WDAZ-TV is an ABC affiliated television station serving Grand Forks, North Dakota. Licensed to Devils Lake, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 8 from a 1,460.2-foot (445.1 m) tall transmitter tower near Dahlen, located roughly between Grand Forks and Devils Lake.
On cable, the station can be seen on channel 8 in most areas. There is a high definition feed provided on Midcontinent digital channel 608 and Polar Communications digital channel 601. WDAZ is widely carried on cable in the Canadian province of Manitoba, including the cities of Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Steinbach, Winkler, and Kenora, Ontario.
Owned by Forum Communications of Fargo, which also owns the Grand Forks Herald, WDAZ operates from facilities on South Washington Street in Grand Forks, and a news bureau and sales office on U.S. Highway 2 in Devils Lake. Identifying as a separate station in its own right, WDAZ is a semi-satellite of sister station WDAY-TV in Fargo. WDAZ serves the northern half of the Fargo/Grand Forks market), while WDAY-TV serves the southern half. Aside from separate commercials and weekday newscasts targeting Grand Forks, the majority of WDAZ's programming is identical to WDAY. The two stations are counted as a single unit for ratings purposes, and master control and other internal operations are performed from WDAY-TV's studios on South 8th Street in Fargo. DirecTV and Dish Network offer both WDAY and WDAZ.
WDAZ went on the air for the first time on February 8, 1967. For its first 15 years on the air, WDAY-TV had significant coverage problems in the northern portion of the vast Fargo/Grand Forks market. Unlike the other Fargo stations, WDAY-TV could not put a strong analog signal into Grand Forks and the northern part of the market, as it was required to conform its signal to protect CBC Television station CBWT in Winnipeg, which was also on channel 6. As a result, WDAY-TV only provided grade B coverage to most of Grand Forks, and could not be seen at all in much of the northern part of the market. WDAZ was signed on to fill this coverage gap. (WDAY's coverage problem would become moot with the 2009 digital television transition in the United States and the 2011 transition in Canada, in which WDAY would broadcast its digital signal on channel 21 and CBWT broadcast theirs on channel 27.) It is one of the few stations post-1927 west of the Mississippi River allowed to use a "W" callsign at sign-on due to its WDAY satellite status.
Originally an NBC affiliate, it switched to ABC along with sister station WDAY-TV in August 1983; KTHI-TV (now KVLY-TV) became the new NBC affiliate. As a result, KTHI was removed from the terrestrial cable television service in southwestern Manitoba (which already had an NBC affiliate in KMOT in Minot), and Saskatchewan (which carried NBC via KUMV in Williston). WDAZ continues to be carried on Canadian cable along with the PBS member Prairie Public Television network (via Grand Forks outlet KGFE) in southern Manitoba, while other North Dakota broadcasts were replaced with Detroit and/or Toledo, Ohio stations. WDAZ even maintained a sales office in Winnipeg. In 1986, WDAZ was nearly dropped from cable in Winnipeg. After the crisis, WDAZ and Prairie Public Television set up a fixed microwave link to carry stronger signals into Winnipeg.
WDAY/WDAZ began operating cable-only WB affiliate "WBFG" in 1998. This was on channel 8, 7 or 14 on most systems in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. WDAY/WDAZ replaced "WBFG" with new digital broadcast subchannels WDAY 6.2 and WDAZ 8.2 simulcasting The CW after the new network launched in the fall of 2006. The CW was only available over the air on WDAY until WDAZ switched to digital in 2009. Fargo CW also carries programming from The CW Plus.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||720p||16:9||WDAZABC||Main WDAZ-TV programming / ABC|
(Storm Tracker/WDAY Radio/Local Sports)
Fargo CW, a CW affiliate is carried on a digital subchannel of WDAY (channel 6.2 PSIP) and WDAZ (channel 8.2 PSIP). Fargo CW is offered on Cable One cable channel 8 in the Fargo-Moorhead area. It can be seen on Midcontinent cable channel 14 in Fargo, Moorhead, Devil Lake and most other areas. It can be seen on Midcontinent cable channel 7 in Grand Forks area.
