WBAY-TV, virtual channel 2 (UHF digital channel 23), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States. The station is owned by Media General. The station's studios are located on South Jefferson Street in downtown Green Bay (across from the historic Brown County Courthouse), and its transmitter is located in Ledgeview (shared with the transmitters of Wisconsin Public Television station WPNE-TV and Wisconsin Public Radio station WPNE (89.3 FM)).
WBAY-TV first signed on the air on March 17, 1953 as the second television station in Wisconsin, after WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. It was originally owned by the Norbertine Order of Priests, whose abbey is in nearby De Pere. The priests run St. Norbert College in De Pere, and already operated WBAY radio (1360 AM, now WTAQ) in Green Bay and WHBY radio in Appleton. Like WTMJ when that station started in 1947, as the only station in the market, WBAY originally carried programming from all four networks of the day – channel 2 was a primary CBS affiliate with secondary affiliations with NBC, ABC and DuMont.
NBC moved to Marinette's WMBV-TV (channel 11, now WLUK-TV) when it signed on in 1954, with WNAM-TV (channel 42, now WFRV-TV Channel 5) from Neenah taking the ABC affiliation upon its 1955 debut. With the shutdown of DuMont in 1956, WBAY was left as an exclusive CBS affiliate, and remained the only station licensed to Green Bay proper until the 1959 relocation of WLUK to the city. Channel 2 upgraded its transmitter and began broadcasting network programming in color around 1959; locally produced programs were broadcast in color starting in 1966.
The station's studios in downtown Green Bay were built in 1924 as a former Knights of Columbus clubhouse and later was turned into a private Roman Catholic high school during the Great Depression when the Norbertines took over the building. The former gymnasium/auditorium is now called the WBAY Auditorium and is used as the studio for the station's Cerebral Palsy telethon. During the early years of WBAY, it served as the main studio until 1954 when an addition was built behind the main building. The auditorium has also been used for local theatrical productions. The station's newsroom is in the basement of the building in an area that originally held a swimming pool and bowling alley. The WBAY building also served as the home of the WBAY radio stations (now WTAQ and WIXX), which were later purchased by Midwest Communications in the late 1970s, but remained in the building until Midwest built a combined Green Bay operations facility/company headquarters in 2007 and a news-weather sharing agreement was maintained between WBAY-TV and its former radio sisters for many years before it was discontinued in favor of an agreement with WLUK-TV.
As a CBS affiliate, WBAY-TV benefited from that network's coverage of National Football League games, primarily those of the Green Bay Packers. The station carried its first Packers game a few months after signing on, and continued to air most Packers games until 1991 by virtue of CBS holding the rights to the Packers' conference, the National Football Conference. Packers games drew up to a 90 percent share of the audience during the team's championship era of the 1960s under Vince Lombardi, and the station carried the team's coaches' show The Vince Lombardi Show. The station also originated the team's exhibition game coverage from the 1960s to 2002, with some exceptions. Main anchor Bill Jartz has been Lambeau Field's PA system announcer since the start of the 2005–2006 season. The station continued to air Monday Night Football Packer games originating from ESPN beginning with the move of MNF to cable starting with the 2006 until the 2015 season. For the 2016 season, WLUK-TV, the Packers' primary home by virtue of Fox presently holding the rights to the NFC, acquired the syndication rights to the ESPN games under a multi-year agreement. Barring the Packers going to the playoffs as a wild card/low division-winning seed and being selected for ESPN's wild card game which would be simulcast by ABC, it is possible that WBAY may not carry a Packers game during an NFL season for the first time in its 63-year history.
In 1974, WBAY was sold to Nationwide Communications, which operated the station until 1993, when it was sold to Young Broadcasting along with its two ABC-affiliated sisters WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee and WRIC-TV in Richmond, Virginia.
In 1991, CBS purchased the assets of Midwest Television to acquire its long-dominant affiliate in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, WCCO-TV. Midwest also owned channel 2's longtime competitor, WFRV. CBS considered WBAY a strong affiliate, and tried to sell WFRV and in Escanaba, Michigan satellite station, WJMN-TV after the deal with Midwest closed. However, after FCC rules were relaxed at the time to allow one company to own more stations, the network decided to keep the two stations as a result and switched WFRV/WJMN to CBS in 1992 (CBS sold WFRV/WJMN to Liberty Media in 2007, the stations are now owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group).
