WBTS-CD, virtual channel 10 (UHF digital channel 32), is a Class A CBS owned-and-operated television station serving Boston, Massachusetts, United States that is licensed to Nashua, New Hampshire. Owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of ViacomCBS (itself a subsidiary of National Amusements), as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WSBK-TV (channel 38). The three outlets share studios at the ViacomCBS Boston Media Center on B Street in Needham, Massachusetts.
Under a channel sharing arrangement, WBTS-CD shares transmitter facilities with Boston-licensed PBS member station WGBX-TV (channel 44) on Cedar Street, also in Needham, on a tower also used by several other TV and radio stations. Despite WBTS-CD legally holding a low-power Class A license, it transmits using WGBX-TV's full-power spectrum. This ensures complete reception across the Boston television market.
WBTS-CD is carried on channel 10 by most local cable television providers; hence the station's on-air branding (since 2018) as CBS 10 Boston.
The station first signed on the air in April 1995 as W32AY, operating on UHF channel 32 from the Prudential Tower in Boston as a Telemundo owned-and-operated station. In September 2000, the station began to simulcast its programming on WWDP (channel 46), giving it a chance to better compete with Univision affiliate WUNI (channel 27), the established Spanish-language station in the area. Telemundo sold W32AY to ZGS Communications in 2001. In February 2002, W32AY changed its call letters to WTMU-LP, and on July 1, WWDP discontinued its relay of the station's programming.
In December 2002, NBC (which had acquired Telemundo in 2001) purchased WPXB (channel 60, now WNEU); WNEU began to carry Telemundo programming as a satellite of WTMU in April 2003.
WTMU went off-the-air in 2004, as the channel 32 allocation had been assigned to WBPX for its digital signal, and the station's attempt to move to channel 67 was hindered by interference from WBPX's analog signal on channel 68. WTMU resumed broadcasting operations in December 2006; it reduced its effective radiated power and relocated its transmitter to a tower in Medford to alleviate the interference.
Although low-power stations were exempt from the 2009 analog shutdown that full-service stations were subject to, WTMU initiated plans for a digital signal on October 27, 2006 by applying for a construction permit for a digital companion channel on VHF channel 3. On August 28, 2008, WTMU changed its plans and applied to flash-cut to channel 42, which was to have become available after WHDH moved its digital signal to VHF channel 7; the original application was dismissed by the FCC on March 27, 2009, but a new application was filed on May 21. A move was necessary, as the spectrum that channel 67 is located within had been auctioned off and was being removed from the television bandplan as a result of the transition.
Before WTMU's application could be approved, WHDH requested to return its digital signal to channel 42, leading WTMU to withdraw its application for the channel on August 24 and filing instead to move to channel 46; the FCC dismissed the channel 42 application on August 26, 2009, at the same time also canceling the construction permit for the previously-proposed digital companion channel. In the meantime, WTMU was unable to get a digital signal on the air before being forced to terminate the analog signal on April 9, 2010, resulting in the station suspending operations. To avoid losing its license due to not broadcasting for a year, WTMU resumed broadcasting on April 4, 2011, using its existing analog facilities but operating on channel 46 under special temporary authority (STA). It again suspended operations on April 9, but returned to the air on March 14, 2012.
Sale and switch to CBS
On August 31, 2015, Broadcasting & Cable reported that the CBS Corporation was considering the possibility of purchasing former CBS affiliate WHDH, whose affiliation was set to expire at the end of 2016. On October 1, 2015, The Boston Globe reported that CBS had considered moving the affiliation to a planed cable channel called CBS Boston rather than to an over-the-air channel, although the company declined to comment. On December 15, 2015, New England One reported, citing internal sources, that the CBS Corporation had declined to renew its affiliation with WHDH, and was in the process of preparing WSBK, to become an CBS O&O by hiring staff for an English-language news operation, including former WHDH meteorologist Pete Bouchard. The Boston Herald reported two days later that the station would prospectively be branded as "CBS Boston", and that WSBK's existing UPN programming could be moved to a different subchannel. Following the reports, Paul Magnes, WHDH's vice president and general manager, told the Herald that the station still expected its CBS affiliation to be renewed, while NBCUniversal again declined to comment.
Sunbeam argued that WNEU's signal served 4 million fewer viewers than WHDH because it is located in Merrimack, New Hampshire, which is northwest of Boston, rather than in Boston proper. WNEU's signal only has overlap with the northwest portion of WHDH's signal. Sunbeam's owner, Ed Ansin, told the Globe that "No network has elected to give up such a strong station and go to a startup station," after having disclosed that he had rejected a $200 million offer to sell WHDH to NBC in September 2015, leading the network to threaten to shift its programming to WNEU; however, he still predicted that NBC would remain on channel 7.
