WAGM-TV is the CBS/Fox-affiliated television station for Northern Maine, United States and Western New Brunswick, Canada. Licensed to Presque Isle, Maine, it broadcasts a standard definition digital signal on VHF channel 8 from a transmitter on the northern section of Mars Hill Mountain among the wind turbines. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 12 and in 720p high definition on digital channel 1206 and on Rogers Cable channel 9 and in high definition on digital channel 145 (however, regardless of the Cable TV provider, the HD feed is cable-only).[2][3] Owned by Gray Television, WAGM has studios on Brewer Road (SR 210) in Presque Isle. Syndicated programming on the station includes Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Extra, and Family Feud among others.

Digital channels

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP short nameProgramming[4]
8.1480i4:3WAGMFOXFox Broadcasting Company / WAGM-DT1 / Fox
8.21080i16:9WAGM-HDMain WAGM-TV programming / WAGM-DT2 / CBS

Repeaters

In addition to the main signal, WAGM operates three translators.

Call lettersChannelCity of licenseLicenseeTransmitter location
W02AU-D2St. FrancisSt. Francis Chamber of Commercenorth of Back Settlement
W11AY-D11St. John Plantationthe townsouth of St. John
Road/SR 161
W16DA-D16Fort KentGray Televisioneast of town center

History

WAGM-TV signed on October 13, 1956 on VHF channel 8. It was a CBS-affiliate owned by Harold Glidden and the Aroostook Broadcasting Corporation along with WAGM radio (then at 1450 AM; later at 950 AM).[5] The transmitter was behind the station's Brewer Road studios, providing a coverage area limited to the immediate area including Presque Isle and Caribou. In 1957, Glidden sold Aroostook Broadcasting to Community Broadcasting System, a company controlled by former Governor Horace Hildreth, who also owned WABI-AM-TV in Bangor.[6]

Soon afterward, the station changed its primary affiliation to NBC, matching WABI-TV; however, WAGM-TV maintained secondary affiliations with CBS and ABC.[7] It returned to being a primary CBS affiliate, again following WABI's lead, in 1959.[8] However, in practice, as an affiliate of all the big three networks, WAGM cherry-picked the most popular programs for its prime time lineup.

Community Broadcasting Service merged with Journal Publications in 1971 to form Diversified Communications.[9] WAGM radio was sold in 1981[10] and renamed WKZX;[11] it went silent in the late-1980s. The radio station's building still exists today but appears abandoned, while the three transmitter towers nearby were dismantled sometime in the early-1990s. In 1984, Diversified Communications sold WAGM-TV to NEP Communications, then-owner of WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[12] NEP sold WNEP to The New York Times Company a year later, but retained WAGM[13] under the licensee name NEPSK, Inc.[14] At one point co-owned by Tom Shelburne, Peter Kozloski, and Norman Johnston,[15] Kozloski assumed full ownership of the station in 1991, retaining the NEPSK name.[16]

Around the same time as the sale to NEP, WAGM began phasing out its secondary affiliations with ABC and NBC. Given increasing availability of cable and satellite television in rural Aroostook County, the necessity to carry programming from multiple networks decreased. Many stations over the Canadian border in New Brunswick also serve Aroostook County. By 1990, WAGM carried the entire CBS prime time lineup, with other network programs airing nightly between 7 and 8. The station dropped ABC completely in 1998, while the last NBC show seen on the station, Days of Our Lives, disappeared from the schedule in September 2005. The end of the ABC and NBC affiliations left KXGN-TV in Glendive, Montana as the last television station in the United States affiliated with more than one big three network on a single feed (that station, formerly a dual CBS/NBC affiliate, moved NBC to a digital subchannel in September 2009). Today, WLBZ and WVII-TV from Bangor serve as the de facto NBC and ABC affiliates respectively on Time Warner Cable.

