WPVI-TV, channel 6, is an ABC owned-and-operated television station located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by the ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. WPVI maintains studios located on City Line Avenue (US 1) in the Wynnefield Heights section of Philadelphia, and its transmitter is located in Philadelphia's Roxborough neighborhood.
The station first signed on the air on September 10, 1947 as WFIL-TV; it is Philadelphia's second-oldest television station. It was originally owned by Triangle Publications, publishers of The Philadelphia Inquirer and owners of WFIL radio (560 AM, and 102.1 FM). WFIL radio had been an ABC radio affiliate dating back to the network's existence as the NBC Blue Network. However, WFIL-TV started out carrying programming from the DuMont Television Network, as ABC had not yet ventured into broadcast television. When the ABC television network debuted on April 19, 1948, WFIL-TV became its first affiliate. Channel 6 joined ABC before the network's first owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City (now WABC-TV), signed on in August of that year. However, it retained a secondary affiliation with DuMont until that network shut down in 1956.
The WFIL stations were the flagship of the growing communications empire of Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications, which owned two Philadelphia newspapers (the morning Inquirer and, later, the evening Daily News), periodicals including TV Guide, Seventeen and the Daily Racing Form, and a broadcasting group that would grow to ten radio and six television stations.
The WFIL radio stations originally broadcast from the Widener Building in downtown Philadelphia. With the anticipated arrival of WFIL-TV, Triangle secured a new facility for the stations, located at Market and 46th streets, which opened in 1947. In 1963, Triangle built one of the most advanced broadcast centers in the nation on City (or City Line) Avenue in the Wynnefield Heights community, in a circular building across from rival WCAU-TV (channel 10). The station still broadcasts from the facility today, even as a new digital media building was constructed that now houses production of the station's newscasts and other local programs, while the original studio was turned over to public broadcaster WHYY-FM-TV.
Channel 6 has a long history of producing local programs. On March 26, 1948, it aired a production of "Parsifal" from the John Wanamaker Store that featured Bruno Walter conducting 50 players from the Philadelphia Orchestra, a Chorus of 300, and the Wanamaker Organ. Perhaps its most notable local production was Bandstand, which began in 1952 and originated from WFIL-TV's newly constructed Studio B (located in the 1952 addition to the 46th and Market studio). In 1957, ABC added the program as part of its weekday afternoon network lineup and renamed it American Bandstand to reflect its more widespread broadcast scope.
Other well-known locally produced shows included the children's programs Captain Noah and His Magical Ark; a cartoon show hosted by Sally Starr; and Chief Halftown (whose host, Traynor Ora Halftown, was a full-blooded member of the Seneca Nation), and two variety programs: The Al Alberts Showcase, a talent show emceed by the lead singer of The Four Aces; and The Larry Ferrari Show, on which the host played organ versions of both popular and religious music. WFIL-TV also produced an early, yet long-running, program on adult literacy, Operation Alphabet. One of its earliest local series was Let's Pop the Question, from 1947 to 1948.
Channel 6 was the first station to sign on from the Roxborough neighborhood. It originally transmitted from a 600-foot (180 m) tower, but in 1957 it moved to a new 1,100-foot (340 m) tower, which it co-owned with NBC-owned WRCV-TV (channel 3, now KYW-TV). The new tower added much of Delaware and the Lehigh Valley to the station's city-grade coverage. WFIL-TV was also one of the first TV stations in Philadelphia to broadcast local color.
In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a rule barring companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market. However, the agency "grandfathered" several existing newspaper and broadcasting cross-combinations in several markets. Triangle asked the FCC to grandfather its cluster of the Inquirer, the Daily News and WFIL-AM-FM-TV, but was turned down. As a result, in 1969, one year after the new regulation was made official, Triangle sold the Inquirer and the Daily News to Knight Newspapers (later renamed Knight-Ridder).
