WALA-TV, virtual channel 10 (VHF digital channel 9), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in Mobile, Alabama, United States, that also serves Pensacola, Florida. The station is owned by Meredith Corporation. It has studios on Satchel Paige Drive in Mobile, WALA's transmitter is located in Spanish Fort, Alabama. In addition to its main studios, WALA operates secondary facilities on Executive Plaza Drive in Pensacola.
The station operates a 24-hour local weather called "Weather Now" which is available on Cox Communications digital channel 698 in that city; it is not carried on Comcast in the Alabama side of the market.
WALA signed on the air for the first time on January 14, 1953, it is Mobile's oldest living television station (it is actually the city's second television station, the first was WKAB-TV, which operated on UHF channel 48 from December 30, 1952 until August 1, 1954). It was initially locally owned by W.O. Pape, along with WALA radio (1410 AM, now WNGL). It aired programs from all four major television networks of the time (NBC, ABC, CBS, and DuMont). WALA lost CBS programming to WKRG-TV (channel 5) when it signed on, and when WEAR-TV (channel 3) relinquished CBS programming (when Pensacola was a separate market) and became a full-time ABC affiliate for both Mobile and Pensacola in 1955. During the late 1950s, WALA was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. Pape sold WALA in 1964 to the Roywood Corporation. In 1969, Roywood sold WALA to the Universal Communications Corporation, the television arm of the Detroit News.
Throughout the years, WALA was the ratings leader in a three-station race. As the more established outlet, WALA got the strongest syndicated programming and it had the top-rated local newscasts. Even today, WALA continues to dominate in local news viewership, even after the affiliation switch from NBC to Fox.
The Gannett Company bought out Universal Communications in its merger with Detroit News publisher The Evening News Association, but due to the company's ownership of the Pensacola News Journal, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations barring common ownership of television stations and newspapers in the same market, Gannett owned WALA for only one day in February 1986. Gannett sold WALA-TV to Knight Ridder Broadcasting on February 19, 1986 (similarly as Gannett owned television stations in both markets, two other stations involved in the Universal Communications sale – KTVY (now KFOR-TV) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona – were also sold to Knight Ridder as FCC rules of the time prohibited television duopolies); Knight Ridder, in turn, sold WALA to Burnham Broadcasting in 1989.
After it acquired the television rights to broadcast games from the NFL's National Football Conference in December 1993, Fox wanted to upgrade its affiliates in many markets, approaching owners of VHF television stations (broadcasting on channels 2 to 13) that had more value with advertisers than those within Fox's predominately UHF station portfolio for affiliation deals. In May 1994, the network announced an extensive affiliation and programming agreement with New World Communications – which owned, and was in the process of acquiring, stations in several large and mid-sized markets – in which most of the group's stations would switch their affiliations from one of the "Big Three" networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) to Fox beginning in the fall of 1994 and continuing over the next two years as affiliation contracts lapsed. More stations would switch to the network in 1995, when New World merged with Argyle Television and bought several stations from Citicasters. In turn, News Corporation purchased New World in September 1996, and merged it into its Fox Television Stations subsidiary in January 1997. As a result of Fox's influence in striking affiliations with additional VHF stations to help establish itself as a "Big Four" network, more upgrades were still sought out – this time in smaller markets.
In March 1994, Fox's then-parent News Corporation entered into a partnership with minority-owned film and television production company Savoy Pictures to form a television station ownership group called SF Broadcasting. On August 25, 1994, the company bought WALA, WVUE-TV in New Orleans, Louisiana and KHON-TV in Hawaii, Hawaii for $229 million; fellow sister station WLUK-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin was sold to the company one month earlier in a separate $38 million deal, which for a time, was challenged by an FCC petition filed by NBC alleging that the deal violated foreign investment limits for U.S. broadcasters (a fifth Burnham station, KBAK-TV in Bakersfield, California, was excluded from the SF deal and was instead spun off to Westwind Communications, a new company formed by several former Burnham executives). As part of the deal, all four stations – which were then mostly NBC affiliates, aside from WVUE, then an ABC affiliate – would disaffiliate from their existing "Big Three" network partners and become Fox affiliates. Fox was slated to control the voting stock in the venture, but prior to the sale's closure in 1995, it was determined that Fox would still hold an interest in SF although it opted not to have voting stock in the company. Savoy Pictures controlled the day-to-day operations of the four stations.