When Fox gained broadcasting rights to games from the NFL's National Football Conference in 1994, WAGM aired them since Fox didn't have an affiliate in Presque Isle; this made it the only station in the United States to air programs from all four major networks at the same time.[17] The arrangement ended when CBS obtained the American Football Conference contract in 1998. It also aired some UPN programming during late nights and weekends from 1995 until 2006 when that network closed and merged with The WB to form The CW. The station moved its transmitter site in 1999 to the summit of Big Rock ski resort on Mars Hill Mountain's southwestern face. The move placed the antenna at a much higher point greatly improving reception of the signal.[19] This location is where its first digital signal on UHF channel 16 signed on from in July 2003.[21]

On September 12, 2006, the station launched a Fox affiliate on its primary digital channel preceding the shutdown of Foxnet. The national service, comparable to The WB 100+ (also defunct), provided the area's only access to Fox on cable. The change resulted in the main CBS signal moving to a new second subchannel. Such a placement is generally uncommon as most broadcasters number a digital signal equivalent to the analog signal as minor channel 1 and number other subchannels with higher minor channel numbers. This is a similar situation as NBC affiliate WGBC in Meridian, Mississippi which moved its original NBC affiliation to a new second digital subchannel so its main channel could join Fox and the Retro Television Network (RTV).

Until Time Warner Cable switched to WAGM's relocated CBS feed, it offered Fox in high definition for a short time on digital channel 508. On November 15, 2007, WAGM created a new separate website for its Fox channel featuring the "My Fox" format and layout from Fox Interactive Media. However, the web address was eventually abandoned.

For the U.S. digital transition on June 12, 2009, WAGM applied for a 10 kilowatt digital signal and moved its transmitter to the northern section of Mars Hill Mountain. At midnight on June 12, it signed-off the analog channel 8 and digital channel 16 signals for the final time. The next day, the station signed-on a new more powerful digital signal on channel 8. WAGM is seen across Western New Brunswick in Canada and can be picked up over-the-air a few miles outside of Fredericton city limits in communities such as Keswick Ridge. On cable, it is seen throughout Northwestern New Brunswick towns such as Woodstock, Grand Falls, and Edmundston. The station was available to a greater extent in Canada such as in Fredericton until the advent of satellite-delivered American broadcast stations on Cancom in the early-1990s.

As for national programming, WAGM airs the complete CBS schedule; until 2013, the station signed off every night and thus did not show CBS News Up to the Minute. During the fall potato harvest (potatoes being the most important industry in the region), the annual Potato Picker's Special is aired from 5:00am until 6 in the morning for 5 days a week on WAGM for approximately 3 weeks beginning in September. The program announces details from area farmers with regards to the harvest and has been airing either in Radio or Television format for over 50 years.

In April 2015, WAGM was sold to Gray Television for $10.25 million.[2] The transaction closed on July 1, 2015 following FCC approval.[23] WAGM is Gray's first television station in the Northeastern United States.

News operation

WAGM's NewsSource 8 broadcasts have routinely ranked as the highest-rated local newscasts in the United States based on Nielsen market share. The station serves a large area but its primary market is Aroostook County which is about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. Given the station's transmitter location in close proximity to Canada, it also covers news and weather in Western New Brunswick.

The small market nature of WAGM tends to result in a high employee turnover rate with most personalities staying at the station for only a year or two before moving on to a larger market. Nevertheless, a few personnel have been with WAGM for more than a few years such as Assistant News Director and Sports Director Rene Cloukey. Another long-lasting employee no longer with the station is Station Manager and News Director Jon Gulliver as well as former News Director Sue Bernard. Current Chief Meteorologist Ted Shapiro has been with WAGM since being ousted from Bangor's WVII when that station axed its weather department and outsourced forecasting segments to AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania. Ironically, WAGM uses some of that company's CinemaLive weather graphics system in its own forecast segments.

With the September 12, 2006 launch of Fox on its main channel came a new prime time weeknight newscast known as NewsSource 8 at 10. This program closely mirrors local news seen on the CBS channel. On April 11, 2009 due to a decrease in sponsorship, increased pre-emptions from network sports coverage, and financial reasons WAGM stopped airing a Saturday night newscast at 6. In late-September 2010, NewsSource 8: The Saturday Edition was brought back but is now normally shown on the Fox channel. However, it can still be seen on the CBS channel should network coverage delay and/or pre-empt the program. In addition, the prime time newscast at 10 was expanded to Saturday nights at that point in time. As of December 2012, NewsSource 8: The Weekend Edition no longer airs on Saturdays.

On August 23, 2010, WAGM renovated its news and weather set but kept the same music theme and graphics package. Unlike most CBS affiliates, WAGM does not air a weekday morning show for two hours (its NewsSource 8: The Morning Edition is only seen for sixty minutes starting at 6), a noon newscast and/or a newscast weeknights at 5. When the Fox channel first launched, it replayed the morning broadcast originally at 8 in the morning. This was eventually moved to 9 and then dropped altogether at some point.