WRTV, virtual channel 6 (UHF digital channel 25), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, owned by the broadcasting division of the E. W. Scripps Company. WRTV maintains primary studio facilities on Meridian Street in northwestern Indianapolis (in the middle of Indianapolis' Television Row), with a secondary studio located at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis; its transmitter is located on the city's northwest side (near Meridian Hills).
On cable, WRTV is carried on Comcast channel 5, on Bright House Networks channel 7, and AT&T U-Verse channel 6 in standard definition, and on Comcast and AT&T U-Verse channel 1006, and Bright House Networks channel 1007 in high definition.
The station first signed on the air on May 30, 1949 as WFBM-TV. Founded by the Consolidated Television and Radio Broadcasters subsidiary of the Bitner Group, owners of radio station WFBM (1260 AM, now WNDE), it is the oldest television station in the state of Indiana. The first program broadcast on the station was a documentary titled Crucible of Speed, about the early history of the legendary Indianapolis 500 auto race; this was followed by the inaugural live television broadcast of the event. The station originally operated as a CBS affiliate, although it maintained secondary affiliations with ABC and the DuMont Television Network.
WFBM-TV began to split ABC programming with Bloomington-based primary NBC affiliate WTTV (channel 10, which moved to channel 4 in February 1954) when that station signed on in November 1949; both stations lost their affiliations with ABC to WISH-TV (channel 8), which maintained a secondary affiliation with the network, when that station signed on in July 1954. WFBM-TV also aired programs from the short-lived Paramount Television Network, among them Time For Beany, Dixie Showboat, Hollywood Reel, Cowboy G-Men, and Hollywood Wrestling. In 1956, WFBM-TV became the market's NBC affiliate, taking the affiliation from WTTV. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
Bitner merged its broadcasting interests with magazine publisher Time-Life in 1957. In the mid-1960s, WRTV became the first television station in Indiana to begin broadcasting its programming in color. In late October 1970, WFBM-TV and its sister radio stations WFBM (AM) and WFBM-FM (94.7 FM, now WFBQ) were sold to McGraw-Hill in a group deal that also involved Time-Life's other radio and television combinations in Denver, San Diego and Grand Rapids, Michigan; and KERO-TV in Bakersfield, California. In order to comply with the Federal Communications Commission's new restrictions on concentration of media ownership that went into effect shortly afterward, McGraw-Hill was required to sell the radio stations in Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego and Grand Rapids to other companies. Time-Life would later take WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids out of the final deal and retain ownership of that station. By the time the sale was finalized in June 1972, the purchase price for the entire group was just over $57 million. KERO-TV, KLZ-TV (now KMGH-TV) in Denver and KOGO-TV (now KGTV) in San Diego were retained by McGraw-Hill along with WFBM-TV, which subsequently changed its call letters to the present WRTV on June 2.
By the late 1970s, NBC's national ratings crashed to third place, becoming the lowest-rated of the three major U.S. broadcast networks, while ABC rose to the ranks of first place around that same time; as a result, it sought stronger stations to serve as its affiliates in several markets. The two networks swapped affiliations in Indianapolis on June 1, 1979 with WRTV becoming the market's new ABC affiliate, and WTHR (channel 13) becoming an NBC affiliate. As a result, WRTV became the third television station in the Indianapolis market to affiliate with ABC and in the process, the first television station in the Indianapolis market (WTTV would become the second Indianapolis station 35 years later when that station became a CBS affiliate), and became one of the few television stations in the United States to have served as a primary affiliate of all three heritage broadcast networks.
On January 31, 1995, WBAK-TV in Terre Haute (which changed its call letters to WFXW in 2005) ended its 22-year affiliation with ABC to become that market's original Fox affiliate, citing the low viewership it had suffered due to the then-overabundance of higher-rated ABC stations in adjacent markets (including WRTV) that were receivable in the area. This left viewers with only fringe access from WRTV (which can be received in Terre Haute via an outdoor antenna and became the default ABC affiliate on cable providers on the Indiana side of the market), and other out-of-market ABC stations from Evansville, Indiana and Champaign, Illinois (both of which were carried on cable on the Illinois side of the market) as Terre Haute did not have enough stations to support full-time affiliations from four networks (only three commercial full-power stations – WTWO, WTHI-TV and WBAK – are licensed to the market, and ABC opted not to relegate itself to a secondary affiliation). On September 1, 2011, WFXW (which changed its callsign to WAWV-TV) voluntarily disaffiliated from Fox and rejoined ABC as part of a long-term affiliation renewal between ABC and the Nexstar Broadcasting Group (which manages the station through owner Mission Broadcasting) involving the company's existing ABC stations in nine other markets; WRTV was dropped from most Terre Haute area cable providers by May 28, 2012.
