WFRV-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 39), is a CBS-affiliated television station located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. WFRV's studios are located on East Mason Street in the City of Green Bay, and its transmitter is located north of Morrison.
WFRV also operates semi-satellite WJMN-TV (virtual channel 3, UHF digital channel 48), which is licensed to Escanaba, Michigan and covers the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. WFRV/WJMN's master control and all internal operations for both stations originate from WFRV's Green Bay facilities; WJMN does maintain an engineering operation and an advertising sales office in Marquette.
The station signed on the air on December 10, 1953, as ABC affiliate WNAM-TV, originally broadcasting on UHF channel 42 from Neenah and serving as sister to the radio station with the same call sign. By the late 1950s, the station had moved its city of license to Green Bay, operating from studios in Little Chute. On June 1, 1955, after a few months of inactivity, the station would also change its frequency to VHF channel 5, its callsign to WFRV, and, in 1959, network affiliation to NBC (in 1958, the station was also part of the short-lived Badger Television Network alongside Milwaukee's WISN-TV and Madison's WKOW-TV). WFRV's early claims to fame included being the first television station in Northeastern Wisconsin to broadcast in color in 1958 (doing so after joining NBC), the first station to cover a live lunar eclipse in 1959 (a studio camera was wheeled to the station parking lot and aimed at the moon), and Green Bay's first color local news broadcasts (beginning in 1965).
In the mid-1960s, WFRV was acquired by the Norton Group, a company owned by the Norton family of Kentucky, who also owned Louisville's WAVE (the Norton Group would change its name to Orion Broadcasting by 1969). One of the Norton Group's early decisions was to move WFRV's transmitter, which was still located further south of Green Bay and closer to the Fox Valley (a legacy from its original days in Neenah) and as such put WFRV at a disadvantage to other Green Bay stations. The Nortons would gain permission from the Federal Communications Commission to move channel 5's transmitter to Scray's Hill in the Ledgeview section of Glenmore (located just south of Green Bay), one of the highest geographical points in the area and the longtime home to other Green Bay broadcast transmitters.
On October 7, 1969, WFRV expanded into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by signing on semi-satellite WJMN-TV in Escanaba. WJMN's creation was the result of The Norton Group's earlier agreement with the FCC to move WFRV's tower, as the station had to address short-spacing issues with another station on VHF channel 5, Chicago's WMAQ-TV (every analog channel allocation in the Green Bay and Wausau media markets was shared by a Chicago television station). As part of the agreement to transmit from Glenmore, Orion Broadcasting launched WJMN so that WFRV's service to the U.P. and far Northeastern Wisconsin could continue, and so that a second station in central Upper Michigan could be added (before WJMN, WLUC-TV was the only commercial station serving the U.P.).
Orion Broadcasting would merge with Cosmos Broadcasting (a subsidiary of The Liberty Corporation) in 1981. Two years later, in April 1983, WFRV would affiliate with ABC for the second time (NBC would move to WLUK-TV, channel 11). Later in the 1980s, WFRV was sold to Midwest Radio and Television, owned by the Murphy and McNally families, who also owned the WCCO stations in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Murphys and McNallys would announce a sale of Midwest to CBS in the summer of 1991; the sale was completed in early 1992. CBS had been affiliated with WBAY-TV (channel 2) for almost 40 years, and was unwilling to sever ties with one of its strongest and longest-standing affiliates. It put WFRV and WJMN on the market, but was unable to find a buyer. However, in 1992, the FCC relaxed its ownership restrictions, leading CBS to keep WFRV and move its programming there. On March 15 of that year, WFRV became become a CBS owned-and-operated station, with the ABC affiliation moving to WBAY. This swap would make WFRV one of the few stations in the United States to be affiliated with all of the Big Three television networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) during its lifetime.
By 2001, WFRV would change its longtime Orion Broadcasting-era logo, used since the mid-1970s, for an earlier version of its current logo. One year later, in 2002, WFRV would become the first station in the Green Bay market to begin broadcasting a digital signal. By 2003, WFRV would adopt the mandated branding CBS dictated for its stations, identifying itself as "CBS 5" and adopting a green-and-gold logo to reflect its connection to the Green Bay Packers (WFRV would begin airing Packers preseason broadcasts in 2003). The station's current blue-and-yellow logo and graphic scheme was unveiled on July 10, 2006, along with a new news set to coincide with the return to the station of former reporter/anchor Tammy Elliott.
