WENY-TV is the ABC/CBS and CW+ Television affiliate station for the Central and Western Twin Tiers of Southern Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Licensed to Elmira, New York, WENY broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 36 from a transmitter on Higman Hill in Corning. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 4 and in high definition on digital channel 1200. It is owned by Lilly Broadcasting, and has studios on Old Ithaca Road in Horseheads, New York. It was also be seen over-the-air through an analog repeater W06AR on VHF channel 6.
The station signed-on November 19, 1969 after Howard Green, owner of WENY radio (1230 AM and 92.7 FM) and WCMC-AM-TV in Wildwood, New Jersey, was awarded analog UHF channel 36 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Another area broadcaster, Frank Saia, had surrendered the construction permit to build what would have been WEHH-TV on the same channel.
Green purchased the equipment of WNYP-TV, a defunct station in Jamestown, and hired Larry Taylor (that station’s Assistant Chief Engineer) to move and install the equipment into a space on the ground floor of the Mark Twain Hotel in Downtown Elmira (former restaurant). The station’s analog Antenna was side-mounted to the WSYE tower on Hawley Hill. An addition was constructed to the building that that housed NBC affiliate WSYE (now WETM-TV) to house the analog transmitter. The station's DTV transmitter is relocated in Corning.
WENY began operations out of a mixed color/black-and-white facility. Its broadcasts of ABC network programming were in actuality retransmissions of either WABC-TV in New York City or WNYS-TV (now WSYR-TV) in Syracuse. The former was received via microwave while the latter was received via deep fringe hotel rooftop antenna. The station aired a small amount of locally produced programming including an Elmira edition of Claster Television's long-running children's program Romper Room and a late-Saturday night horror movie hosted by disc jockey Paul Leigh as the ghoulish "Undertaker".
During the disastrous flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, WENY was abandoned due to rising waters. Engineers were able to remove a limited amount of equipment to the Hawley Hill site where the station managed a limited broadcasting schedule of news and emergency announcements until the studios could be reoccupied. After this, Green obtained a building on Old Ithaca Road in Horseheads that had been previously used by the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1973, Taylor, along with engineer Gary Simon, moved the station from the hotel to the garage of the property where it remains to this day. In 2000, longtime owner Howard Green sold WENY to current owner Lilly Broadcasting (owned by Brian Lilly, son of SJL Broadcasting's George Lilly) thus separating the television station from its radio sisters which were sold to Eolin (Olin) Broadcasting.
Lilly Broadcasting was granted the local CW affiliation in Spring 2006. The network's programming, from The CW Plus, began to air on cable-only "WBE" (which Lilly owns as well) when the network launched on September 18. That station had been affiliated with the network's predecessor, The WB via The WB 100+. On October 20, 2008, CBS signed an affiliation agreement with WENY to air the network on a new second digital subchannel and launched January 1, 2009. This marked the first time that CBS had an affiliate based in Elmira. The area had previously been served by longtime affiliate WBNG-TV in Binghamton while Ithaca was served by WTVH from Syracuse. Canisteo and Hornell counties were previously covered by Buffalo's WIVB-TV.
According to the FCC, WENY had a request to flash-cut from analog to digital broadcasting after the old transition date of February 17, 2009. On that date, WENY-DT2 launched on Time Warner systems in Elmira, Corning, Hornell, and Ithaca. At the end of May, WENY performed a flash-cut and began broadcasting exclusively in digital. The new CBS station began its transmission over-the-air at this point. "WBE" eventually began to be offered on a new third digital subchannel of WENY and now uses the WENY-DT3 call sign in an official manner.
According to the FCC, it had an application to air a digital signal on UHF channel 55. However, the station opted to perform a flash-cut instead. Qualcomm holds licenses for the channel 55 spectrum. Approval of WENY's request to flash-cut allowed that company's wholly owned subsidiary, MediaFLO United States, to expand its "mediacast" service coverage in New York State without loss of broadcast service to the public. WENY-DT2's coverage area includes Steuben and Chemung Counties in New York which borders the Erie market and sister station CBS affiliate WSEE-TV.
In January 2016, Lilly Broadcasting began to offer WENY as an ABC affiliate for the Caribbean island region which was picked up by local cable providers as a replacement for Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands-based station WSVI, which lost their ABC affiliation at the end of 2015 due to technical issues and switched to Ion Television. Lilly already provides sister station WSEE as a CBS affiliate for the region, along with a customized weather forecast carried on a second local feed for that region.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|36.1||720p||16:9||WENY-AB||Main WENY-TV programming / ABC|
|36.2||1080i||WENY-CB||WENY-DT2 / CBS|
|36.3||480i||WENY-CW||Twin Tiers CW 2|
WENY-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 36, 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 55, 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 UHF channel 36.
At first, the station's only local programming were newscasts seen weeknights at 6 and 11. The original anchor team featured News Director Bill Miller, long-time WENY disc jockey Steve Christy with weather, and sports from Dick Ireland. Christy, the last of the three to retire, remained with the station until early-2009 at which point he retired due to health problems. Also known as "Mr. WENY" in reference to his long tenure at the station, he died in July 2010. In 1975, WENY became the first television outlet in the market to switch from sixteen mm black-and-white reversal news footage to color electronic news gathering using the Sony U-Matic system. In 1977, it became the first in Elmira to use an electronic character generator during newscasts.
Rival WETM has traditionally been a ratings stronghold in the Twin Tiers area. This is because the news department at WENY is quite small compared with the NBC outlet and most other big three affiliates. In addition, WENY does not provide any newscasts on weekends despite operating three major programming services (ABC, CBS, and The CW) so WETM is currently the only outlet that airs broadcasts for Elmira and Corning seven days a week. Other traditional news timeslots currently lacking a program on WENY's channels include a full two-hour weekday morning show, and a newscast weeknights at 5.
There is however, the market's only show weeknights at 5:30 seen exclusively on the CBS subchannel. Weeknights at 6 and 11, the ABC and CBS subchannels simulcast local news although there can sometimes be a delay or preemption on one service due to network obligations. WENY upgraded its newscast to full high definition (studio, and field reports), making WENY the first to do so in the Elmira-Corning market on April 23, 2012. The feed on the CBS subchannel is only transmitted in 16:9 standard definition widescreen. A full HD feed of the CBS station can only be seen on Time Warner Cable. WENY shares resources with sister stations WSEE and WICU in Erie in order to cover the Western Twin Tiers region.