WOI-DT, channel 5, is the ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Ames, Iowa, and serving the Des Moines market. WOI is the sister station to CW affiliate, KCWI-TV (channel 23). Both stations share studios on Westown Parkway in West Des Moines, while its transmission tower is located near Alleman.
WOI-TV signed on the air on February 21, 1950. It was Iowa's second television station (following WOC-TV, now KWQC-TV, in Davenport), and the first in Des Moines. Originally on channel 4, it moved to channel 5 in 1952. Programming came from ABC, CBS, NBC, and the DuMont network during the station's early years, but it was a primary CBS affiliate. NBC disappeared from the schedule when WHO-TV signed on in 1954, and CBS disappeared when KRNT-TV (now KCCI) signed on in 1955 owing to KRNT radio's long affiliation with CBS radio, leaving channel 5 as the ABC affiliate. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
WOI-TV was originally owned by Iowa State University in Ames along with its noncommercial WOI radio stations (AM 640 and FM 90.1), making it the first commercial television station in the United States to be owned by a major college. As such, it carried some educational programming from sign-on until the Des Moines Public Schools signed on KDPS-TV (channel 11, now KDIN-TV) in 1959. The startup costs for WOI-TV were paid by the remaining monies from a federal grant awarded to the university for work on the Manhattan Project. WOI's facilities were used by the university to deliver lectures by satellite.
On June 17, 1992, the Iowa Board of Regents voted to sell WOI-TV to Capital Communications Company, a joint venture between Citadel Communications (unrelated to radio station owner Citadel Broadcasting) and Connecticut's Lynch Corporation-- for $14 million. The Board of Regents immediately faced a lawsuit filed by "Iowans for WOI-TV, Inc." arguing that the station was a benefit to the university in an attempt to expostulate with the university. On March 1, 1994, WOI-TV was finally sold, while the university kept the WOI radio stations. Capital moved WOI-TV's studios to a temporary location in Des Moines later that year. In 1998 WOI-TV moved to its current studios.
WOI-TV was home to America's longest running local children's program, The Magic Window. The show ran continuously from 1951 through 1994. The original host (1951-1953) was . Producer Dick Hartzell (Ford Foundation Experimental Programing Development) had two small children and was concerned about the lack of good programs for children. Hartzell asked Joy to assist him in planning a handicraft section for a new program, and soon cast her as host of "The Magic Window." Later, it was hosted by Betty Lou Varnum for the last 40 of those years.
In August 2011, comedian Stephen Colbert produced a series of political television ads through his "Colbert Super PAC" to run in Iowa, encouraging Iowans to vote for Texas governor Rick Perry at the 2011 Ames Straw Poll for Republican candidates in the 2012 Presidential election. The ads called for voters to submit the vote for a write-in candidate by spelling Perry's last name "PArry," "with an 'A' for IowA and America." Thus "Rick PArry," would be a fictional candidate. Both KCCI and WHO approved to run the ads while WOI did not, stating that they considered the ads "confusing to viewers." Colbert responded by calling the station out on national television on the August 11 episode of his Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, claiming that station executives "sit in their ivory corn silos and play puppet master with national politics." On the August 15 episode, Colbert issued an apology to WOI general manager/Citadel president Ray Cole for the rant. He went on to challenge the station, which he sarcastically called "Des Moines' News Leader" throughout the saga, to find out the exact number of write-in votes for "Rick Parry" at the Straw Poll and called on the entire weeknight anchor team and intrepid cub reporter Katie Eastman to do so. GOP officials have not released that information and do not intend to. According to filings with the Federal Elections Commission, WOI-DT later donated $1170 to the Colbert Super PAC.
On September 16, 2013, Citadel announced that it would sell WOI-DT, along with KCAU-TV in Sioux City and WHBF-TV in Rock Island, Illinois to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group for $88 million. Nexstar immediately took over the station's operations through a time brokerage agreement. The deal followed Citadel founder and CEO Phil Lombardo's decision to "slow down," as well as a desire by Lynch Entertainment to divest its investments in WOI and WHBF. The sale was completed on March 13, 2014. The deal reunited WOI with two of its former Citadel sister stations, WIVT in Binghamton, New York and WVNY in Burlington, Vermont. Nexstar then announced on November 4, 2014 that it would also buy CW affiliate KCWI from Pappas Telecasting for $3.5 million.  The sale was finalized on March 14, 2016, with Nexstar announcing shortly after that KCWI would leave its downtown Des Moines studios and consolidate operations with WOI on Westown Parkway.
On January 5, 2015, WOI re-launched as Local 5. The change came as part of investments into the station by Nexstar, which saw upgrades to the station's studio equipment and the introduction of a new news studio featuring a touchscreen display. The station also re-launched its morning news as Good Morning Iowa, and will place a larger emphasis on political coverage and how stories "matter" to viewers as part of its overall coverage. A week later, the station took their second subchannel, which carried the moribund Live Well Network, dark, with no replacement programming.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||720p||16:9||WOI-DT||Main WOI-DT programming / ABC|
|5.2||480i||LWN||Bounce TV (Launch date TBD)|
|5.3||4:3||Laff (Launch date TBD)|
WOI-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, 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 59, 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 5. Also, the "WOI-DT" callsign was legally transferred from the pre-transition digital television channel 59 to the post-transition digital channel 5 and the "WOI-TV" callsign from the now-defunct analog channel 5 was permanently discontinued, rare among stations which usually transferred their analog-era calls to their digital counterparts (although WHO-DT also took the same action).
In addition to ABC programming, WOI-DT airs syndicated programs such as Entertainment Tonight, The Steve Harvey Show, The Meredith Vieira Show, and reruns of ER and 24. The station also airs Iowa State University football and men's basketball games. Until September 27, 2011, WOI-DT did not carry ABC World News Now, instead joining its fellow Citadel stations in signing off each night, one of the few remaining stations in the country to do so.
On Monday December 1, 2008, WOI-TV launched an affiliation with Retro Television Network on its DT2 subchannel, which was later replaced by the Live Well Network on January 16, 2012. It ended at 5am on January 17, 2015 with Live Well's upcoming end, and like sister stations WHBF and KCAU, which also pulled their DT2 subchannels, WOI took the channel dark with no replacement programming.
Despite its status as Des Moines' oldest TV station, WOI channel 5 has spent the better part of the last half-century as a distant third in the market, in part because ABC wasn't on par with CBS or NBC until the 1970s. When long-dominant KCCI saw its ratings slip in the mid-2000s, WOI-TV reaped little benefit. In the May 2011 ratings period, WOI-DT failed to achieve even a 1.0 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds while its share rating remained a 3 or lower. Its morning newscasts barely registered a blip in the ratings. It has consistently been one of ABC's weakest affiliates in the top-100 markets.
On September 11, 2006, WOI dropped the Eyewitness News brand (which the station had used for five years) and rebranded itself as "ABC5", using a variation of the circle logo shared by Citadel's other major network affiliates. Since 2007, the ABC5 Weather team, led by Chief Meteorologist Brad Edwards, has been certified by WeatheRate, an independent weather rating service, as providing, "Central Iowa's Most Accurate Forecast". Edwards was previously an on-air meteorologist for the Weather Channel.
On October 8, 2010, WOI-DT became the second commercial station in Des Moines (behind WHO-DT) to launch local news into high definition.