After it was announced that WFRV would join CBS, channel 2 then decided to take WFRV/WJMN's ABC affiliation; WBAY management insisted that the change take place on or near the anniversary of its sign-on date, March 17. Since that date fell on a Tuesday in 1992, WFRV and WBAY swapped networks on March 15, which fell on a Sunday.
The station formerly pre-empted the first hour of the ABC lineup (7-8 p.m. Central) on Tuesday evenings during the football season to carry the local program Tuesday Night Touchback, which was formerly known as Monday Night Countdown before it was moved in 2007 because of Dancing with the Stars and the departure of Monday Night Football from ABC (for most of the 2000s, the slot was among the lowest-rated on ABC's primetime schedule, as was the case with the pre-MNF timeslot). Programs normally seen during that hour then aired later on early Wednesday morning after Jimmy Kimmel Live! during the football season. However in November 2009, this was changed temporarily due to viewer feedback involving the pre-emption of the series premiere of V, which forced that program to be aired after the Saturday 10 p.m. newscast; for the remainder of November, V aired at 7 p.m., while Tuesday Night Touchback pre-empted The Insider and aired before prime time in a truncated half-hour format. TNT has not aired since the 2011-12 season, and the station now airs ABC's Tuesday night's programming in pattern.
WBAY was one of seven Young-owned stations whose management and operations were handled by Gray Television as part of a proposed takeover of Young Broadcasting by its secured creditors (a plan tentatively approved by a New York bankruptcy judge on July 22, 2009; it was approved in late April 2010). Under Gray management, this made it a semi-sister station in Wisconsin to NBC affiliates WMTV in Madison and WEAU in Eau Claire, and CBS affiliate WSAW in Wausau. The Gray management agreement ended in 2012 as Young returned to some financial stability and the pursuit of a sale partner.
In late January 2010, the station stopped signing off during the early morning hours on Saturdays and Sundays, after a major transmitter problem forced the station to reconsider this mode of operation. WBAY was the last commercial station in the state to start broadcasting 24 hours a day daily, the former off-hours on WBAY's main signal are now taken up by a simulcast of its Stormcenter 2 24/7 subchannel. On June 6, 2013, Young Broadcasting announced that it would merge with Media General. The sale was approved on November 8, and consummated on November 12. At that time it became both Media General's first station in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest, and the company's northernmost asset.
On March 21, 2014, LIN Media entered into an agreement to merge with Media General in a $1.6 billion deal. Because LIN already owned Fox affiliate WLUK-TV and CW affiliate WCWF (channel 14), with WBAY and WLUK ranking among the four highest-rated stations in the Green Bay market in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell either WBAY or WLUK to another station owner in order to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as planned changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations which would prohibit sharing agreements. On August 20, 2014, Media General announced that it would retain WBAY, trading WLUK and WCWF to Sinclair Broadcast Group as part of several exchanges between other broadcast groups.
On January 27, 2016, Media General announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Nexstar Broadcasting Group. Because Nexstar owns WFRV, the new company will be required to sell that station or WBAY to another owner. On June 3, 2016, it was announced that Nexstar would keep WFRV and sell WBAY to Gray Television for $270 million. It will represent a reunion of sorts as Gray previously managed the station when Young was encountering financial difficulties, but this time Gray will acquire the station outright. That will also make WBAY a sister station to adjacent market stations WSAW-TV and WZAW-LD in Wausau, WMTV in Madison and WEAU-TV in Eau Claire (who were semi-sister stations from 2007 to 2012) and WLUC-TV in Marquette, which Gray acquired more recently.
The station sponsors the yearly "WBAY Boat Show" and the "WBAY RV and Camping Show", both held in the winter months at the Brown County Arena/Shopko Hall, along with a Boy Scout door-to-door food drive ("Scouting for Food") in the fall.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|2.1||720p||16:9||WBAY-HD||Main WBAY-TV programming / ABC|
|2.2||480i||WBAY-WX||Stormcenter 2 24/7|
WBAY utilizes its digital channel 23 for multicasting purposes, carrying a 24-hour weather channel and the Ion Television on two separate subchannels, in addition to its primary signal on 2.1. Until the November 2010 launch of WGBA's TheCoolTV (currently Me-TV) subchannel, it was the only commercial station in the market to utilize any digital subchannel services.