In 1970, the FCC forced Triangle to sell off its broadcasting properties due to protests from then-Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp. Shapp complained that Triangle had used its three Pennsylvania television stations – WFIL-TV, WLYH-TV in Lebanon and WFBG-TV (now WTAJ-TV) in Altoona – in a smear campaign against him. The WFIL stations, along with radio-television combinations in New Haven, Connecticut and Fresno, California, were sold to Capital Cities Communications. As a condition of the sale, Capital Cities had to spin off the radio stations to other entities – in Philadelphia, WFIL-FM (now WIOQ) was sold to its general manager John Richer, and WFIL radio went to LIN Broadcasting. On April 27, 1971, shortly after the sale was approved and Capital Cities took control of channel 6, the station changed its call letters to the current WPVI-TV.
Despite the ownership change, channel 6 continued preempting ABC programming in favor of locally produced and syndicated shows. In 1975, when ABC entered the morning news field with AM America, WPVI chose not to carry it, nor pick up AM America's successor, Good Morning America in its entirety for nearly three years, choosing instead to carry Captain Noah and His Magical Ark in place of the second hour of GMA. WPVI-TV also did not run other ABC daytime programs, notably The Edge of Night and numerous sitcom reruns. ABC was able to get most of its daytime schedule on the air in Philadelphia anyway through contracts with independent stations WKBS-TV (channel 48) and WTAF-TV (channel 29).
In March 1985, Capital Cities Communications announced it was purchasing ABC, a move that stunned the broadcast industry since ABC was some four times larger than Capital Cities at the time. Some have said that Capital Cities was only able to pull off the deal because WPVI-TV, the company's flagship property, had become very profitable in its own right. However, the merged company almost had to sell off Channel 6 due to a large signal overlap with WABC-TV. In the FCC's view, the merger gave the new company a de facto duopoly prohibited by the regulations of the time – the same "one-to-a-market" rule that forced Triangle to split its newspaper/broadcast combination in Philadelphia many years earlier. Capital Cities sought a waiver of the rules to keep WPVI, citing CBS' then-ownership of WCBS-TV in New York City and WCAU-TV locally in Philadelphia. The FCC granted the waiver, and when the transaction was finalized in early 1986, WPVI-TV became an ABC owned-and-operated station. A decade later in 1996, the Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC.
Even in the years after WPVI became an ABC-owned station, it continued to preempt an hour of ABC daytime programs in favor of other programs. Wildwood, New Jersey-based NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (channel 40) picked up the pre-empted ABC shows until 1987, when those programs moved back to channel 29, which was now WTXF-TV. The preempted programs were usually magazine shows, game shows or reruns of ABC primetime sitcoms. By the early 1990s, WPVI preempted only the first half-hour of The Home Show. From 1979 to 1993, The Phil Donahue Show aired on WPVI until moving to KYW-TV for the remainder of the run.
On January 22, 1987, the station partially rebroadcast the suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer – which had occurred at a press conference earlier that morning – during its noon newscast. In 1997, per a directive from the new Disney ownership, WPVI-TV began carrying the entire ABC network schedule for the first time in the station's history with the network. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of its highly rated local talk show, AM/Live (formerly AM Philadelphia), which was shifted to an overnight timeslot to make room for ABC's then-new talk show The View. AM/Live was moved to 12:35 a.m. following Politically Incorrect and was renamed Philly After Midnight, where it lasted until 2001.
Today, WPVI carries the entire ABC lineup as well as syndicated programs such as Live! with Kelly and Michael and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (both of which are distributed by corporate cousin Disney-ABC Domestic Television). It also carries both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. In fact, the station's entire weekday lineup, including syndicated shows, is identical to that of sister station and ABC flagship station WABC-TV. WPVI is also the #1 television station in the Delaware Valley. From 1977 until 2015, WPVI aired the Pennsylvania Lottery live nighttime television drawings, which occur nightly at 6:59 p.m. ET; the Powerball drawings on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the Tuesday and Friday Mega Millions drawings air during the 11 p.m. newscasts on those nights (those television drawing rights moved to WTXF-TV).
