WCYB-TV, channel 5, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Bristol, Virginia, USA and serving the Tri-Cities area of northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. WCYB is owned by Bonten Media Group and has its studio/office facility located in Downtown Bristol. The station's transmitter is based on Rye Patch Knob of Holston Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest.
Although WCYB-TV is the only commercial station in the Tri-Cities that is licensed to the Virginia side of the market, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires it to include Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee in its legal station identification.
The station began broadcasting on August 13, 1956. It has always been a primary NBC affiliate although it carried a secondary ABC affiliation (shared with WJHL-TV) until 1969 when WKPT-TV signed on and took the ABC affiliation.
WCYB was originally owned by Appalachian Broadcasting, a consortium of four Bristol businessmen—Robert Smith, J. Fey Rogers, Charles M. Gore, and Harry M. Daniel—along with WCYB radio (AM 690, now WZAP). In 1969, the group sold WCYB to Starr Broadcasting. Starr's president and chief stockholder was William F. Buckley of National Review fame. Starr sold Appalachian Broadcasting to the DGH Company/Lamco Communications (former publisher of the GRIT newspaper) in 1977. It was sold again to Bluestone Television in 2004, who then merged with Bonten Media Group for $230 million in 2007.
Robert Smith Sr. served as General Manager of the station for almost 25 years. During his tenure, well-known newscasters Merrill Moore, Johnny Wood, and Steve Hawkins began their successful careers. Smith also oversaw the construction of a new building in downtown Bristol. The new facility was industry-leading in its design. After Smith's retirement, Joe Conway became General Manager in 1981. During the early 80's, Lamco invested extensively in people, news, programming, equipment, and marketing. The station was marketed as "The News Station". At the same time NBC became the top-rated network with hits like Cosby and Cheers.....and WCYB secured top-rated syndicated programs such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. A hot-air balloon with a NBC peacock design was purchased and flown across the region to promote the station. For most of the time from the 1980s to the early 2000s, WCYB claimed to be the highest-rated television station in the United States. In 1984, Joe Conway died suddenly. He was succeeded as General Manager in 1985 by Bob Smith, Jr....who had been the station's News Director for several years. During the 1990s and beyond, Joe Macione, Jim McKernan, and Jack Dempsey followed as General Managers.
In the 1960s, this station produced a live weekday cartoon show called the Looney Tunes Club hosted by Ed Spiegel. The show welcomed fifty youngsters each day to participate on the show and was traditionally visited by children on their birthday. The show opened each show with a rousing "Hi boys and girls!" from Spiegel with "Hi Ed!" shouted back from the kids. The 1960s also saw three locally-produced quiz shows: Kiddle Kollege (which pitted young students from different local schools against each other), Classroom Quiz (whose contestants were older high school students) as well as Klub Kwiz (which did the same using members of local civic and service clubs).
WCYB took over WEMT's operations in February 2006 in a deal with WEMT's new owner, Aurora Broadcasting. As part of the Bonten deal later that year, Esteem Broadcasting bought WEMT from Aurora. Esteem would then pay $1.4 million in outstanding debt. WEMT moved from its studios in Johnson City to WCYB's facilities.
Retransmission consent controversies
Under federal must-carry rules, broadcasters can either allow cable systems in their market to carry their signals for free or charge a fee under retransmission consent provisions. On November 24, 2008, TVS Cable (a cable operator which serves several counties in Eastern Kentucky) notified its customers that it would "most likely" drop WCYB on January 1, 2009 due to a retransmission consent dispute. The letter also stated that the system would replace WCYB with a MyNetworkTV affiliate if negotiations fail. However, NBC programming would not be affected because the system currently carries WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kentucky and will intend to do so in the future. TVS Cable later notified customers through their bills stating that there was a thirty-day extension granted through the month of January to carry WCYB.
Another Eastern Kentucky cable operator, Inter Mountain Cable (IMC), has also stated that it would remove WCYB from their lineup unless an agreement was reached. According to The Mountain Eagle, this dispute caused concern among officials in the city of Fleming-Neon where IMC holds the cable television franchise there. The city council in Fleming-Neon stated that the removal of WCYB would violate IMC's franchise agreement. On January 13, it was announced that WCYB would be dropped from the DirecTV local channels lineup in the Tri-Cities market effective January 15 over a similar dispute. That same day, it was announced that an agreement had been reached and WCYB would continue to be provided on DirecTV.
