WBBZ-TV, virtual channel 67 (VHF digital channel 7), is a MeTV-affiliated television station serving Buffalo, New York, United States that is licensed to Springville, New York. The station is owned by ITV of Buffalo, a company controlled by former news photographer Philip A. Arno. WBBZ-TV's business office and studios are located at the Eastern Hills Mall in the Town of Clarence, in a census-designated place called Harris Hill, and its transmitter is located near Springville in the hills of southern Erie County.

History[edit | edit source]

Early years[edit | edit source]

The station was founded as WJTQ on March 12, 1993. Bill Smith, an amateur radio enthusiast, and his wife, Caroline Powley, daughter of late LPTV innovator John R. Powley, who built several full-service UHF television stations using economical "ham" radio equipment and surplus educational television "translator" transmitters, changed its call letters to WNGS in May 1993.

WNGS initially broadcast on analog UHF channel 67. Although licensed as a full-power station, it transmitted its analog signal at low power with a northward directional pattern covering much of the Southtowns, but not reaching the city of Buffalo proper. Radiated power in the direction of Buffalo was limited due to a treaty with Canada that protected the coverage area of CHCH-TV-3, a Midland, Ontario-based rebroadcaster of Hamilton, Ontario-based independent station CHCH-TV (channel 11) that also operated on UHF channel 67. As a result, from the city of Buffalo northward, it was only available on cable or by satellite, and in certain places in the Southern Tier, it was not available at all.

The station began with an infomercial/home shopping format, but added general-entertainment barter talk shows, cartoons and low-budget sitcoms in 1997. WNGS became a UPN affiliate in April 1998, but lost the affiliation to WNLO (channel 23) in January 2003. Shortly afterward, WNGS dropped most of its entertainment programming in favor of infomercials. For most of its time as an independent station and UPN affiliate, WNGS operated from studios in West Valley, New York.

Olean, New York, low-powered station WONS-LP shared the UPN affiliation under a mutual agreement with WNGS until the network was picked up by WNLO, at which time, the station began carrying programming from The Sportsman Channel. At least one television listings provider (Decisionmark Corporation, then-owner of TitanTV which is now owned by Broadcast Interactive Media) had erroneously listed WONS-LP as a translator of WNGS. (As of 2018, that station is now a This TV affiliate under the call sign WVTT-CD.)

Equity and WKBW era[edit | edit source]

After Equity Broadcasting took ownership of the station, WNGS became an affiliate of Equity's Retro Television Network (RTN). During Equity's ownership, the station was operated by Granite Broadcasting, owner of ABC affiliate WKBW-TV (channel 7), under a local marketing agreement. As part of the agreement, WNGS was carried on WKBW's digital subchannel. Along with RTN programming, WNGS aired sports programming from WKBW-TV and various sports broadcasts. (see below)

Equity sold RTN to Luken Communications in 2008. Following a dispute between Equity and Luken, all of Equity's RTN affiliates, including WNGS, disaffiliated from the network on January 4, 2009. WNGS continued to carry other programs, such as sports and locally produced B-movie film showcase Off Beat Cinema. Later that month, WNGS switched its affiliation to This TV.

The RTN affiliation later moved to a digital subchannel of WGRZ, then to the pairing of low-power stations W30BW in Olean and WBXZ-LP, assuming they get their transmitter installed, in Buffalo.

Temporary shutdown and return[edit | edit source]

On April 16, 2009, as a result of its bankruptcy, Equity Media Holdings auctioned off 60 of its television stations. WNGS was sold to Daystar Television Network for a total of US$7.4 million They already owned WDTB-LP in nearby Hamburg, along with six other full-service stations and nine LPTV and Class A stations .[9] Also around this time, WNGS's agreement with WKBW-TV ended. The sale was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in August 2009. WNGS went off the air on June 12, 2009, after not being able to complete its transition to digital-only broadcasts on time, and remained silent for almost a year. Meanwhile, on May 14, 2010, Daystar filed to sell the station to ITV of Buffalo, LLC, a partnership owned by local TV personalities Philip Arno and Donald Angelo, for $2.75 million, with plans to program the station from Clarence, New York. Angelo later dropped his involvement in the station.

WNGS finally completed its digital transmitter and returned to the air in late May 2010, carrying programming from Daystar.[13]< The sale was completed on September 16, 2010; at that time, the station rejoined This TV.[14] However, as part of the deal, Daystar had to remain on WNGS in the form of a digital subchannel for 10 years, a deal which was previously made with KOCE-TV in the Los Angeles area as a compromise after Daystar was unable to purchase that station.

WNGS, formerly on a digital subchannel of WKBW-TV, had planned to launch its own digital signal on WKBW-TV's former analog channel allocation, channel 7, at the end of the 2009 digital transition.

By December 2008, both the ability of WNGS to transition to its own digital facilities and its ability to continue broadcasting were directly jeopardized as (according to a DTV status report by the station), "On December 8, 2008, the licensee's parent corporation filed a petition for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, case #4:08-BK-17646-M, U.S. district court for the district of Arkansas. This station must obtain post-petition financing and court approval before digital facilities may be constructed. The station will cease analogue broadcasting on June 12, 2009, regardless of whether digital facilities are operational by that date. The station will file authority to remain silent if so required by the FCC."

