WKRN-TV, virtual channel 2 (UHF digital channel 27), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. The station is owned by Media General. WKRN-TV's studios and offices are located on Murfreesboro Road (U.S. Routes 41 and 70S) on Nashville's southeast side and its transmitter is located in Forest Hills, Tennessee.
The station first signed on the air on November 29, 1953, as WSIX-TV, broadcasting on VHF channel 8; it was the second television station in Nashville. The station was originally owned by Louis and Jack Draughon, along with WSIX radio (980 AM, now WYFN). The call letters came from the 638 Tire Company in nearby Springfield, where the Draughon brothers had started WSIX in 1930; neither the radio nor the television stations have ever had the number six in their frequencies, which would explain it otherwise. Originally a CBS affiliate that shared the ABC affiliation with WSM-TV (channel 4, now WSMV), it became a full-time ABC affiliate after only one year when WLAC-TV (channel 5, now WTVF) signed on and took the CBS affiliation due to WLAC radio's long history as a CBS radio affiliate. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
The station's original studio facilities were located on Old Hickory Boulevard, just outside Nashville. In 1961, WSIX-AM-FM-TV moved to a new studio located at 441 Murfreesboro Road, where the television station remains located today. The current WKRN studio facility is where the Wilburn Brothers' television program was produced during the 1960s and 1970s (however, WSM-TV had the rights to air the show in the Nashville market).
WSIX-TV, however, did not have much luck against WSM-TV and WLAC-TV. Part of the problem was a weak signal, as its transmitter was short-spaced to channel 8 in Atlanta – occupied first by WLWA-TV (now WXIA-TV) and currently occupied by WGTV. WSIX-TV was also hampered by a weaker network affiliation (ABC was not truly competitive with CBS and NBC until well into the 1970s).
The Draughons sold the WSIX stations to General Electric in 1966. In 1973, GE agreed to a deal with Nashville's PBS member station, WDCN-TV (now WNPT), then on channel 2, to swap frequencies. GE participated in the channel trade because the analog channel 2 facility was better suited for a network affiliate as opposed to an non-commercial educational station. The swap occurred on December 11, 1973 at 9 p.m., in the middle of evening prime-time programming, between the Movie of the Week, "The Cat Creature", and Marcus Welby, M.D.. At the same time, even though General Electric still owned WSIX-AM-FM, WSIX-TV's call letters were changed to WNGE-TV (for Nashville General Electric). This was only the third facility swap in American television history.
General Electric pared down its broadcasting holdings during the early 1980s (though it would purchase NBC in 1986), selling WNGE-TV to Knight Ridder in 1983. The new owners changed the calls on November 29 to the current WKRN-TV. Knight Ridder sold off all of its television stations in 1989, at which point Young Broadcasting bought the station (along with its sibling WTEN in Albany, New York). It is merely a coincidence that the call letters reflect the former Young Broadcasting's flagship outlet, KRON-TV in San Francisco. Like all other ABC affiliates that were owned by Young Broadcasting, WKRN preempted ABC's broadcast of the movie Saving Private Ryan in 2004.
On June 6, 2013, Media General announced that it would acquire Young Broadcasting in an all-stock deal. The merger was completed on November 12, 2013, resulting in WKRN and its Knoxville sister station WATE-TV becoming sister stations of Johnson City-based WJHL-TV.
However, less than two years after that merger was finalized, the station's ownership appeared as though it was once again put into flux, as on September 8, 2015, Media General announced that it would acquire the Meredith Corporation for $2.4 billion, with the combined group to be renamed Meredith Media General once the sale was finalized. Because Meredith already owned WSMV, and the two stations rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Nashville market in total day viewership, the companies would have been required to sell either WSMV or WKRN to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as recent changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations that restrict sharing agreements.
The overlap issue was rendered moot later, as the deal collapsed, and on January 27, 2016, it was announced that the Nexstar Broadcasting Group would buy Media General for $4.6 billion. WKRN will become part of "Nexstar Media Group," and along with its Tennessee siblings, become stablemates to fellow ABC affiliate WATN-TV and CW affiliate WLMT in Memphis.
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In 2008, WKRN began broadcasting a 24-hour weather channel on a second digital subchannel, branded as the Nashville Weather Channel or Nashville WX Channel. It aired local and regional weather information on a cycle with a few commercials, and updated short weather-casts from the News 2 StormTracker Weather team. The Nashville WX Channel was discontinued, and replaced with Me-TV on February 1, 2016.
On August 26, 2012, WKRN began carrying the Live Well Network on its third digital subchannel. Originally announced to launch on July 18, 2012, LWN's carriage on the new subchannel was part of an agreement announced in January 2012, between Young Broadcasting and Live Well Network in which the network will be carried as a digital multicast service on Young-owned stations in seven markets. Live Well Network was scheduled to be shut down in January 2015, but ABC decided to continue broadcasting the Live Well Network for an estimated two to three months beyond the reported January 15, 2015 shut down date. On May 29, 2015, Comcast reported that they had been informed by Media General that as of May 30, 2015, Media General would discontinue carrying Live Well Network on their channels, including WKRN. On May 30, 2015, WKRN began broadcasting the Nashville WX Channel on WKRN-DT3, the same feed as they carry on WKRN-DT2. On December 30, 2015, WKRN began broadcasting The Justice Network on WKRN-DT3.
