WBDT is the CW-affiliated television station for Ohio's Miami Valley. Licensed to Springfield, the station broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 26 from a transmitter in the Frytown section of Dayton. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 13 and in high definition on digital channel 1013. WBDT is the default CW affiliate for Lima, Ohio; that area had been previously served by a cable-only affiliate until early 2010. Owned by Vaughan Media, WBDT is operated by Media General and is sister station to WDTN. The two stations share studios on South Dixie Drive in Moraine (though their mailing address is Dayton).
The station began analog operation on UHF channel 26 on January 6, 1968 as independent WSWO-TV, under the ownership of Southwestern Ohio Broadcasting. WSWO-TV ran a local live version of Bozo the Clown (portrayed by announcer Dave Eaton, who was previously with the former WKTR-TV in Kettering, now public station WPTD), as well as other local shows. The station suddenly went dark on March 6, 1970, possibly due to financial difficulties.
WSWO-TV briefly returned to the air on July 2, 1972 under the ownership of Lester W. White, but fell silent again by year's end on New Year's Eve 1972. This second sudden demise of the station was attributed to White, who was later charged with equipment theft.
The current incarnation of channel 26 dates from September 7, 1980 when Miami Valley Christian Television (MVCT) returned it to the air as a Christian-oriented station under the call sign WTJC (for Witnessing 'Til Jesus Comes). WTJC aired religious programming during most of its daytime and weekend schedule (including The 700 Club, PTL and Jerry Falwell) although it also aired lifestyle programming such as The Joy of Gardening, cartoons, and children's programming in late weekday afternoon slots (including The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Porky Pig, Great Space Coaster and New Zoo Revue). There were also family-friendly reruns in early evenings (among them Leave It to Beaver, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and Lassie) and a local newscast. WTJC's Saturday schedule included Westerns, sportsmen/hunting/wildlife shows (including Wild Kingdom) and The Lawrence Welk Show.
When WRGT-TV signed on in 1984, MVCT sold most of its secular programming inventory to that station, and switched WTJC to a mostly-religious format (with the exception of a few children's shows, and Saturday morning sporting and hunting shows). Over the next few years, several ministries that bought time on WTJC became involved in scandals. Due to the scandals, donations to the ministries, and to MVCT, declined. The primary owner of MVCT, Marvin Sparks, bought out his partners' shares in 1991 and in turn sold them to Video Mall Communications. WTJC then aired home shopping and paid programming eighteen hours a day, with religious shows the rest of the broadcast day.
In the mid-1990s, Abry Communications (which had purchased WRGT-TV's owner, Act III Broadcasting) approached MVCT with a proposal to manage WTJC for eighteen hours a day. MVCT declined and chose instead to sell the station to Paxson Communications in 1995. Paxson kept a similar lineup for WTJC, airing religious programming in early mornings, infomercials for most of the day and worship music overnight. In January 1998, WTJC's call sign was changed to WDPX (for Dayton PaX). Accordingly, later that year, the station became a charter affiliate of Pax (now Ion Television).
In summer 1999, Paxson sold the station to ACME Communications, which dropped most Pax programming for a primary affiliation with The WB, along with syndicated programming; the previous WB affiliate was WUCT-LP (now WRCX-LP). ACME also changed WDPX's call sign to the current WBDT. WBDT maintained a secondary affiliation with Pax until mid-2004 at the latest, airing its primetime lineup (Touched by an Angel, Diagnosis: Murder, Weakest Link, etc.) on weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon and weekend late nights from midnight to 4 a.m.
On September 18, 2006, WBDT became the market's CW outlet after The WB and UPN merged. It became a strong affiliate with the new network in terms of prime time ratings—strong enough for The CW to designate WBDT the "#1 CW affiliate" in the nation in March 2007. In that same month, the station became the first in the area (and one of the few in the entire country) to broadcast in a 1080i high definition 16:9 format 24 hours a day, broadcasting on digital UHF channel 18. Original high definition shows on WBDT are "passed through" for broadcast; all other programming and commercials are upconverted to HD.
