WGGB-TV is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. Licensed to Springfield, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 40 from a transmitter on Mount Tom in Holyoke. Owned by Meredith Corporation, the station is sister to low-powered CBS affiliate WSHM-LD. The two stations share studios on Liberty Street in Springfield.
The station signed on April 14, 1953 as WHYN-TV, broadcasting an analog signal on UHF channel 55. It was the second television station to launch in the Springfield market, debuting one month after NBC affiliate WWLP (channel 22). WHYN-TV was founded by Hampden-Hampshire Corporation, the owners of WHYN radio (560 AM and 93.1 FM); the stations were in turn jointly owned by the owners of the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram and the Northampton-based Daily Hampshire Gazette. In 1954, a 50% interest in Hampden-Hampshire Corporation was purchased by the employees beneficial funds of the Springfield Republican and Daily News and the Springfield Union for $250,000.
WHYN-TV originally operated as a primary CBS affiliate with a secondary affiliation with DuMont; it lost DuMont when that network folded in 1956. During the late-1950s, it was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. It moved to channel 40 on September 30, 1957 in order to give the station a closer dial position to other UHF stations in the region. However, in 1958, WTIC-TV (channel 3, now WFSB), a station in the nearby Hartford market that had previously been an independent station, switched to CBS, prompting WHYN to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a VHF channel; in 1959, channel 40 became an ABC affiliate. WTIC-TV then became the CBS affiliate of record in Springfield; over the years, channel 3 would block several attempts by channel 40 to switch from ABC back to CBS.
Guy Gannett Broadcasting Services announced in October 1966 that it would purchase the WHYN stations for $4 million; the acquisition was completed in 1967. The WHYN radio stations were sold off in 1979; Guy Gannett retained WHYN-TV, and on December 31 the station took its present WGGB-TV call letters. On February 13, 1994, a WGGB video crew taped a heated confrontation between Temple University head basketball coach John Chaney and University of Massachusetts Amherst head coach John Calipari at a post-game press conference, where at one point, Chaney had made a death threat against Calipari. The footage (which was watermarked with the station's logo and call letters) was picked up by ESPN and has since been shown thousands of times. The incident was ranked the fifth-biggest outburst in sports history by Fox Sports Net's The Best Damn Sports Show Period in 2006.
Most of Guy Gannett's television stations, including WGGB, were acquired by the Sinclair Broadcast Group in 1998. Until April 2007, the station did not carry World News Now from ABC News in the early weekday morning hours, choosing instead to air programming from the Home Shopping Network and later its broadcast sub-network, America's Store, which ended operations in April 2007. In late-July 2007, Sinclair sold WGGB to locally based Gormally Broadcasting for $21.2 million. The sale closed on November 2, resulting in WGGB being the only locally owned television station in the market. In addition to WGGB, Charter systems offer fellow ABC affiliate WCVB-TV from Boston on channel 23 (Comcast does not offer such access).
On June 18, 2014, the Meredith Corporation (owner of WFSB in Hartford) announced that it would acquire WGGB creating a duopoly with low-powered CBS affiliate WSHM-LD. Although FCC broadcast ownership rules normally forbid same-market ownership of two of the four highest-rated television stations (based on monthly total-day ratings), which often constitute stations affiliated with the four major broadcast networks (the Springfield market has only three full-power television stations, too few to allow a duopoly in any normal circumstance), the deal is permissible under FCC rules which allow common ownership of full-power and low-power television stations (the respective class designations of WGGB and WSHM) in all markets. The sale was completed on October 31, 2014. This reunited WGGB with MyNetworkTV affiliate KSMO-TV in Kansas City, Missouri, which Meredith acquired from Sinclair in 2005.
On September 8, 2015, Media General announced that it would acquire Meredith for $2.4 billion, with the combined group to be renamed Meredith Media General once the sale was finalized. Because Media General already owns WWLP, and the Springfield-Holyoke market does not have enough full-power television stations to legally allow a duopoly in any event (WGGB and WWLP are the only full-power licenses assigned to the market), the companies would have been required to sell either WGGB or WWLP to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as recent changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations that restrict sharing agreements had the sale gone through. WSHM-LD was the only one of the three stations affected by the merger that could legally be acquired by Meredith Media General, as FCC rules permit common ownership of full-power and low-power stations regardless of the number of stations within a single market. However, on January 27, 2016, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Media General, resulting in the termination of Meredith's acquisition by Media General.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|40.1||720p||16:9||ABC40HD||Main WGGB-TV programming / ABC|
|40.2||FOX6-HD||WGGB-DT2 / Fox & MyNetworkTV|
Fox 6 (WGGB-DT2)
WGGB-DT2 is the primary Fox and secondary MyNetworkTV television station for the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, airing as the second digital subchannel of WGGB. Its over-the-air signal broadcasts in 720p high definition, and is branded as "Fox 6", using its primary cable channel slot, channel 6, for branding. Syndicated programming on WGGB-DT2 includes How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Family Guy, and The Simpsons.
