WCHS-TV, channel 8, is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Charleston, West Virginia, USA. WCHS-TV is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and operates Fox affiliate WVAH-TV (channel 11) by way of a local marketing agreement (LMA). The two stations share studios in Charleston, and WCHS-TV's transmitter is located south of Scott Depot, West Virginia. The station also doubled as the default ABC affiliate for the West Virginia side of the Marietta/Parkersburg TV market since it doesn't have an ABC affiliate of its own.
WCHS-TV signed-on August 15, 1954 and was originally owned by the Tierney Company, alongside WCHS radio (580 AM). WCHS-TV was the second station in Charleston after WKNA-TV, which launched on UHF channel 49 as an ABC affiliate in 1953 but went dark in 1955 due to lack of viewership. Originally a CBS station sharing ABC with WSAZ-TV, channel 8 became a full CBS affiliate when WHTN-TV in Huntington signed-on in 1955. During the late-1950s, it was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
In 1958, WCHS swapped affiliations with WHTN and became an ABC affiliate. The WCHS stations were sold to Rollins Telecasting in 1960. The station reversed the swap and went back to CBS in 1962. For reasons that remain unknown, WCHS did not carry the CBS Evening News for several years after returning to CBS. On June 1, 1986, the station swapped affiliations once again with channel 13, now known as WOWK-TV.
In 1987, Rollins Telecasting merged with Heritage Broadcasting to form Heritage Media. In December 1987, the station relocated from its longtime studios on Virginia Street East to their current location on Piedmont Road in Charleston. The company sold off WCHS-AM in 1991. Heritage sold all of its remaining broadcasting properties (four television stations, LMAs for two other television stations, and 24 radio stations) to Sinclair Broadcast Group in 1997 just as Heritage itself was being swallowed up by News Corporation. As such, the former Heritage stations retained the current network affiliations instead of becoming Fox owned-and-operated stations.
The Sinclair purchase of WCHS forced the company to sell WVAH, which it had acquired three years before when it merged with Abry Communications to Glencairn as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not permit duopolies at the time. However, Glencairn's stock was almost entirely controlled by the Smith family, owners and founders of Sinclair. In effect, Sinclair now owned both stations. The company further circumvented the rules by entering into a local marketing agreement with WVAH, with WCHS as senior partner. The other station retained its own studios on Mount Vernon Road in Hurricane along I-64 even although most of its operations were merged with WCHS. Eventually, WVAH's separate facilities were put on sale.
Sinclair tried to merge with Glencairn in 2001 after the FCC decided to allow duopolies but could not repurchase WVAH because the FCC does not allow common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in a single market. Glencairn changed its name to Cunningham Broadcasting and the local media agreement with WCHS continues to this day. There is overwhelming evidence that Glencairn/Cunningham is merely a shell corporation used by Sinclair to circumvent FCC ownership rules. One of the first televised presidential debates featuring John F. Kennedy took place at WCHS' studios. The nationally syndicated "Produce Corner" segments were taped at the studios as well.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||720p||16:9||WCHS-DT||Main WCHS-TV programming / ABC|
For a period of time it carried a service called Cool TV on 8.2, but like all other Sinclair stations, it dropped this without announcement on August 31, 2012.
WCHS-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, 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 remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 41. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 8.
Transition to Local HD
Pre HD Transition
WCHS/WVAH started the switch over to High Definition in June 2012 by first installing a new HD Master Control room. In July 2012 the station started to remove the set from the studio that was installed in the late 90's. The old news desk, backdrop, monitors and the chroma key wall was moved to a small conference room in the station until the transition of HD news was completed. In late July 2012 the new set arrived from Devlin Design Group based out of Crested Butte, CO. During the entire month of August the new set was installed. New lighting, chroma key wall, HD cameras and rehearsing happened into the month of September.
Local High Definition News
On September 29, 2012 WCHS/WVAH became the third station in the market to launch high definition newscasts. Following in the footsteps of WOWK became 2nd station in the market to launch high definition newscasts on May 5, 2012 and WSAZ launching high definition newscasts on June 26, 2011.
In Summer 2006, Charter Communications streamlined its operations which included selling off portions of its cable system which were "geographically non-strategic". Charter accounts in WCHS's market area were purchased by Suddenlink Communications (formerly known as Cebridge). Sinclair requested a $40 million one time fee and a $1 per sub per month fee from Suddenlink for retransmission rights of WCHS and WVAH on the Suddenlink cable system. This led to a protracted media battle between the two companies and Sinclair pulled the two stations off-the-air in the Beckley market. After several weeks of negotiations, the two companies reached an agreement allowing WCHS and WVAH to continue transmission over the Suddenlink cable system. The terms of the agreement were not released to the public.
Time Warner Cable
It was announced on December 20, 2006, that Time Warner Cable systems in the Charleston/Huntington market would lose WCHS and WVAH starting December 31. However, this only applied to cable subscribers that were previously owned by Adelphia. An extension agreement was made until January 12, 2007 for negotiations.
For most of its history according to Nielsen ratings, WCHS has been a distant runner up to longtime dominant WSAZ-TV. This station and WOWK are usually more competitive in Charleston but WCHS ultimately has higher viewership, however neither is competitive in Huntington, or in the counties of Ohio and Kentucky that are in the market. This is because both stations generally ignore news outside of Charleston. However, in 2013 WCHS opened a small studio and news office in Huntington. WSAZ came in a close second to WCHS for a short period in late 2009-early 2010. This was due to lower lead-in numbers originated by The Jay Leno Show and WSAZ has since regained its first place ratings.
WCHS currently uses the Eyewitness News branding for its news operation and produces three newscasts for sister station WVAH. This includes Eyewitness News This Morning on Fox 11 seen for an hour on weekday mornings from 7 until 8. There is also an hour-long nightly prime time broadcast known as Eyewitness News at 10 on Fox 11. For many years, WVAH's 10:00 p.m. news broadcast was the market's only hour-long late evening newscast. This changed on March 31, 2014 when WSAZ moved their 10:00 p.m. newscast from MyNetworkTV affiliate WSAZ-DT2 to CW affiliate WQCW and expanded the broadcast from a half-hour to a full hour.