WHSV-TV is the ABC-affiliated television station for Harrisonburg, Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 49.1 (virtual channel 3.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter west of Stanley on Massanutten Mountain. Owned by Gray Television, WHSV maintains studios on North Main Street (U.S. 11) in downtown Harrisonburg, and operates a newsroom in Staunton serving Augusta County.
WHSV operates two fill-in digital translators: the first on UHF channel 42, which is licensed to Harrisonburg, but located on Signal Knob near Strasburg, Virginia and serves the Winchester/Front Royal area; and the second on UHF channel 51 in Staunton. Its signal is also relayed in Moorefield, West Virginia on low-powered translator W40AS-D, which is owned by Valley TV Cooperative, Inc.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|3.1||720p||16:9||WHSV-DT||Main WHSV-TV programming / ABC|
|3.2||480i||Simulcast of WSVF-CD|
|3.4||4:3||MyNetworkTV / MeTV|
Channel 3 signed on October 6, 1953 as WSVA-TV (for We Serve Virginia Agriculture). It was owned by Frederick L. Allman and his Shenandoah Valley Broadcasting Corporation along with WSVA radio (AM 550 and FM 100.7, now WQPO). The station was a primary NBC affiliate, with secondary CBS and ABC affiliations. The station also carried DuMont programs. It was the only commercial station between Richmond and Roanoke until WVIR-TV signed on from Charlottesville in 1973. Although it was owned by one of Virginia's leading broadcasters, WSVA-TV operated on a shoestring budget. Station engineers switched to and from the signals of the three network affiliates in Washington, D.C. because it was unable to afford direct network feeds. The station did not air any locally produced programs (except for local newscasts) until 1956, when it built a studio along U.S. Route 33 in unincorporated Rockingham County. That year, Allman sold the WSVA stations to Transcontinent Television of Buffalo, New York, with NBC executive Hamilton Shea as a minority partner. Allman earned a handsome return on his original investment of 28 years earlier. In 1959, the Washington Evening Star, owner of WMAL AM-FM-TV in Washington, acquired Transcontinent's controlling interest, as well as 1% of Shea's stake. The CBS affiliation was dropped in 1963.
In 1965, the WSVA stations were sold to James Gilmore, Jr., a Michigan businessman; the sale was necessary because WMAL-TV intended to increase the height of its tower, which would have caused a large grade B overlap with WSVA-TV. Under Gilmore's ownership, the station became a primary ABC affiliate in 1968. This was a very unusual move since, then as now, it was the only station in its market; ABC was not nearly on par with CBS and NBC in the ratings at the time (and would not be until the 1970s). It picked up NBC's morning program Today from 1968 until ABC debuted Good Morning America in 1975, but only aired the second hour of Today since the station did not sign on until 8 a.m. (a practice that continued well into the 1970s). Despite wealthier ownership, it was still unable to get a network feed. Occasionally, channel 3 accidentally aired WMAL-TV's commercials when engineers forgot to switch from WMAL-TV's signal during local breaks.
In 1975, channel 3 dropped the remaining NBC programs that it was still carrying from its schedule. That same year, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that if a city had only one FM radio station, one AM radio station and one television station, they could not be owned by the same person. Gilmore kept the radio stations and sold WSVA-TV to Charlottesville-based Worrell Newspapers, publisher of The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, in 1976. Later that year, the station assumed its current WHSV-TV callsign. Under Worrell, the station was finally able to acquire a direct network feed. WHSV launched a translator on UHF channel 64 in Charlottesville in 1979. WHSV marked Worrell's entry into broadcasting; the company would subsequently add WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois and WBNB-TV in Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands to its group before selling the three stations to Benedek Broadcasting in 1986.
From 1994 until 1996, WHSV served as a secondary affiliate of Fox; this allowed the station to carry most Washington Redskins games through the network's NFL coverage. Construction of a new broadcast facility in downtown Harrisonburg began in 1998, with WHSV relocating there in the spring of 1999.
Benedek went bankrupt in 2002, and most of its stations, including WHSV, were bought by Gray Television. A 5 p.m. weekday newscast was also added that same year. At that time, a new set was constructed in the station's Augusta County newsroom in Staunton. The streetside set featured a window overlooking Downtown Staunton along West Frederick Street. The 5 p.m. weekday newscast became WHSV’s first newscast to originate from the Augusta County Newsroom. In October 2003, WHSV began originating its 5 p.m. newscast from both Harrisonburg and Staunton. WHSV's 6 p.m. weekday newscast also originated from both Staunton and Harrisonburg for a brief period in the spring of 2004. During that time, WHSV’s 6 p.m. weekday newscast featured three anchors. The three-anchor, dual-city format was abandoned after a few months.
In August 2004, WHSV management began providing managerial, sales and human resources support to Gray Television's upstart CBS affiliate WCAV in Charlottesville. Several members of WHSV’s news and production staff transferred to WCAV following its launch. That same year, WHSV's Charlottesville translator was broken off as a separate station serving as the market's ABC affiliate, WVAW-LP on channel 16.
