WAGA-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 27) is a Fox owned-and-operated television station located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. WAGA-TV maintains studio and transmitter facilities located on Briarcliff Road in unincoporated DeKalb County, just east of Atlanta proper. WAGA is available on Comcast channel 4 and on DirecTV and Dish Network in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
As a CBS affiliate
WAGA-TV first began operations on March 8, 1949. It was originally owned by Storer Broadcasting along with WAGA radio (AM 590, now WDWD; and WAGA-FM 102.9, now WVEE at 103.3), all colloquially called "Wagga". It is Atlanta's second-oldest television station, signing on seven months after WSB-TV (channel 2). Originally a CBS affiliate, channel 5 also carried a secondary affiliation with the DuMont Television Network from 1949 to 1956. It also shared the ABC affiliation with WSB-TV until WLWA-TV (Channel 11, now WXIA-TV) signed on in September 1951. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
WAGA was the only VHF commercial station in Atlanta that was on the same channel from its launch along with WSB and WXIA both having started on channel 8. That allocation was later occupied by WGTV in 1960 of Athens, GA among with the mentioned stations using channels 2 and 11 respectively later on. Storer sold the WAGA radio stations in 1959; however, channel 5 retained the "-TV" suffix for almost four decades longer before FOX dropped it in 1998 (only to pick it up the suffix again in 2009).
WAGA-TV originally broadcast from studios and transmission facilities located at 1018 West Peachtree Street NW. This building would later become home to pioneering superstation and leading Atlanta independent station WTBS (channel 17, now WPCH-TV). Sometime in the mid-1960s, channel 5 moved to its current facilities on Briarcliff Road. The studio resembles an antebellum Southern mansion, a type of architecture that was typical for Storer's broadcasting facilities. While this design was somewhat out of place in most of Storer's other markets, it was a perfect fit for Atlanta.
WAGA's original transmitter tower was later the site of a different tower for WPCH-TV's analog channel 17 signal, and a backup for WWWQ (99.7 FM). Because Storer Cable became part of Comcast, the tower (owned by competing cable television provider Time Warner, along with WPCH) was to be removed by October 2009, ending the land lease.
In 1985, WAGA, along with the other Storer stations were sold into a group deal to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., a New York-based private equity firm. Two years later in 1987, KKR sold the Storer stations to Gillett Communications. After bankruptcy, Gillett restructured in 1991, selling several stations and changing its name to SCI. The station's studios were used on location in the Matlock episode called "The Reporter". In 1992, SCI filed for bankruptcy and put its stations on the market. In 1993, New World Communications acquired the SCI stations, including WAGA, with the purchase becoming final on May 25. At the time, New World happened to be based in Atlanta; because of this, WAGA became New World's flagship station.
As a Fox station
On December 18, 1993, Fox outbid CBS for the rights to the NFL's National Football Conference television package. Fox then signed a long-term deal with New World Communications on May 23, 1994 to affiliate with most of the company's major network affiliates, effective that fall. Though Fox already owned a station in Atlanta, WATL-TV (channel 36), it found the chance to have its programming on a VHF station too much to resist. Additionally, the move allowed WAGA to retain its status as the unofficial "home" station of the Atlanta Falcons; WAGA had carried most Falcons games as part of CBS' NFC package since the team's inception in 1966.
WAGA-TV switched to Fox on December 11, 1994 and ended its 45-year affiliation work with CBS, which moved to longtime independent station WGNX (channel 46, now WGCL-TV), which initially turned down CBS's offer to affiliate with the station. The switch was originally scheduled to occur on November 27, but was pushed two weeks later as negotiations between New World Communications, Fox and CBS were ongoing. Afterwards, WAGA subtracted the "-TV" suffix in 1998. Prior to the switch, WAGA was CBS's longest-tenured affiliate south of Washington, D.C. (WUSA); an honor now held by Charlotte, North Carolina's WBTV. WGNX sold much of its syndicated program inventory to WVEU (channel 69, now WUPA), which became a charter affiliate of UPN on January 16, 1995 (eventually becoming an owned-and-operated station of that network); as a result, WGNX was the only Atlanta station that did not retain its entire existing syndicated programming lineup following the switch. WATL became an independent station before becoming a charter affiliate of The WB on January 11, 1995. At that time, Fox finalized the sale of WATL to Qwest Broadcasting (which was controlled by musician Quincy Jones), which merged with The WB's part-owner, the Tribune Company in 2000 (WATL is now owned by the Gannett Company as part of a duopoly with WXIA).
With the affiliation switch, the station acquired additional first-run syndicated talk and reality shows, game shows and movies. As with its sister stations under New World, WAGA opted not to carry children's programming from Fox Kids, which remained on WATL, due to WAGA's interest in airing more local news programming. The switch also continued WAGA's status as the unofficial "home" station of the Falcons, aside from the first three months of the 1994 season, which aired on WATL.