Dish Network and WCYB had been at odds for quite some time regarding carriage of the station on the satellite system. WCYB was asking for reimbursement and made their feeling public. Charges for which Dish Network denies. As a result, in December 2013, Dish halted carrying WCYB, WEMT and WCYB-DT2 on their system. On January 12, 2014, DISH restored WCYB and associated stations to its line-up.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||WCYB-DT||Main WCYB-TV programming / NBC|
|5.2||CW-HD||The Tri Cities CW|
On August 23, 2011, Disney-ABC Television Group announced an affiliation agreement with WCYB to carry Live Well Network on a new third digital subchannel. The network has since been replaced with CBS Television Stations' diginet Decades.
WCYB-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, 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 28 to VHF channel 5. WCYB operates one UHF fill-in digital translator that helps viewers alleviate some signal reception issues on VHF-low channel 5. It operates on channel 29 and is licensed to Bristol, Virginia with a transmitter with the main channel 5 signal on Holston Mountain. The station applied for a second repeater on channel 21, licensed to Kingsport with a transmitter on Bays Mountain, but this has since expired.
Out-of-market cable carriage
In recent years, WCYB has been carried on cable in multiple areas outside of the Tri-Cities media market. That includes cable systems within the Bluefield market in Virginia, the Lexington market in Kentucky, and the Asheville and Charlotte markets in North Carolina. According to Zap2it, WCYB has been carried on cable in College Grove, TN, which is within the Nashville market.
For most of the last thirty years, WCYB has been the dominant station in the Tri-Cities, with NBC network programming, syndicated hits such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and top rated newscasts.
WCYB's news dominance from the 80s and beyond was largely due to the presence of the station's longtime anchormen Merrill Moore, Johnny Wood, and Steve Hawkins. Merrill joined the station in 1962 as weeknight 11 o'clock anchor and added the weeknight 6 P.M. broadcast in 1964. He remained the station's top anchorman until his retirement in 2000. In the 1960s, News Director Walter Crockett also delivered editorials at 6:25 P.M. daily and Evelyn Booher was one of the first woman newscasters in the Tri-Cities at that time. For most of the time from the 1980s to the early 2000s, WCYB claimed to be the highest-rated television station in the United States. In January of 2005, WCYB won the RTNDA’s Ultimate Newscast Makeover contest, which includes a new set, graphics and music package at no charge. Their branding is currently "Accurate. Reliable. Getting The Facts Right." Formerly, it was "Accurate. Reliable. To the Point." The latter phrase was dropped from the branding as of the Noon telecast on Tuesday, October 2, 2007. After beginning local production of news in high definition, the branding was changed to "Accurate. Reliable. High Definition."
WCYB currently broadcasts 25 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5 hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays, two hours on Sundays, and updates every half-hour during Today, in addition to updates during Prime Time programming). WCYB also produces FOX Tri-Cities News @ 10 on sister station WEMT-TV FOX TRI-CITIES 39. (With 1 Hour on weekdays, 1 Hour on Saturdays and 1 Hour on Sundays.)
Starting with the 5:00 PM news on October 13, 2008, the NewsCenter 5 name was changed to News 5. WEMT's nightly 10 o'clock newscast started on September 12, 2005 and it is produced by WCYB. Originally a half-hour long, it has expanded to an hour on September 11, 2006. In October 2008, they dropped WCYB's on-air look. Instead of using all blue graphics, WEMT now uses blue and red. That station also renamed the weather forecasting and modified many other elements of the broadcast. At one point in time, WCYB-DT2 aired an hour long extension of the main channel's weekday morning show at 8. This has since been dropped and that station continues to air the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz on weekdays from 6 to 9 and presently terminated from Syndicated.
On June 17, 2010, WCYB's newscasts became the first in the Tri-Cities market to broadcast in high definition. Starting with the 2012 election day newscast, WCYB debuted new graphics and a new logo, similar to WOAI.
On July 29th, 2014, it was announced that the noon newscast on WCYB would be shortened to a 30-minute segment, followed by an episode of Judge Judy with anchors Preston Ayres and Samantha Kozsey rotating positions each week. Meteorologist Donnie Cox will be co-hosting with Preston and Samantha. WCYB continues to be the dominant station in the Tri-Cities, with WEMT and WJHL closely tied for second.
Dispute with Dish Network
Dish Network and WCYB had been at odds for quite sometime regarding carriage of the station on the satellite system. WCYB was asking for reimbursement and made their feeling public. Charges for which Dish Network denies. As a result, on December 8th, 2013, Dish halted carrying WCYB, WEMT, and WCYB-DT2 on their system. DISH went purchased full-page advertisements in the Bristol Herald Courier to object to the amount of money Esteem Broadcasting and Bonten Media Group want for DISH to carry the channels and have hired advertising trucks carrying signs to drive around Bristol to advise viewers about the dispute. In response to the ads, WCYB had been airing commercials featuring longtime anchorman Johnny Wood, who is now retired, to tell the station's side of the story. On January 12, 2014, DISH restored WCYB and associated stations to its line-up. Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.