As a result of ABC losing Monday Night Football to now-sister network ESPN in the 2000s, WPVI has aired the Philadelphia Eagles' preseason and Monday night games, as well as the team's coaches' show (those programs moved to WCAU-TV in 2015). However, in recent years, the Monday games have aired on WPHL, while WPVI has opted to air the regular ABC scheduled programming. The Eagles' remaining games are split between KYW-TV (CBS), WCAU-TV (NBC) and WTXF-TV (Fox) through their respectively owned networks' NFL broadcast rights and NFL Network through its Thursday Night Football package. On January 28, 2010, WPVI entered into a multi-year agreement with Major League Soccer expansion team Philadelphia Union to broadcast selected games.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|6.1||720p||16:9||WPVI-HD||Main WPVI-TV programming / ABC|
|6.2||Live Well||Live Well Network|
WPVI-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, 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 64, 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 6 for post-transition operations.
In an analog world, operations on VHF channels (those between 2 and 13) could operate at power levels significantly lower than UHF stations (saving electricity costs), and still cover greater areas. The All-Channel Receiver Act of 1961 guaranteed that all new TV's must be designed to receive UHF channels, but the major networks were already well established. For digital transmissions VHF channels are very noisy in particular Low-VHF (channels 2-6). It is difficult to receive the signals without the standardized 30' outdoor antenna. Fewer than 40 full power stations in the USA are using Low-VHF channels since the mandatory digital conversion in 2009, and major network affiliates are mostly in large sparsely populated direct marketing areas where outdoor antennas are common. In contrast to the USA, the United Kingdom completely abandoned VHF channels for television when they went all digital.
WPVI-TV had been broadcasting digital signals on channel UHF 64 from 1997-2009, but that channel was recovered by the FCC for resale in March 2008. WPVI-TV was by far the largest urban station to broadcast in the Low-VHF band after the mandatory digital transition in 2009. Next to Philadelphia, the next largest market areas served by a major network affiliate with a Low-VHF channel is Las Vegas, NV served by NBC affiliate KSNV-DT. WPVI-DT went back to channel 6, where they had been broadcasting analog signals since 1948. The WPVI-TV signal was difficult to receive with an indoor antenna, even within Philadelphia proper.
The FCC granted the station a temporary power increase to 30 kilowatts, following consent given from WEDY in New Haven, Connecticut and WRGB in Schenectady, New York. Because of potential interference with other stations and with FM radio, there was doubt as to whether this increase could be granted. Some viewers did notice an improvement in their signal; however, WPVI continued to receive complaints regarding the viewability of its digital signal. The problems have continued to this day. WPVI, along with Wilmington, Delaware-licensed stations PBS member station WHYY-TV (channel 12) and KJWP (channel 2, a 2013 move-in from Jackson, Wyoming) are the only Philadelphia area stations whose digital signals operate on the VHF band, as all others physically broadcast on UHF. The FCC advises that a single antenna position will likely not pull both low- and high-band VHF signals (unlike the analog era).
WPVI-TV presently airs 39½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with six hours each weekday, 4½ hours on Saturdays and five hours on Sundays). In addition, the station produces a public affairs program on Sunday mornings called Inside Story, which discusses local and national issues; as it does not have a regular host, members of WPVI's anchor staff rotate hosting duties for the program. Due to the absence of an ABC station based in New Jersey, WPVI cooperates with its New York City sister station, WABC-TV, in the production and broadcast of statewide New Jersey political debates. Whenever the two stations broadcast a statewide office debate, such as those involving gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races, WPVI and WABC will pool resources and have anchors or reporters from both stations participate in the debate. Additionally, the two stations cooperate in the gathering of news in New Jersey where their markets overlap, sharing reporters, live trucks, and helicopters.