The week of April 16–18, 2007, Liberty Media (a media company unrelated to The Liberty Corporation) completed an exchange transaction with CBS Corporation pursuant to which Liberty Media exchanged 7.6 million shares of CBS Class B common stock valued at $239 million for a subsidiary of CBS that held WFRV and approximately $170 million in cash. As part of the transaction, Liberty Media acquired WFRV and WJMN, becoming the only over-the-air television properties to be owned by the company. In May 2007, operations of the stations' websites would move from CBS Television Stations Digital Media Group to a redesigned site powered by Inergize Digital Media (then a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, now a division of Nexstar). By Summer 2007, WFRV would drop the CBS Mandate, slowly transitioning from "CBS 5" to simply "Channel 5," its branding before 2003.
On April 7, 2011, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced it would acquire WFRV and WJMN-TV from Liberty Media. The $20 million deal was approved by the FCC on June 28, 2011 and closed three days later on July 1, when Nexstar tapped Joseph Denk to become vice president and general manager of both stations; Denk replaced Perry Kidder, who announced his retirement shortly after the sale was announced (Kidder had spent 37 years with WFRV and WJMN). The website URL and operations of WFRV and WJMN also changed to Nexstar's in-house format (they had been maintained by Broadcast Interactive Media since April 2010); in the case of WFRV, the web address changed from "wfrv.com" to "wearegreenbay.com".
On January 23, 2012, WFRV was rebranded as Local 5, a branding style which originated with Post-Newsweek Stations (now Graham Media Group) and which has since been adapted by several of Nexstar's operations. WJMN continued to be branded as Channel 3 until it launched its in-house news operation in April 2014, as most stories in WFRV's newscasts were not local to Upper Michigan.
On January 27, 2016, Media General announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Nexstar. Because Media General owns WBAY, the new company will be required to sell that station or WFRV to another owner. On June 3, 2016, it was announced that Nexstar would keep WFRV and its Quad Cities sister station WHBF-TV and sell Media General stations WBAY and its Quad Cities sister station KWQC-TV to Gray Television for $270 million.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||WFRV-HD||Main WFRV-TV programming / CBS|
|Bounce TV (to be launched at a later date)|
In September 2008, WFRV became the first station in the Green Bay/Fox Cities market to upgrade its master control to accommodate high definition broadcasts of pre-recorded syndicated programming. By October 2009, WFRV gained the capability to create and air 16:9 advertising, promotions, and news graphics, though standard definition cameras were used for newscasts until their June 2011 conversion to high definition; before that newscast upgrade, graphics were displayed in the 16:9 format with weather conditions filling the left and right pillarbox spaces during 4:3-formatted newscasts.
The station will launch Bounce TV on their second subchannel on a yet-to-be-determined date as part of a group deal made between Bounce TV's parent company and Nexstar; with the launch it will become the final station in the Green Bay market to launch a subchannel service as few compelling choices existed during WFRV's Liberty Media ownership, and Nexstar eschewed subchannels for many years in most cases before 2016.
WFRV-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, at midnight (occurring within a commercial break during The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) on February 17, 2009, the original 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). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 39. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
As part of the SAFER Act, WFRV kept its analog signal on the air until March 3 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
In addition to local news programming and its local morning program Local 5 Live!, WFRV's weekday schedule includes only one syndicated program, Steve Harvey (although it was formerly The Ellen DeGeneres Show, before it moved to WLUK in September 2014); other syndicated programs seen on WFRV's weekend schedule include The Tim McCarver Show, Discover Wisconsin, and reruns of The Good Wife. The station's reliance on local programming outside of network hours over syndicated programs (which air for a limited number of hours each weekday on most CBS stations due to its heavy network-based schedule) is equivalent to the strategy used by Milwaukee NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV, which only carries a few syndicated programs and primarily local newscasts outside of network hours. When CBS revived Let's Make a Deal for its daytime lineup to replace the long-running soap opera Guiding Light, the network gave affiliates the option to air Let's Make a Deal at one of two time slots–9:00 am or 2:00 pm locally. WFRV chose to air Let's Make a Deal at the 2:00 pm slot due to the station at the time airing Live! with Kelly and Michael at 9:00 am. Let's Make a Deal continued to air at 2:00 pm despite WFRV dropping Live! with Kelly and Michael in September 2, 2013 in favor of their own hour-long local mid-morning program, Local 5 Live!.
