WABI-TV is the CBS-affiliated television station for Central and Eastern Maine licensed to Bangor. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 13 (or virtual channel 5.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Peaked Mountain in Dixmont. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 6 and in high definition on digital channel 705. DirecTV and Dish Network also carry the station. As of October 12, 2012, Dish also carries WABI-TV in Franklin, Kennebec, Knox, and Oxford counties, in the Portland market, on channel 6265. It is the flagship station of Diversified Communications, which is owned by the Hildreth family of Bangor. Its studios are located on Hildreth Street in West Bangor.

Digital channels

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP short nameProgramming [2]
5.11080i16:9WABI-DTMain WABI-TV programming / CBS
5.2720pTHE CWEastern and Central Maine's CW
5.3480iDecades

History

WABI-TV was the first television station in Maine signing-on January 25, 1953 and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 5. It was owned by former Governor Horace Hildreth along with WABI radio (910 AM, now WABK, and 97.1 FM now WBFB), and managed in its early years by Murray Carpenter. The station was a primary NBC affiliate, but carried secondary affiliations with the other three major networks of the day. (CBS, ABC, and DuMont). It lost CBS to WTWO (channel 2) in 1955; that station had been founded by Carpenter. It lost DuMont soon afterward when that network shut down. After Carpenter sold WTWO to the Rines-Thompson family in 1959, the new owners changed that station's calls to WLBZ-TV and swapped affiliations with WABI-TV, making channel 5 a primary CBS affiliate. The two outlets then began to share ABC programming, which had previously been exclusive to WABI. This ended when WEMT (now WVII-TV) signed-on in 1965 and took the affiliation. During the late-1950s, WABI was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.[3]

The radio stations were eventually spun off in 1993[4][5] and are currently under the ownership of Blueberry Broadcasting.

On July 28, 2006, WABI announced it was creating a new second digital subchannel to become affiliated with The CW which would be the result of The WB and UPN merging. On Time Warner Cable (which was in the process of taking over cable coverage in the Bangor area for bankrupt Adelphia) systems, the subchannel would replace cable-only "WBAN" which was an affiliate of The WB through cable-exclusive WB 100+. This arrangement was part of a three-year deal with WABI which also allowed continued carriage of its primary channel. The CW officially launched on WABI-DT2 at the network's inception on September 18.

At one point in time, WABI operated an analog repeater (W61AO channel 61) licensed to Calais with a transmitter in Meddybemps. The transmitter tower was shared with W57AQ channel 57 which repeated WLBZ. Until the mid-1990s, W61AO was used to feed cable systems across the border in the Canadian Maritimes. With the advent of CANCOM, however, WABI's cross-border carriage declined. It is not offered on any systems across the border today including those in St. Stephen, New Brunswick within W61AO's former signal range. Most cable systems in Atlantic Canada now carry WBZ-TV from Boston, Massachusetts for CBS programming. The W61AO license was canceled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at WABI's request on November 9, 2009.[6]

WABI's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.[7] On January 4, 2010, the FCC issued a "Report & Order" allowing WABI to move from this allotment to VHF channel 13.[8] The station made this move to be consistent with other full-power stations in the market (which are also on the VHF dial) in order to save on energy costs as well as improve reception of the station. At 2 in the afternoon on December 13, 2010, WABI turned off channel 19 and commenced operations on channel 13.[9][10]

Currently, WABI generally carries the full slate of CBS programming except for the CBS Overnight News (which is replaced by syndicated reruns). It does not carry all of the network's Southeastern Conference (SEC) college football games on weekends. For several years, the games that were not shown appeared on low-powered Ion affiliate WBGR-LP. WABI preempted CBS games that conflicted with local sports programming and/or its weekend 6 o'clock news and 7 o'clock programming during Nielsen ratings periods. The national games were moved to CW outlet WABI-DT2 effective with the 2009 season.