During the late summer and early fall of 2006, WHSV underwent major technical upgrades to make way for the station’s new digital subchannels. A new transmitter tower was built behind the station’s Harrisonburg studios to accommodate the additional satellite receivers needed for WHSV’s Fox and MyNetworkTV-affiliated subchannels. WHSV’s main analog transmitter was replaced during the week of August 31, 2006. Broadcasts were only available to viewers with cable while the transmitter was being replaced.
In November 2006, around the Thanksgiving weekend, the websites for WHSV and TV3 Winchester received a new website layout, which was later adopted by most of the Gray Television stations; the WHSV website received another revamp on June 15, 2009. On January 16, 2008, WHSV reached a carriage agreement with DirecTV to add WHSV, and its Fox and MyNetworkTV-affiliated digital subchannels to the satellite providers' local channel lineup.
On March 5, 2007, WHSV launched "TV3 Winchester", an ABC affiliate for Winchester, Virginia. The station was a joint project between WHSV and Shenandoah University. Along with Winchester, the station served Frederick, Clarke, Warren and Shenandoah counties in Virginia. Although the station transmitted over-the-air signal on WHSV's DT3 digital subchannel, it could only be seen on cable in its primary coverage area. TV3 Winchester ceased operations on December 5, 2013.
WHSV originally planned on turning off its analog transmitter of February 17, 2009, the original deadline of the federally mandated digital conversion. The station restored the signal the following Friday however, because several translator stations in communities such as Bergton that are owned by local cooperatives and county governments were unable to convert their transmitters to reconvert the digital signal into analog form, along with viewers who could receive Channel 3 signal well on analog, but not at all digitally.
To this day, WHSV is the only full-power commercial station in the Shenandoah Valley. This is due to the area's small population, as well as the fact that virtually all of the market is located in the United States National Radio Quiet Zone. The market's only other commercial station is low-power sister station WSVF-CD, which launched with Fox and CBS subchannels in October 2012 after Gray purchased former WAZT-CA repeater WAZM-CA several months earlier. The only over-the-air competition to WHSV and WSVF comes from WVIR, which operates translators in Harrisonburg and Bridgewater. The area's DirecTV and Dish Network's local feeds supplement the area with stations from Washington, D.C. Cable providers pipe in stations from Washington, Richmond and Roanoke, depending on the system.
In addition to its local newscasts and ABC network programs, WHSV produces other locally produced programs: The Endzone, is a 40-minute sports highlight program covering high school football games across the Shenandoah Valley that airs Fridays at 11:25 p.m. during the high school football season. Sports X-tra is an online sports discussion show produced by WHSV's sports department, covering sports news from the previous week.
The station also produces the Sunday morning religious program Light for Today, which broadcasts from People's Baptist Church in Harrisonburg, and an occasionally broadcast music and variety show called Virginia Dream Centerstage. WHSV also sponsors an annual singing competition called "Voice of the Valley", an idea that was originated by former WHSV personality Jenealle Smith. Finalists are unveiled during the station's noon newscasts the week of the Rockingham County Fair with an hour-long live finale that is broadcast from the fair. Personalities include Ben Jones and the Cooters Garage Band.
The station's weekday morning newscast, WHSV News Daybreak, has received recognition as one of the highest-rated local morning news programs in the United States. WHSV and TV3 Winchester utilizes Facebook and Twitter accounts to relay local news stories through social media.
In the early 1990s, the station began producing a midday newscast at noon on weekdays. WHSV purchased its first microwave live truck in 2004. Prior to that, the station relied on rented equipment for remote broadcasts. Since 2004, WHSV has purchased additional microwave equipment for use by its news department.
2006 was a year of significant change at WHSV. First on February 27, 2006, WHSV’s weekday morning newscast expanded from a 90-minute program to a two-hour program with the addition of a half-hour at 5 a.m.; this coincided with the debut of new weather technology purchased from Weather Services International. The station’s Harrisonburg and Augusta County news bureaus underwent a dramatic overhaul in April 2006, with the addition of new sets and studio camera equipment. WHSV newscasts were broadcast from a temporary studio in the Harrisonburg newsroom during the two-week construction period with the new sets debuting on April 24, 2006 (portions of WHSV’s previous set, built in 1999, were donated to nearby Turner Ashby High School). News director Van Hackett, who joined the station in December 2003, retired in August 2006 and was succeeded by former WHSV reporter Ed Reams, who left a job at WDSU/New Orleans to return to the Shenandoah Valley. On July 21, 2006, popular weather anchor Jay Webb left after six years with the station, accepting a job with WDBJ/Roanoke, Virginia. Webb enjoyed a week-long send-off from his on-air colleagues before his final WHSV broadcast on July 21.
On October 30, 2006, WHSV dropped The Andy Griffith Show from its longtime 5:30 p.m. timeslot in favor of a half-hour newscast anchored by longtime reporter Melanie Lofton. This coincided with the debut of a new logo for the station, the retitling of the station's newscasts as WHSV News 3 and updated graphics for its newscasts. While the logo itself was new, elements of the previous graphics package were retained. On November 27, 2006, WHSV dropped Gari Communications' "Making a Difference" in favor of 615 Music's "News One" as the theme music for its newscasts.
On April 7, 2008, the station's 5 and 5:30 p.m. newscasts began featuring a three-anchor lineup consisting of Melanie Lofton, Bob Corso and meteorologist Tracy Turner. This new format came along with a new arrangement of the newscast.