WMC-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 5, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Memphis, Tennessee, United States. The station is owned by Gray Television. WMC-TVs studios are located on Union Avenue in midtown Memphis, and its transmitter is located between Crestview Drive and Fletcher Creek, near Bartlett. The station serves roughly the western third of Tennessee, northern Mississippi, eastern Arkansas and the southeastern corner of Missouri over the air, on satellite, and on various cable systems.
The station first signed on the air on December 11, 1948 as WMCT, broadcasting on VHF channel 4 as the first television station in Tennessee. The station originally broadcast from studios located inside the Goodwin Institute Building in Downtown Memphis. It was owned by the E. W. Scripps Company, along with the citys main newspaper, The Commercial Appeal and WMC radio AM 790 and FM 99.7. As the only television station in Memphis for its first several years of operation, WMCT aired programming from all four national networks of the time: NBC, CBS, ABC and the now-defunct DuMont Television Network. However, it carried NBC as a primary affiliation, owing to WMC-AMs longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network. It lost CBS programming when WHBQ-TV channel 13 signed on in September 1953, but continued to share ABC programming with WHBQ until January 1956, when WREC-TV channel 3, now WREG-TV launched as a full-time CBS affiliate with WHBQ taking over the ABC affiliation full-time. It lost DuMont when that network ceased operations in 1956. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
The station moved to VHF channel 5 on November 23, 1952, because of Channel 4 interference with fellow NBC affiliate WSM-TV in Nashville now WSMV also on Channel 4; however, this would later make WMCT short-spaced to another Nashville station, WLAC now WTVF, when that station signed on in 1954. Since at least the 1950s, WMC-TVs logo has included an illustration of a riverboat, a symbol of the Mississippi River region which the station serves. For many years, the stations sounder included the riverboats whistle - something which dates to the 1930s on its former AM sister. The whistle is still heard at the opening of WMC-TVs current newscasts. The station was known as "The Showplace of the South" during the 1960s. It dropped the "T" from its callsign simultaneously tacking on the "-TV" suffix to it on January 1, 1967 at the same time, the co-owned FM station changed its call letters from WMCF to WMC-FM. Also in 1967, it began using a "5" logo resemblance to the numerical typeface found on a five-dollar bill, which would be used for over two decades.
The WMC stations moved to their current location at 1960 Union Avenue in Midtown Memphis in 1959 and celebrated with a broadcast hosted by comedian George Gobel. In 1960, the stations broadcast live remotes of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who both came to Memphis to campaign for the presidency. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Memphis to support the sanitation workers strike that set the stage for his assassination in 1968, then-station general manager Mori Greiner established an unprecedented program called The 40% Speaks, in an effort to promote racial healing in the community. In an odd illustration of how little real integration had occurred in local television, the first host of this program was news anchor Dave Patterson, who himself was Caucasian. When Patterson left WMC-TV, his replacement was a white professor from Memphis State University, now the University of Memphis.
After many years of solid management, Scripps sold WMC-AM-FM-TV to Atlanta businessman Bert Ellis in 1993. The graphics package that introduced this logo was adopted when the then newly formed Ellis Communications purchased WMC-TV and several other stations in 1993. Ellis was a longtime fan of his hometowns long-dominant station, WSB-TV, and styled his new broadcast group after that station. Under Ellis, channel 5 adopted a blue-and-gold color scheme similar to the one used then as now by WSB-TV. Two of WMCs siblings adopted the logo style as well: KSLA-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana and WECT in Wilmington, North Carolina. All three stations use modified versions of the same logo style today.
Ellis, in turn, sold the stations to a new broadcasting group formed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, and subsequently named Raycom Media that also purchased AFLACs broadcasting unit, in 1996; Raycom sold off the radio stations to Infinity Broadcasting in 2000. They are now owned by Entercom.
1.1. History Sale to Gray Television
On June 25, 2018, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced it had reached an agreement with Raycom to merge their respective broadcasting assets consisting of Raycoms 63 existing owned-and/or-operated television stations, including WMC-TV, and Grays 93 television stations) under Grays corporate umbrella. The cash-and-stock merger transaction valued at $3.6 billion - in which Gray shareholders would acquire preferred stock currently held by Raycom – will result in WMC-TV gaining new sister stations in nearby markets, including the Knoxville duopoly of CBS affiliate WVLT-TV and CW affiliate WBXX-TV currently Grays only Tennessee properties; also while separating it from WTNZ and ABC/CW affiliate WTOK-TV in adjacent Meridian, Mississippi, in addition to its current Raycom sister stations. The sale was approved on December 20, and was completed on January 2, 2019.
2. Digital television
WMC-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, at 12:01 a.m. on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. 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 analog-era VHF channel 5 for post-transition operations.
Syndicated programming seen on WMC-TV includes Live with Kelly and Ryan, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and Wheel of Fortune, among others. The syndicated version of Jeopardy! was originally carried locally on WMC-TV, but has since moved to CBS affiliate WREG-TV, making the Memphis area one of the few TV markets to air Wheel and Jeopardy! on separate stations. Rachael Ray and The Dr. Oz Show were originally broadcast on WMC-TV, but neither show currently airs in the Memphis market.