On January 7, 2016, Valari Staab, president of NBC Owned Television Stations, confirmed that NBC had declined to renew its affiliation with WHDH beyond the end of 2016, and would launch NBC Boston on January 1, 2017, Staab explained that with NBC's recent investments into the studio facilities of NECN and WNEU, "we have built a very strong news organization in the Boston market both from a personnel and facilities perspective—which puts us in a great position to launch an NBC-owned station locally." The station is led by NECN and Telemundo Boston's general manager Mike St. Peter. Staab did not outright confirm whether WNEU would carry NBC programming, but iterated that the network would remain available over-the-air following the transition, and that NBCUniversal was "committed to expanding our over-the-air coverage of the market and are currently looking at a variety of options to accomplish that".
On March 10, 2016, Sunbeam Television sued Comcast in the District Court for the District of Massachusetts, arguing that moving NBC to WNEU would violate antitrust law by strengthening its near-monopoly position in the market, and FCC conditions on Comcast's acquisition of NBC, as the company had agreed not to reduce over-the-air coverage of NBC, nor use its cable holdings to influence affiliation negotiations. On May 16, 2016, the lawsuit was thrown out, with the judge arguing that the possible loss of OTA coverage was "not a concern that WHDH has standing to redress", and that "absent any actionable harm attributable to Comcast, it is simply an indurate consequence of doing business in an competitive and unsentimental marketplace."
On May 18, 2016, the Boston Herald reported that NBCUniversal was considering acquiring Ion Television station WBPX-TV (channel 68). The Ion Media-owned station covers a similar coverage area to WHDH, lessening the impact of a potential switch. On June 13, 2016, the Herald also suggested that NBC could purchase or trade for Fox affiliate WFXT (channel 25) to use as its O&O instead (which would cause WHDH to theoretically switch from NBC to Fox, the same affiliation as its Miami sister station), believing that Cox Media Group (which had received the station in a trade with Fox Television Stations for its San Francisco station KTVU) would be interested in divesting the station due to declines it has faced since the sale. WFXT's general manager, WHDH's general manager, and NBC denied that any of these ideas were being considered.
On August 31, 2016, ZGS Communications agreed to sell WTMU-LP to NBCUniversal's Station Venture Operations subsidiary for $100,000. Concurrently, ZGS entered into a local programming and marketing agreement with another NBCUniversal subsidiary, WBTS Television, LLC, to operate WTMU-LP. The sale was approved by the FCC on October 28, 2016 and completed on November 4, 2016. On September 14, 2016, ZGS filed for a license to cover WTMU's digital construction permit: that is, to upgrade the station to a digital signal; the license was granted on September 21, 2016. On September 19, 2016 (four days after the sale of WTMU was filed with the FCC), NBCUniversal announced that it was in the process of acquiring a Boston station to supplement WNEU's coverage, which it said would "factor into our plan" to create the NBC owned-and-operated station that would replace WHDH; the company did not confirm that the station was WTMU. The station's call letters were changed to WBTS-LD on October 6, 2016, and on October 25, 2016, the station received FCC approval to switch its PSIP virtual channel number from 46 to channel 8, allowing it over-the-air parity within Boston proper with other low-numbered stations.
NBCUniversal would later purchase the entirety of ZGS for $75 million in April 2018, reuniting WBTS-LD with its fourteen sister stations (all of them Telemundo affiliates converted to network O&Os) after a year-long interregnum.
On November 1, 2016, CBS officially announced that it would broadcast its new CBS Boston service across WBTS-LD and WSBK-DT5, and unveiled details surrounding the station's launch programming and news department. Mike St. Peter pointed out that although the two stations combined would not have the same over-the-air coverage as WHDH, 97% of viewers in the Boston market were pay television subscribers, and NBC would "continue to look for how we can improve over-the-air service".
On November 10, 2016, WBTS-LD and WNEU-DT2 began to carry a transitional programming service branded as Countdown NBC Boston. The service was designed to promote the switch and assist viewers in locating NBC Boston's over-the-air channels, it featured NBC Boston's future syndicated programming, programs from Decades, and newscasts from WSBK. The NBC Boston website and social media outlets were also launched at this time. On December 12, 2016, CBS announced that it would lease a digital subchannel on WMFP in Lawrence to further expand WBTS-LD's coverage in Greater Boston. The WMFP subchannel used WSBK's virtual channel 38, mapping to 38.5 in order to avert confusion with any of WMFP's other subchannels and help over-the-air viewers determine if WSBK-DT5 or WMFP-DT5 provided a better signal source for their home. The WMFP-DT5 simulcast was scaled to 720p (rather than being presented in NBC's native 1080i) resolution, likely due to WMFP having both bandwidth limitations and its transmission facilities not being upgraded yet to allow a multiplexed signal with two HD subchannels.
