WAVE, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 47), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The station is owned by Raycom Media. WAVE maintains studio facilities located on South Floyd Street in downtown Louisville, and its transmitter in New Albany, Indiana (alongside the digital transmitter of CBS affiliate WLKY). Syndicated programs broadcast by WAVE (as of September 2015) include Crime Watch Daily, FABLife and Right This Minute. On cable, WAVE is available on Time Warner Cable channel 6 and in high definition on digital channel 906.
The station first signed on the air on November 24, 1948, originally broadcasting on VHF channel 5. The station's transmitter originally broadcast at 24,100 watts. WAVE was the first television station to sign on in the state of Kentucky, and the 41st to debut in the United States. It was founded by the Norton family, who had signed on WAVE radio (970 AM, now WGTK) in 1932. The station has been a primary NBC affiliate since its debut, owing to its sister radio station's longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network; however, it also initially carried secondary affiliations with ABC, CBS and the DuMont Television Network.
WAVE-TV lost CBS programming when WHAS-TV (channel 11, now an ABC affiliate) signed on in March 1950; it later lost DuMont when the network folded in August 1956. Channel 3 continued to share ABC programming with WHAS-TV until WLKY (channel 32) signed on as a full-time affiliate in September 1961. It has remained with NBC since then, and as such, WAVE is the only commercial television station in the Louisville market that has never changed its primary network affiliation. On May 7, 1949, WAVE-TV became the first television station in the United States to present a live telecast of the Kentucky Derby. The station shipped a canned newsreel to NBC to broadcast the event nationally. The telecast was the first use of Zoomar lenses in a television sports broadcast.
In 1953, WAVE-TV moved to VHF channel 3, due to signal interference issues with fellow NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati. WAVE-TV made history again in 1954 as it became the first station in Louisville to broadcast programming in color; viewers were treated to a vivid image of the new NBC Peacock logo. In 1959, having long since outgrown its original studio facility on East Broadway (which now houses the Louisville offices for Metro United Way), WAVE-TV moved into its current downtown facility at 725 South Floyd Street. Three years later, channel 3 became the first station in the region to transmit live, locally produced programming in color; by 1966, it was the only Kentucky station that processed its own news footage on color film. In 1969, WAVE-TV became the first station in the market to employ a certified television meteorologist (Tom Wills) and operate its own weather-forecasting system.
Over the years, the Nortons acquired three other television stations and two other radio stations, including WFRV-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin (and semi-satellite WJMN-TV in Marquette, Michigan); WMT-AM-FM-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and WFIE-TV in Evansville, Indiana. Eventually, the Norton holdings became known as Orion Broadcasting, which was headquartered in Louisville with WAVE-AM-TV serving as the company's flagship station. The station notably referred to its coverage area as "WAVE Country" until 2000, echoing a popular jingle and image campaign that the station introduced in the early 1970s. In fact, that very jingle served as the image campaign of the Al Ham-composed news music package "Home Country".
Orion merged with The Liberty Corporation in 1981. WAVE-TV then became part of Liberty's broadcast arm, Cosmos Broadcasting. WAVE radio was then sold off; the WAVE cluster had been grandfathered when the FCC banned common ownership of radio and television stations in the same market in the 1960s, but lost its grandfathered protection with the Liberty merger. As the radio station promptly changed its call sign to WAVG, Cosmos dropped the "-TV" suffix from the WAVE callsign in 1987. In 1991, the station began transmitting its signal from a new broadcast tower in Oldham County; the 1,739 feet (530 m) transmitter tower (which is 70% taller than most television broadcast towers), which is the tallest structure in the state, cost $5 million to build and helped to improve WAVE's signal coverage. When the Liberty Corporation exited from the insurance industry in 2000, WAVE came directly under the Liberty banner; in August 2005, Liberty announced that it would merg with the Montgomery, Alabama-based Raycom Media; the sale was finalized on January 31, 2006.
During the 1990s and 2000s, WAVE carried Southeastern Conference football and basketball through Jefferson-Pilot Sports (later Lincoln Financial Sports) which merged into Raycom Sports in 2007-08, although some football games were aired on WBKI or WFTE (now WMYO). This ended in 2009 when Raycom Sports, coincidentally a subsidiary of WAVE-TV's current owner, lost the rights to ESPN Regional Television at the end of the 2008-09 basketball season. The SEC syndication package by ESPN Plus ended up with WBNA throughout the 2009-2014 existence of the syndicated SEC Network (now SEC TV).
In May 2014, WAVE and WHAS-TV were granted exclusive rights to broadcast football and basketball games of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which includes the University of Louisville. The contract spans three years allows the two stations to air a minimum of 22 regular season ACC basketball games, all 14 ACC tournament basketball games, and 13 ACC football games each season, as well as six pre-season football programs, an ACC Basketball Tip-Off Show, and three ACC "Kings of the Court" specials. WAVE will also have access to exclusive ACC digital content on WAVE3.com, featuring ACC Football, ACC Basketball, and ACC Olympic Sports content, including highlight packages of every ACC Football and ACC Basketball conference game.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WAVE HD||Main WAVE 3 programming / NBC|
WAVE discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, 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 47. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
WAVE-DT2 carried This TV programming from 2008 until 2014, when it was replaced by Bounce TV, with This moving to WKYI-CD. Bounce TV was carried on WAVE-DT3 (channel 3.3) until it was moved up to channel 3.2 to make way for the Grit TV network in late 2014.
