide network; the stations coverage was also carried by many PBS stations in Louisiana and Mississippi as well as by KHOU and WFAA. WWLs operations returned to New Orleans about six weeks later.
WWL-TVs extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina earned the station its sixth Peabody Award in early April 2006, as well as a duPont–Columbia Award in 2007; it was also recounted in an episode of The Weather Channel documentary series Storm Stories.
1.4. History Post-Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina, some of the stations most visible talent - including weekend anchor/reporter Josh McElveen and reporter Stephanie Riegel - left channel 4 to pursue other opportunities. 10:00 p.m. anchor Karen Swensen also left WWL to work at Boston-based regional news channel New England Cable News; meteorologists David Bernard and John Gumm also left the station Bernard was already scheduled to leave the station before the storm struck.
Following the storm, WWL-TV brought back a station editorial segment. Modeled after the editorials presented for many years until the 1990s by longtime news director and station manager Phil Johnson, editorials seen in the present day which air during the stations 6:00 p.m. newscast on Tuesday nights are read via script by WWL-TV political analyst Clancy Dubos, who discusses current political issues related to the post-Katrina redevelopment of New Orleans.
In 2004, WWL-TV and Belo announced plans to construct a new multimillion-dollar broadcasting facility for the station and WUPL at 700 Loyola Avenue in downtown New Orleans. The complex - to have been named the J. Michael Early Broadcast Center, after the stations former general manager - was originally scheduled to be completed in late 2007 or early 2008. Groundbreaking of the new facility occurred on July 25, 2005 just over one month before Katrina hit on August 29; however, its construction has been delayed as of recently, the site is still a parking lot. As a result, WWL-TV and WUPL will remain at the existing Rampart Street studio location for the foreseeable future. WWL-TV celebrated its 50th anniversary of broadcasting on September 7, 2007; it observed its 55th anniversary half a decade later, in 2012, and its 60th in 2017.
1.5. History Hurricane Gustav
The same agreement for the use of Louisiana Public Broadcastings studio facilities and the simulcast on LPBs stations statewide that was enacted following Hurricane Katrina was also utilized for coverage of Hurricane Gustav, when the storm hit southern Louisiana in early September 2008.
WWL-TVs coverage also carried on the second digital subchannels of fellow Belo sister stations WFAA-TV in Dallas and KHOU-TV in Houston for the convenience of evacuees who relocated to Texas to avoid the storm.
1.6. History Sale to the Gannett Company and Gannett-Tegna split
On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belos television properties, including WWL-TV and WUPL, for $1.5 billion. The sale received FCC approval on December 20, and was formally completed on December 23, 2013.
On June 29, 2015, Gannett split in two with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WWL-TV and WUPL were both retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
2.1. Digital television Digital channels
The stations digital signal is multiplexed:
On September 8, 2010, former owner Belo signed an agreement with the Disney–ABC Television Group to carry the Live Well Network on WWL-TV and four other stations. The network began to be carried on digital subchannel 4.2 on November 8. After ABC announced the discontinuation of the Live Well Network in late 2014, WWL-DT2 as well as other Tegna O&O stations switched affiliations to the new Justice Network in 2015. In May 2016, Tegna launched Weigels Decades network on WWL-DT3.
2.2. Digital television Analog-to-digital conversion
WWL-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, 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 continued to broadcast on its pre-transition UHF channel 36. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the stations virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 4.
As part of the SAFER Act, WWL-TV kept its analog signal on the air until July 12 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
Syndicated programs broadcast by WWL-TV include Daily Blast Live, Dr. Phil and Inside Edition. The latter two programs are distributed by CBS corporate cousin, CBS Television Distribution. WWL-TV carries the majority of the CBS network schedule, although the station splits the CBS Dream Team block over two days the first two hours of the block air on Saturday mornings, while the final hour airs on Sundays.