In late June 2010, WBAY-TV became the third commercial station in Green Bay to air syndicated programming (previously only the ABC schedule and ESPN HD broadcasts of Monday Night Football) in high definition. WBAY-TV also began to produce some outside advertising for local businesses and internal station promos in both HD and 16:9 standard definition in mid-2010.
Since July 2013, the station uses the AFD #10 flag to present all programming in letterboxed widescreen for viewers watching on cable television and over-the-air through traditional 4:3 sets, with the same done for 2.2. and 2.3 within the same year; a re-imaging in November 2015 saw the station's graphical image adjusted to meet this presentation mode. The 2.1 signal had a SAP audio channel added in late September 2013, allowing the station to transmit audio description and Spanish language dubs of ABC network programming.
Stormcenter 2 24/7 (2.2)
WBAY operates Stormcenter 2 24/7, a local weather channel that launched on August 7, 2005, and is carried on digital subchannel 2.2 and on digital cable through Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, and Comcast of Manitowoc. Like the digital weather channels of other stations formerly owned by Young Broadcasting, the channel is produced in-house with no outside assistance from any national services (such as The Local AccuWeather Channel) and is fully automated using the station's weather computers. The loop usually consists of a weather forecast from one of the station's meteorologists, followed by current conditions, radar, travel weather, an outdoor forecast and almanac data such as temperature averages, sunrise and sunset times and the local pollen count, followed by a loop of WBAY's skycam network (located in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh and Manitowoc). Seasonal conditions such as snow depth, foliage, and boat and beach weather also appear in the loop within their respective seasons. Local conditions provided by WeatherBug for several cities appear on the right side of the screen, while the five-day forecast for Green Bay and a weather ticker appear on the bottom; prior to 2009 a severe weather alert ticker and warning map took up the ticker and five-day space. Currently when severe weather events occur, the loop goes into a commercial-free 'severe weather mode' focused on radar and warning mapping only with live break-ins from the weather staff, along with pre-recorded weather safety tips.
An upgrade in early March 2012 streamlined the channel's presentation to the station's HD upgrade, and added a permanent Doppler weather radar loop display on the bottom right hand corner of the screen which rotates between local and full-state map imagery. After a five-year absence of sponsorship of the station's weather department after an agreement with Cellcom ended, Mills Fleet Farm began to sponsor Stormcenter 2 and 24/7, and its logo was subsequently added to right-hand space of the channel's ticker in early January 2013. Mills Fleet Farm's sponsorship of Stormcenter 2 24/7 ended in March 2016 and the sponsor of the station is now Tundraland Windows. The subchannel was also used for local long-form news coverage in the past, such as carrying full coverage of the Steven Avery murder trial in Chilton in 2006, though this has not occurred in the last few years due to lack of long-form trial events in the area. On July 23, 2014, a further uprgrade was completed which converted the presentation to a widescreen format, allowing all the station's weather graphics and local advertising to be presented in their native form on 2.2.
The "24/7" title was formerly a misnomer due to WBAY continuing to go off-the-air for 3 1⁄2 hours on early Saturday and Sunday mornings, but since February 2008 the subchannel is also through the station's website 24 hours a day, even during off-air periods. The subchannel now simulcasts on 2.1 on early Saturday and Sunday mornings since WBAY converted to a daily 24-hour schedule. In late May 2015, the subchannel resumed carrying E/I programming weekday evenings at 6pm, where newscasts air most every evening on the main channel; WBAY-DT3 had aired six hours of E/I programming a week since 2013 to allow 2.2 to be a 24/7 service.
Ion Television (2.3)
In January 2008, the station launched a third digital subchannel, WBAY RTV (formerly "RTN 2-3"), which aired a customized schedule of Retro Television Network programming for much of its history to avoid any conflicts with shows seen on RTV that were carried on other Green Bay stations, though with the network's June 2011 restructuring and loss of program rights it carried RTV's default feed with little deviation. Because of the network's technical and internal contractual problems, the subchannel ran a station identification on-screen at all times in case RTV ran into technical difficulties due to the network's ownership transfer in January 2009 where identification was not done on the network level; RTV also erroneously identified themselves as being on WBAY-DT2, which was never rectified through their entire run on the station.