Like many NBC affiliates from the 1960s through the 1990s, WMC-TV began preempting a handful of NBC programs, mostly a sizeable portion of the networks daytime lineup, in favor of syndicated talk shows, although NBCs daytime reruns of sitcoms would often continue to air in the early morning hours between 5 and 6 a.m. In 1979, in an effort to build its viewership for The Today Show, WMC created a lead-in morning program titled Wake-Up Call. For the first three years, it was hosted by Dick Hawley and Peggy Rolfes. Denise DuBois replaced Rolfes in 1982 and co-hosted for the next ten years. By the mid-1980s, Wake Up Call was the highest-rated talk show on local television in the U.S., with a 52% share of the viewing audience.
A popular local program on WMC-TV was Magicland, a live-audience magic series for children, hosted by anchor/announcer Dick "Mr. Magic" Williams, which aired Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. from 1966 until Williamss retirement in 1989. It is cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running magic series in television history, having amassed 1.200 original episodes in its 23-year run.
3.1. Programming Sports programming
One of the stations first broadcasts was a football game at Crump Stadium in Memphis. WMCT first broadcast what was then known simply as Championship Wrestling later to become USWA Championship Wrestling in 1989 by stringing cables across the street from its studio to the since-demolished Ellis Auditorium in downtown Memphis early in the 1950s. Wrestling returned to Channel 5 in 1977, after several years on WHBQ-TV, and for many years the very popular live in-studio professional wrestling program was broadcast live on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Some of the wrestlers became regional celebrities from their exposure on the program, including Jerry "The King" Lawler, whose fame earned him his own locally produced Sunday sports program on channel 5 during the 1980s. USWA Championship Wrestling eventually became the last remaining program of its kind in the U.S., before its cancellation in 1997. Long before national PGA Tour broadcasts began, WMC-TV broadcast live professional golf from the Memphis Open, with a three-camera remote truck providing coverage from three greens.
4. News operation
WMC-TV presently broadcasts 44 hours of locally produced newscasts each week with seven hours each weekday, and 4½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays. The stations newsroom is named after longtime employee Ed Greaney, who died on June 19, 2005. Greaney started working at WMCT in 1949, only two months after the station signed on and worked at channel 5 until retiring in late 2000.
Appropriately for a station founded by a newspaper, WMC-TV has a strong local news tradition. For the better part of its first four decades on the air, it was the dominant station in Memphis. However, rival WREG closed the gap in the late 1980s, and for the next two decades the two stations waged a spirited battle in the Nielsen ratings. WREG would not overtake WMC until the February 2006 sweeps period with the appointment of former WHBQ anchor Claudia Barr and former WMC morning anchor Richard Ransom as its evening anchors. Since that time, WREG has beaten WMC in the mornings, at 10 p.m. and on weekends. For the May 2013 sweeps period, WREGs newscasts beat WMCs in most timeslots except at 5 and 6 p.m., while WMC beat WREG in the 6 p.m. timeslot by.3 of a point. During the February 2014 sweeps, WMC fell to second place in all timeslots, trailing WREG by several points.
In October 2006, WMC debuted an overhauled news set the first set update since 1995, along with an updated graphics and music package. On July 2, 2008, WMC-TV became the first television station in the Memphis market and the second in Tennessee behind WTVF in Nashville to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.
On August 22, 2011, WMC-TV debuted an hour-long 4 p.m. newscast, which replaced The Oprah Winfrey Show which ended its run in May of that year and competes against WREGs newscast in the same timeslot. On June 26, 2013, WMC-TV debuted an hour-long weekday morning newscast from 7–8 a.m. on its Bounce TV-affiliated second digital subchannel with a heavy emphasis on weather and traffic updates. The 7–8 a.m. Bounce newscast ended in 2017. On September 10, 2018, WMC-TV expanded its weekday morning newscast with an extra half-hour starting at 4 a.m.
4.1. News operation Former on-air staff
- Jack Eaton – sports director
- Ursula Madden – main anchor now Chief Communications Officer for the City of Memphis
- Dave Brown – chief meteorologist, hosted Championship Wrestling 1977–2015
- Lance Russell – freelance host; best known as the host of the live Championship Wrestling program on Saturday mornings joined the station in 1977 from WHBQ-TV
- John Bryant – meteorologist now at WATN-TV
- Richard Ransom – now at WATN-TV
- Pam McKelvy – 2013–2014
- Dick Williams – host of Magicland 1966–1989
- Donna Davis – main anchor
- Andy Wise – consumer investigator 2008–2017
5. Out-of-market coverage
WMC-TV was historically the default NBC affiliate on cable and over-the-air in two neighboring media markets - Jackson, Tennessee and Jonesboro, Arkansas, as NBC never affiliated with any stations in either of these markets. In 2014, WNBJ-LD signed on the air as the Jackson areas own NBC affiliate. WMC-TV remains intact on the areas cable system of the Jackson Energy Authority. That system also carried Nashvilles WSMV until the sign-on of WNBJ.
In late January 2015, WMCs ABC-affiliated sister station KAIT channel 8 in Jonesboro converted their second subchannel, KAIT-DT2, into an NBC affiliate for the Jonesboro area. In addition, WMC-TVs over-the-air signal still provides city-grade coverage into both Jonesboro and Jackson. The central and southern portions of the two southernmost counties in the Missouri Bootheel can also still pick up WMC-TVs signal.
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