WWL-TV preempted moderate amounts of CBS programming from the 1960s to the 1980s - including most notably, programs that the network aired weekdays during the 9:00 a.m. hour, as well as CBS late night lineup, prior to the debut of Late Show with David Letterman in 1993. During the 1970s, WWL-TV preempted the last hour of the networks Saturday childrens programming, between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m., with local programming. Prior to 2015, WWL-TV would air The Late Show on a half-hour delay at 12:07 a.m., with syndicated programming including The Insider filling the programs 11:37 p.m. network timeslot on weeknights. WWL-TV now airs The Late Show in its current 11:37 p.m. slot after The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
In the late 1980s, WWL-TV dropped CBS weekday morning news program CBS This Morning, instead airing a two-hour morning newscast from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. It was the first New Orleans station whose morning newscast ran after 7:00 a.m., predating the launch of WVUEs morning newscast by about 15 years. WWL-TVs morning news was followed by Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. The station eventually expanded its weekday morning newscast, Eyewitness Morning News, into the 8:00 a.m. hour. CBS reached agreements with other area stations to carry its morning shows: LeSEA owned-and-operated station WHNO channel 20 picked up This Morning in 1998; its successor, The Early Show, moved from WHNO to WUPL in January 2005. Despite preempting the weekday edition, WWL-TV did air the Saturday edition. On December 5, 2016, WWL-TV began carrying CBS This Morning weekdays for the entire two hours likely due to a corporate mandate from Tegna in order to satisfy their CBS affiliation agreements, while WUPL now carries the 7–9 a.m. block of Eyewitness Morning News.
4. News operation
WWL-TV presently broadcasts 27 hours of locally produced newscasts each week with 4½ hours each weekday, 2½ hours on Saturdays and two hours on Sundays. In addition, the station produces the half-hour sports highlight and discussion program 4th Down on 4, which airs Sunday nights at 10:35 p.m. The station also operates a Northshore bureau located on North Causeway Boulevard in suburban Mandeville.
The station implemented the Eyewitness News format on February 26, 1968, having rebranded its newscasts from the Evening News title it had been using for the previous two years. WWL-TV has been the top-rated station among the New Orleans markets local newscasts for nearly 30 years, according to Nielsen Media Research. During the November 2007 sweeps period, the first major ratings period in New Orleans reported to Nielsen since Hurricane Katrina, the results affirmed that WWL-TV continued to lead its nearest competitors, WDSU and WVUE, by a wide margin.
In March 2006, WWL-TV began producing a half-hour newscast called I-News, featuring more in-depth reporting on topics important to viewers. The program also featured live interviews with local, state and national officials. The newscast aired weekday evenings on the stations website, WWLTV.com, after its 6:00 p.m. newscast and was rebroadcast on channel 4. The webcast has since been canceled.
On June 4, 2007, WWL-TV began producing a half-hour primetime newscast each Monday through Friday evening at 9:00 p.m. for MyNetworkTV-affiliated sister station WUPL. Titled My54 Eyewitness News at 9, it was anchored by Lucy Bustamante and Mike Hoss - who also anchored the stations 10:00 p.m. newscast, Eyewitness News Nightwatch - until Bustamante departed WWL-TV for sister station WVEC in Norfolk on October 1, 2010. Bustamante was replaced by Karen Swensen - whom Bustamante replaced as evening co-anchor - as anchor of the 9:00 p.m. newscast on WUPL and the 10:00 p.m. newscast on channel 4 on February 24, 2011; in the interim, Hoss anchored the newscast on WUPL with a rotating series of co-anchors. The 9:00 p.m. newscast on WUPL was discontinued on April 26, 2013, as a result of consistently low ratings.
Since the anchor changes, WWL-TV has lost its significant ratings lead over WDSU, WVUE and WGNO, according to Nielsen Media reports, but its newscasts remain the highest-rated among the New Orleans markets news-producing stations. WWL-TV had once doubled the ratings of each of its competitors in every time period, but its lead gradually declined, reaching as close a margin as one household rating point ahead of second place WDSU in the 6:00 p.m. timeslot during the July 2011 sweeps period. At 5:00 p.m., WWL-TV led WDSU by only two ratings points, while claiming ratings wins in key demographics at both 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. - marking the first time in about 25 years that a station other than WWL-TV had placed first in the 25-54 demographic. At 10:00 p.m., WWL-TV led WVUE by 1.9 ratings points. Newscasts in less competitive time periods of 4:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. also scored wins in key demographic categories, as well as in household ratings.