WRTV became the first television station in the Indianapolis market to launch its own website () in the late 1990s; it later became the first to offer a mobile website () the following decade. In 1998, the station changed its on-air branding to "RTV6," however its newscasts were instead branded as 6 News until 2001 and again from 2006 to 2012. On October 3, 2011, The McGraw-Hill Companies announced that it would sell its seven-station broadcasting division, including WRTV, to the E. W. Scripps Company for $212 million. The sale received FCC approval on November 29, 2011, and was formally consummated on December 30.
In June 2012, WRTV opened a secondary facility at the studios of news/talk radio station WIBC (93.1 FM) in downtown Indianapolis; most of the station's newscasts are produced out of the Monument Circle studio, which underwent renovations to house production facilities. This resulted from a multi-year agreement with WIBC's owner Emmis Communications that was signed that April, in which WRTV also provides news content for WIBC with some staff appearing on both stations.
In May 2014, Scripps announced that WRTV's North Meridian Street studios would begin handling the master control operations of the company's 19 television stations as early as July of that year, expanding upon an existing regional centralcasting hub built under McGraw-Hill ownership, resulting in the hirings of about 10 staffers. Each of the stations will continue handling the downloading of network and syndicated programs via high-speed network feeds. Scripps renewed ABC affiliations for WRTV and nine other stations through 2019 on December 10, 2014.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|6.1||720p||16:9||WRTV-HD||Main WRTV programming / ABC|
|6.2||480i||HTSN||Hometown Sports and News (HTSN)|
(to join Grit 10/1/2016)
On March 17, 2010, WRTV announced a partnership with Hometown Sports Indiana (HTSI) to air live high school and collegiate sporting events on digital subchannel 6.2. The subchannel is branded by WRTV as "Hometown Sports and News," (HTSN) and the HTSI/HTSN content replaced a 24-hour news and weather channel ("6 News 24/7"), which aired rolling news and weather updates and simulcasts of WRTV newscasts. HTSI/HTSN carries local high school and collegiate football, basketball, and baseball game telecasts, as well as Indy Fuel hockey and Indianapolis Indians baseball. Some HTSI/HTSN content is simulcast on WRTV's primary channel, including a half-hour report in the early morning hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Citing the monetary cost of sports content, WRTV will drop HTSI/HTSN content from subchannel 6.2 on October 1, 2016, in favor of an affiliation with the digital network Grit.
On October 3, 2011, WRTV began carrying the health and lifestyle-oriented service Live Well Network (which is owned by ABC corporate parent The Walt Disney Company) on digital subchannel 6.3. Comcast Xfinity began carrying the subchannel on digital channel 246 later that month. The network was carried until its national discontinuation on April 15, 2015, when the sitcom/comedy film network Laff replaced it as part of a bulk affiliation deal with Scripps' former LWN stations.
WRTV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, at 8 a.m. 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 25. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 6.
Syndicated programs seen on WRTV include Live! with Kelly, Right This Minute (which is co-produced by Scripps), Extra, Judge Judy and The Insider. WRTV clears the entirety of ABC's network schedule and typically airs all network programs in pattern, except during instances where the station carries breaking news or severe weather coverage, or special programming.
For most of the time since ABC gained the television rights to the Indianapolis 500 in 1986, WRTV has aired the race in primetime on a tape delay rather than airing it live. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway insisted on this arrangement to encourage residents and tourists in the Indianapolis metropolitan area to attend the race. During the timeslot in which the race airs live, that day's ABC primetime schedule airs early under special dispensation from the network. In 1999, WRTV televised the Indianapolis 500 live, in addition to the tape-delayed primetime broadcast as part of WRTV's 50th anniversary. On May 25, 2016 with the event sold out, IMS and WRTV announced that it would air the Indianapolis 500 live in the market for the first time since it carried the 1949 and 1950 races as WFBM.
The station once carried select Indianapolis Colts NFL games broadcast by ABC as part of the network's Monday Night Football package from the 1984 season until the 2005 season. The station acquired the local rights to two Colts regular season games during the 2014 season between the Philadelphia Eagles (on September 15) and between the New York Giants (on November 3), both of which aired on ESPN's Monday Night Football – whose Colts broadcasts are normally carried over-the-air by WNDY-TV (channel 23). In both situations, the station rescheduled ABC's Monday lineup: Dancing with the Stars aired the following Tuesday afternoon before the station's 5 p.m. newscast on the night of its original broadcast, but did not open a voting window for the Indianapolis market, while it aired Castle after ABC's late night programming.