WALA-TV switched to Fox on January 1, 1996 (WVUE and KHON switched to the network on the same date, while WLUK had joined Fox in August 1995). The NBC affiliation moved to former Fox affiliate WPMI-TV (channel 15). Unlike the New World Communications-owned Fox affiliates that joined the network during the previous 18-month span, WALA ran Fox Kids programming on weekdays and Saturday mornings; until Fox discontinued the weekday block in December 2001, Fox Kids ran Monday through Fridays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. (an hour earlier than most of its fellow Fox stations), replacing NBC's daytime soap opera lineup upon the switch; Fox Kids' Saturday morning block, meanwhile, aired in pattern. WALA, now rebranded as "Fox 10", also expanded its local news programming to around 25 hours each week, with expansions to its morning and evening newscasts.
Silver King Broadcasting and Emmis Communications ownership
On November 28, 1995, Silver King Communications (operated by former Fox executive Barry Diller) announced that it would acquire Savoy Pictures; as a result, Savoy Pictures and Fox ended their partnership and sold the SF Broadcasting stations, including WALA-TV, to the USA Networks division Silver King Broadcasting. Silver King, which later became known as USA Broadcasting, owned several stations in large and mid-sized U.S. markets that were affiliated with the Home Shopping Network, which USA Networks also owned at the time. The sale of WALA and the other SF Broadcasting stations was approved and finalized in March 1996, with its other assets being merged into the company that November. On April 1, 1998, USA sold all four of its Fox stations to for $307 million in cash and stock, as part of a sale of its major network affiliates in order to concentrate on its formerly HSN-affiliated independent stations.
Fox discontinued its weekday afternoon children's programming block, then running for only two hours in December 2001, but retained its Saturday morning lineup. In 2002, the children's block was revamped as the Fox Box and then began to be programmed by 4Kids Entertainment in 2003, after which it was eventually renamed 4Kids TV (4Kids Entertainment ceased programming Fox's children's block in November 2008, with the network discontinuing its children's programming altogether). At this point WALA, like most Fox affiliates, would purchase more talk and reality-based shows to fill its daytime timeslots.
Emmis bought WB affiliate WBPG (channel 55, now WFNA) in 2003, creating a duopoly with channel 10; WBPG's operations were subsequently merged with WALA at the latter station's facility on Satchel Paige Drive.
LIN Media ownership
On May 15, 2005, Emmis Communications announced that it would sell its 16 television stations, including WALA and WBPG, in order to concentrate on its radio properties. WALA and WBPG were then sold to LIN TV Corporation on August 22, as part of a $260 million deal that included WLUK-TV, and CBS affiliates WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana and KRQE in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the sale of WALA closed on November 30, 2005, at which time LIN also began to operate WBPG under a local marketing agreement. LIN TV would purchase WBPG outright on July 7, 2006, reforming a legal duopoly between the stations.
Until March 2007, WALA carried a simulcast of WBPG (now a CW affiliate) on a second digital subchannel as that station did not have a digital signal of its own. WBPG eventually launched a low-power digital signal in late 2008 and boosted to full power in 2009, when WXXV-TV in neighboring Biloxi, Mississippi abandoned its analog signal on UHF channel 25, which shared the digital frequency that WBPG was assigned. On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives that would have resulted in the sale of the company.
