WABC-TV, channel 7, is the flagship station of the ABC television network, licensed to New York City. WABC-TV is owned by the ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The station's studios and offices are located near Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, adjacent to ABC's corporate headquarters; its transmitter is located at the Empire State Building.
WABC-TV is best known in broadcasting circles for its version of the Eyewitness News format and for its morning show, syndicated nationally by corporate cousin Disney–ABC Domestic Television.
In the few areas of the eastern United States where an ABC station isn't receivable over-the-air, WABC is available on satellite via DirecTV.
The station signed on August 10, 1948, as WJZ-TV, the first of three television stations signed on by ABC during that same year, with WENR-TV in Chicago and WXYZ-TV in Detroit being the other two. Channel 7's call letters came from its then-sister radio station, WJZ. In its early years, WJZ-TV was programmed much like an independent station, as the ABC television network was still, for the most part, in its very early stages of development; the ABC-owned stations did air some common programming during this period, especially after the 1949 fall season when the network's prime time schedule began to expand. The station's original transmitter site was located at The Pierre Hotel at 2 East 61st Street, before moving to the Empire State Building a few years later. The station's original studios were located at 77 West 66th Street, with additional studios at 7 West 66th Street. An underground tunnel linked ABC studios at 7 West 66th Street to the lobby of the Hotel des Artistes, a block north on West 67th Street. Another studio inside the Hotel des Artistes was used for Eyewitness News Conference.
The station's call letters were changed to WABC-TV on March 1, 1953 after ABC merged its operations with United Paramount Theatres, a firm which was broken off from former parent company Paramount Pictures by decree of the U.S. government. The WJZ-TV callsign was later reassigned to Westinghouse Broadcasting (the original owners of WJZ radio in New York) as an historical nod in 1957 for their newly acquired television station in Baltimore – a station that was, by coincidence, an ABC affiliate until 1995.
As part of ABC's expansion program, initiated in 1977, ABC built 7 Lincoln Square on the southeast corner of West 67th Street and Columbus Avenue, on the site of an abandoned moving and storage warehouse. At about the same time, construction was started at 30 West 67th Street on the site of a former parking lot. Both buildings were completed in June 1979 and WABC-TV moved its offices from 77 West 66th Street to 7 Lincoln Square.
On September 11, 2001, the transmitter facilities of WABC-TV, as well as eight other local television stations and several radio stations, were destroyed when two hijacked airplanes crashed into and destroyed the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. WABC-TV's transmitter maintenance engineer Donald DiFranco died in the attack. In the immediate aftermath, the station fed its signal to WNYE-TV and then WHSE-TV, before establishing temporary facilities at the Armstrong Tower in Alpine, New Jersey. The station eventually established transmission facilities at the Empire State Building.
On May 27, 2007, WABC-TV's studios suffered major damage as the result of a fire that knocked the station off the air shortly before the start of the 11:00 PM Newscast. According to preliminary reports, the fire may have been ignited by a spotlight coming into contact with a curtain inside the news studio; the station's website later reported the cause as an "electrical malfunction". The station's building was evacuated and the fire was brought under control, though the studio was said to be "badly damaged", having suffered smoke and water damage. WABC-TV resumed broadcasting at around 1:00 AM on May 28, 2007 (initially carrying the network's 10:00 PM West Coast feed of Brothers & Sisters, followed by the full broadcast of World News Now). Due to the fire, the station broadcast Eyewitness News from the newsroom, while Live! with Regis and Kelly, whose set was also affected, moved to the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Starting with the 5:00 PM Newscast on June 20, 2007, the station resumed the Eyewitness News and Live... broadcasts from its main studios at Columbus Avenue and 66th Street.
WABC-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 7, at 12:30 PM on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 45 to VHF channel 7. WABC's digital signal was initially difficult to receive over-the-air in New York City. The station was requested by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to broadcast at a lower power; WABC was among many stations which have found it necessary to increase power to restore coverage to the same level as its former analog signal. On June 29, 2009, WABC filed an application with the FCC to increase power from 11.69 kW to 27 kW. On January 31, 2010, the FCC granted a special temporary authority (STA) for the station to increase power to 26.9 kW.
In May 2013, WABC-TV and Philadelphia sister station WPVI-TV became the first two ABC-owned stations to offer live, web-based streaming of programming to authenticated subscribers of participating cable and satellite television providers as provided through the relaunched Watch ABC mobile apps.
Cable carriage disputes
On March 7, 2010 at 12:02 a.m. WABC-TV's signal was removed from Cablevision's New York area systems (including iO Digital Cable) after failing to reach terms on a new retransmission consent agreement; the station was replaced by either a blank screen or a looping video containing a message from Cablevision about the removal. To avoid interruption of programming, the station urged Cablevision subscribers in the station's viewing area (totaling up to three million subscribers) to switch to other services, such as Verizon FiOS and DirecTV or simply view the station over the air through an over-the-air digital antenna and if necessary, a digital converter box, for older television sets. WABC's sister station, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia was also pulled from Cablevision's New Jersey systems in Mercer, Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
Later that same day at approximately 8:50 p.m. 20 Minutes into ABC's broadcast of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Cablevision and ABC reached a deal, restoring WABC and WPVI's signals for Cablevision subscribers after a nearly 21-hour blackout.
Time Warner Cable (2010)
In July 2010, ABC's parent company Disney announced that it was involved in a carriage dispute with Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum), its first with that provider in 10 years. This dispute involved four ABC owned-and-operated stations (WABC-TV and sister stations KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WTVD in Durham, North Carolina and WTVG in Toledo, Ohio (which at the time, was an ABC O&O), Disney Channel and the ESPN networks. If a deal wasn't in place, the affected stations and cable channels would've been removed from Time Warner and Bright House Networks systems across the country. On September 2, 2010, Disney and Time Warner Cable reached a long-term agreement to keep the channels on Time Warner Cable systems.
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