WRTV presently broadcasts 42 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and 4½ hours on Sundays). In addition, the station produces the local news discussion program Indianapolis This Week, airing Sundays at 8:30 a.m., and the sports highlight program RTV6 Sports Xtra, airing Sundays at 11:30 p.m. WRTV's newscasts led the ratings in the Indianapolis market for many years; as recently as the early 1980s, WRTV's news viewership often exceeded the combined audience of WISH and WTHR. WISH-TV's newscasts surged into first place in the mid-1980s, although WRTV managed to remain at a solid second place even after the retirement of longtime anchor Howard Caldwell. However, channel 6's ratings flatlined after a botched format revamp in 1996, coinciding with WTHR's surge to first place. It fell to last place for the first time in its history, and has never really recovered. For most of the time from 1997 to 2013, WRTV finished third behind WTHR and WISH-TV; on some occasions, it fell to fourth behind Fox affiliate WXIN (channel 59). Since 2014, the station has been part of a spirited four-way battle for second place along with WISH-TV, WXIN, and WTTV.
WRTV has brought forth several technological innovations over the years; it was the first television station in Indiana to record local programming on videotape and to use mini-cams for newsgathering purposes. Channel 6 was also the first in the state to use microwave relays (years prior to the use of satellite transmissions for newsgathering) to provide live remote footage from the field ("Insta-Cam"), the first to use a mobile satellite uplink vehicle (NewStar 6) to provide live video from remote locations, the first to convert to non-linear digital editing for news content, the first to use digital news cameras and the first to provide VODcasting. In 1988, the station debuted a half-hour 5:00 p.m. newscast, becoming the first station in the market to carry an early evening news program in that timeslot. In the mid-1990s, the station launched a 24-hour cable news channel NewsChannel 64, which later evolved into "6 News 24/7" and began to be carried on digital subchannel 6.2 by the late 2000s.
On September 10, 2007, WRTV expanded its 5:00 p.m. newscast to one hour (replacing syndicated programming in the 5:30 p.m. timeslot) and debuted a half-hour early evening newscast at 7:00 p.m., the first such newscast in the Indianapolis market in that timeslot. Station vice president and general manager Don Lundy stated that it launched the latter program in order to reach viewers whose longer workdays and commutes prevented them from arriving home in time to watch a 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. newscast. The station's weekend morning newscasts were cancelled around this time, as a cost-saving measure imposed by McGraw-Hill.
On October 12, 2008, WRTV became the third television station in the state of Indiana to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. With the upgrade, the station unveiled a new graphics package (replacing one based on Denver sister station KMGH-TV's graphics of that time) and updated music from Gari Media Group's "Eyewitness News: New Generation" package, along with a refresh of its news set and a revised logo for all newscasts. In September 2012, WRTV implemented a standardized graphics package and news theme ("Inergy" by Stephen Arnold Music) for Scripps' stations that originated on West Palm Beach sister station WPTV-TV the previous month. The station also began broadcasting its newscasts from its Monument Circle studio facility that month.
On September 7, 2013, WRTV debuted weekend morning newscasts (a two-hour block running from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m., and an additional block at 8:00 a.m. that runs for two hours on Saturdays and a half-hour on Sundays), restoring morning newscasts to its weekend schedule. The expansion resulted in the hires of eight on-air and behind-the-scenes employees to the station. As a result, WRTV moved the weekend edition of Good Morning America to 7:00 a.m. (the network's recommended timeslot for the program in all time zones) on both days.
Notable former on-air staff
- Tom Carnegie - longtime sports director (also served as public address announcer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; retired in 1985, died in 2011)
- Frances Farmer - host of afternoon movie showcase Frances Farmer Presents (formerly worked as an actress; died in 1970)
- Hal Fryar (a.k.a. "Harlow Hickenlooper") - host of the Three Stooges show, also one of nine such local hosts from across the country cast as villains in the Stooges' full-length feature The Outlaws Is Coming (now with a senior relations firm in Indianapolis)
- Diane Willis - 6 and 11 p.m. anchor (1987–2001)
- Emily Gimmel - morning reporter (later starred in SOAPnet series Southern Belles: Louisville)
- Durward Kirby (sidekick of Garry Moore and Allen Funt; died in 2000)
- Marilyn Mitzel - anchor/reporter (1977–1984)
- Dave Piontek - sports anchor (former NBA star; died in 2004)
- Phil Ponce - reporter (now at WTTW in Chicago)