WHEC-TV, channel 10, is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Rochester, New York, USA. WHEC-TV is owned by Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting, and broadcasts from a studio/office facility located on East Avenue in Downtown Rochester. The station's transmitter is located on Pinnacle Hill near Brighton, New York.

History

In March 1953 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded the construction permit of Rochester's second VHF station to two local firms who competed for the open channel.[7] In what was the first arrangement of its kind, the Gannett Company, then the Rochester-based publisher of the Democrat and Chronicle and owners of CBS Radio Network affiliate WHEC (1460 AM) and the Veterans Broadcasting Company, owners of WVET radio (1280 AM, now WHTK), began shared operation of channel 10 on November 1, 1953, broadcasting from separate studios but using the same broadcast license, channel and transmitter.[8] The combined WHEC-TV and WVET-TV operation shared a primary affiliation with the CBS Television Network, and also carried ABC programs on a secondary basis.[9]

On November 15, 1961, the split-channel, shared-time arrangement ended as Veterans sold its half of channel 10 to Gannett. Veterans subsequently acquired its own, fully owned station, WROC-TV (then on channel 5) from Transcontinent Broadcasting. The completion of the deal made WHEC-TV the sole occupant of the channel 10 frequency in Rochester.[10][11][12] The following year WHEC-TV became a full-time CBS affiliate, as the ABC affiliation moved to newly signed-on WOKR (channel 13, now WHAM-TV). In 1966, channel 10 was one of the founding members of the "Love Network" that aired the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon every Labor Day until 2012, when it moved from first-run syndication to ABC and renamed it MDA Show of Strength, and ended in 2014 when MDA discontinued the event on May 1, 2015. WHEC-TV was the creator of the "cut-ins" that local stations insert into the national telethon, a concept that has since spread across the country.

Gannett split up its radio/TV holdings in 1971 when WHEC radio was sold to Sande Broadcasting, a locally-based group (the station is now known as WHIC). Channel 10 was allowed to retain the WHEC-TV call letters.[13] The station remained the Gannett Company's lone broadcast holding until 1979, when Gannett sold channel 10 in the wake of its purchase of Combined Communications.[15][3] Gannett feared the FCC, who several years earlier decided to eliminate several small-market print/broadcast ownership combinations, would force it to sell either the television station or the newspaper. Gannett retained the Democrat and Chronicle, which it continues to publish, and the company maintained its headquarters in Rochester until moving to the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 1985.

The new owners of channel 10 made U.S. television history: WHEC-TV became the first VHF, network-affiliated station to be purchased and wholly owned by an African-American group, led by investor Ragan Henry.[3] Despite the historical connotation, the Henry-led group's stewardship of WHEC-TV would be short-lived. In 1983 the Henry group traded channel 10 to the original Viacom in exchange for a pair of radio stations, WDIA in Memphis and KDIA (now KMKY) in San Francisco.[3]

Under Viacom ownership, channel 10 took part in another trade—this one the first (and only) network affiliation switch in Rochester. On July 1, 1989 WHEC-TV joined the NBC network, replacing WROC-TV (now on channel 8), which took on CBS. This move was the result of WROC-TV's poor performance and constant pre-emptions of network programming (NBC was very intolerant of pre-emptions at this time).[3] The swap brought channel 10 in-line with sister stations WNYT in Albany and WVIT in New Britain, Connecticut, which had recently renewed their NBC relationships. In addition, NBC's strong primetime programming—NBC was the most-watched network at the time, while CBS was in distant third near the midpoint of the Laurence Tisch era—was another major factor.

Viacom purchased Paramount Pictures in 1994, and merged its five-station group (WHEC-TV, WNYT, WVIT, KMOV in St. Louis, and KSLA-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana) into the Paramount Stations Group. However, in 1995, the company decided to divest itself of all stations not affiliated with its fledgling UPN network. In June 1996, Paramount traded WHEC-TV and WNYT to Hubbard Broadcasting in return for UPN affiliate WTOG in St. Petersburg, Florida.[3][3]

WHEC-TV's digital signal on UHF channel 58 signed-on September 27, 2002 under a special temporary authority. For many years WHEC-TV was one of three Rochester area stations offered on cable in the Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau, Quebec and Eastern Ontario regions. The Rochester area stations were replaced with Detroit, Michigan stations when the microwave relay system that provided these signals was discontinued. WHEC-TV and other Rochester stations were available on cable in several communities along the north shore of Lake Ontario such as Belleville and Cobourg, Ontario. All Rochester affiliates with the exception of Fox affiliate WUHF (channel 31) were replaced with Buffalo stations in January 2009.

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[3]
10.11080i16:9WHEC-TVMain WHEC-TV programming / NBC
10.2480i4:3WHEC-MEMeTV
10.3WHEC-WXNews 10 NBC Pinpoint Weather

Analog-to-digital conversion

WHEC-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 10, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television 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 58, 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 10.[3]

News operation

During Viacom ownership, WHEC-TV stayed steadily in second place in the Nielsen ratings between WHAM-TV and WROC-TV. This was also because ABC was in first place while NBC was a distant third in the viewership ratings during that period. On January 30, 2006, the station launched a 24-hour weather station known as "News 10 NBC WeatherPlus" on a new second digital subchannel and Time Warner Cable digital systems. After the national service shut down on December 1, 2008, WHEC-DT2 reverted to a local weather channel. WHEC-TV was the first station in Rochester to launch a weeknight newscast at 7 in 2008.

Even with ownership change to Hubbard, WHEC-TV remained a solid runner-up in Rochester for many years. However, during the November 2008 ratings period, WHEC-TV's weeknight broadcast at 11 fell to third place behind WHAM-TV and WROC-TV while the ratings for its other shows also plummeted (largely due to NBC's recent ratings struggles which have continued into the present day). At that time, it fell to a distant second overall closer to third-place WROC-TV than it is to WHAM-TV. However, this station recovered during the May 2009 sweeps with the weeknight news at 11 virtually tying WHAM-TV and both are just ahead of WROC-TV in that time slot.

The three stations became competitive during the May 2009 ratings period each winning different contests. WHAM-TV still won total-day ratings with WHEC-TV's biggest strength at the time being its late-night newscast. Meanwhile, WROC-TV led in prime time. It has a fairly long-standing partnership with local news-talk outlet WYSL AM 1040. The radio station simulcasts all weekday newscasts from WHEC-TV except weeknights at 7. This arrangement is in exchange for advertisement time. In addition to the main studios, the station maintains a Finger Lakes Bureau in the Messenger-Post newsroom on Buffalo Street in Canandaigua.

During the ratings periods of 2011 (through July), WHEC-TV's newscasts have remained in second place for most time slots. With WROC-TV's upgrade to high definition local newscasts on September 4, 2012 (with the newscast on WUHF included in the switch), WHEC-TV remains the only major station in Rochester which has not yet upgraded its newscasts to high definition or 16:9 widescreen. In December 2012, WHEC-TV introduced a new graphics package based upon the one currently used by NBC's owned and operated stations. On March 28, 2013, reporter Joangel Concepcion tweeted "Great news! News10NBC got the green light to go HD & widescreen!!" on her official Twitter account.[3] However, WHEC-TV has not formally announced any specific details about this. Since 2013, WHEC-TV has been broadcasting its newscasts in 16:9 widescreen, but not in full HD.

Notable former on-air staff