WMGT-TV, virtual channel 41 (UHF digital channel 40), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Macon, Georgia, United States. It serves as the flagship television station of owner Morris Multimedia. WMGT maintains studio facilities located on Poplar Street in Downtown Macon, and its transmitter is located on SR 87/U.S. 23/U.S. 129 Alternate (Golden Isles Highway) along the Bibb-Twiggs County line.
The station first signed on the air on September 30, 1968, as WCWB-TV. It was the first commercial television station to start up in the Macon market since CBS affiliate WMAZ-TV (channel 13) debuted on September 27, 1953, fifteen years and three days earlier. The station was founded by Dothan, Alabama broadcaster and perennial Alabama political candidate Charles Woods, who owned the station for about six years. WCWB's original studio facilities were located at its transmitter site, located 15 miles (24 km) east of Macon, on what local residents refer to as the "Cochran Short Route". Channel 41 has been an NBC affiliate since its debut; however, unlike many stations in (then) two-station markets, WCWB did not assume a secondary affiliation with ABC. During the 1970s and early 1980s, select ABC programs continued to air on WMAZ instead, during time periods when the station was not carrying CBS programming; Macon would not receive a full-time ABC affiliate of its own until WGXA (channel 24, now a Fox affiliate) signed on in April 1982. Woods sold channel 41 to a local group known as Bibb Television, Inc., led by his then-station manager, F. E. Busby, in 1974. The local group proved no more successful at making WCWB profitable than Woods had been, and current owner Morris Multimedia bought the station from Bibb four years later, in 1978.
Channel 41's early years of struggle were caused in large part because the Federal Communications Commission had implemented the All-Channel Receiver Act only four years before the station signed on the air. Macon is a fairly large market geographically, and UHF stations are usually not received well across wide areas, even though much of Middle Georgia's terrain is fairly level. Many area households probably did not upgrade their sets to newer UHF-compatible models (or purchase expensive converters) until well into the early 1970s, meaning that, in WCWB's first years of operation, some viewers could not watch the station even had they wanted to, a situation greatly handicapping the young station's promotional efforts. Further complicating matters, WSB-TV in Atlanta – then an NBC affiliate – put out at least a grade B signal into much of the northern portion of the market, while WALB-TV in Albany and WSAV-TV in Savannah, both on the VHF band, could be picked up in the respective portions of the southwestern and southeastern portions of the market. As a result, many if not most viewers in Middle Georgia did not get a clear picture from the station until the area began receiving cable service in the late 1970s. Even so, most Middle Georgia viewers instinctively turned to WMAZ out of long-standing habits for years, ignoring WCWB even after UHF compatibility became universal on sets (the only other UHF station available then was a translator of Georgia Public Broadcasting, with PBS programming).
The station changed its call letters to WMGT (for "Middle Georgia Television") on December 1, 1983, to reflect the area of Georgia that it serves (the old WCWB call letters would later be used by a Pittsburgh TV station from 1998 to 2006). In 2000, the station moved its operations into a renovated two-story warehouse in Downtown Macon, which promised to add to the revitalization of the historic area and signify future growth for the station. Morris maintains its corporate headquarters on the second floor of WMGT's studio facility. The station's legal call sign was modified in 2003 to include a "-TV" suffix to disambiguate itself from a Minnesota radio station that also held the WMGT calls. On April 3, 2006, WMGT retired its "41" logo (which resembled the 1993 to 2001 logo used by fellow NBC affiliate and former sister station KARK-TV in Little Rock) and "41 NBC" branding, introducing a new logo and rebranding as "Today's MGT"; the "41 NBC" brand was restored on March 23, 2009 with the introduction of a new logo.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|41.1||1080i||16:9||NBC||Main WMGT-TV programming / NBC|
|41.4||Escape||Escape (TV network)|
On July 6, 2009, the station began carrying MyNetworkTV on a new second digital subchannel. The programming service had previously been carried in the Macon market as a secondary affiliation on Fox affiliate WGXA beginning with MyNetworkTV's launch on September 5, 2006. In the summer of 2011, WMGT-DT2 was rebranded as "My41.2".
On July 2, 2015 Bounce TV was moved from WPGA-TV to WMGT-DT3, while ThisTV network took its place on WPGA-DT3 which was previously on WPGA-LP channel 50.
In mid-March 2016, WMGT-TV began carrying Escape (TV network) on digital subchannel 41.4.
WMGT-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 41, at noon on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 41.
Syndicated programs broadcast on WMGT include Inside Edition, Judge Judy, Steve Harvey, Access Hollywood and Maury. The latter three are distributed by NBC Syndicated programming on WBIR-TV includes Dr. Phil, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Doctors, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!.
WMGT-TV presently broadcasts 18 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 3½ hours on weekdays and a half hour on Sundays); unlike most NBC affiliates, the station does not broadcast any newscasts in the 5:00 p.m. timeslot on weekdays, Saturday evenings, and by association to the latter, early evening newscasts on weekends. In addition, the station produces an additional five hours of newscasts each week (with one hour each on weekdays) for WMGT-DT2.
The station began producing newscasts at its 1968 inception; however, due to the problems mentioned above caused by WMAZ's domination, WMGT's newscasts struggled in the ratings for years, and were mostly discontinued by the early 1970s. Within a few months following its start in 1982, WGXA's newscasts surged to second place in the market (behind WMAZ), because its news product was perceived as far more modern than that of the newscasts seen on WCWB, which had only made a modest restart of its new operation. Once again, due to low viewership, channel 41 shut down its news department in 1992. The station would not carry any newscasts for another twelve years, until it relaunched its news operation on September 6, 2004, as Tropical Storm Frances moved through the Southeastern United States. At that time, WMGT began producing three half-hour newscasts that aired at 6:30 a.m., 5:30 and 11:00 p.m. When the news department was re-established, WMGT was among the first stations in the country to maintain a completely digital newsgathering operation.
With cable now having leveled the playing field somewhat between it and WMAZ and WGXA since the UHF reception issue was mostly now moot, WMGT gradually expanded its newscasts over the next few years. The station eventually expanded its weekday morning newscast to its current two-hour length, running from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m., in October 2012. The early evening newscast was later moved to 6:00 p.m. On July 6, 2009, the station began producing a half-hour primetime newscast each weeknight at 10:00 p.m. for WMGT-DT2, and also began airing a rebroadcast of its 6:00 p.m. newscast at 7:00 p.m. In October 2012, the station expanded its 11:00 p.m. newscast to Sunday evenings. Around this time, the station began airing a rebroadcast of its morning newscast on WMGT-DT2 from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. On September 16, 2013, the station debuted a half-hour midday newscast at 11 a.m. called "41 Today", a non-traditional news program that places a heavy emphasis on community events, consumer and lifestyle features and weather forecast. On February 18, 2014, WMGT became the third station in the Macon market (after WRWR-LD (channel 38) and WMAZ-TV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; however the newscasts on WMGT-DT2 were not included in the upgrade, instead broadcasting them in widescreen enhanced definition in the subchannel's native 480p resolution format.
Notable current on–air staff
- Bill Shanks - The End Zone Host