The station is famous for pioneering the "Action News" format, which was used by many stations throughout the United States. When WFIL-TV premiered it on April 6, 1970, the format allowed the news program to feature more stories than KYW-TV's Eyewitness News due to strict time limits on story packages. Within a few months, the station surged to first place for the first time in its history. It had previously been an also-ran behind KYW-TV and WCAU-TV, as was the case with most ABC affiliates. Despite Channel 6's newspaper roots, it was hampered by the fact that ABC was not on par with CBS and NBC until the early 1970s.
In 1970, Channel 6 stole the top spot in the Philadelphia news ratings for the first time ever. It traded the lead with KYW-TV until 1977, when it won a sweeps period by a wide margin. It has dominated the ratings for most of the last four decades, winning virtually every time slot. Its dominance has only been seriously challenged twice – in the 1980s, when WCAU briefly took the lead at 5 p.m.; and in 2001, when Channel 10 took first place at 11 p.m. for a few months for the first time in decades. Many top executives in ABC's television station group previously worked at WPVI. WPVI's longtime anchor Jim Gardner and weatherman Dave Roberts respectively joined the station in 1976 and 1978, after each had spent time at WPVI's then-sister station in Buffalo, New York, WKBW-TV. Gary Papa joined in 1981 from another Buffalo station, WGR-TV, and stayed with the station until his death in 2009.
One factor in WPVI's long dominance is talent continuity. Most of WPVI's on-air staff has been at the station for over ten years, and several for 20 years or more. Gardner has been the station's main weeknight anchor since May 1977, the longest tenure for any main anchor in Philadelphia history. Rob Jennings served as longtime weekend anchor beginning in that same year and held that post until his retirement on July 21, 2013.
The station's newscasts have used the same theme music, "Move Closer to Your World," composed by Al Ham, since 1972. The theme had become such an iconic aspect of Action News that news director Dave Davis considered it to be the station's "national anthem." The theme has remained relatively unchanged (aside from remasters) since it was first introduced; when WPVI attempted to introduce a slower, modernized version of the theme performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra on September 20, 1996, the station immediately received complaints from viewers and reverted to the old theme only three days later. The intro has traditionally been accompanied by seasonal footage of various Philadelphia/Delaware Valley residents and landmarks. Later the intro format was adopted by sister stations KGO-TV and WLS-TV with the News Series 2000 Plus theme music. For over 30 years starting in the late 1970s, Jefferson "Jeff" Kaye (also a WKBW alumnus, and one who would later become known nationally for his work on NFL Films) announced the familiar open: "Action News, Delaware Valley's leading news program," as well as rejoins and closings. Even through staff announcing changes for the station in general, Kaye remained the constant voice of Action News. His voice started to show signs of decaying in the mid-2000s, reaching a point to where Kaye's newly recorded opens in late January 2010 were pulled in less than a week. On June 21, 2010, Kaye was replaced with veteran announcer Charlie Van Dyke, who had become WPVI's station announcer in 2006. Kaye died on November 16, 2012.
For many years, WPVI's dominance fostered an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Its logo, a simple stylized "6," has been used with only minor changes since 1967 when it was still WFIL-TV. Well into the 1990s, it still used chromakey graphics, and weather forecasts utilized a magnet board. In recent years, attempts have been made to modernize the newscasts. In 1998, it began downplaying its use of chromakey. The magnet board gave way to a video screen in 2000 and a chromakey wall in 2005. On February 13, 2006, a revamped and fully modernized set debuted which included a glass etching background of several historical landmarks in Philadelphia positioned behind the anchor desk, shiftable lighting effects and a computerized AccuWeather center. WPVI introduced a new HD-capable helicopter in February 2006. Live shots from the helicopter, officially named "Chopper6 HD," were shown in high definition. Furthermore, on July 23, 2006, starting with the 6:00 p.m. newscast (the official announcement was made on July 24), Action News began broadcasting in full 720p high definition; all field video shown during WPVI's newscasts is shot in high definition. On September 12, 2009, WPVI debuted another new revamped and fully modernized set, wider than the last set at the original round building, with a bigger news desk, AccuWeather center and a revised glass-etched background which added the Comcast Center to the featured landmarks. It also added a touch-screen video wall, the first for any station in the country, which the station dubs "The Action News Big Board."
