WOAI-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 48), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in San Antonio, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with Fox affiliate KABB (channel 29); Sinclair also operates CW affiliate KMYS (channel 35) under a shared services agreement with owner Deerfield Media. All three stations share studio facilities off Loop 410 in northwest San Antonio; WOAI maintains transmitter facilities located off of Route 181 in northwest Wilson County (northeast of Elmendorf).

History

The station first signed on the air on December 11, 1949 as WOAI-TV; it was the first television station to sign on in the San Antonio market. It was owned by Southland Industries along with WOAI radio (1200 AM and 102.3 FM, frequency now occupied by KSAQ). WOAI-TV and WOAI radio are among the few broadcast stations located west of the Mississippi River that utilize a call sign that begins with a "W"; this designation was "grandfathered" when the Federal Communications Commission issued regulations requiring radio stations west of the Mississippi River to be assigned call letters starting with a "K," and stations east of the Mississippi to calls beginning with a "W." The station has been an NBC affiliate since its sign-on, due to WOAI (AM)'s longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network; however, it originally also carried programming from the three other major networks of the time: CBS, ABC and DuMont. WOAI lost the CBS and DuMont affiliations to KEYL (channel 5, now KENS-TV) when that station signed on in February 1950; the two stations continued to share ABC programming until KONO-TV (channel 12, now KSAT-TV) signed on in January 1957.

In 1965, WOAI-AM-TV was bought by Crosley Broadcasting, which changed its name to Avco Broadcasting in 1968. Avco began to exit from broadcasting in 1974. WOAI-TV was one of the first television stations that Crosley owned to end up being sold, as it was acquired by United Television (at the time, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox) in 1974. On December 11, 1974, coinciding with the stations 25th anniversary, WOAI-TV changed its call letters to KMOL-TV; at that time, the AM station, which retained the WOAI call letters, became one of the founding stations of its current owner, iHeartMedia (then known as Clear Channel Communications). Chris-Craft Industries gained majority ownership of United in 1981, merging the group with BHC Communications (the owners of KCOP in Los Angeles and KPTV in Portland, Oregon).

When KRRT (channel 35, now KMYS) dropped its affiliation with the United Paramount Network (UPN) to join The WB in January 1998, KMOL began carrying UPN programming during the overnight hours; at the time, Chris-Craft had owned a 50% interest in UPN. The UPN affiliation later moved to Fredericksburg-licensed KBEJ (channel 2, now MyNetworkTV affiliate KCWX), which that station signed on the air in August 2000.

On August 12, 2000, Chris-Craft Industries sold its television stations to the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of News Corporation for $5.5 billion;[2] a deal that was finalized on July 31, 2001. News Corporation then traded KMOL and sister station KTVX in Salt Lake City to Clear Channel in exchange for WFTC in Minneapolis. This tradeoff protected future sister station KABB (channel 29) from losing its Fox affiliation. Not only did the purchase reunite KMOL-TV with WOAI, but channel 4 also became the television flagship of the San Antonio-based conglomerate. Speculation immediately began that Clear Channel would restore the heritage WOAI-TV callsign to channel 4; this officially occurred on September 9, 2002. Although Clear Channel's San Antonio radio cluster is located in Northwest San Antonio, off of I-10, WOAI-TV remained based in its downtown studios on Navarro Avenue.

On November 16, 2006, Clear Channel announced that it would sell all of its television stations[3] after being bought by private equity firms. On April 20, 2007, Clear Channel sold its entire television group to Providence Equity Partners-controlled holding company Newport Television; the group deal was finalized on March 14, 2008.[5] However, channel 4 continued a news partnership with its former radio sister, and the two stations continued to share a website for two years afterward.

In May 2008, Newport Television agreed to sell WOAI-TV and five other stations to High Plains Broadcasting because of ownership conflicts. Providence Equity Partners also holds a 19% ownership stake in Univision Communications, the owner of Univision owned-and-operated station KWEX-TV (channel 41) and Telefutura station KNIC-TV (channel 17).[6] In the case of San Antonio, it would have given Providence Equity control of three stations in the market. Even without KNIC in the picture, both WOAI and KWEX were among the four highest-rated stations in the San Antonio market at the time of the Clear Channel sale (and remain so today); the FCC normally does not allow two of the four highest-rated stations to be owned by a single entity. The sale was finalized on September 15, 2008.[7] However, the sale to High Plains Broadcasting was in name only; Newport continued to operate the station under a shared services agreement, with High Plains only holding the FCC assets of the station (including the license). This effectively made High Plains Broadcasting a front company for Newport Television in a relationship similar to that between Mission Broadcasting and Nexstar Broadcasting Group as well as between Cunningham Broadcasting (and later Deerfield Media) and the Sinclair Broadcast Group.[6] On December 17, 2007, WOAI debuted a slightly altered logo.

