WOLO-TV, virtual channel 25 (VHF digital channel 8), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Columbia, South Carolina, United States. The station is owned by Bahakel Communications. WOLO maintains offices located on Shakespeare Road in Arcadia Lakes (though it uses a Columbia address); its news department operates from a separate studio facility at Gervais (US 1/US 378) and Main Streets (across from the South Carolina State House) in Downtown Columbia; its transmitter is located on Rush Road in unincorporated southwestern Kershaw County. On cable, the station is available on Time Warner Cable channel 5 and in high definition on digital channel 1105.
The station first signed on the air on May 1, 1953 as WCOS-TV; founded by Columbia Radio, owners of WCOS radio (1400 AM and 97.9 FM, now 97.5), it was the first television station to sign on in South Carolina. The station was originally a primary NBC affiliate and a secondary affiliate of CBS and ABC. The station's original facilities were located in a Quonset hut near the station's current studio location, in what was then unincorporated Richland County (Arcadia Lakes did not become an incorporated community until 1959).
WCOS-TV had very modern equipment by the standards of 1953. However, UHF stations always found it difficult in those days to gain viewership traction as television set manufacturers were not required to equip televisions with UHF tuners until the Federal Communications Commission passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961; even then, UHF tuners were not included on all newer sets until 1964. During the 1950s, viewers had to purchase separate converters in order to watch UHF stations. Even with them, the picture quality left much to be desired.
The problem really manifested itself in the fall of 1953. First in September, channel 25 lost CBS to WNOK-TV (channel 67, now WLTX on channel 19). Then in November, Liberty Life Insurance Company, owner of longtime NBC radio affiliate WIS, signed on WIS-TV (channel 10) as the first (and to this day, only) VHF station in the city. More or less by default, WCOS-TV was left with ABC, becoming the first primary affiliate of the network in the Carolinas. Even though channel 25's fate was sealed when WIS-TV signed on, the station limped along until 1956, when WNOK-TV offered to pay Charles W. Pittman, president of Columbia Radio, to take the struggling station off the air. Pittman, who had put much of his own money into WCOS-TV, accepted and shut the station down on January 21, 1956.
Channel 25 remained dark for over five years, in hopes of returning to the air again "in the near future". On October 1, 1961, local investors bought the channel 25 license and returned the station to the air as ABC affiliate WCCA-TV. As a result of its time off the air, while it was the first television station in the state, it is not the longest continuously operating station in South Carolina – a distinction held by WCSC-TV in Charleston. In 1964, Cy Bahakel, owner of fellow ABC affiliate WCCB-TV (now a CW affiliate) in Charlotte (100 miles north of Columbia), bought the station and changed its call letters to WOLO-TV. WOLO's ownership by the Bahakel family is the longest of any of the Columbia market's television stations, with president Beverly Poston taking over as president of Bahakel Communications after her father's death in 2006.
In 2001, WOLO activated a new transmitter tower along I-20, near Camden, one of the tallest structures in South Carolina at almost 1,800 feet (550 m). Prior to then, the station had long been plagued by a weak signal. Although it decently covered Columbia and its inner suburbs in Richland and Lexington counties, it only provided grade B signal coverage of the second-largest city in the market, Sumter, and was all but unviewable in the outlying areas. As such, many areas within the market were unable to receive a decent signal from channel 25 until cable television arrived in Columbia in the 1970s. Many residents in the western part of the market received a better signal from WJBF in Augusta (which often carried ABC programs that were preempted by WOLO). In the fall of 2005, WOLO changed its on-air branding from "ABC 25" to "ABC Columbia" (this was similar to sister station WCCB's 2002 rebranding from "Fox 18" to "Fox Charlotte"). Beginning in 2014, WOLO began a major expansion of its studio at Main and Gervais. This included the building of a new weather center and an interview set. During the summer of 2015, the station rebuilt the street-side studio set, incorporating multiple monitors and an improved light-control window system. The graphics and music were revamped in October 2015 when John Farley, formerly of WIS, was announced as the Chief Meteorologist for WOLO-TV.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|25.1||720p||16:9||WOLO-DT||Main WOLO-TV programming / ABC|
WOLO-TV became the second commercial television station in the Columbia market to sign on a digital signal in 2002. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 25, 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 remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 8, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 25.
