WAFB is the CBS-affiliated television station for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 9 from a transmitter southwest of Arlington. Owned by Raycom Media, WAFB is sister to Class AMyNetworkTV affiliate WBXH-CD. The two share studios on Government Street in downtown Baton Rouge. Syndicated programming on WAFB includes: Access Hollywood, Friends, Family Feud, and The Dr. Oz Show. The station is seen via satellite through DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-verse and on cable Cox Communications.
The station began broadcasting on April 19, 1953, as the second television station in the state of Louisiana. It launched as a television counterpart to local radio stations WAFB and WAFB-FM, which both signed on in 1948 and were affiliated with MBS. Louis S. Prejean and associates (Modern Broadcasting of Baton Rouge) were the first owners of the station, and they sold it to Royal Street Corporation of New Orleans in 1956, which owned WDSU-TV, the first television station in Louisiana. In 1957, they sold the radio stations, with the AM station changing its format to black music and the FM station going off the air until being relaunched in 1968. Royal Street owned the station until 1964, when it sold the station to locally based Guaranty Corporation. In 1965, the station moved its transmission tower from Zachary to south of LSU's campus, allowing viewers in a 90-mile radius to receive its signal; it was also in that year that the station started broadcasting in color.
Originally broadcasting an analog signal on UHF channel 28, WAFB moved to VHF channel 9 in 1960. WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Mississippi moved to channel 7 to accommodate this switch. The station has always been a CBS affiliate but carried some NBC programming until WBRZ-TV signed-on in 1955. WAFB also carried some ABC programming with WBRZ until WRBT (now WVLA) signed-on in 1971 and some programming from DuMont until that network folded. The station also aired Time for Beany during its early years on the air from the Paramount Television Network and was briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network, airing programs Sheriff of Cochise, How to Marry a Millionaire, and This is Alice.
In 1988, Guaranty sold the station to Aflac. Under new ownership, the station underwent many changes. During 1988, Aflac invested $2 million in redesigning the studio, dropped the -TV suffix from its call letters and began branding itself as "Louisiana's News Channel," a slogan the station continues to use today. In addition, the new owners cancelled the station's beloved 33-year-old half-hour local weekday program Storyland, then the longest-running children's program, hosted by Buckskin Bill Black and rechristened it as "Buckskin and Friends," an hour-long show that aired on Saturday mornings until it was cancelled in September 1990. It was also in 1988 that the owners petitioned CBS to air the network's daytime programs in a different order—airing syndicated programming at 10 a.m., The Price Is Right at 11 a.m., and The Young and the Restless at 3 p.m. (later 4 p.m.) as a way to boost ratings as a lead-in to the noon and 5 p.m. newscasts. WAFB began broadcasting 24 hours a day on September 12, 1990.
In 1997, Aflac sold its entire broadcasting division, including WAFB, to current owner Raycom Media. In 2003, Raycom acquired former The Box affiliate WBXH-CA, which became a sister station to WAFB when the channel became Baton Rouge's third UPN affiliate and later MyNetworkTV affiliate in 2006. It originally aired a digital signal on UHF channel 46 from a transmitter at its studios.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|9.1||1080i||16:9||WAFB-DT||Main WAFB programming / CBS|
|9.4||WBXH DT||Simulcast of WBXH-CD|
WAFB shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9, 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 station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 46 to VHF channel 9. With the new digital channel, WAFB rebroadcasts WBXH on channel 9.4 and, before the launch of Bounce TV affiliate September 2011, weather on channel 9.2.
WAFB is one of a handful of stations that shifts the air times of various CBS programming. The Price Is Right airs at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m., when The Doctors can be seen, and The Young and the Restless airs at 4 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. The station made this change in 1988 to give its noon and 5 p.m. newscasts a strong lead-in. The station aired Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune until 1995 when the shows moved to WBRZ. Live with Regis and Kelly and The Oprah Winfrey Show was seen until the late 1990s. Oprah moved to WBRZ but since then has aired on WVLA while Regis & Kelly continues to air on WBRZ. The People's Court also once aired on WAFB before going to WBRZ and later WGMB. The station currently airs the syndicated version of Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey and aired the versions hosted by Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, and John O'Hurley, with the exception of Karn's first season, which aired on KZUP, and Harvey's second through fifth seasons, which aired on WVLA. Until 2015, WAFB aired the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?; the show now airs on sister station WBXH. It used to also air The Phil Donahue Show, Hard CopyThe Rosie O'Donnell Show, Baywatch, Pensacola: Wings of Gold, The Montel Williams Show, Cheers, Married... with Children, Taxi, The Untouchables, The Martha Stewart Show, Relic Hunter, Friends, Soul Train, The Montel Williams Show, ER, The New Price is Right with Doug Davidson, and Sally Jesse Raphael among other syndicated fare. One locally produced show that brought years of enjoyment to children was hosted by Buckskin Bill Black ("William Black") that ran from 1955 until 1990. There were several characters that were regulars on the show including "Senor Puppet" (a marionette voiced by Sid Crocker) and "Whatsyourname" (another puppet voiced by Mary Hillen).
The show had a way of educating young children while making it fun to learn. Two games many adults can remember Buckskin playing were called "Hully Gully" which helped to teach counting numbers and the "Monday Morning March". The two shows he hosted were called Storyland (for younger children during a.m. broadcasting) and The Buckskin Bill Show (for older children during the afternoons). Buckskin was also one of the first shows in the United States to have a sign-language interpreter for hearing-impaired viewers prior to closed-captioning. Through two gracious campaigns from his show, Buckskin Bill helped to start the Baton Rouge Zoo. During this campaign, he asked children to bring in their pennies to buy an elephant. The penny campaign was successful enough to purchase two. He is now involved with the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools Board. WAFB also airs the Sunday services from the First United Methodist Church in the city.
Its newscasts have had the second-highest ratings at 10 p.m. in any of the country's biggest television markets according to The Des Moines Register in Iowa. Nielsen Media Research ratings showed that 16.2% of all households in the Baton Rouge area watched the show. The only station to get a bigger share of the local audience was KCCI, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, which was watched by 17.9% of area households.
For most of its history, WAFB trailed WBRZ in the ratings given WBRZ's consistent history on the VHF band and former roots to the Baton Rouge Advocate. In the mid-1990s, WBRZ experienced significant staff turnover and several news format changes while Aflac and Raycom invested heavily in improving WAFB's news product by maintaining low turnover in its news staff and presentation (WAFB used the "Newschannel" theme by Gari Media from 1990 until Raycom switched its news music client to Stephen Arnold Music in late 2014), leading WAFB to overtake WBRZ's news ratings in 1994. In the recent ratings period, it beat the others stations' combined weeknights at 5, 6, and 10. In total, the station's news department produces 25 hours of news programming each week. This includes two newscasts on sister station WBXH-CD (weeknights at 9, which began on January 8, 2007, and Saturday mornings). WAFB's weekday morning news is repeated on that station. WAFB also has a Cox cable channel devoted to airing simulcasts and rebroadcasts of its news broadcasts.
On March 3, 2008, WAFB became the first in Baton Rouge and the third in Louisiana to broadcast its local broadcasts in high definition. The WBXH broadcasts were included in the upgrade.
Despite becoming rarer among other television news stations, WAFB occasionally broadcasts an editorial that is usually delivered by the station manager.