WJXX, virtual channel 25 (VHF digital channel 10), is an ABC-affiliated television station serving Jacksonville, Florida, United States that is licensed to Orange Park. The station is owned by the Tegna Media division of Tegna, Inc., as part of a duopoly with NBC affiliate WTLV (channel 12). The two stations share studio facilities located on East Adams Street (near EverBank Field) in downtown Jacksonville; WJXX maintains transmitter facilities located on Eve Drive in the city's Kilarney Shores section.
The station first signed on the air on February 9, 1997; the station was founded by WPR, L.P. and operated by Allbritton Communications under a local marketing agreement. In 1996, Allbritton had signed another LMA with WB affiliate WBSG-TV (channel 21) in nearby Brunswick, Georgia; in April of that year, ABC signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Allbritton, which renewed contracts with the group's three existing ABC affiliates – WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. (which had long been one of the network's strongest affiliates), KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and WHTM in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – and resulted in five of its other television stations switching to the network – among them were NBC affiliate WCIV (now Heroes & Icons affiliate WGWG) in Charleston, South Carolina, and low-power independent station W58CK (now WBMA-LD) in Birmingham, and CBS affiliates WCFT-TV (now Heroes & Icons affiliate WSES) in Tuscaloosa and WJSU-TV (now Heroes & Icons affiliate WGWG) in Anniston (the three of which would form a triple-simulcast to serve as the ABC affiliate for central Alabama).
One of the stations involved in the affiliation agreement was WBSG, which Allbritton announced that it would replace WJKS (channel 17, now CW affiliate WCWJ) as Jacksonville's ABC affiliate. WJXX was originally slated to launch as an independent station. However, since WBSG's signal did not extend into the southern portions of the Jacksonville market south of the city proper, WPR, L.P. reached an LMA with Allbritton with the intent to have it serve as the ABC affiliate for the Florida side of the market. Allbritton subsequently planned to sign WJXX on April 1 as the market's primary ABC affiliate, with WBSG serving as a semi-satellite for the Georgia side. However, after WJKS began phasing out ABC programming as it transitioned into becoming the market's WB affiliate, later changing its callsign to WJWB, ABC asked Allbritton to sign on WJXX two months early. Unfortunately, construction of the station's new full-power transmitter was still pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the time, forcing the station to broadcast at low power for several months. This rendered the station more or less unviewable in much of northeastern Florida and extreme southeastern Georgia, even in parts of Jacksonville proper. Allbritton bought WJXX outright in September 1997.
Allbritton heavily invested in WJXX, including constructing a state-of-the-art studio facility on A.C. Skinner Parkway in south Jacksonville. It was the first television station in the United States to be designed from the ground up for digital television, a medium which was then fairly new. At one point, WJXX faced the prospect of becoming an ABC owned-and-operated station; in June 1998, ABC parent The Walt Disney Company entered into negotiations to purchase the eight Allbritton stations and the LMAs with WJXX and WJSU, reportedly offering the company more than $1 billion to acquire them. Negotiations between Disney and Allbritton broke down when the former dropped out of discussions to buy the stations the following month.
Despite Allbritton's best efforts to improve the station, WJXX failed to gain significant ratings traction in the market; in addition to lingering confusion from the early announcement that WBSG would be the ABC affiliate for Jacksonville and the subsequent early launch of channel 25, the combined signal of WJXX and WBSG was somewhat inferior to that of their two VHF competitors, CBS affiliate WJXT (channel 4, now an independent station) and NBC affiliate WTLV (channel 12). Not helping matters was the fact that WJXX was initially placed on channel 7 by local cable provider MediaOne (which later sold its Jacksonville system franchise to Comcast), which suffered from co-channel interference from PBS member station WJCT, which transmitted its broadcast signal on VHF channel 7. Additionally, until the station's studios opened in December, WJXX relayed its signal to MediaOne directly from its transmitter, resulting in a lower-quality signal as it did not yet have a fiber optic relay to transmit the station feed to the provider.
Duopoly with WTLV
After the FCC legalized television station duopolies on November 15, 1999, Allbritton announced the following day (November 16) that it would sell WJXX to the Gannett Company, then-owner of WTLV. Normally, duopolies between two "big four" network affiliates – or even "big three" affiliates – would not be permissible under the then-newly implemented duopoly rules because they usually constituted the four highest-rated television stations within a market. FCC regulations do not allow common ownership of any two of the four highest-rated stations in a market, basing the ownership restrictions on the monthly total-day viewership of the market's broadcast television outlets. However, WJXX was ranked at fifth place in the ratings among the Jacksonville market's television stations, often trailing WJWB (which had gone from being one of ABC's weakest affiliates to becoming one of The WB's strongest) and Fox affiliate WAWS (channel 30, now WFOX-TV), in addition to WJXT and WTLV.