On February 6, 2012 at 4 a.m., RTV was replaced with a 480i letterboxed feed of the Live Well Network as part of a group deal with the network and Young. The 24/7 ID was removed on this date due to station identification being inserted at the master control level. The subchannel is also carried by the same systems as Stormcenter 2 24/7. The station took heavy viewer criticism for replacing the network despite Retro TV having lost rights to spotlight programming in June 2011, and the near removal of the network from most of the Midwest due to other networks such as Antenna TV (carried by WLUK-DT2) and Me-TV (which is carried locally by WGBA-DT2) making carriage deals with former stations for the network; it no longer has any presence in Wisconsin. However, most transitions from Retro TV involved Antenna TV and Me-TV, or a major netlet, without any issues, and at the time, RTV was rarely replaced by a lifestyle channel such as Live Well, as in this case.
In October 2013, Channel 2.3 was converted into a 16:9 widescreen presentation to fill the entire screen, as WBAY began to carry other college football games offered by ABC and ESPN on Saturday afternoons over 2.3 in addition to the main game offered by the network on 2.1, along with serving as the overflow channel for NBA on ABC coverage which in the past was fully pre-empted by the CP Telethon. in 2016, WCWF carried the pre-empted NBA games to allow them to be presented in HD.
End of Live Well Network and launch of Ion Television
On January 9, 2015, the station announced that it would carry the new CBS/Weigel Broadcasting network Decades as a replacement for the Live Well Network, which originally was to end operations in mid-January. During the interim period between WBAY's discontinuation of Live Well and the official launch of Decades on May 25, 2015, the station was to carry 'soft launch' of the network with marathon blocks of the network's series.
On January 13, 2015, ABCOTS made a last-minute announcement that the Live Well Network would continue for an additional two months with a revised program schedule to allow their affiliate and programs more time to find new programming and distributors; WBAY additionally decided to continue to carry Live Well indefinitely with the new revised schedule and delay the launch of Decades on 2.3, continuing to do so even after the network's official April 15 end date along with their other Young/Media General sister stations. The Live Well Network continued to air on WBAY-DT3, even as Laff began to air on ABCOTS stations (Scripps subsequently placed that network on WGBA-DT3 locally). With the official launch of Decades on May 25, 2015, WBAY was longer listed as an affiliate on the Decades website, and the station commented on their Facebook page they were in a 'holding pattern' as far as what would air on WBAY-DT3 in the future; the next few months saw Facebook inquiries answered with management unable to reveal any plans due to Media General's corporate policies. The digital subchannel went dark at the close of business on May 29, 2015 (along with their sister stations), displaying a message that the network was no longer operational and an announcement of what would air on 2.3 would be upcoming. The digital subchannel stopped broadcasting the message on July 21, 2015, defaulting to its non-PSIP channel position of 23.5 due to a technical fault, but remaining active as a dark screen.
On November 5, 2015, in commiserate with Media General coming to a carriage agreement with Ion Television in markets where Ion has no station, the subchannel was relaunched as 2.3 with Ion's main signal as WBAYION. This returns the network to the Green Bay network over-the-air for the first time since 2005, when WCWF (originally WPXG, later WIWB) discontinued carrying all programming from the network in overnight hours after the station was purchased from Paxson Communications in 1999 and converted to an affiliate of The WB. Viewers in the Green Bay market had only cable and satellite coverage of Ion's national feed in the 10-year interim. Due to duplication rules involving Kenosha's Ion O&O WPXE-TV in the Milwaukee market and Antigo-licensed O&O WTPX-TV in the Wausau market, WBAY-DT3's carriage has been discontinued on some systems on the outer areas of the Green Bay market which have those stations available to them by Charter and Time Warner Cable.
WBAY-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, 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 23. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 2.
WBAY holds the record for the longest running telethon on the same channel, as it airs the Cerebral Palsy Telethon, which has been broadcast on the station since 1954. The telethon airs for 22 hours from 8 p.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday the first weekend in March although prior to WBAY switching to 24-hour daily broadcasts in 2010, it broke between 12 midnight and 6 a.m., as the station signed off in the overnight hours on weekends (currently the time period serves to air the pre-empted Saturday night ABC lineup and the station's syndicated programming overnight on the telethon weekend). Past hosts of the telethon have included Gloria DeHaven, Raymond Burr, Dennis James (who would later host the United Cerebral Palsy national telethon), Dennis Weaver, and Tom Wopat. Currently the telethon is a local-only effort, using local broadcasters and people to host the broadcast, and the funds raised benefit the local organization, Cerebral Palsy, Inc. Before the sale of the WBAY stations by the Norbertine Fathers, the telethon was simulcast over WBAY (AM) (later WGEE, now WTAQ) and WBAY-FM (now WIXX).