In April 2010, WWL-TV became the second station in the market to install an HD-based weather system. Former WDSU morning anchor Melanie Hebert joined channel 4 in January 2012, however she did not appear on-air until that July due to a non-compete clause in her previous WDSU contract. Hebert left WWL-TV in July 2013, after a year at the station. In September 2010, WWL-TV began broadcasting its local newscasts in 16:9 widescreen standard definition; the WUPL newscast was included in the upgrade. Then WWL-TV switched to full HD on October 1, 2014. Presently, WGNO and WDSU continue to broadcast their local newscasts in widescreen SD rather than in true high definition; the first news-producing station in the market to have upgraded their news production to HD was WVUE, which had broadcast its local news programming in the format since April 2007). On October 25, 2012, WWL-TV introduced a new state-of-the-art news set designed by FX Group that includes the stations first full-size weather center to be integrated with the main set it replaced a set that debuted in 1997, which had been refreshed a few times during its lifespan.
On August 9, 2014, WWL-TV debuted hour-long weekend editions of its Eyewitness Morning News broadcasts on Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. and Sundays at 6:00 a.m. On September 9, the station restored an evening newscast on WUPLs schedule with the debut of a half-hour 6:30 p.m. newscast on weeknights.
4.1. News operation Notable current on-air staff
- Meg Farris – General Assignment reporter/Medical Reporter "Medical Watch"
- Eric Paulsen – anchor/reporter
4.2. News operation Notable former on-air staff
- Larry Matson – sports anchor 1981–1986; now with the St. Charles Parish Recreation Department
- Jim Metcalf – anchor/reporter/host of A Sunday Journal 1966–1977 deceased
- Melanie Hebert - anchor July 2012-July 2013
- Ed Renwick – political commentator
- Jim Henderson – longtime Eyewitness Sports director May 1978–Jan. 2012; longtime radio play-by-play announcer for the New Orleans Saints, later at WVUE-DT as Saints analyst and commentator; retired
- Hoda Kotb – anchor/reporter 1992–1997; now with NBC News as co-host of Today
- Charles Zewe – anchor/reporter 1971–1976; later at WDSU and CNN; now Vice President of Communications for the Louisiana State University System
- Nash Roberts – chief meteorologist Mar. 1978–Feb. 1984/weather consultant/hurricane analyst Feb. 1984–July 2001 deceased
- Bill Elder – anchor/investigative reporter July 1966–Feb. 2000; nicknamed the "Mike Wallace of Louisiana"
- Frank Davis – feature reporter May 1981–Dec. 2011; "In the Kitchen" and "Naturally NAwlins" host deceased
- Susan E. Roberts – anchor/reporter 1995–1997; now with CCTV America
- Sally-Ann Roberts – anchor sister of Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts Mar 1977-Feb. 2018 retired
- Rob Nelson – anchor/reporter 2007–2010; later with ABC News as a correspondent and fill-in co-host of World News Now ; now weekend morning anchor at WABC-TV in New York City
- Hap Glaudi – sports anchor Aug. 1961–Apr. 1978; subsequently moved to WWLAM; died December 29, 1989; longtime on-air rival of Buddy Diliberto, who succeeded him at WWL-AM)
- Angela Hill – anchor Apr. 1975–Apr. 2013; retired as an anchor on April 4, 2013; now works for WWL-TVs special projects department and hosted An Open Mind/Whats Trending? on WWL-AM/WWL-FM between 2013-2015
- Chris Myers – sports reporter/anchor 1982–1986; now with Fox Sports
- Norman Robinson – reporter Feb. 1979–July 1989; later anchor at WDSU; retired
- Garland Robinette – anchor/reporter Dec. 1970 – Aug. 1990; married to co-anchor Angela Hill from 1978 to 1987; then at WWL-AM/WWL-FM; retired
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