WATL, virtual channel 36 (UHF digital channel 25), is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by Tegna Inc., as part of a duopoly with NBC affiliate WXIA-TV (channel 11). The two stations share studios at One Monroe Place on the north end of midtown Atlanta. WATL's transmitter shares a broadcast tower with several other local stations near North Druid Hills, just northeast of the city.
On cable, the station is available in standard definition on channel 13 on Comcast Xfinity and channel 3 on Charter Spectrum.
In the fall of 1952, Robert Rounsaville, the owner of WQXI radio in Atlanta, applied for the first UHF station in the city on Channel 36. On November 19, 1953, the FCC granted a construction permit to Mr Rounsaville for actual permission to construct the station. On October 26, 1954, the FCC granted a Special Temporary Authority to begin operation as WQXI-TV. Actual full time programming began on December 18, 1954. Rounsaville also had construction permits for UHF stations in Louisville, Kentucky (WQXL-TV) and Cincinnati, Ohio (WQXN-TV) which were never placed in operation. An article on the history of WQXI-TV relates how the station shared a house in the northeast Atlanta area of Buckhead at 3165 Mathieson Drive with WQXI radio. In addition, the programming included old movies, live interview shows, a Saturday-evening barn dance and a live Bingo game show. Because expensive UHF convertors were required, the station could not attract enough viewers to make the station successful. As a result, WQXI-TV signed off on May 31, 1955, after less than six months on the air. (the WQXI callsign was later used on Channel 11, now-sister station WXIA-TV, from 1968 to 1974). Despite being off the air the call letters were changed to WATL-TV in early 1956.
On August 17, 1964 the FCC announced that an application had been filed to transfer the WATL-TV construction permit from Robert Rounsaville to Daniel H. Overmyer for a price of $100,000. FCC approval of the transfer was granted on May 12, 1965. At the time of the FCC sale approval, Mr. Overmyer owned construction permits for two UHF stations, WDHO-TV in Toledo and WNOP-TV in Cincinnati. In addition, he was in the process of buying existing construction permits for two other UHF stations in San Francisco (KBAY-TV, channel 20) and Pittsburgh (WAND-TV, channel 53), as well as applying for new UHF stations in Houston and Dallas. Neither of the Overmyer owned stations had signed on by the time of the FCC approval of the channel 36 purchase.
Channel 36 would remain dark until the station was relaunched on August 16, 1969 as WATL-TV. It was jointly owned by the U.S. Communications Corporation (subsidiary of AVC Corporation) station group of Philadelphia holding an 80% interest and the remaining 20% by D.H. Overmyer. Mr. Overmyer had previously sold the majority interest (80%) in the construction permits for Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Houston to AVC on March 28, 1967, with FCC approval of their sale coming December 8, 1967. None of the stations were on the air at the time of their sale to AVC. The U.S. Communications group was WPHL-TV 17 Philadelphia (no Overmyer ownership interest), WXIX-TV in Cincinnati, KEMO-TV (now KOFY-TV) in San Francisco, and WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh as well as WATL. The Houston station (KJDO-TV) was never constructed and the construction permit was deleted by the FCC in October 1971. Before the sale of the majority interest to AVC, Mr. Overmyer had planned to sign-on the Atlanta station in the 1966–67 period as WBMO-TV. The call letters were chosen for one of his daughters, Barbara Morton Overmyer. WBMO-TV was to have been one of the owned-and-operated stations of the new Overmyer Network, (later United Network), which folded at the end of May 1967 after only a single month of broadcasting. The U.S. Communications Corporation had no financial interest in, nor any relationship with the United Network.
On March 24, 1971, Frank Minner Jr., the president of U.S. Communications Corporation, announced at an Atlanta press conference that due to low advertising revenue WATL-TV (and KEMO-TV) would go off the air. The last full broadcast day was March 31, 1971 and the station signed off in the early morning hours of April 1. For about a week before it left the air, the station ran :30 second announcements with a photograph of its studios at 1810 Briarcliff Road on an art card, announcing that it would soon cease operations, ending with the words "Thank You" on screen.
