WBNG-TV is the CBS-affiliated television station for the Eastern Twin Tiers of Southern Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Licensed to the city of Binghamton, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 7 (or virtual channel 12.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Ingraham Hill Road in the town of Binghamton. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 2 and in HD on digital channel 1209. Owned by Quincy Media, WBNG has studios on Columbia Drive in Johnson City.
The station signed-on December 1, 1949 as WNBF-TV and was originally owned by Clark Associates Inc. along with WNBF radio (1290 AM and 98.1 FM, now WHWK). At its launch, WNBF carried programs from all four American television networks at the time (CBS, DuMont, NBC, and ABC) since it was the market's first television outlet to launch. For many of its early years, WNBF was the only station available to viewers in the nearby Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania market as set owners pointed their roof-top antennas north towards Binghamton. The station subsequently lost its affiliations with DuMont in 1956 after the network's collapse, and the others when new UHF stations arrived in town, NBC on WINR-TV (channel 40, now WICZ-TV) in 1957 and ABC to WBJA-TV (channel 34, now WIVT) in 1962.
Philadelphia-based Triangle Publications, owner of various broadcasting and newspaper properties, purchased the WNBF stations in 1955. As part of Triangle's exit from broadcasting in 1972, WNBF-AM-FM-TV and sister stations in Altoona and Lancaster (both in Pennsylvania) were sold to Gateway Communications. Gateway was a new broadcasting concern majority-owned by the publishers of the Bergen Record of Hackensack, New Jersey and headed by George Koehler, president of Triangle's broadcast division. As a condition of the purchase, Gateway sold the WNBF radio stations to Des Moines-based Stoner Broadcasting and retained channel 12 which was renamed to its current call sign, WBNG-TV.
In 2000, Gateway was purchased by SJL Broadcasting which reduced staff from 100 to 58 over five years to fit the aggressive SJL automation model. In 2002, WBNG's digital signal on VHF channel 7 signed-on. In April 2006, it was announced that Granite Broadcasting made a deal to acquire the station from Television Station Group License Subsidiary, LLC (successor to SJL and a subsidiary of Alta Communications) for $45 million. The required money was funded by a new senior credit facility created after the previously announced sales of Detroit's WMYD and San Francisco's KBWB fell apart. Granite would close on its purchase of WBNG on July 26, 2006.
As part of the transaction, Les Vann (formerly President and General Manager of CBS affiliate WTVH in Syracuse) was promoted to Executive Vice President of the company's Central and Southern New York operations. His duties were regional in nature with responsibilities at both WBNG and WTVH. This station's digital signal began broadcasting network programming in high definition in late-January 2007. Beginning in September 2007, CW affiliate "WBXI" began to be simulcasted on a new second digital subchannel of WBNG. That station then began using WBNG-DT2 as its call letters in an official manner as opposed to the faux "WBXI" call sign which was inherited from the former WB 100+ cable-only channel.
In December 2008, it was announced a deal was reached between Granite and Time Warner Cable to carry WBNG's high definition feed throughout the Binghamton region. This was the first time HD programming from CBS was available to customers in the Southern Tier of New York State without using an antenna. On January 19, 2009, the station went off-the-air for about thirty minutes around 11 p.m. due to a power failure.
On February 11, 2014, Quincy Newspapers announced that it had reached a deal to purchase WBNG from Granite along with other company-owned and/or managed stations in three other markets. The sale was approved on September 15, 2015 and completed on November 2.
Until April 25, 2009, WBNG served as the longtime default CBS affiliate for the Elmira and Corning area. On that date, ABC affiliate WENY-TV signed-on a new second digital subchannel in order to offer access to CBS for the first time ever in that market. On November 22, 2015, WBNG also lost its status as the default CBS affiliate for most of Otsego County in the Utica market (as did former sister station WTVH in Syracuse for the rest of that DMA), when NBC affiliate WKTV's second digital subchannel became CBS' first full-time affiliate in that area.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|12.1||1080i||16:9||WBNG-DT||Main WBNG-TV programming / CBS|
|12.2||720p||Binghamton CW 11|
WBNG-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 12, 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 7. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 12.
Syndicated programming on the station includes Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Dr. Phil, and The Rachael Ray Show among others. All of the programs mentioned are distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
For its entire existence, WBNG has held the number one spot in Nielsen ratings by a wide margin. For the most part, WIVT has always been a non-factor in the local newscast race in Binghamton. The ABC outlet has spent most of its history as the third station in what was originally a two-station market (WIVT did not sign-on until November 1962) and virtually gained no benefit when the area's original NBC affiliate WICZ switched to Fox in April 1996. Since the network switch, WICZ has consistently maintained lower viewership than WBNG but remains ranked at a distant but steady second place.
On Memorial Day in 2009 trying to increase its presence against this CBS outlet, WICZ added a thirty-minute newscast seen weeknights at 6 that joined a nightly prime time broadcast at 10. WBNG had already established a weeknight newscast in the prime time slot (seen for a half-hour) on its CW-affiliated second digital subchannel. Known as Action News at 10 on Binghamton CW 11, the program on WBNG-DT2 would eventually be expanded to weekends at some point in time. Like all The CW Plus affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, the subchannel also airs the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz on weekdays.
On June 5, 2009, there was a noticeable increase in viewership on WBNG (and to a lesser extent on WICZ) when WIVT announced there would be a consolidation of news operations with WETM-TV in Elmira after their owner Newport Television made across the board cuts. WBNG reported all but two people from the news staff and all production personnel for the news department would be terminated. The Press & Sun-Bulletin later identified the two personnel remaining as news anchor Peter Quinn and News Director Jim Ehmke but also said fifteen other members of the original 28 person staff, including non-news personnel, would remain based in Binghamton.
WIVT eventually began simulcasting some of WETM's newscasts featuring regional weather coverage but not a full news focus of the Eastern Twin Tiers region. A separate newscast (recorded in advance from Elmira) specifically covering the Binghamton area was subsequently brought back to WIVT on June 28. On August 28, 2013, WBNG became the market's second television station to upgrade local news production to high definition level.