WCVB-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 33), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications. WCVB-TV's studios are located on TV Place (off Gould Street near the I-95/MA 128/Highland Avenue interchange) in Needham, and its transmitter is located on Cedar Street, also in Needham, on a tower shared with several other television and radio stations.
Nearby Manchester, New Hampshire is considered part of the Boston media market; WMUR-TV (channel 9), that city's ABC affiliate, is also owned by Hearst.
WCVB is also one of six Boston television stations that are carried by satellite provider Bell TV and fiber optic television provider Bell Fibe TV in Canada. Since 2010, midday and weekend late newscasts, along with World News Now, are overlaid with local paid programming on those providers; however, the latter has carried the normal WCVB-TV feed for the past couple of years.
WCVB is among the only four ABC affiliates that Hearst kept after selling off its stations to other broadcast companies, and its Disney Network affiliates to Walt Disney Television Stations.
Prior history of channel 5 in Boston (1957–1972)Edit
The channel 5 allocation in Boston was first occupied by the original WHDH-TV, which signed on the air on November 26, 1957. The station was owned by the Boston Herald-Traveler Corporation, along with WHDH radio (850 AM, now occupied by WEEI; and 94.5 FM, now WJMN). It was originally an ABC affiliate, but switched to CBS in 1961.
However, almost as soon as it signed on, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began investigating allegations of impropriety in the granting of the television station's construction permit. This touched off a struggle that lasted 15 years. As a result, WHDH-TV never had a license renewal period lasting more than six months at a time (most television licenses at the time lasted for three years). In 1969, a local group, Boston Broadcasters, won a construction permit to build a new station on channel 5 under the callsign of WCVB-TV after promising to air more local programming than any other station in the United States at the time. It was also critical of the combination of the Herald-Traveler and WHDH-AM-FM-TV. Herald-Traveler Corporation fought the decision in court, but lost in 1972 and Boston Broadcasters was awarded a full license. The local group was led by acoustic expert Leo Beranek.
WCVB history (1972–present)Edit
The original WHDH-TV signed off for the last time on March 18, 1972, and was replaced by the new WCVB-TV early the next morning. However, the Herald-Traveler refused to hand over its facilities to the new channel 5, forcing the station to rent tower space for its transmitter from WBZ-TV (channel 4); during the final months of its operation, WHDH-TV was court-ordered to sign off daily at 1:00 a.m. so that WCVB-TV could test its equipment. WCVB used an old International Harvester dealership in Needham to serve as its studio facility, which the station continues to operate from to this day. Although WCVB operates under a different license, it claims the history of the former WHDH-TV as its own. It also inherited all of WHDH-TV's personnel, including anchorman Jack Hynes and sportscaster Don Gillis.
CBS was not pleased with the prospect of being subjected to numerous preemptions of its programs in the nation's fifth-largest market at the time (as of 2016, it is the seventh-largest), especially since channel 5 – under the WHDH license – had been its second-largest affiliate and largest on the East Coast. It refused to have anything to do with WCVB, and moved its programming back to WNAC-TV (channel 7, later WNEV-TV and now the current WHDH-TV), which had been Boston's original CBS affiliate from 1948 to 1960. More or less by default, WCVB signed up with ABC.
Making good on its promise, WCVB aired more local programming than any other television station in the nation throughout the 1970s and 1980s. One of its local programs, Good Day!, which first premiered in 1973 as Good Morning!, broke ground by taking its entire production on the road and broadcasting from locations outside of the Boston area and around the world. Good Day!, along with The Morning Exchange on Cleveland's WEWS-TV, served as a prototype for the format of ABC's Good Morning America. Good Day! lasted until 1991.
During the 1970s, WCVB-TV was the first television station in southern New England to run a 24-hour program schedule. The station ran a programming block from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m., branded as 5 All Night, which featured a library of older black-and-white movies and a few recent syndicated programs. During station breaks, announcer George Fennel (who never made an on-camera appearance during the block) would make live announcements and read fan mail from the viewing audience, as various 5 All Night logo backdrops were displayed on-screen. His actual first on-air portrait was displayed as part of a donation pledge drive for the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. The portrait had been covered from view and as the tally had reached a certain amount, a piece of the portrait would be revealed to the viewers until it was completely uncovered, revealing what Fennel looked like.
Another staple of 5 All Night was Simon's Sanctorum, a program similar to Elvira's Movie Macabre that showcased old black-and-white horror movies; it was hosted by a character named Simon (portrayed by Gary Newton), who often referred to his viewing audience as to being "moths lured to a flame" and "Dearly Devoted". Simon's costume consisted of an old top hat, and fluorescent green facial makeup with black circles painted around each eye and gloves that had the fingers cut out of them. To add to an extra eerie effect, a fluorescent black light was used to enhance the makeup effect on Simon's face and eyes. His eyes actually glowed by the use of fluorescent paint on a pair of special contact lenses.
Due to its commitment to local programming, the station was quick to preempt programs, including lower-rated ABC prime time shows. Most of the time, these programs were picked up by independent stations such as WQTV (channel 68, now WBPX-TV) or Worcester-based WHLL (channel 27, now WUNI). Since the mid-1990s, WCVB has carried ABC's entire programming schedule, although it occasionally preempts network programming in favor of locally produced specials and movies. Notable examples are the annual MDA Labor Day Telethon (before the program's 2013 move to ABC; the program would be discontinued after the 2014 edition) and the 2004 preemption of Saving Private Ryan (one of several ABC stations that preempted the film out of concern over the graphic war battle scenes and profanity that were left intact in the uncut ABC telecast and fear of resulting FCC fines) for another movie, Far and Away.
Boston Broadcasters sold WCVB to Metromedia in 1982 for $220 million, the costliest sale ever made for a local station at the time. In 1986, Metromedia sold its television stations to the News Corporation (then-owners of the 20th Century Fox film studio), which later used Metromedia's group of independent stations to launch the Fox network. Channel 5 was included in the original deal, but was concurrently spun off to the Hearst Corporation, which had purchased fellow ABC affiliate KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Missouri from Metromedia in 1982. That station was sold to allow Metromedia to acquire WCVB (to comply with FCC rules in effect at the time that limited the number of VHF stations owned by a single company to only five), and it is believed that Metromedia gave Hearst a right of first refusal offer if WCVB ever went up for sale again. Fox would get its own station in Boston in 1987, when it bought WXNE-TV (channel 25) from the Christian Broadcasting Network and renamed it WFXT (Fox subsequently sold WFXT to the Boston Celtics in 1990, repurchased the station in 1995, and then traded WFXT to Cox Media Group in 2014).
Hearst later entered into an agreement with the Walt Disney Company to affiliate most of its stations with The Disney Network, which resulted in its affiliations in the affected markets reallocating from UHF to VHF. However, WCVB retained its ABC affiliation as the Boston market had already been affected by an earlier switchover between WBZ and WHDH. As such, Hearst was also in the process of selling off most of its stations to various broadcast companies or their alligned networks, with the exception of WCVB and two other ABC stations in Pittsburgh and Kansas City (which had been affected by a Fox switch).