It was reported that U.S. Communications spent $1 million on programming the first year, including Lost in Space and a block of dinnertime game shows. Ted Turner's WTCG, (channel 17, later WTBS and now WPCH-TV) which had been operating two years longer, spent far less on programming and survived. WATL was also the first station in the country to run music videos all weekend, on a show called The Now Explosion. Turner's first move after acquiring WTCG, the UHF station that would serve as the foundation of his media empire, was to take The Now Explosion from WATL.
In July 1971 both WATL-TV and KEMO-TV were put up for sale by U.S. Communications Corporation. WATL-TV was to remain with U.S. Communications Corporation until sale to a group of Atlanta investors in 1974.
Stability, then transition from independent station to Fox
On July 17, 1974, the Briarcliff Communications Group received FCC approval to purchase the construction permit for WATL-TV from U.S. Communications Corporation for $23,500. Briarcliff Communications was partially owned (30.5%) by Don Kennedy, a well known broadcaster in Atlanta. Kennedy started WKLS-FM in the early 1960s and also the Georgia News Network, providing statewide news to radio stations. He was also the host known as Officer Don of the children's TV show The Popeye Club on WSB-TV from 1956 until switching the show to Officer Don's Club House on WATL-TV in 1969.On July 5, 1976, Kennedy returned channel 36 to the air for good. The former U.S Communications Corporation transmitter facilities were used but the studios were now located at 1800 Peachtree Rd rather than the previous Briarcliff Road location. WATL-TV had a format running public domain movies, financial news, low-budget local shows, religious programs, and a blend of CBS, NBC and ABC shows pre-empted from WAGA-TV, WSB-TV and WXIA-TV, respectively. In a common practice among independent stations at the time, the station aired subscription television in the early evening from the late 1970s to about 1981.
ATL Acquisitions Group bought the station in the early 1980s. The subscription TV format moved to new sign-on WVEU (channel 69, now CW owned-and-operated station WUPA) in 1982. At that time, most daytime programming now came from the Financial News Network (now part of CNBC). In the fall of 1983, WATL moved toward a more traditional independent schedule with a couple cartoons, a few westerns, and a few classic sitcoms plus more movies. Still it was a low budget operation. Then in 1984, the station was sold again, this time to Outlet Communications. Gradually, WATL had acquired stronger programming such as Cheers, Webster, and Family Ties, as well as newer syndicated cartoons as these became abundant by 1985. Also, WATL became one of the charter affiliates of the newly launched Fox Broadcasting Company in October 1986, although it was still programmed in the manner of a de facto independent station as Fox initially showed a late night talk show followed by additional nights of programming until the network started to run programs seven days a week in 1993.
The "musical chairs" of ownership continued in 1989, as Outlet sold WATL, along with WXIN in Indianapolis, to Chase Broadcasting. By now the station was called "Fox 36". In 1992, WATL and WXIN were included in Chase's merger with Renaissance Broadcasting. Less than a year later, WATL was sold to Fox Television Stations outright and channel 36 became a Fox owned-and-operated station—the first network-owned station in Atlanta—although for only two years (Renaissance would trade then-new Denver sister station KDVR to Fox in exchange for the network's Dallas affiliate KDAF two years later). Fox was in the planning stages for a news department at the station, and WATL had even gone as far as hiring a news director. However, on May 22, 1994, New World Communications announced an affiliation agreement with Fox, months after the network won the broadcast rights to the NFL's National Football Conference. In this deal, most of New World-owned longtime "Big Three"-affiliated stations, including Atlanta's longtime CBS affiliate WAGA, would switch over to the Fox network. As a result, Fox cancelled the plans for a newscast on WATL and put the station up for sale.
Finding itself about to lose Fox programming, WATL was then approached with an affiliation offer from CBS, which was losing WAGA as an affiliate; however, WATL was not interested. At that point, it almost seemed likely that WATL would join the soon-to-launch United Paramount Network (UPN) in early 1995. Rival station WGNX (channel 46, now WGCL-TV), then owned by Tribune Broadcasting was already slated to join The WB and had also turned CBS down, forcing CBS to make a deal to buy WVEU. Eventually, however, Tribune agreed to let WGNX join CBS, and WVEU became the UPN affiliate.