WKRN-TV shut down its analog signal over VHF channel 2 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 27. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 2.
The station has an agreement with the Tennessee Titans to broadcast Bridgestone Titans on 2, the team's coach's show that originally aired from 8 to 9 p.m. Tuesday evenings, pre-empting ABC programming in that timeslot during the NFL season (which featured low-rated and critically derided sitcoms for the majority of the 2000s). The show now airs Monday and Saturday evenings at 6:30 p.m., pre-empting Wheel of Fortune in that timeslot during football season.
WKRN-TV is the Nashville home and the flagship station of the Tennessee Titans Preseason Television Network, which broadcasts Titans Preseason Football during the month of August and sometimes the very early parts of September. These games often prompt WKRN to broadcast the night’s ABC primetime programming on a tape delay in the overnight hours of the adjacent morning. WKRN-TV also simulcasts ESPN's Monday Night Football any time the Tennessee Titans are involved in a Monday night match-up during the regular season.
The station received heavy criticism from viewers in November 2009 for not airing V at the network's original timeslot. V then aired early Wednesday mornings after Jimmy Kimmel Live!. WKRN claimed the 13-year agreement to air the coach's show would not allow for the moving of that show to accommodate high-demand network programming without notice months in advance. However, in the past the program has moved at times to accommodate other high-demand programs such as Dancing with the Stars during the early portion of the season and network holiday programming. The station also reversed a plan to air V over NashvilleWX on digital channel 2.2 at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays the day before the premiere. WKRN's sister station in Green Bay, WBAY-TV also faced the same situation with a locally produced football program covering the Green Bay Packers, but after a week moved that program to air before primetime to accommodate V.
WKRN-TV presently broadcasts 33 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with six hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and four hours on Sundays). In addition, the station produces a half-hour public affairs program, This Week with Bob Mueller, which airs Sundays at 11:00 p.m. WKRN is the only Big Three network affiliate in Nashville that does not run an hour-long newscast at 6 p.m., although its early evening on weekdays begin at 4 p.m., including ABC World News Tonight at 5:30 p.m.
Before the advent of satellite technology in the 1980s, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive taped all ABC News broadcasts from the airwaves of WSIX/WNGE/WKRN. Some of the recordings prior to that time include local cut-ins to ABC coverage of national elections, which represent the only preservations of the station's news broadcasts of that time. The station's two main evening news anchors, Bob Mueller and Anne Holt, have been associated with WKRN since the early 1980s.
On October 11, 2011, WKRN began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, becoming the last Nashville television station to make the upgrade. This included a brand new news set that was built in a separate studio that was based on a design shared by all Young stations that have upgraded to HD, replacing the "working newsroom" set that had been used for the newscasts since the 1980s.
On March 29, 2014, WKRN added its additional hour of News 2 weekends for both Saturday and Sunday morning beginning at 5:00 a.m.
Notable former on-air staff
- David Crabtree – anchor/reporter (1982–1984); now with WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina
- Mike Hill – sportscaster (1997–2000); now with Fox Sports 1
- Steve Phillips – sportscaster (1983–1990);
- Neal Karlinsky
- John Michael Seigenthaler
WKRN-TV is available to every Middle Tennessee cable provider, including Comcast/Xfinity channels 2 (SD) and 1002 (HD). Those channel allocations also apply to AT&T U-verse. WKRN-TV is also available on Charter channels 2 (SD) and 702 (HD).
Out of market coverage
Due to proximity to the Bowling Green, Kentucky, area, WKRN-TV's over-the-air (OTA) signal can be picked up in some areas of the Bowling Green media market, the home territory to fellow ABC affiliate WBKO. WKRN’s signal can reach as far north as an area along the Green River in areas just north of Bowling Green. It is for that reason that WKRN ends up competing with WBKO for viewing allegiances. WKRN was previously available on CATV in Glasgow, the Barren County seat, via the Glasgow Electric Plant Board. This ended during the 2000s as more of their customers watched WBKO than WKRN; this was also due to part of controversial issues that occurred concerning the carriage of both stations. WKRN was permanently dropped from the Glasgow EPB’s channel lineup in 2003 because WBKO wanted to be the sole ABC affiliate to be carried. However, WHAS, the ABC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, is still available on that system as a backup ABC affiliate if one or the other pre-empts network programming for severe weather coverage, but carriage of both stations on the system is subject to the FCC’s Syndication exclusivity rules.
WKRN is also available on cable television in the Fayetteville, Tennessee area in Lincoln County, the only Middle Tennessee county that is considered to be in the Huntsville, Alabama media market. Fayetteville Public Utilities customers can view the station on channels 2 (SD) and 243 (HD).
From 1957 through the 1970s and 1980s, WKRN, along with WSMV, WTVF, and eventually independent station WZTV (now a Fox affiliate), was also available on CATV systems in the Huntsville media market, including TelePrompter (later Group W Cable, now Comcast) and Knowledgy (now Wide Open West). They were eventually dropped as more national cable channels were launched throughout the mid- and late-1980s.