WEAR-TV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 17), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Pensacola, Florida, United States, that also serves Mobile, Alabama. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WFGX (channel 35); Sinclair also operates Mobile-based NBC affiliate WPMI-TV (channel 15) and independent station WJTC (channel 44) under a local marketing agreement with owner Deerfield Media.
WEAR and WFGX share studios on Mobile Highway (U.S. 90) in unincorporated Escambia County, Florida (with a Pensacola mailing address), WEAR's transmitter is located in unincorporated Baldwin County, Alabama east of Rosinton. The station can also be seen on Comcast, Mediacom and Cox channel 3. Syndicated programming on WEAR includes Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Extra and Rachael Ray.
The station first signed on the air on January 13, 1954. Broadcasting on VHF channel 3, it was founded by Charles Smith and Mel Wheeler, who also owned WEAR radio (1230 AM, now WDWR). Initially, the station was a primary CBS affiliate with a secondary ABC affiliation. Shortly after WEAR signed on, the Federal Communications Commission collapsed Mobile and Pensacola into a single market. In early 1955, channel 3 activated a new tower in Baldwin County. Shortly afterward, WKRG-TV (channel 5) signed on as the CBS affiliate for the enlarged market, and WEAR became an exclusive ABC affiliate. In 1959, it was sold to Rollins Telecasting, which in turn merged with Heritage Broadcasting to form Heritage Media in 1987.
In October 1997, WEAR and the other Heritage stations were sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group just as the remainder of Heritage Media was merging with News Corporation (the then-parent company of Fox). This sale also protected former longtime NBC affiliate WALA-TV (channel 10) as the market's Fox outlet; otherwise WEAR would have been forced to switch its network affiliation to Fox. Sinclair prohibited its ABC affiliates, including WEAR, from airing a Nightline broadcast in 2004 that featured a segment displaying the names of those who died in the war in Iraq, because the company felt it was anti-war rhetoric against the invasion.
In late-2006, Sinclair entered into negotiations with Mediacom, the main cable provider for parts of the Florida side of the market (including Santa Rosa County, Florida and Pensacola Beach). The two companies could not reach an agreement over retransmission fees. As a result, Mediacom pulled all of Sinclair's stations (including WEAR) from its systems on January 6, 2007. The dispute ended on February 2, when the two sides reached an agreement that restored WEAR to Mediacom systems. Upon the expiration of the 2007 agreement on January 1, 2010, Mediacom was prepared to drop the station once again from its systems. Sinclair agreed to a temporary extension until January 8 in order to allow the Bowl Championship Series college football games to be viewed on Sinclair's ABC and Fox affiliates over Mediacom. Eventually, a one-year agreement was reached which would keep Sinclair stations on the cable television provider until 2011.
In 2012, Newport Television sold five of its stations, including WPMI and WJTC, to Sinclair. However, since Sinclair already owns WEAR and WFGX, WPMI and WJTC were sold to Deerfield Media, while Sinclair operates the two stations under local marketing agreements. The sale created one of the few instances where two "Big Three" stations are operated by the same company. However, the two duopolies maintain separate operations.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||720p||16:9||WEAR HD||Main WEAR-TV programming / ABC|
|3.2||480i||4:3||TCN||The Country Network|
WEAR formerly carried The Tube on its second digital subchannel until early 2007, when it was replaced with a standard definition feed of the station's main channel, which lasted until around 2010. In 2011, The Country Network began occupying the second subchannel, after the network moved from sister station WFGX.
WEAR-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, 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 17. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
WEAR-TV presently broadcasts 36½ hours of local newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, and two hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). In addition, the station produces an additional 2½ hours of newscasts weekly for WFGX (with a half-hour on weekdays). This totals 38 hours of newscasts on a weekly basis between the two stations; in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among all broadcast television stations in the Mobile-Pensacola market (in contrast, WPMI produces 27 hours and WKRG produces 22 hours of newscasts each week).
Since WEAR is the only major-network station licensed on the Florida side of the market, the station's newscasts tend to focus more on Pensacola. It does, however, operate a bureau on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile. WEAR is one of several ABC stations across the country that carries an hour-long 10:00 p.m. newscast. Because of this, ABC's 10:35 programming (including Nightline and presently Jimmy Kimmel Live since the two shows switched timeslots nationally in January 2013) have always been broadcast on a half-hour tape delay and start at 11:00 p.m. The additional half-hour of the 10:00 p.m. broadcast began as Channel 3 News Extra, but has since evolved into an extension of the 10:00 p.m. newscast.
The station launched a 4:00 p.m. newscast in December 2007. On September 7, 2008, WEAR-TV was the first station in the Mobile-Pensacola market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; field video remained pillarboxed for almost three years, until widescreen and eventually high definition video began supplementing the newscasts in 2011. On July 15, 2013, the weekday edition of WEAR's morning newscast, 3 in the Morning expanded by a half-hour, moving its start time to 4:30 a.m., putting them in competition with WALA's already existing 4:30 a.m. newscast.
On August 12, 2013, WEAR launched a new half-hour, weeknight-only newscast at 9:00 p.m. on sister station WFGX. The newscast airs in direct competition with WALA's long-established, dominant, and hour-long 9:00 p.m. newscast. This marked the first time that newscasts have aired on WFGX since it shut down its in-house news department in 1998 after two years (the 6:30 and 9:00 p.m. newscasts WFGX produced specifically focused on Okaloosa County, Florida).
Notable current on-air staff
- Mark E. Hyman – Behind the Headlines host; also Sinclair Broadcast Group Vice President for Corporate Relations
Notable former on-air staff
- Steve Berthiaume – sports anchor (last with ESPN's SportsCenter, now play-by-play announcer with the Arizona Diamondbacks)
- Mark Curtis – anchor/reporter (now at WOWK-TV in Charleston, West Virginia)
- Liz Swaine (began career at WEAR-TV; voted "Best Journalist in the Nation" while at KTBS-TV in Shreveport; candidate for mayor of Shreveport, 2006)