In mid-June 2007, following the lead of most of the other LIN-owned Fox affiliates, WALA launched a new website using Fox Interactive's myFox interface. In October 2008, WALA and CBS sister station WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island relaunched their websites through Fox Interactive as a result of a new partnership between LIN TV and News Corporation (since spun off as the independent company now known as EndPlay). The new sites were similar in format to the myFox sites (which WALA and the other LIN TV-owned Fox affiliates previously used) but without the flashy myFox owned-and-operated station-style look. Over the next few weeks, the other LIN-owned stations (irrespective of their network affiliation) followed suit.
Media General/LIN merger and spinoff to Meredith
On March 21, 2014, LIN Media entered into an agreement to merge with Media General in a $1.6 billion deal. Because Media General already owns CBS affiliate WKRG-TV (channel 5), and the two stations rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Mobile-Pensacola market in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell WALA or WKRG to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as planned changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations which would prohibit sharing agreements. To settle the ownership conflict, Media General announced on August 20, 2014 that it would keep WKRG, choosing to sell WALA to the Meredith Corporation for $86 million; the deal also resulted in the breakup of the duopoly between WALA and WFNA as Media General opted to acquire the latter station and operate it alongside WKRG. The sale was completed on December 19, 2014.
However, ten months later on September 8, 2015, Media General announced that it would acquire Meredith for $2.4 billion, with the combined group to be renamed Meredith Media General upon the sale's expected closure by June 2016. Due to the same ownership conflicts with the LIN-Media General merger that resulted in WALA's sale to Meredith, the two companies would have been required to sell either WALA or WKRG to comply with FCC ownership rules; WFNA is the only station that can legally be acquired by Meredith Media General as it is not among the Mobile-Pensacola market's four highest-rated television stations, and can either be maintained in its new duopoly with WKRG, or reunited in a duopoly with WALA. On January 27, 2016, Media General announced that it was terminating its agreement to acquire Meredith and instead agreed to be acquired by Nexstar Broadcasting Group.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|10.1||720p||16:9||FOX 10||Main WALA-TV programming / Fox|
WALA-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 10, 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 VHF channel 9. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 10.
In addition to carrying the entire Fox network schedule, syndicated programming on WALA includes Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, The Doctors and Dr. Phil. Outside of network programming, the station offers a news-intensive general entertainment format. As a Fox affiliate, WALA has the "rare" distinction of broadcasting some of the strongest syndicated programming from CBS Television Distribution, which the "Big Three" network affiliates in other markets would normally air.
WALA also broadcasts a local program called Studio Ten, which features entertainment and local segments, which are usually paid for by the guests who appear on the show. The hour-long program, which airs at 9:00 a.m. weekday mornings, is hosted by former sports anchor Joe Emer, and meteorologist/reporter Chasity Byrd, and features weather forecasts and technology information from morning meteorologist Michael White as well as consumer news and information from reporter Candace Murphy.
On April 21, 2012, WALA-TV became the third television station in the Mobile–Pensacola market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (WPMI-TV would soon follow one day later), with the introduction of a brand new set and graphics. On August 27, 2012, WALA became the first station in the Mobile-Pensacola market to debut a 4:30 a.m. newscast. However, due to Hurricane Isaac, other stations were doing expanded coverage as well due to the impending storm, which would eventually affect the New Orleans area and spare Mobile from the brunt of the storm. On January 27, 2014, WALA expanded its weekday morning newscast to 4½ hours, running from 4:30 to 9:00 a.m.; as a result, the morning talk and lifestyle program Studio 10 was moved one hour later to 9:00 a.m.
On August 8, 2015, WALA debuted two-hour morning newscasts from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, becoming the third weekend morning local news program in the Mobile-Pensacola market (WEAR-TV has had a weekend morning newscast since 2009, while WKRG debuted its own newscast in that daypart two months before WALA debuted theirs). Subsequently, on August 24, 2015, the station restored a 10:00 p.m. newscast – which airs only on Monday through Fridays – to its schedule after 14 years.