The station often preempted CBS programming to air University of Maine sports. It usually re-scheduled network prime time to air late-night or the next morning. WABI ended its longtime carriage of UMaine sports in 2013 after failing to reach a new contract with Learfield Sports (which handles marketing for UMaine sports broadcasts); it had been the television flagship of the Black Bear Sports Network for the bulk of its history, with the only break coming from 1989 through 1997, when WLBZ-TV held the rights. WABI now airs a package of six high school football games on Friday nights during the season (in addition to its long-standing coverage of the championship games).[11] Black Bear sports telecasts would subsequently move to WVII-TV and WFVX-LD.[12] On July 15, 2014 WABI-TV's contract with Dish Network expired, and both the station and WABI-DT2 were blacked out early on July 16, 2014. Among the issues WABI-TV cited included financial terms, customer service issues between the station and Dish Network, and switching viewers in several counties to another CBS station on account of DMA location (including WGME in the Portland area). After a breakdown on contract talks which picked up slowly, an agreement was reached October 8, 2014, allowing both stations to return to Dish Network later that day.[2]

WABI-TV entered into an additional affiliation agreement with "retro" TV network Decades (a network co-owned by CBS) in 2015. The official launch date was announced as October 1, 2015; but the network soft-launched on a new third subchannel on September 24 at 2:30 PM, a week prior to that date. However, WABI-DT3 experienced some technical difficulties that first week, losing video that night and again the following afternoon. The problem with the station's receiving satellite dish was, however, diagnosed and repaired, and no further difficulties occurred until the official launch. WABI-DT3 is available to Time Warner Cable customers in the Bangor DMA on digital channel 1255. Moosehead Enterprises also provides the channel to select customers in Greenville, Rockwood, Guilford and Monson, passing the signal through as channel 5.3. Bee Line Cable provides the channel to its subscribers on channel 5-13. There are no other announced prospective cable or satellite service pick-ups at this time. [2][2]

Programming

Syndicated programming on WABI includes How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and The Dr. Oz Show among others. WABI-TV also airs first-run episodes of The Big Bang Theory through CBS.

News operation

For its entire existence, WABI has been a ratings powerhouse, often earning more viewership than competitors WLBZ and WVII combined. Diversified has always devoted significant resources to channel 5's news department, resulting in a higher-quality product than conventional wisdom would suggest for a station in the 155th market. Of the big three network-affiliated television stations in the area, it offers the most live newscasts originating from Bangor. WLBZ largely serves as a semi-satellite of sister station WCSH in Portland and only provides locally produced news weeknights at 5 and 6. Even though WLBZ only produces news segments from Bangor at 5 and 6, it is quickly catching up to WABI in the ratings due to the station airing news that covers the entire state. Otherwise, it simulcast broadcasts from the parent outlet in all other time slots. WVII tapes the news and weather segments of its weeknight show at 11 in advance and does not provide any news at all on weekends. WABI's longtime dominance can also be attributed to its status as the market's only locally owned-and-operated commercial station. Furthermore, some of its main personnel have remained employed at the station for more than 20 years, which is unusual since Bangor has always been a fairly small market.

Corresponding with the launch of The CW on September 18, 2006, WABI-DT2 added local news and weather cut-ins during its airing of the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz from 6 until 8. A simulcast of the weekday noon news was also added. This was subsequently shifted to a rebroadcast at 12:30 in September 2008. A new half-hour weeknight newscast at 10 known as WABI-TV 5 Prime Time News on The CW debuted on its schedule featuring a modified set and "CW" labeled mics. That show competes with a 1 hour broadcast seen at the same time on low-powered Fox affiliate WFVX-LD which is produced by WVII. In January 2008, WABI-DT2 replaced the first half hour of the second hour of The Daily Buzz with a thirty-minute extension of the main station's weekday morning show (and that 7:00AM through 7:30AM morning newscast of WABI-DT2 is now an hour-later re-airing of the 6:00AM through 6:30AM segment). Known as WABI-TV 5 Morning News on The CW, this production is taped in advance and competes with live local news seen at the same time on WFVX (which is also produced by WVII).

All three newscasts of WABI-DT2 getting aired also (in one way or another) over on WABI-DT1 is the most likely reason why the decision had been made for all three of the WABI-DT2 newscasts to not be integrated into , as evidenced by the fact that the listed Streaming Schedule for WABI-TV does not mention any of the newscasts of WABI-DT2.[2]

On October 11, 2010, WABI became Maine's first station to upgrade newscasts to high definition level. Unlike sister station WCJB-TV in Gainesville, Florida which revamped its on-air appearance when it converted to high definition newscasts back in January 2009, WABI's newscast elements stayed the same except for slightly updated on-screen graphics. Newscasts seen on WABI-DT2 were not included in the upgrade because the subchannel only aired in standard definition.[2][2] WABI-DT2 upgraded to HD on June 15, 2012, at which point all local newscasts on the channel were also upgraded to HD. In addition to its main studios, WABI operates a Central Maine Bureau on Main Street in Waterville.

Notable former on-air staff