WOLF-TV is the Fox-affiliated television station for Northeastern Pennsylvania, New York's Eastern Southern Tier and parts of North Jersey that is licensed to Hazleton. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 45 from a transmitter at the Penobscot Knob antenna farm near Mountain Top. Owned by New Age Media as its flagship station and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, it is the sister to CW affiliate WSWB and MyNetworkTV affiliate WQMY. All three share studios on PA 315 in the Fox Hill section of Plains Township.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted an original construction permit for Hazleton's first full-service television station on September 30, 1982. The new station, given the call letters WERF, was owned by James Oyster and was to broadcast from a tower south of the city. At that location, the station could serve its city of license but not the main cities in the market, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. In April 1983, WERF applied to move its transmitter to the Penobscot Knob antenna farm near Mountaintop where WNEP-TV, WDAU-TV (now WYOU), WBRE-TV, and WVIA-TV also had their transmitters. The application was denied, however.
Oyster changed the station's call letters to WWLF-TV on July 25, 1984 then sold the construction permit to Hazleton TV Associates on December 13. Two months later on February 20, 1985, the station was sold again this time to Scranton TV Partners who completed construction of the station and brought it on-air on June 6. WWLF was a satellite of co-owned WOLF-TV in Scranton which was then on UHF channel 38 and was an independent station. That station had just began broadcasting itself on June 3. WWLF, as a satellite of WOLF-TV, was independent for a little more than a year. On October 9, 1986, it became a charter affiliate of Fox. In 1988, WWLF moved to a new transmitter on Nescopeck Mountain near the junction of I-80 and PA 93 but remained a satellite of WOLF-TV.
On April 27, 1993, WWLF was sold to Pegasus Television and the new owners were able to accomplish something that the station's original owner could not: get permission to move the transmitter to the antenna farm at Penobscot Knob. The completion of the new transmitter ushered in a new era for WWLF. On November 1, 1998, Pegasus moved the WOLF-TV call sign to channel 56 and made it the sole outlet for Fox programming in Northeast Pennsylvania. It changed the call letters of channel 38 to WSWB and made that station an affiliate of The WB. That station's owners had sought for many years to move either the channel 38 or channel 56 transmitters to Penobscot Knob.
On January 4, 2007, WOLF-TV, along with most of the Pegasus stations, was sold to investment group CP Media, LLC with the sale consummated on March 31. For the first time in its history, the station was no longer co-owned with WSWB. However, the new owners of that station signed a local marketing agreement (LMA) with CP Media meaning that the stations continue to be commonly operated. Eventually, CP Media formed a new broadcasting group, New Age Media. More recently, WOLF-TV launched a new website using the Fox owned-and-operated station platform licensed from Fox Television Stations' interactive division; this lasted until some time in 2010 or 2011 when WorldNow took over the operation of the WOLF-TV web site. On December 4, 2011 the station's transmitter was damaged and for the next month WOLF-TV was carried on WBRE's channel 28.2 subchannel.
On September 25, 2013, New Age Media announced that it would sell most of its stations, including WOLF-TV and WQMY, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Concurrently, sister station WSWB was to be sold by MPS Media to Cunningham Broadcasting, while continuing to be operated by WOLF-TV. On October 31, 2014, New Age Media requested the dismissal of its application to sell WOLF-TV; the next day, Sinclair purchased the non-license assets of the stations it planned to buy from New Age Media and began operating them through a master service agreement.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|56.1||720p||16:9||WOLF-DT||Main WOLF-TV programming / Fox|
|56.2||480i||4:3||WSWB-DT||SD Simulcast of WSWB|
|56.3||16:9||WQMY-DT||Simulcast of WQMY|
WOLF-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 56, on January 19, 2009. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 45. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 56, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
WOLF-TV serves one of the largest geographic market in the country. This area is very mountainous making UHF reception difficult. However, the station is in unique situation since Scranton and Wilkes-Barre is a "UHF Island". As a result, it operates an analog Class A translator to repeat its signal. W24DB on UHF channel 24 has a transmitter northwest of Scranton and I-476 in Lackawanna County. NextEra Energy Resources operates a digital replacement translator on UHF channel 47 in Waymart, PA. This channel exists because windmills run by NextEra Energy Resources at the Waymart Wind Farm interfere with a transmission of full-power television signals.
|Call letters||Channel||City of license|
Fox required most of its affiliates to begin offering local news in 1990 in order to help the fledgling network. However, WOLF's facilities have never been large enough to accommodate an in-house news department. Rather than risk disaffiliation, what is now WSWB entered into a news share agreement with ABC affiliate WNEP-TV (then owned by The New York Times Company) in 1991. The outsourcing arrangement resulted in one of the nation's first prime time newscasts to debut known as Newswatch 16 at 10 on Fox 38. The show originated from WNEP's facility on Montage Mountain Road in Moosic featuring the ABC outlet's on-air personnel. When channel 56 became the sole Fox outlet for the area in 1998, the newscasts stayed here as well under the title of Fox 56 News at 10, with a secondary title of Newswatch 16 at 10 on Fox 56.
In November 2009, it was announced WNEP would move its production of the news at 10 to a second digital subchannel called "WNEP 2" which had recently gained Retro Television Network (RTV) affiliation. That happened December 31 of that year after which WOLF-TV and NBC affiliate WBRE-TV (owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group) entered into a new outsourcing agreement. After taking over production of nightly prime time newscasts on WOLF-TV starting New Year's Day 2010, WBRE expanded the show to an hour each night and changed the title to Fox 56 News First at 10.
The program now originates from a secondary set at the NBC affiliate's studios on South Franklin Street in Downtown Wilkes-Barre. The space had previously been used to produce separate newscasts on CBS affiliate WYOU. It has been announced that WBRE will become the market's second television station to upgrade local news to high definition level. The change will occur April 2, 2012 and the WOLF-TV shows will be included in the upgrade complete with an updated secondary set at WBRE's studios. As was the case with the WNEP-produced broadcasts, if there are network obligations or overruns of Fox programming that prevent WOLF-TV from showing the WBRE program, it is aired on WSWB instead. Its website posts video of the first segment of Fox 56 News First at 10 and the weather forecast segment. Along with its main studios, WBRE operates news bureaus in Scranton (on Lackawanna Avenue), Stroudsburg (Main Street), Williamsport (on Pine Street), and Hazelton (East 10th Street).