From 2003 to 2011, WFRV carried Green Bay Packers pre-season games and related official team programming, with the station branding as "Your Official Packers Station." Packer-related programming on WFRV has included Larry McCarren's Locker Room, a Monday night program which featured WFRV sports director and former Packer lineman Larry McCarren analyzing the previous day's Packer game and interviewing with the team's players and staff. In March 2012, the Packers entered into an agreement with Journal Broadcast Group to air Packers pre-season games and official programming on Journal-owned WGBA-TV (channel 26), making it the "official Packers station" in Green Bay; McCarren would leave WFRV soon afterward, eventually joining WGBA and Journal Communications (he has served as color analyst for the Journal-operated Packers Radio Network since 1995). After McCarren's departure, WFRV would retain and rename Locker Room in the fall of 2012, with a new host tandem of sports director Burke Griffin and former Packer player Ahman Green. WFRV would also add a second Packer-related program in that fall, Green Bay Nation, which deals not only with game reviews and team news but also off-field features and previews of upcoming games; the latter program also airs on fellow Milwaukee CBS affiliate WDJT-TV (channel 58). In 2013, WCGV-TV in Milwaukee began to carry Locker Room in a simulcast with WFRV.
WFRV-TV presently broadcasts 35½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays, one hour on Saturdays and a half-hour on Sundays). In addition to its main studios on East Mason Street in Green Bay, WFRV also operates a Fox Valley bureau in Little Chute, located on Patriot Drive near US 41 freeway. The Valley bureau also has a second Doppler weather radar tower to provide extended radar coverage for the station's weather operation.
On June 23, 2011, after a six-month upgrade process, WFRV became the first station in the Green Bay market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; the changeover to HD included an upgrade in the "Storm Team 5" weather technology, including real-time street-level radar. In January 2012, the station launched a new graphics package that is designed solely for 16:9 presentation in mind, cutting off portions of text in 4:3 presentation.
Beginning in September 2012, WFRV would greatly expand the number of hours of news content, including the addition of an hour-long afternoon newscast at 4 p.m. and the expansion of its 6 p.m. newscast from 30 minutes to one hour; the 6 p.m. newscast is reduced to 30 minutes during the NFL season on nights when WFRV airs Packers-related programming.
On December 31, 2012, the station's morning newscast Local 5 First News was retitled to Local 5 This Morning, with a new anchor team and a set used specifically for the morning program. The new version of the program takes cues from CBS This Morning, including a local-specific "Eye Opener" segment at the start of each half-hour.
On September 2, 2013, WFRV launched an hour-long local mid-morning program Local 5 Live!, which is a mix of advertorial and news content. Live! with Kelly and Michael, which had aired on the station in the 9 a.m. timeslot dating back to the late 1980s while still an ABC affiliate, moved to WLUK in the same timeslot.
For most of its history, WFRV-TV's newscasts have been competitive with longtime leader WBAY-TV and runner-up WLUK-TV in most time slots although WFRV's newscasts have usually been in third place. However, since Nexstar purchased the station in mid-2011, the station has seen heavy turnover, with many veteran staff members, including Tammy Elliott, Dana Tyler, Olga Halaburda, Ryan Popkey and Larry McCarren departing the station for other opportunities. Anchors, especially on the weekends, are working longer shifts, and even doing both the morning and evening newscasts, and Nexstar has dropped most syndicated programming, which caused ratings problems that outside of Oprah and Live!, had been a problem with WFRV's schedule dating back to the late 1990s.
Notable former on-air staff
- Steve Kmetko (1978–1979; later an E! host)
- Jay Johnson - anchor (1982–1987; later anchor at WLUK-TV from 1988 to 1996, later represented Wisconsin's 8th congressional district from 1997 to 1999, and served as director of US Mint from 2000 to 2001; deceased October 17, 2009)
- Larry McCarren - sports director (1988–2012; also former host of Larry McCarren's Locker Room; now at WGBA-TV)
- Rob Stafford (later at Dateline NBC and now weeknight anchor at WMAQ-TV in Chicago)
- Cindy Hsu - reporter (now at WCBS-TV)