Fox Television Stations bought ten of New World's stations on July 17, 1996; The purchase was finalized on January 22, 1997, turning WAGA into a Fox owned-and-operated station (the second in Atlanta); the station then rebranded itself as "Fox 5 Atlanta", per the network's branding guidelines. However, as with the other former New World Communications stations that are still owned by FOX, the New World name continues in use as channel 5's licensee.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||720p||16:9||WAGA-HD||Main WAGA-TV programming / FOX O&O|
Channel 5.2 originally was for the benefit of smaller cable providers which were taking the fullscreen SD signal straight from the air, and did not want problems due to the widescreen or scan conversion on 5.1; this lasted until the end of April 2009. The channel then stayed blank with no electronic program guide data for several weeks until late June, when it again had identical programming, but this time in widescreen. The 704×480i anamorphic format is unusual, as most standard definition digital channels use a fullscreen 640×480i format (by comparison, widescreen NTSC DVDs use 720×480p). Channel 5.2 again went blank in late July, but continued to have the same program data as 5.1, until it was deleted entirely on December 3.
WAGA shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 27, using PSIP to display WAGA's virtual channel as 5 on digital television receivers. The station's first chief broadcast engineer from 1949, Paul Cram (99 years of age at the time; now deceased), was given the duty of permanently turning off the analog transmitter live on the air at 12:30 p.m. on June 12. WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, and WATL also went off the air at the same time, with WSB and WXIA also live in their transmitter rooms like WAGA.
Out-of-market cable carriage
WAGA is carried in parts of Cherokee and Macon counties of western North Carolina, both bordering Georgia. Cherokee is part of the Chattanooga media market of southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia, while Macon is part of the Asheville/Greenville/Spartanburg DMA of the western Carolinas and northeast Georgia. Although clearly outside of the must-carry obligations that apply within the Atlanta DMA, both counties are popular with visitors and summer-home residents from the Atlanta area. WSB-TV 2.1 is also carried in those counties.
In the 1970s and 1980s, WAGA once had cable carriage in Aiken and Clemson in west-central and upstate (northwestern) South Carolina. WAGA also had significant carriage on Storer Cable, and Liberty Cable Systems (Later TCI, now Mediacom) in South GA during the 1970s, into the early and mid 80's
WAGA's Saturday and Sunday 6 p.m. newscasts are subject to delay due to network sports coverage. WAGA also provides news reports and weather forecasts for news radio station WYAY (106.7 FM), through a partnership between WAGA and WYAY's owner Cumulus Media struck in May 2012.
For many years as a CBS affiliate, the station called its newscasts 5 News Scene. In the 1980s, this changed to Eyewitness News. In 1992, WAGA dropped CBS This Morning through 1994 in favor of a three-hour locally produced morning news program called Good Day Atlanta. With the 1994 affiliation switch to Fox, WAGA poured more resources into its news department. Channel 5's news department was already very well respected; for most of its history it was a solid runner-up to longtime leader WSB-TV, but from the 1970s until early 2009 had to fend off a spirited challenge from WXIA-TV. As of mid-2009, with plummeting ratings at WXIA, WAGA-TV has returned to a solid second-place position in the Atlanta news ratings.
After WAGA became a Fox affiliate in 1994, the station poured more resources into its news department and adopted a news-intensive schedule, increasing its news programming output from about to nearly 40 hours a week. The station retained all of its existing newscasts, but expanded the weeknight 6 p.m. newscasts to two hours; and dropped its half-hour 11 p.m. newscast in favor of an hour-long primetime newscast at 10 p.m. On January 14, 2008, WAGA debuted a new 11 p.m. newscast called Fox 5 News Edge, returning a newscast to that timeslot since the station was still affiliated with CBS. On March 16, 2009, WAGA became the last major network station in the market (behind WGCL, WSB & WXIA) to begin broadcasting its locally produced newscasts in high definition.
On September 14, 2009, WAGA expanded its weekday morning newscast to five hours from 5 to 10 AM among with the addition of an hour-long 9 a.m. extension of the program called Good Day Xtra. On April 1, 2010, WAGA expanded its morning news by an extra half-hour, with the start time moved a half-hour earlier to 4:30 a.m., becoming the first Atlanta station to expand its morning newscast into that slot; the extension was made in order to attract those who wake up go to work earlier than most; the additional half-hour competes against national early morning newscasts airing on WXIA, WGCL and WSB. As of September 2010, WAGA dropped the Fox 5 Morning News and Good Day Xtra titles, in favor of using the Good Day Atlanta branding throughout the morning newscast. On September 14, 2015, the station extended its 11 pm newscast to one hour with the addition of a half-hour News Edge at 11:30; this makes WAGA among the very few stations to extend its late newscast to midnight, and one of two Fox stations (Kansas City's WDAF being the other) to air a two-hour late local news block.
Notable current on–air staff
- Ron Gant – weekday morning anchor on Good Day Atlanta
- Alyse Eady - weekday morning anchor on Good Day Atlanta
Notable former on–air staff
- Jeff Hullinger (news anchor at WXIA-TV)
- Don Naylor
- Deborah Norville (now presently the anchorwoman of syndicated newsmagazine Inside Edition)
- Robin Roberts (now presently the hostess of Good Morning America on ABC)
- Dan Ronan (retired from broadcasting in 2008; now Senior Director of Communications, American Bus Association, Washington D.C.)
- Chuck Scarborough (now at WNBC)
- Forrest Sawyer (later with ABC News and NBC News, now founder and president of Freefall Productions)
- Judy Woodruff (now with the PBS NewsHour)