Once the sale was finalized on March 17, 2000, Gannett's purchase of WJXX became the first instance where a single owner maintained a duopoly involving two stations that were both affiliated with a "big three" television network (all of Jacksonville's "big four" network affiliates ended up under the control of two media companies by July 2002, when WTEV-TV (channel 47, now WJAX-TV) – which was operated alongside Clear Channel Communications-owned WAWS – replaced WJXT as the market's CBS affiliate; WJAX and WFOX are now controlled by Cox Media Group, which owns the latter outright). Gannett integrated WJXX's operations into WTLV's facilities near downtown Jacksonville's Stadium District and combined both stations' news personnel, resulting in the creation of a joint news operation presently known as First Coast News. However, most of the news staff was composed of veterans of WTLV (the deal did not include WBSG, which subsequently affiliated with Pax TV and was soon acquired by that network's owner Paxson Communications, and changed its call letters to WPXC-TV). The studios of the newly created duopoly were also renovated and a new graphics and music package ("Global Village" by Stephen Arnold Music) was introduced for the newscasts.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for its Jacksonville television stations. Gannett threatened to pull them both from the satellite provider should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split into two separate companies, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WJXX and WTLV – along with Gannett's other television station properties – were retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|25.1 & 5 Comcast||720p||16:9||WJXX-DT||Main WJXX programming / ABC|
|25.2 & 201 Comcast||480i||4:3||Doppler||First Coast News Weather Plus|
On June 12, 2009, WJXX terminated its analog signal, on UHF channel 25, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 10. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display WJXX's virtual channel as 25.
Due to the shutdown of WJXX's analog transmitter in Clay County, viewers in areas such as Gainesville lost reception of WJXX, while the station began providing at least Grade B signal coverage in Flagler County and on Georgia's Colonial Coast.
In addition to carrying the entire ABC programming schedule, syndicated programs broadcast by WJXX as of September 2015 include Live! with Kelly and Michael, Divorce Court, The Wendy Williams Show, Glee and Extra. WJXX also broadcasts the Sony Pictures Television game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, in the event that those programs are pre-empted on WTLV.
WJXX presently broadcasts 19 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with four hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, sister station WTLV produces the sports highlight program First Coast News Sports Final, which airs Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. on both stations, and the political discussion program First Coast News on Point, which airs Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m. WJXX does not simulcast the 4:30 a.m. half-hour of the weekday edition and the entirety of the Saturday or Sunday morning edition of Good Morning Jacksonville, and the weekday noon and weekend 6:00 p.m. newscasts, which air exclusively on WTLV; however, WJXX exclusively airs a half-hour weeknight 7:00 p.m. newscast and a half-hour 6:30 p.m. newscast on weekend evenings.
In addition to their main studio facilities, WTLV and WJXX operate a "Southern Bureau," which covers stories within Clay, St. Johns and Putnam Counties. WJXX and WTLV operate their own weather radar, which is located next to WJXX and WTLV's Kilarney Shores transmitter, and also utilizes radar data from the National Weather Service Forecast Office near Jacksonville International Airport.
WJXX's news department informally launched in September 1997, with the debut of a half-hour 7:00 p.m. newscast, ABC 25 Tonight, which aired only on Monday through Friday nights. After the station moved into its original A.C. Skinner Parkway studios following the building's completion, WJXX dramatically expanded its local news programming on December 15, 1997, adding newscasts at 5:30 a.m., noon, 5:00, 6:00, 6:30 and 11:00 p.m. on Monday through Fridays (totaling 4½ hours each weekday), along with weekend evening newscasts at 6:00, 6:30 and 11:00 p.m. (before the full-scale launch of ABC 25 News, WJXX aired reruns of M*A*S*H at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., while then-satellite WBSG split from the WJXX simulcast during those times to show its own Georgia-targeted newscasts that had predated the ABC affiliation). Allbritton poured significant resources into the news department, resulting in a very high-quality product for a newly launched station. Indeed, most media observers considered WJXX's newscasts to be of far better quality than those produced by WJKS during the latter years of channel 17's tenure with ABC. However, ratings for the WJXX newscasts took a severe hit because of the aforementioned technical problems and never recovered. It did not help matters that channel 25 was going head to head with WJXT and WTLV, two of their respective networks' (CBS and NBC) strongest performers.