WOLO-TV carries the entire ABC network schedule, which is aired in pattern. Despite being the first television station in South Carolina, due partly to its transmitter reception issues among other issues, the station has been as one of ABC's weakest affiliates ratings-wise for most of its history. Syndicated programs broadcast on WOLO include Dr. Phil, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, The 700 Club, and Judge Judy.
Starting with the 2011 season, WOLO became the flagship television station for the South Carolina Gamecocks, as ESPN Regional Television announced on June 21, 2011 that WOLO and MyNetworkTV affiliate WKTC (channel 63, now a primary CW and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate) would share local broadcast rights to the Southeastern Conference television package, replacing Raycom-owned WIS.
WOLO-TV presently broadcasts 18½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 3½ hours on weekdays and a half-hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). Unlike most ABC affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, WOLO-TV does not carry local newscasts during the 5:00 p.m. hour on weeknights and during the early evenings on weekends.
WOLO has experienced several firsts, including hiring the first certified meteorologist and introducing the first color weather radar system in South Carolina (in 1978) and the first live satellite-uplinked broadcast (in 1980). In the early 1980s, the station hired Elizabeth Snite to co-anchor the station's evening newscasts, becoming the first female news anchor in the market. WOLO was the first television station to utilize handheld video cameras (acquiring a Sony Mini-Cam); sports director/reporter Jerry Emanuel was the first to use that camera to tape feature stories as opposed to breaking news stories.
For all but a few years in its current incarnation, its local newscasts have languished in a distant third place, behind WIS and WLTX. In 1997, WOLO hired Jim Blue and Leslie Mouton (then Leslie Mattox) to anchor its evening newscasts, and rebranded its news operation as 25 Eyewitness News. The station also expanded its news programming to include an hour-long weekday morning newscast titled Good Morning Columbia and a half-hour-long 5:00 p.m. newscast with Amy Johnson and Reg Taylor (5pm ended in 1999).
In 2002, Bahakel migrated WOLO's operations – including production of its newscasts – to the studio facilities of sister station WCCB on Independence Boulevard in Charlotte. Newsgathering continued to be based in Columbia, maintaining a news director and reporters to produce the daily newscasts. With the move, WOLO cancelled its weekday morning and weekend newscasts (WCCB produces its own local newscast on weekday mornings), retaining only the weeknight 6:00 and nightly 11:00 p.m. newscasts, and laid off several Columbia-based employees. This was one of the first examples of "centralcasting" (the practice of housing master control and/or other operations for multiple stations out of one facility) in the United States.
In the fall of 2005, Bahakel Communications moved production of WOLO's newscasts back to Columbia, from a new purpose-built streetside news studio located across from the State House. After years of being the third station in what was essentially a two-station market, WOLO has become a more competitive station ratings-wise since it moved its news/weather operations back to Columbia, reaping some of the full benefits of its technical upgrades of the previous decade and the switch to digital. However, it is still well behind WIS and WLTX in the ratings.
On September 21, 2009, WOLO became the first television station in the Columbia market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, accompanied by the introduction of a new graphics and music package. Footage shot in-studio is broadcast in high definition, while all news video from on-remote locations was initially broadcast in standard definition. However, it became the first television station in the market to provide news video from the field in true high definition in February 2010, as WOLO 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. Later on October 12, 2010, the station became the first in the market to broadcast live video from the field in HD. On November 2, 2010, WOLO became the first television station in Columbia to stream live webcasts and breaking news coverage on Apple iOS devices.
On August 1, 2011, WOLO restored a weekday morning newscast to its schedule after nine years with the debut of an hour-long program at 6:00 a.m. titled Good Morning Columbia, along with the debut of the station's first-ever midday newscast at noon. On August 19, 2013, Good Morning Columbia expanded to two hours, with the addition of an hour to the broadcast from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. On January 5, 2015, the midday newscast moved to 12:30 p.m. after the "Andy Griffith Show" moved from WLTX to WOLO-TV and took the Noon timeslot.
In 2015, the station garnered attention when it first hired the popular former WIS anchor Ben Hoover to its evening newscasts in August after his departure from the NBC affiliate back in 2014. In October, former WIS Chief Meteorologist John Farley was hired to replace the longtime Chief Meteorologist Reg Taylor, who retired from television at the end of September. The new anchor team was widely promoted in social media as well as the local newspaper and the South Carolina State Fair. The station launched a new look, music, and a finalized studio for the debut in mid-October, with scenes of the capital city and the State House being particularly prominent in its imagery, tying to its unique location at the intersection of Main and Gervais streets.