WDAY'Z Xtra is a digital subchannel carried on WDAY 6.3, WDAZ 8.3, KBMY 17.3 in Bismarck, and KMCY 14.3 in Minot. This subchannel airs Doppler weather radar and "Storm Tracker" weather loop with the audio of Fargo's WDAY radio, but also broadcasts area high school sports. It is offered on Midcontinent cable channel 596. WDAY'Z Xtra became available in HD in 2014.
WDAZ-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 59, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its analog-era VHF channel 8.
News operation and programming
WDAZ broadcasts its own locally produced newscasts from Grand Forks on weekdays at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (five hours each week), and simulcasts WDAY-TV's other newscasts with resources from WDAZ. From 1997 until 2011, WDAZ broadcast nine hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 1½ hours on weekdays, one hour on Saturdays, and the 30 minute Sunday 10:00 p.m. newscast). Since WDAZ does not operate an in-house weather department of its own, all segments originate from WDAY's studios in a tape-delayed arrangement. WDAY and WDAZ often share news stories with CBS affiliates KXMB-TV in Bismarck and KXMC-TV in Minot.
WDAY's morning show First News has been broadcast on WDAZ since its inception, although the broadcast went statewide in April 2014 as it debuted on sister ABC affiliates KBMY in Bismarck and KMCY in Minot. WDAZ's weekend news was taken over by WDAY in 2011 and its 5 p.m. weekday newscast was taken over in July 2014. The 6:00 p.m. and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts are the only local newscasts left on the station. The decision to replace the 5 p.m. broadcast, which had been anchored by long-time personality Terry Dullum, was met with an immediate backlash from viewers, including those who circulated a petition on Change.org demanding that Forum restore the local 5 p.m. news to WDAZ. General manager Mari Ossenfort defended the cutbacks at WDAZ, believing that the stations were to focus more on producing "content" rather than "shows".
Traditionally WDAY/WDAZ has been the ratings leader for the entire Fargo/Grand Forks market, with KVLY being the runner-up; WDAY and WDAZ are counted as one station for ratings and regulatory purposes. WDAZ has traditionally dominated the ratings for the northern part of the market, with the station's competitive advantage of being the only station airing local news for Grand Forks. Due to many of KVLY's newscasts being simulcast on KXJB (which has moved to KVLY-DT2), KVLY also claims to be the ratings leader in the market when KVLY and KXJB's ratings are combined. However, until recently, KVLY and KXJB are not counted as one station due to different network and syndicated programming. CBS and then KXJB-TV's programming moved to KVLY's second subchannel in December 2014, therefore KVLY can now count all of its subchannels as one station for ratings purposes.
Recently, KVLY has been the ratings leader for the immediate Fargo-Moorhead metro area and the southern part of the market, with WDAZ's sister station WDAY being the runner-up, however WDAZ's dominance in the northern part of the market make the WDAY/WDAZ combo the ratings leader for the entire Fargo/Grand Forks market as a whole.
Other stations have attempted to gain a foothold in local news for the Grand Forks area. KXJC-LP 35, a sister station to KXJB, began airing 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. weekday local newscasts from Grand Forks in 2001 until its shutdown in 2003.
WDAZ is noted for being nationally honored with the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage during the Red River Flood of 1997. WDAZ received two Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Awards in 2014.
On February 22, 2012, WDAZ began presenting its local newscasts in 16:9 widescreen standard definition, while the morning and weekend newscasts originating from WDAY are presented in high definition. WDAZ began presenting its locally produced newscasts in high definition on October 15, 2013.
WDAZ signs off in the overnight hours; as a result, ABC's overnight news program, World News Now, is not broadcast. It goes off the air at 3:43 am and signs on again at 4:27 am to broadcast America This Morning. The stations also pre-empt the network's NBA pre-game show NBA Countdown to carry paid programming. WDAZ previously broadcast a weekly political talk show called Agenda, which was primarily on local and regional issues.