As mentioned above, the station's separate news department was shut down on March 17, 2000, the day when Gannett's acquisition of the station was finalized, at which time WJXX began simulcasting WTLV's newscasts (originally under the title 12 News on ABC 25). After WTLV and WJXX merged their news departments, the gap in viewership between both stations and market leader WJXT slowly closed to create tough competition in the Jacksonville market, tightening even further after WJXT dropped its CBS affiliation in July 2002 due to a compensation and programming dispute with the network.
The early part of 2006 marked a significant transition period for First Coast News. Primary co-anchor Alan Gionet, who had been with WTLV as anchor the 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. newscasts since 1998 (prior to the merger of WJXX and WTLV's operations), announced in October 2005 that he would be leaving the station the following year; Gionet was later hired by CBS owned-and-operated station KCNC-TV in Denver (where he had previously served as an anchor and reporter before joining WTLV) in November 2005, and left WTLV/WJXX in March 2006. The stations' general manager, Ken Tonning, said that he had received hundreds of applications for the evening co-anchor position Gionet vacated and had also considered hiring from within its on-air staff. Seven potential applicants were brought in and filmed with 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. anchor Jeannie Blaylock and 11:00 p.m. anchor Donna Hicken (later known as Donna Deegan after her marriage to chief meteorologist Tim Deegan in October 2007), with focus groups being brought in to critique each one. On March 28, 2006, the station announced the hiring of Shannon Ogden (anchor of New England Cable News's Good Morning Live) as Gionet's replacement. During the period between Gionet's departure and Ogden's arrival, First Coast News reporter Kyle Meenan anchored with Blaylock and Hicken beginning on April 10, 2006. In the May 2007 Nielsen ratings, WTLV and WJXX had a powerful lead, with their newscasts winning in every timeslot except at 5:00 p.m. (losing that half-hour to WJXT due to its powerful lead-in from The Oprah Winfrey Show). The 11:00 p.m. newscast had higher viewership than any other station in the market. However in the November 2007 Nielsen ratings, WTLV/WJXX's First Coast News newscasts lost the lead to WJXT in the 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. slots.
On September 10, 2007, WJXX dropped the 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. weeknight First Coast News simulcasts, replacing them with The Ellen DeGeneres Show (the simulcast was later restored on WJXX in September 2010). At that time, Joy Purdy (who was previously with CBS owned-and-operated station WFOR-TV in Miami) joined the station as anchor of the 7:00 p.m. newscast. In mid-2008, WTLV/WJXX launched "First Coast News Weather Call," a subscription service which provides recorded messages informing viewers via telephone of National Weather Service weather alerts occurring in their area, based on the county they live in. On October 23, 2008, First Coast News began utilizing Gannett's standardized graphics and music package for its newscasts (the graphics were created by the Denver-based Gannett Graphics Group, which is based near the studios of sister station KUSA, and the music was composed by Rampage Music New York).
In January 2009, First Coast News fired weekend meteorologist Dave Vanore, and rehired Michelle Jacobs to serve as meteorologist and traffic reporter for the weekday morning newscasts. The station also reassigned meteorologists Steve Smith (from the weekday morning newscast to the WJXX 7:00 p.m. newscast) and Mark Collins (who replaced Vanore on the weekend newscasts) to new positions. Subsequently in July 2009, the stations reassigned its anchor staff: Joy Purdy was moved from the WJXX 7:00 p.m. newscast to co-anchor Good Morning Jacksonville, replacing Patty Crosby, who became co-anchor of the 7:00 p.m. broadcast; 7:00 p.m. anchor Deanna Fene was also moved to the weekend evening newscasts to replace the departing Victor Blackwell.
On February 1, 2010, WTLV/WJXX became the third and last television news operation in the Jacksonville market to begin broadcasting their local newscasts in high definition (after WTEV/WAWS, which upgraded their newscasts to HD the day before, and WJXT, which had made a phased upgrade by individual newscast between January 14 and 28, 2009). A modified version of the Gannett standardized graphics was introduced with the upgrade, along with the introduction of a new set designed by FX Group.
Notable current on-air staff
- Jeannie Blaylock – weeknight anchor
- Tim Deegan (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval) – chief meteorologist; weeknights
- Shannon Ogden – weeknight anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Donna Deegan - anchor (2000–2012; formerly known as Donna Hicken until October 2007)
- Alan Gionet - anchor (2000–2006; now at KCNC-TV in Denver)
- Donna Savarese - anchor (now at KMOV in St. Louis, Missouri)
- Lee Webb - anchor/reporter (now with the Christian Broadcasting Network as news anchor for The 700 Club)