WAVE presently broadcasts 40 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, three hours on Saturdays and 4½ hours on Sundays); in addition, the station produces the discussion programs WAVE 3 Listens Live (which airs weekdays at noon), Power to Change (which airs Fridays at 12:30 p.m., in the slot normally held by the second half-hour of Listens Live) and WAVE Country with Dawne Gee (which airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m.).
Channel 3 was the ratings leader in the Louisville market for over 20 years, before WHAS-TV overtook it at #1 in the 1970s. The station has spent most of the last four decades as runner-up to WHAS-TV, though in recent years it has had to fend off a spirited challenge from WLKY. Louisville is also one of the few markets in the country where all four of the major network-affiliated stations have roughly equal ratings in recent years, although WLKY pulled ahead of WAVE, WHAS-TV and Fox affiliate WDRB (channel 41) during the May 2011 Nielsen ratings period.
On July 9, 1990, WAVE debuted the first 5:00 p.m. newscast in the Louisville market; titled "FirstNews", it was anchored by veteran broadcaster Jackie Hays, who went on to become the longest-serving female anchor in the station's history (before WAVE, Hays anchored at then-NBC affiliate KYW-TV in Philadelphia; that station is currently a CBS O&O). Hays and co-anchor Don Schroeder were voted "Best TV News Anchor Team" and the station itself was chosen as "Best Source for Local News" by readers of Louisville Magazine. Jackie Hays retired from WAVE in 2009 and was inducted in to the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 2011. Former chief meteorologist Tom Wills holds the record as the station's longest-tenured on-air personality, having been with WAVE from 1969 until his retirement in July 2009; Wills stated that he would serve as a fill-in whenever one the station's meteorologist was on vacation, and announced that he was considering a return to the University of Louisville to teach meteorology as he did for several years. The station celebrated his 40-year tenure with the station during a special two-hour edition of WAVE 3 Listens Live, in which Wills's family and co-workers appeared as guests.
Meteorologist John Belski, who left channel 3 in September 2010 (he now works as a severe weather specialist for WLKY), received numerous awards during his 20+ years at WAVE, including being named "Best Of Louisville" by the readers of Louisville Magazine for a number of years and was named "Best of Kentucky" by the readers of Kentucky Monthly magazine, as well as receiving the LEO's Readers' Choice Award and a "Best of the Best" award from Louisville Magazine (which is given to people and organizations that have won the "Best of Louisville" award more than 10 times). Belski anchored severe weather coverage that earned him and the station several Emmy Awards; he was also presented the prestigious Mark Trail Award for bringing public awareness to weather radios as a lifeline during severe weather, which was presented to Belski on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Sports director Kent Taylor was voted "Kentucky TV Sportscaster of the Year" by the Associated Press in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
On June 30, 2008, WAVE became the first television station in the Louisville market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. WAVE is the only one of two stations that broadcast at least some portion of their newscasts in HD; footage shot in-studio is broadcast in high definition, while all news video from on-remote locations is broadcast in standard definition.
In March 2011, WAVE and WHAS-TV began sharing a news helicopter supplied by St. Louis-based Helicopters Inc., through a Local News Service agreement, allowing the two stations to share news video, especially during breaking news events, while also partitioning time for individual use of the chopper. The starboard side of the copter displays a "Sky 11" decal (referencing WHAS-TV), while the port side carries the "Air 3" logo (referencing WAVE).
Following a disappointing November 2011 sweeps period, WAVE moved its midday newscast from noon to 11:00 a.m. in January 2012. With the change, WAVE is the only station in the market whose midday newscast airs in the 11:00 a.m. timeslot (however, WDRB has carried a newscast at 11:30 a.m. since 1999). The midday newscast is rebroadcast at 1:00 p.m. on Ion Television affiliate WBNA (channel 21). In 2013, WAVE began airing a rebroadcasts of its 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. newscasts on its Bounce TV-affiliated third digital subchannel at 8:00 p.m.
Notable former on-air staff
- Foster Brooks – show host
- Allen Denton – anchor (later with KNTV in San Jose, now with KUSI-TV in San Diego)
- Emily Gimmel – teen feature reporter (now at WKYT-TV in Lexington)
- Steve Kmetko – anchor (1981–1982); later an E! host
WAVE is carried on Frankfort Plant Board and Windjammer Communications in Frankfort, which is part of the Lexington market; cable providers in Frankfort have carried stations from both Lexington and Louisvile for decades (both providers also carry competing stations WLKY and WHAS-TV). WAVE is also available on cable providers in the eastern portion of the Evansville market (in Dubois and Perry Counties), the southern portion of the Indianapolis (in Lawrence County) and Cincinnati (in Ripley and Switzerland Counties in Indiana, and Owen County in Kentucky) markets, and the northern portion of the small Bowling Green market (in Hart County).
WAVE is also available to all customers the cable system of Glasgow, Kentucky-based South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative (SCRTC), which serve Barren, Hart, and Metcalfe counties in the Bowling Green media market, Green and Larue Counties (within the Louisville market), as well as Monroe County, which is actually in the Nashville media market.