After the 2009 death of Gary Papa, Channel 6 took eighteen months to name a replacement. In January 2011, Keith Russell was named as the 6 and 11 p.m. sports anchor, while Jamie Apody was named sports anchor for the 5 p.m. newscast, a position vacant since the departure of longtime 5 p.m. anchor Scott Palmer. Russell left in 2012, and was replaced by Ducis Rodgers.
On May 26, 2011, WPVI debuted an hour-long 4 p.m. newscast to replace The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ended its 25-year syndication run one day prior; this edition broadcasts from a smaller news desk located next to the main anchor desk that only houses the anchors of that newscast and allows the team to utilize the Big Board more frequently. The station also introduced "Mobile 6," a news vehicle used for reports during the station's early evening newscasts. In the spring of 2012, the station expanded its weekend 11 p.m. newscasts to one hour. On September 8, 2014; the station's noon newscast also expanded to one full hour as a new daytime schedule was implemented. 
On September 15, 2012, WPVI-TV took over production of MyNetworkTV affiliate WPHL-TV (channel 17)'s 10 p.m. newscast from NBC-owned WCAU (which began producing the 10 p.m. newscast in December 2005, after WPHL shut down its own in-house news department). The newscast, Action News at 10pm on PHL 17, respectively utilizes most of the same anchors as WPVI's weekday 4 p.m. and weekend evening newscasts with a few noticeable differences. Features anchor Alicia Vitarelli does not appear on the weeknight broadcasts, while Sports Director Ducis Rogers and weekend sports anchor Jeff Skversky join their respective anchor teams. Meteorologist Melissa Magee replaces Adam Joseph for the weekend editions. Additionally, while weeknight anchors Brian Taff and Sharrie Williams operate from the same desk used for the 4pm broadcast, weekend anchors Walter Perez and Sarah Bloomquist (who also anchors the Noon edition alongside Rick Williams) operate from the main desk as they carry over to anchor 11pm-midnight on WPVI. Bloomquist only anchors with Perez on the Sunday edition of the newscast. With this, WPVI became the third ABC owned-and-operated station to be involved in a news share agreement, after KGO-TV in San Francisco (which produces a 9 p.m. newscast for independent station KOFY-TV) and WTVD in Raleigh (which produces a 10 p.m. newscast for CW affiliate WLFL), and was later joined in 2014 by KABC-TV in Los Angeles (which produces a 7 p.m. newscast for independent station KDOC-TV). On September 15, 2014 the newscast was expanded to a full hour-long broadcast, making WPHL the second station in the Philadelphia area (along with competitor WTXF) to carry an hour-long newscast at 10PM. Only competitor WPSG carries a 1/2 hour long newscast, Eyewitness News at 10 on The CW Philly (operated by sister station KYW)
In December 2013, WPVI entered into a news share agreement with Univision-owned WUVP-DT, Channel 65; the agreement allows WPVI to expand its coverage of stories involving the Hispanic community, while permitting WUVP to utilize such of WPVI's resources as helicopter video. The arrangement follows other partnerships between ABC and Univision (including the Fusion cable channel, as well as similar agreements in other markets), as well as a similar agreement in Philadelphia between WCAU and Telemundo station WWSI (Channel 62) established after NBCUniversal acquired the latter station.
In 2016, WPVI lost the rights to televise the Wawa Welcome America festivies to WCAU-TV. The network had televised the 4th of July events since at least 1983.