Changing affiliations and owners
Fox programming moved from WATL to WAGA on December 10, 1994, with WATL briefly reverting to an independent station under the branding "WATL 36." Not long after that, Fox subsequently sold the station to Qwest Broadcasting, a company partially owned by musician Quincy Jones and Tribune Broadcasting (Fox would not be without an owned-and-operated station in Atlanta for long, as it bought WAGA and the other New World stations in late 1996). Although it lost the Fox affiliation, WATL kept Fox Kids programming, because WAGA was not interested in it plus WATL was not taking a full-time network. Basically WATL had the same exact programming it had as a Fox affiliate minus the prime time Fox shows and weekend sports. The station did affiliate with The WB in January 1995; since the sale to Qwest Broadcasting would not be finalized until December 14, 1995, WATL ended up under the unusual distinction of being affiliated with one network while owned by another, as the station became a WB affiliate (under the branding "WB 36," later changing to "WATL, Atlanta's WB" in 2004) owned by Fox, a condition which lasted nearly a year. In 1999, Tribune sold WGNX to the Meredith Corporation (and the callsign changed to the current WGCL) and purchased WATL outright in February 2000. WATL continued to air Fox Kids programming until September of that year, when it moved to WHOT (channel 34, now Univision O&O WUVG).
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation (which split from Viacom at the end of 2005) and Warner Bros. Entertainment (the Time Warner division that operated The WB) announced plans to dissolve The WB and UPN, combining them to launch The CW Television Network in September 2006. As part of this joint venture, it was announced that CBS-owned WUPA (which included as part of 11 of 14 CBS-owned UPN affiliates that signed a ten-year affiliation deal, and it's one of the three Tribune-owned WB affiliates passed over for an affiliation) would become The CW's Atlanta affiliate. It would not have been an upset had WATL been chosen instead, however; CW representatives were on record as preferring to affiliate with The WB and UPN's "strongest" stations in terms of overall viewership, and Atlanta was one of the few markets where the WB and UPN stations were both relatively strong. WATL was originally slated to revert to independent status, but on May 15, 2006, Tribune announced that WATL (and two other WB affiliates that are not included in a CW affiliation deal) would be joining MyNetworkTV, which was formed in February by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division, 20th Television. As a result, WATL is one of a handful of stations to have been affiliated with both News Corporation-owned networks, Fox and MyNetworkTV.
Acquisition by Gannett
On June 5, 2006, Tribune announced that it entered into an agreement to sell WATL to the Gannett Company, the owners of Atlanta's NBC affiliate WXIA-TV, for $180 million. The sale was completed on August 7, 2006, giving Gannett the first television duopoly in Atlanta. WATL aired Atlanta Falcons preseason games in August 2008 while its sister station was committed to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Channel 36 introduced its new on-air branding, MyAtlTV on August 20, 2006, ahead of the September 5 debut of MyNetworkTV (and about a month before The WB's final night of programming). Prior to the acquisition by Gannett, WATL's studios were located at One Monroe Place. When the station was acquired, WXIA management decided to move WXIA's operations to the Monroe Place studios (an atypical instance where the senior partner in a duopoly relocates to the studios of the junior partner). During construction, WATL's studios were located with WXIA at 1611 West Peachtree Street, behind competitor WSB. In the 2013–2014 television season, WATL changed its on-air name to The ATL.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for WXIA and WATL. Gannett threatened to pull both stations should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. At that time, both WATL and WXIA became part of latter company, named Tegna.
|TV stations in Georgia|
|TV stations in North Georgia, including Atlanta and Athens|
|WSB 2 (ABC) |
WUVM-LP 4 (AZA)
WAGA 5 (Fox)
WGTV 8 (PBS)
WXIA 11 (NBC)
WPXA 14 (Ion)
WGGD-LD 15 (Daystar)
WYGA-CD 16 (SHOP-LC)
WPCH 17 (Ind)
WKSY-LD 21 (Ind)
WTBS-LD 26 (ESTRELLA)
WDWW-LD 28 (Ind)
WPBA 30 (PBS)
WGTA 32 (MeTV)
WANN-CD 32 (APG)
WUVG 34 (UNI)
WDTA-LD 35 (Daystar)
WATL 36 (MNTV)
WIGL-LD 38 (TCT)
WIRE-CD 40 (Info)
WTHC-LD 42 (Ind)
W45DX-D 45 (HSN2)
WGCL 46 (CBS)
WKTB-CD 47 (TLM)
WAGC-LD 51 (Info)
WATC 57 (Rel)
WHSG 63 (TBN)
WUPA 69 (CW)