WBAY's Cerebal Palsy telethon both pre-dated and succeeded the national telethon for United Cerebal Palsy, which ran on numerous stations nationwide from the mid-1970s to 1997.
The station continues to air a Sunday Mass on Sunday mornings, as it has since signing on under the ownership of the Norbertine Fathers. After the sale of the station from them however, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay began producing the Mass at WBAY's studio. The Diocese provided a presider, choir, liturgical coordinator, and producer while WBAY provided camera operators, a technical director and audio technician.
On December 27, 2009, the Diocese of Green Bay ended local production of the Mass, instead choosing to contract with the to carry their nationally syndicated Mass program from Riverhead, New York by mutual agreement of the station and the Diocese, a transition that was planned two years before and took priority after the September 2009 death of the Diocese's communications director and Mass producer Tony Kuick.
WBAY-TV presently broadcasts 31 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5 hours on weekdays and 3 hours on weekends), along with a half-hour sports-focused extension of the Sunday late news known as Sunday Sports Night: Cover 2. The station currently exchanges news stories with Hearst Television's WISN-TV in Milwaukee, in addition to airing that station's Wisconsin-focused Sunday morning talk show, UpFront with Mike Gousha. Other sharing partners are Quincy Newspapers' slate of ABC stations throughout the western part of the state, and Hubbard Broadcasting's ABC stations in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota. The station utilizes two local Doppler weather radar sources; the NEXRAD radar at the National Weather Service office just north of Austin Straubel International Airport, and the station's own "Pinpoint Digital Doppler", whose radar dome is atop the station's downtown building.
WBAY's news operation is branded under the Action News title as Action 2 News, and has used the title since the mid-1980s (with the HD suffix added upon its transition to high definition newscasts), predating its ABC affiliation. The station rarely refreshes its graphical imaging, having only done so three times since 1995, but has maintained long-term dominance in the local ratings for most of its history. Until September 2012, when WFRV debuted its 4 p.m. newscast, it was the only one in the market to have a late afternoon newscast in that timeslot. In late 2011, the station released mobile applications for iOS and Android devices, followed by a separate weather app for both platforms in February 2013.
Because the station decided to maintain its noon newscast, WBAY-TV was among the few ABC affiliates that carried The Chew on a one-day delay (three days with the Friday edition) at 11 a.m. weekdays due to the network not offering an alternate feed for stations who wish to air the program at an earlier time, which was continued from a one-delay on All My Children since 1992; this caused complaints among viewers, especially during the holidays when episodes timed to them aired after their occurrence, making the recipes presented in them superfluous. As of September 14, 2015, this was rectified, with The Chew moved to a same-day airing on tape at 2 p.m., in lieu of The Meredith Vieira Show, which moved to 11 a.m.
The station began the process of upgrading to full HD production with a control room upgrade in the second quarter of 2011, a process hamstrung by the Young bankruptcy until Gray was able to begin operating the company's stations. The news department's conversion began on October 15 after that morning's newscast when construction began on a new set and the relocation of the older set (which had been in use with constant refreshing since the late 1980s) to another part of the building; the new set was completed by mid-December after a training/rehearsal period, using a common set design and graphics package that is used by all of the New Young stations. On December 14, 2011, WBAY became the second commercial station in the Green Bay market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in HD (after WFRV-TV, which upgraded on June 23, 2011). Stormcenter 2 24/7 was switched over on March 12, 2012 to a new presentation format with the current graphics package. After all four local news operations established HD or widescreen presences, WBAY dropped the "HD" suffix on June 2, 2014, re-establishing the "Action 2 News", "Action 2 Sports", and "StormCenter 2" branding; during a transition period the previous logo remains in some aspects of the operations such as vehicles and parts of the set.
Notable former on-air staff
- Rob Fowler - meteorologist (1985-1987; now at WCBD in Charleston, South Carolina)
- Jim Hill - sports contributor (1972-1974, now with KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles)
- Orion Samuelson - farm director (1950s, hosted programs on WGN radio in Chicago, syndicated television program U.S. Farm Report, and This Week in Agribusiness on RFD-TV)
- Ben Tracy - reporter (now with CBS News)
- Michelle Tuzee (now at KABC-TV in Los Angeles)