WDAZ was known for its coverage of University of North Dakota athletics, with former longtime sports director Pat Sweeney handling play-by-play commentating. The station produced telecasts in conjunction with the University of North Dakota for its own airwaves, often simulcasted on its sister ABC stations statewide, from 1984 until 2012. UND play-by-play coverage began being simulcast on WDAZ's airwaves and a cable network known as the University of North Dakota Sports Network (formerly the Fighting Sioux Sports Network), which was launched in 2002. This network, also known as UNDSN (formerly FSSN), broadcast UND hockey, football, and basketball games which were distributed on cable television by Midcontinent Communications and other cable systems in North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The UND Sports Network was also available all across the North American continent via Free-To-Air satellite. Pat Sweeney also handled play-by-play commentating on UNDSN. UNDSN was folded into the regional Midco Sports Network in 2012, and UND athletics play-by-play broadcast rights were taken over by the new regional network.
A weekly program based on the athletics of the University of North Dakota, called Sioux Sports Extra, plays highlights and analysis for the school's hockey, football, and basketball teams, along with interviews and previews.
Out-of-market and Canadian coverage
Although WDAZ reaches only 82,000 American television households, the station is also carried on Shaw Communications and MTS TV in southern Manitoba, including the Winnipeg area, reaching an additional 256,000 homes. Winnipeg is the center of a market with over 1 million people—more than three times the entire population of WDAZ's American coverage area (and indeed double the entire population of the Fargo/Grand Forks market).
WDAZ and Prairie Public Television (through KGFE) are the only stations from this region that still air in Manitoba, after KVLY-TV (formerly KTHI) and KXJB-TV were replaced with other network affiliates in March 1986. This was due to a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decision that allowed the Winnipeg cable companies to replace the CBS and NBC affiliates with Detroit stations (WJBK (later WWJ-TV) and WDIV-TV, respectively) because of complaints about poor reception, but denied them the ability to replace WDAZ with WXYZ or KGFE/PPT with WTVS (although the latter station would later be added as a second PBS station to cable customers). Shaw Cable airs WDAZ on cable channel 7 and MTS TV airs WDAZ on cable channel 13. For several years in the 1980s, WDAZ was also broadcast in Saskatchewan as a replacement for KTHI on its Telecable (Saskatoon) and Cable Regina (both now part of Shaw) systems, before it (along with two Williston stations and PPT) were also replaced by Detroit stations in the aftermath of a similar CRTC decision in October 1984.
WDAZ can also be seen over the air in extreme southern Manitoba, and in southern parts of Winnipeg, with a rooftop antenna. WDAZ's over-the-air signal is spotty at best in Manitoba, as its transmitter is more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Winnipeg.
Advertising from Winnipeg businesses sometimes air on the station, although this is sometimes ineffective due to simultaneous substitution. This practice requires Shaw and MTS to replace WDAZ's signal with that of a Winnipeg station (usually either CKY-DT or CKND-DT) whenever the same program and episode airs at the same time. Because WDAZ is carried on cable in southern Manitoba, it has become somewhat of a regional superstation.
WDAZ is also available on cable or IPTV providers in the northeastern portion of the Minot/Bismarck market (in Rolette, Pierce and Wells Counties), and in Red Lake, Minnesota, (Beltrami County), located in the northern edge of the Minneapolis/St. Paul television market. Cable or IPTV providers in Belcourt, Rolla, Rugby, Harvey, and Fessenden have carried WDAZ for decades rather than sister ABC affiliate KMCY in Minot.
WDAZ-TV tower mast
WDAZ-TV broadcasts from a 445.2 meter (1,460.2 feet) high guy-wired aerial mast, making it the third tallest tower in North Dakota after the KVLY-TV tower and the KRDK-TV tower. The tower is located in Dahlen, North Dakota, roughly located between Grand Forks and Devils Lake. The tower was also used by KGFE of Grand Forks until an ice storm damaged equipment in 2004.
WDAZ serves its large coverage area with three translators. All are owned by local municipalities.