On July 19, 2012, Newport Television/High Plains Broadcasting reached a deal to sell 22 of the company's 27 stations to Sinclair, Nexstar and Cox Media Group. WOAI-TV was among the six that would be sold to Sinclair, making it a sister station to Fox affiliate KABB (channel 29) and CW affiliate KMYS (channel 35).[8] Since FCC duopoly regulations forbid common ownership of more than two full-power stations in a single market from being under the same ownership, Sinclair spun off KMYS to Deerfield Media; however, Sinclair retained control of KMYS through a shared services agreement. In addition, while FCC rules disallow ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in the same market, which normally precludes duopolies involving two "Big Four" network affiliates, Sinclair cited in its FCC purchase application that WOAI ranked as the fourth highest-rated station (behind KWEX-DT) and KABB the fifth-rated station in the San Antonio market in total day viewership. The Sinclair and Deerfield Media deals were consummated on December 3, 2012. KTVX, which had been a sister station to WOAI-TV since United Television acquired both stations in 1975, was sold to Nexstar, resulting in the two stations coming under entirely separate ownership and management for the first time in over 37 years.

The operations of KABB and KMYS remain mostly separate from WOAI-TV, with the two stations retaining competing news operations.[9] On the morning on March 19, 2013, a fire started in offices located on the second floor of WOAI's studios, which resulted in the evacuation of the station's staff and forcing channel 4 to carry a broadcast from Vatican City for about six hours; with WOAI unable to broadcast from the building, the station used a makeshift set in a nearby parking lot for that day's late afternoon newscasts, before temporarily moving to KABB/KMYS's facility on Babcock Road.[10] Station and San Antonio Fire Department representatives cited an electrical short for causing the blaze.[11] WOAI moved back to the downtown facility on March 24.[2] In October 2013, the San Antonio Express-News reported that Sinclair planned to move WOAI's sales, promotions and executive offices from its Navarro Street studios to a new building adjacent to KABB and KMYS' shared facility; the transition of WOAI employees to the KABB/KMYS complex is expected to be finalized by the summer of 2014, with the completion of a shared newsroom on the second floor of the building that will accommodate both WOAI and KABB's respective news staffs.[2][2]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[2]
4.11080i16:9WOAI-DTMain WOAI-TV programming / NBC
4.2480i4:3LWNAntenna TV

Analog-to-digital conversion

WOAI-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations 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 UHF channel 48,[2][17] using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 4.

Programming

WOAI-TV carries the entire NBC programming schedule. However, the station airs several of the network's programs out of pattern: the final hour of Today airs on a one-hour delay from 11:00 to 12:00 p.m., Late Night With Seth Meyers airs on a half-hour delay (airing at 12:06 a.m.), and Last Call With Carson Daly and the late night rebroadcast of Today' fourth hour air on a one-hour delay (starting at 1:37 a.m.); syndicated programs (as well as San Antonio Living and a late night rebroadcast of the 10:00 p.m. newscast) fill those programs' network-designated timeslots. Syndicated programs broadcast on WOAI-TV include Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey, Judge Judy, The Dr. Oz Show and The Insider among others.

The station also produces the hour-long daytime talk show San Antonio Living, which airs weekday mornings at 10:00 a.m.[19] On August 22, 2010, WOAI-TV announced that it would replace Live with Regis and Kelly with Rachael Ray on September 13 in an effort to boost ratings for San Antonio Living. The announcement sparked controversy with many loyal viewers as Live had connections with San Antonio as original co-host Regis Philbin was a fan of the San Antonio Spurs NBA franchise and San Antonio was showcased during the Fiesta event in a 1991 episode. What is now Live! with Kelly and Michael returned to the market on KSAT in September 2011.[2]

News operation

WOAI-TV presently broadcasts 24½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5 hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, the station produces the half-hour sports highlight program Sports Sunday, which airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. Despite its status as San Antonio's oldest television station, viewership for channel 4's newscasts has struggled for most of the last 30 years; its newscasts continue to place third in the ratings, behind rivals KSAT and KENS. Most recently News4 has taken the number two position in the morning shows and has made some great strides in its early afternoon newscasts.

On September 16, 2009, WOAI-TV became the third television station in the San Antonio market (after KSAT and KENS) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; with the change, the station introduced a new set for its newscasts as well as a modified version of its "big 4" logo (which was altered to a red, white and black color scheme). It was the first (and presently, the only) television station in the market to provide news video from the field in true high definition, as WOAI upgraded its ENG vehicles, satellite truck, studio and field cameras and other equipment in order to broadcast news footage from the field in high definition, in addition to segments broadcast from the main studio.[21]

On September 6, 2010, WOAI expanded its 6:00 p.m. newscast to one hour, with the addition of a half-hour extension at 6:30 p.m.[2] In 2011, the station's chief meteorologist, John Gerard (who announced his departure from WOAI in April 2014, to become the weekend meteorologist at CBS owned-and-operated station WFOR-TV in Miami[23]), developed the "4-Zone Forecast" – a zonal forecast for four specific sub-regions of south Texas, compared to the broader regional forecasts for the area that are used by other local stations. In February 2012, WOAI introduced a storm chasing vehicle provided by Ancira, which is used during severe weather situations affecting south Texas. On January 25, 2016, WOAI debuted a half hour Noon newscast.