On June 4, 2010, it was announced that the LIN TV Corporation (owner of WDTN) would begin to operate WBDT through shared service and joint sales agreements. WBDT was to leave its longtime studios on Corporate Place, off Byers Road in Miamisburg, in October and move to WDTN's facility in Moraine. As of January 27, 2013, the former WBDT studio facility is now occupied by Sinclair Broadcast Group's duopoly of ABC affiliate WKEF and Fox affiliate WRGT-TV (the move made them the last network-affiliated stations in Dayton to have upgraded their local programming, including newscasts, to high definition).
Three months after ACME and LIN TV reached their operations and sales agreements, LIN TV exercised an option to purchase WBDT along with another LIN TV-operated ACME station, fellow CW afifliate WCWF in Green Bay, Wisconsin. LIN TV requested that WBDT's license be assigned to a subsidiary of Vaughan Media (owner of Austin, Texas CW affiliate KNVA, which is also operated by LIN TV). LIN TV holds a 4.5% equity stake in Vaughan Media, but controls most of that company's voting stock, effectively making it a shell corporation for LIN TV. The FCC approved the sale and license transfer in April 2011; the commission also denied objections from area cable operators Time Warner Cable and Buckeye Cablevision, who claimed that retransmission fees for WBDT would increase as a result of the sale. The sale of WBDT was consummated on May 20, 2011.
On March 4, 2011, LIN TV's contract with DISH Network expired, and all TV stations owned or operated by LIN, including both WBDT and WDTN, were pulled from DISH. On March 13, LIN and DISH entered into a retransmission consent agreement, and all affected channels were restored.
On March 21, 2014, Media General announced that it would purchase LIN Media and its stations, including WDTN and the SSA and JSA with WBDT, in a $1.6 billion merger. The FCC approved the merger on December 12, 2014, but a condition of the deal requires Media General to end the JSA between WBDT and WDTN due to tighter scrutiny such deals are getting by the FCC. Media General received a two-year waiver to end the JSA between WDTN and WBDT. The merger was completed on December 19.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|26.1||1080i||16:9||WBDT-HD||Main WBDT programming / The CW|
WBDT shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 26, 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 relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 18 to channel 26 for post-transition operations.
Initially, WBDT aired a standard definition simulcast of its HD programming on its DT2 subchannel. After several months, this subchannel was dropped. On September 26, 2011, WBDT began airing Bounce TV on DT2, becoming a charter affiliate of the network. On November 30, 2015, WBDT added a third subchannel to carry Ion Television (the network was also added by other Media General stations), marking the first time channel 26 has carried the network's programming since the end of its secondary affiliation with Pax (the forerunner of Ion) in 2004.
On September 16, 2002, the nationally syndicated morning show, The Daily Buzz, premiered from WBDT's studios. The program, then produced by then-parent ACME Communications, remained based at the station until its August 2004 move to the facilities of former sister station WKCF in Lake Mary, Florida near Orlando. The Daily Buzz currently airs on WBDT weekdays from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m., with local weather forecasts inserted into the broadcast.
On August 18, 2007, WDTN began to produce a nightly prime time newscast for WBDT known as 2 News at 10 on Dayton's CW. On the 26th day of its broadcast, this show achieved higher ratings than WRGT-TV's nightly prime time news (produced by WKEF) in Dayton's metered market households.
On July 21, 2012, WDTN began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. The WBDT shows were included in the upgrade.
Beginning on January 7, 2013, WBDT will air a weekday news program from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m., called 2 News Today on Dayton's CW. The Daily Buzz will air from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. The broadcast is now live from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., with the 7:00 a.m. hour repeated at 8:00 a.m. On September 9, 2013, WBDT will expand the primetime 10:00 p.m. WDTN-produced newscast to an hour.