Current on-air staff
- Tamala Edwards – anchor
- Jim Gardner – anchor
- Monica Malpass – anchor
- Vernon Odom - anchor; also hosted Visions
- Matt O'Donnell – anchor
- Walter Perez – anchor
- Alicia Vitarelli – anchor; also co-host of FYI Philly
- Cecily Tynan (AMS Seal of Approval) – chief meteorologist
Inside Story staff
- Tamala Edwards – Host
- Monica Malpass – Host
- Matt O'Donnell – Host
- Renee Amoore R.N. (health care advocate/Pennsylvania GOP official)
- G. Terry Madonna (professor/pollster at Franklin and Marshall College)
- Marjorie Margolies (former congresswomen)
Notable former staff
- Al Alberts (deceased)
- Dick Clark (deceased)
- Larry Ferrari (deceased)
- Dave Frankel
- Traynor (Chief) Halftown (deceased)
- Bob Horn (deceased)
- Marc Howard (retired from journalism)
- Larry Kane (retired from journalism)
- Jeff Kaye (deceased)
- Wally Kennedy (now college professor)
- Steve Levy
- Tug McGraw (deceased)
- W. Carter Merbreier ("Captain Noah")
- Patricia Merbreier ("Mrs. Noah") (deceased)
- SallyAnn Mosey (now at News 12 Westchester/Hudson Valley/New Jersey)
- Jim O'Brien (deceased)
- Gary Papa (deceased)
- Dave Roberts (retired in 2009)
- Sally Starr (deceased)
- Kristen Sze (now at KGO-TV in San Francisco)
- Joe Torres (now at WABC-TV)
- Bill "Wee Willie" Webber (deceased)
- Lisa Thomas-Laury (retired in 2016)
In popular culture
The 2011-13 ABC series Body of Proof, which was set around the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office and produced by ABC's television production division, used WPVI live trucks and microphones with the station's mic flags in a fictional sense, along with fictional press conference news graphics from the station, though none of WPVI's actual staff appeared during the course of the series, and retained the graphics and live truck look used before the introduction of the "Circle 6" logo. The 2014 Philadelphia-set How to Get Away with Murder also uses a fictional WPVI representation within the universe of that series.
Cable and satellite carriage
Outside of the Philadelphia market in central New Jersey, WPVI is carried on Channel 6 on Comcast in the municipalities of Plainsboro, South Brunswick, Monroe, Cranbury, Jamesburg, Helmetta, Spotswood and East Brunswick, New Jersey in southern Middlesex County as well as the Monmouth County borough of Roosevelt. WPVI moved to channel 38 in the late 1980s (by what was then Storer Cable) and later moved back to channel 6 by Comcast in the late 1990s. WPVI is also available on channel 6 on all Comcast systems in Ocean County as well as in Lambertville. Comcast added WPVI's HD feed to its lineups in Ocean and Southern Middlesex counties, Roosevelt and Lambertville on August 22, 2012 on digital channel 906. WPVI's Live Well Network subchannel (both in high definition and standard definition) were added to the Comcast's southern Middlesex County system on November 27, 2012 (Live Well had previously been carried on that system through feeds from WPVI's New York City sister station WABC-TV), but have not been mapped into the Comcast digital boxes or DTAs.
Cablevision also carries WPVI on channel 6 on its Monmouth County system. Both Comcast and Cablevision carry WPVI throughout Ocean County. Due to a contract dispute with ABC, WPVI was pulled from Cablevision systems in Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties on March 8, 2010. Verizon FiOS carries WPVI on channel 16 in Ocean County and extreme southern Monmouth County. WPVI is also carried by Comcast in New Castle County and portions of Kent County in Delaware. As such, WPVI is classified as a significantly viewed station in Warren, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
In the Lehigh Valley, WPVI is carried by Service Electric, RCN and Blue Ridge Communications. It can also be seen in Reading and much of Berks County. The station can be seen in Lancaster County as far west as Elizabethtown and as far north as Tamaqua, McAdoo, and Hazleton (in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market).
WPVI is also carried on cable systems in Elkton, and North East in Cecil County, Maryland.