WGGB-DT2 first became active under Sinclair's ownership as part of their nationwide deal with music video network The Tube (a 24-hour digital music channel) from 2005 until the end of 2006, when multiple issues, including The Tube's refusal to add E/I programming at their end, had the Tube pulled from all of Sinclair's stations (and eventually went dark at the end of October 2007). The subchannel remained dark for several years after.
Meanwhile, the market did not have a Fox affiliate of its own, with Springfield being the largest television market in the United States to hold this distinction. Depending on the location, WTIC-TV in Hartford or WFXT in Boston served the market on cable, with WXXA-TV from Albany, New York also available over-the-air. At one point, new Class A station WFXQ-CD, owned by WWLP owner LIN Media, had been rumored as attempting to affiliate with the network (hence the station's call letters).
On March 31, 2008, WGGB (by then locally owned by Gormally Broadcasting) announced it would launch the area's first locally based Fox affiliate on their second subchannel. Almost immediately, WTIC was substituted on Comcast systems with WGGB's Fox subchannel, and as a result, moved to the digital tier on channel 292. Charter eventually followed suit as well placing WTIC on digital channel 261.
When WGGB-DT2 signed-on for the second time, it also added MyNetworkTV as a secondary affiliation; MyNetworkTV is a secondary programming service offered by Fox. It is seen in a delayed manner from 12:35 a.m. until 2:35 a.m. early the next morning. Outside of default network promotional advertising (which as of 2015, makes no mention of it being programmed by MyNetworkTV), the service airs unbranded on WGGB-DT2. New Haven, Connecticut-based MyNetworkTV affiliate WCTX lost all of their carriage in the Springfield market as a result.
WGGB-TV upgraded its over-the-air digital signal to allow the transmission of ABC network programming in high definition on October 15, 2004. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 40, on December 1, 2008. It may have occurred as early as November 29 due to transmitter failure. 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 40, on June 12, 2009. Channel 55's spectrum was reassigned for use by Qualcomm's MediaFLO system until later being sold to AT&T Mobility for mobile service spectrum.
WWLP has traditionally been the most watched station in the Pioneer Valley according to Nielsen ratings. However, there have been brief times when WGGB was on top and extended periods in which the two outlets were basically neck-and-neck with WWLP having a slight edge. Originally, WGGB's newscasts were known as NewsWatch 40. The station cut back financially under Sinclair ownership, and during that period, rumors of cancelling ABC 40 News or converting to Sinclair's controversial, now-defunct centralcasting News Central format sometimes spread.
The station ultimately retained its news operation; however, WGGB did air Sinclair's "The Point" (a one-minute conservative political commentary) that was also controversial and a requirement of all company stations with newscasts until the series was discontinued in December 2006. In Fall 2006, WGGB rehired Ed Carroll to be chief meteorologist; he had previously been at the station from 1989 until 1993 before moving to WBZ-TV in Boston.
After becoming locally owned-and-operated, WGGB's news department underwent significant changes. Several prominent on-air personnel resigned or were laid-off. The station debuted a brand new set, graphics theme, and music package on April 24, 2008. On September 8, WGGB-DT2 added a 10 p.m. newscast known as Fox 6 News at 10; this half-hour newscast originally featured a separate graphics package and music theme from the main WGGB broadcasts. Eventually, it was expanded to weekends and became known as ABC 40 First on Fox.
On April 6, 2009, WGGB's weekday morning show became a full two-hour broadcast like most other ABC affiliates. WGGB-DT2 simulcasts this program, replaying it in full during Good Morning America. Later, it was expanded to 4:30 a.m. in concert with most stations in the Northeast expanding their morning newscasts, the first to do so in the Springfield market. The station shares content with the wire services of ABC, and Fox NewsEdge, and locally maintains news shares with WCVB and WFXT in Boston for the eastern part of the state, along with NECN. With the acquisition of WSHM-LD, additional partnerships with CBS Newspath and WBZ-TV are also a part of Western Mass News's sharing agreements.
On September 14, 2011, WGGB officially became the first station in the Springfield market to upgrade local news production to high definition level (shows seen on WGGB-DT2 were included with the change). On September 15, 2014, WGGB's weekday noon newscast was expanded to an hour.
Following Meredith's purchase of WGGB, the news operations of WGGB and WSHM-LD were merged under the Western Mass News branding on April 21, 2015; the combined news operation is based out of WGGB's facilities. As a result of the merger, WGGB and WSHM simulcast the weeknight 6 p.m. and nightly 11 p.m. newscasts; in addition, WGGB inherited WSHM's partnership with the Springfield Republican.