While the station had applied for an extension for a construction permit for its digital transmitter, it was unable to continue analog operations as it was not only a full-service station, but it also operated on a frequency which was to be reallocated for non-broadcast use at the end of the digital television transition. Further complicating matters was that Kitchener, Ontario's, CTV owned-and-operated station CKCO-TV, a station serving portions of southern Ontario with a signal that penetrates Western New York, was assigned the same channel 7 allocation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for its own digital signal. It should have applied to simulcast digitally before its analog channel 13 broadcasts end in August 2011, when that station would move digital broadcasts to channel 13.

Daystar's last-minute proposal to transmit from a broadcast tower used by WNYO-TV (channel 49) in Folsomdale, New York instead of using WKBW-TV's Colden tower was rejected due to WNYO-TV owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's last-minute decision to broadcast WNYO-TV on its lower power digital channel 34 from Grand Island, and receiving FCC approval to transfer its digital signal to a full-power channel 49 transmission from Folsomdale on June 12.

Because WNGS failed to begin digital broadcasts on channel 7 after June 12, 2009, local cable providers had an option to no longer carry the station despite WNGS' direct fiber connection to the providers from West Valley. As the Buffalo market stretches west to near Erie, Pennsylvania, east towards Rochester, New York, north towards Toronto, Canada, and several counties in northern Pennsylvania in an area with several varieties of terrain, pay television service is almost a requirement for optimum viewing in outlying areas. This resulted in the Buffalo–Hamilton–Toronto area having one of the highest pay-television penetration rates in the Northeast. Very few households watched the over-the-signals of many of the stations, resulting in serious trouble for WNGS if it were unable to continue maintaining its must-carry status. While Daystar's existing analog translator stations could maintain the station's service in the area, WDTB-LP only covered small portions of the city of Buffalo, far from providing market-wide coverage by any means.

On June 12, 2009, WNGS switched to a "nightlight" service, broadcasting only a still screen reading "WNGS has ceased operations as of June 12, 2009". Though it technically extended the broadcast life of the station, this was not allowed to continue any later than July 12, far too soon for a digital over-the-air signal to be ready. DirecTV customers in the Buffalo market stopped receiving WNGS on June 22, 2009.

By March 2010, the station still had not returned to the air in any form. Time Warner Cable ended its hold on WNGS' channel 11 cable slot; WNLO was moved into that position and TWC's regional cable news channel YNN Buffalo was placed on channel 9, the former location of WNLO.

In late May 2010, WNGS finally began transmitting its digital signal on channel 7. It invoked must carry and returned to Time Warner Cable on channel 5 (a prime cable position that WNGS specifically lobbied to obtain) in November 2010. The station's website returned sometime in December 2010. After an appeal to the Federal Communications Commission, WBBZ-TV also invoked must-carry in Time Warner Cable's other Western New York service areas in November 2012; TWC had initially refused to carry WBBZ-TV in those markets, ostensibly because of signal quality issues. As of 2014, WBBZ-TV is still not available on the region's other cable provider, Atlantic Broadband/Cogeco, which covers portions of Cattaraugus County; McKean County, Pennsylvania; and southern Ontario (the last of which, being outside the United States, is not subject to must-carry rules).

Relaunch as WBBZ[edit | edit source]

WNGS changed its call sign to WBBZ-TV at 5:00 a.m. on August 1, 2011, as part of a planned drastic increase in the station's local programming. The This TV affiliation moved to a digital subchannel, while it began carrying MeTV on its main channel. WBBZ-TV struggled to find a studio location to house its operations. Arno had preferred to use the former Studio Arena Theater, but had been unable to secure a deal; he also passed on the Buffalo Central Terminal due to the building's state of disrepair. The Eastern Hills Mall, which holds the station's offices, originally rejected the plan to build a studio at the mall but later relented and allowed it to be constructed. By early 2012, the studio at the Eastern Hills Mall began construction; the first program was taped from there in June.

TV stations in New York
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WNYB, Jamestown WNYN-LD, New York City WNDT-CD, New York City WEPT-CD, Newburgh
WDTB-LD, Buffalo WXTV, Paterson/New York City WNYE, New York City WVTT-CD, Olean
W44CT-D, Albany WNJU, Linden/New York City WMBQ-CD, New York City WNCE-CD, Glens Falls
WNYI, Ithaca WFTY, Smithtown/New York City WXNY-LD, New York City WJLP, Middletown Township/New York City
WTBY, Jersey City/New York City WPXO-LD, East Orange WNYX-LD, New York City WYCI, Saranac Lake
WDVB-CD, Edison WASA-LD, Port Jervis WNXY-LD, New York City W41DO-D, New York City
W20CQ-D, Hempstead WBQM-LD, Brooklyn WMBC, Newton/New York City WVBG-LP, Greenwich
WZME, Bridgeport/New York City WKOB-LD, New York City WRNN, New Rochelle/New York City
WVVH-CD, Southampton
WLNY, Riverhead/New York City
WBXZ-LP, Buffalo
WETM-DT2, Elmira
WBBZ, Springville/Buffalo
TV stations in Western New York, including Buffalo and Niagara Falls
WGRZ 2 (NBC)
WIVB 4 (CBS)
WKBW 7 (ABC)
WNED 17 (PBS)
WNLO 23 (CW)
WVTT 25 (THIS)
WNYB 26 (TCT)
WUTV 29 (Fox)
WDTB-LD 39 (Daystar)
WNYO 49 (MNTV)
WPXJ 51 (Ion)
WBXZ-LP 56 (Cozi)
WBBZ 67 (Ind.)
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