WICZ-TV is the Fox-affiliated television station for the Eastern Twin Tiers of Southern Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Licensed to Binghamton, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 8 (or virtual channel 40.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Ingraham Hill southwest of downtown. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 3 and in HD on digital channel 1206. Owned by the Stainless Broadcasting Company subsidiary of Northwest Broadcasting, WICZ is sister to low-powered MyNetworkTV affiliate WBPN-LP and the two outlets share studios on Vestal Parkway East (NY 434) in Vestal.
The station signed on November 1, 1957 as WINR-TV, the area's second television station, and aired an analog signal on UHF channel 40. The station was originally owned by the Gannett Company (which purchased the station just before its launch) along with WINR radio (680 AM) and the Binghamton Press. WINR-TV was primarily an NBC affiliate, though it also carried some ABC programming before WBJA-TV (channel 34, now WIVT) went on the air in 1962. Broadcast tower manufacturer Stainless, Inc. acquired WINR-TV in 1971 and changed its call letters to WICZ-TV (named for company owner Henry Guzewicz). That fall, the station moved to an 870-foot (270 m) tower on Ingraham Hill; it had previously shared a transmitter location with WINR radio.
In November 1995, WICZ-TV announced it would be dropping its NBC affiliation and switching to Fox; the station stated that the switch would allow it to expand its news programming. WICZ already had a secondary affiliation with Fox to carry Fox Kids, which resulted in the station beginning to preempt much of NBC's programming (especially its daytime soap operas). Other Fox programming was only available on cable via either Foxnet or out-of-market stations such as WNYW from New York City. The affiliation change took place April 4, 1996, after WICZ's contract with NBC expired. NBC programming was then seen on cable via a localized version of Elmira's WETM-TV; the network regained an over-the-air affiliate in Binghamton a year later when WETM's owners, Smith Broadcasting, purchased WBGH-LP (channel 8, now WBGH-CD channel 20) and made it a semi-satellite of WETM.
Stainless, whose holdings by this point included its tower manufacturing business, WICZ-TV, and KTVZ in Bend, Oregon, was sold to Northwest Broadcasting for $17 million in 1997. Though Northwest would sell the Stainless tower company to SpectraSite Holdings in 1999, it still owns WICZ under the Stainless Broadcasting name to this day. During the late 1990s, WICZ added a secondary affiliation with UPN; in 2000, Northwest bought W10CO (channel 10), changed its call letters to WBPN-LP, and moved UPN programming there.
On September 16, 2013, it was announced that Mission Broadcasting would acquire WICZ-TV and WBPN-LP from Stainless Broadcasting. Upon the deal's completion, the stations' operations would have been taken over by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, making them sister stations to WIVT and WBGH-CA. Stainless withdrew the license assignment application on March 18, 2015, following the deal's cancellation.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|40.1||720p||16:9||WICZ-HD||Main WICZ-TV programming / Fox|
|40.2||WBPN-DT||Simulcast of WBPN|
WICZ-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 40, on April 16, 2009. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 8. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 40.
Since switching networks, WICZ has consistently maintained lower viewership than rival CBS outlet WBNG-TV and remains ranked at a distant but steady second place. The big three affiliate has always been a ratings powerhouse in Binghamton. For the most part, WIVT has always been a non-factor in the local newscast race. The ABC outlet has spent most of its history as the third station in what was originally a two-station market (since WIVT did not sign-on until November 1962) and virtually gained no benefit when WICZ joined Fox.
On Memorial Day in 2009, in an attempt to increase its presence against WBNG, WICZ added a thirty-minute newscast weeknights at 6 joining their flagship nightly prime time broadcast at 10. WBNG already established a weeknight newscast in the prime time slot airing on its CW second digital subchannel. The prime time newscast on WBNG-DT2 would eventually be expanded to weekends at some point in time.
On June 5, 2009, there was an increase in viewership on WICZ (and to a larger extent on WBNG) when WIVT announced its plans to consolidate news operations with WETM-TV in Elmira. WIVT eventually began simulcasting some of WETM's newscasts featuring regional weather coverage but not a full news focus of the Eastern Twin Tiers region. A separate, taped newscast specifically covering the Binghamton area was subsequently brought back to WIVT on June 28. On August 19, 2012, WICZ became the market's first television station to upgrade local news production to high definition level. The transition included a new on-air look with state-of-the-art graphics and updated set design.