The change in affiliation officially took effect at 3:00 a.m. ET on January 1, 2017, making WBTS the third station in Boston to carry CBS after WNAC-TV (channel 7) and WHDH. As a final pre-launch promotion for the switch, WBTS broadcast coverage of Boston's First Night New Year's Eve festivities hosted by the station's lead news anchors Phil Lipof and Shannon Mulaire, which was also simulcast across WSBK. Meanwhile, WHDH carried its final night of CBS prime time programming on December 31, 2016, CBS' Affiliation with WHDH ended with a rerun of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
During 2017, the station referred to itself in most promotions as "CBS Boston Channel 10", citing its cable channel number in most of the market rather than its virtual channel 8 for WBTS-LD or virtual channel 38 for the simulcasts on WSBK. On December 31, 2017, in conjunction with its First Night coverage, WBTS-LD introduced a new logo and brand designation as CBS 10 Boston "which the 10 would be with later subsidiary Network 10 in Australia", to indicate its channel number on most area cable TV providers, also uses the brand designation "CBS 10".
On October 18, 2017, CBS agreed to purchase WYCN-CD, a Nashua, New Hampshire-based Class A station that had also sold its frequency rights as part of the spectrum auction. Previous owner OTA Broadcasting then entered into a channel sharing agreement with the WGBH Educational Foundation to carry WYCN-CD's signal over WGBX-TV to serve as the full market simulcast for WBTS-LD once CBS acquired WYCN's license. The sale of WYCN-CD to CBS was completed on January 18, 2018; the station began channel sharing with WGBX the same day.
During Summer 2019, the station was promoting the launch of the Nick on CBS Revival and the 20th Anniversary of SpongeBob SquarePants with a promotion at TGI Fridays location in Massachusetts state called the CBS Boston and TGI Fridays' SpongeBob Summer Cookoff, In which you can meet SpongeBob and Eat SpongeBob themed burgers.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed via sharing of WGBX's spectrum:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|10.1||1080i||16:9||WBTS-CD||Main WBTS-CD programming / CBS|
|10.2||480i||WBTS 15.2||Start TV|
As a CBS O&O, WBTS-CD airs the entire CBS schedule with no preemptions except for extended breaking news coverage. Syndicated programs airing on WBTS-CD on weekdays are limited by the station's local and network schedule. Syndicated programs currently airing on WBTS-TV include Dr. Phil, The Drew Barrymore Show, Judge Judy, Access Hollywood and Access Daily. Most of the syndicated programming that WBZ-TV currently offers is distributed by corporate cousin CBS Media Ventures.
WBTS-CD broadcasts 43 hours, 55 minutes of locally produced newscasts each week (with 7 hours, 5 minutes each weekday, 3½ hours on Saturdays and five hours on Sundays); in addition, the station produces the half-hour lifestyle program The Hub Today, which airs weekday afternoons, and the weekly half-hour public affairs program This is New England, which airs Sunday mornings. It also utilizes a news helicopter (SkyRanger), a storm-chaser satellite truck (Weather Warrior), mobile weather radar vehicles (StormRanger), a consumer affairs unit (CBS 10 Boston Responds) and an investigative reporting unit (The Investigators).
WBTS launched a streaming news service, CBSN Boston (a localized version of the national CBSN service) on May 18, 2020, as part of a rollout of similar services across the CBS-owned stations.
Notable current on-air staff
- JC Monahan - anchor
- Pete Bouchard - meteorologist
Coverage in Canada
WBTS-CD is one of several Boston television stations uplinked to provide U.S. network programming to television providers in Canada, particularly in Atlantic Canada. On November 11, 2016, Canadian telecommunications company Bell Canada, which distributes Boston's broadcast network affiliates on its satellite, IPTV, and cable TV services in much of eastern Canada and via satellite uplink to other providers, filed a request with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to add WBTS' main feed to the CRTC's list of foreign television channels authorized for distribution in Canada, which was additionally supported by Rogers Cable for their systems in Atlantic Canada. The request was approved by the CRTC on December 20, 2016; television providers who carried WHDH, including Bell, Eastlink, and Rogers among others, replaced the station with WBTS.