WCBS-TV, channel 2, is the flagship station of the CBS television network, licensed to New York City. WCBS-TV is owned by the CBS Television Stations division of ViacomCBS, and operates as part of a television duopoly with Riverhead, New York-licensed independent station WLNY-TV (channel 55). WCBS-TV's studios are located within the CBS Broadcast Center and its transmitter is located at One World Trade Center in Manhattan.
In the few areas of the eastern United States where a CBS station is not receivable over-the-air, WCBS is available on Satellite television via DirecTV.
WCBS is also among every CBS O&O (and CW) station that was dropped from DirecTV due to contract disputes.
Early years (1931-1951)
WCBS-TV's history dates back to CBS' opening of experimental station W2XAB on July 21, 1931, using the mechanical television system that had been more-or-less perfected in the late 1920s. Its first broadcast featured New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, Kate Smith, and George Gershwin. The station had the first regular seven-day broadcasting schedule in American television, broadcasting 28 hours a week. Among its early programming included The Television Ghost (1931–1933), Helen Haynes (1931–1932) and Piano Lessons (1931–1932).
Announcer-director Bill Schudt was the station's only paid employee; all other staff were volunteers. W2XAB pioneered program development including small-scale dramatic acts, monologues, pantomime, and the use of projection slides to simulate sets. Engineer Bill Lodge devised the first synchronized sound wave for a television station in 1932, enabling W2XAB to broadcast picture and sound on a single shortwave channel instead of the two previously needed. On November 8, 1932, W2XAB broadcast the first television coverage of presidential election returns. The station suspended operations on February 20, 1933, as monochrome television transmission standards were in flux, and in the process of changing from a mechanical to an all-electronic system. W2XAB returned with an all-electronic system in 1939 from a new studio complex in Grand Central Station and a transmitter located at the Chrysler Building broadcasting on channel 2. W2XAB transmitted the first color broadcast in the United States on August 28, 1940.
On June 24, 1941, W2XAB received a commercial construction permit and program authorization as WCBW. The station went on the air at 2:30 p.m. on July 1, one hour after rival WNBT (channel 1, formerly W2XBS), making it the second authorized fully commercial television station in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued permits to CBS and NBC at the same time and intended WNBT and WCBW to sign on simultaneously on July 1, so no one station could claim to be the "first". WCBW's initial broadcast was the first local newscast aired on a commercial station in the country. Its assigned frequency was 60–66 MHz, now known as channel 3 but then referred to as Channel 2 in the 1940–46 alignment of the VHF band.
Program schedules were irregular through the summer and early fall of 1941. Regular daily operations began on October 29 and WCBW received a full Broadcast license, its construction permit and commercial program authorization on March 10, 1942. After the war, the FCC re-allocated the television and FM bands. WCBW closed down its operation on the old channel 2 at the end of February 1946 (the 60–66 MHz band had been re-allocated to WPTZ in Philadelphia as channel 3) in order to move to a new channel 2 at 54–60 MHz. It quickly began operation on the new frequency, where it remained from the spring of 1946 until the end of analog full power television service in the late spring of 2009.
The call letters were changed to WCBS-TV on November 1, 1946, after the FCC allowed television stations owned by radio stations in the same city to use the same call letters as the radio station with the suffix -TV – it is the only station in the CBS-owned television station to have been built from the ground up by the network.
Later years (1951-present)
On February 26, 1951, WCBS-TV became the first station to broadcast a regularly scheduled feature film series, The Late Show. On August 11, 1951, WCBS-TV broadcast the first baseball game on color television, between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves from Ebbets Field. As were all color programs at the time, it was transmitted via a field-sequential color system developed by CBS. Signals transmitted this way could not be seen on existing black-and-white sets. The CBS color system was scrapped after the FCC embraced the alternative RCA all-electronic dot sequential system, which was fully compatible with the existing monochrome television standard, late in 1953. However, CBS telecast few programs in color, either locally or on the network, until the mid-1960s when color receivers began to grow in popularity.
In May 1997, the station adopted the "CBS 2" branding, along with sister stations KCBS-TV in Los Angeles and WBBM-TV in Chicago, while retaining a unique and distinctive logo. The practice of CBS-owned stations placing the network identity ahead of their local identity would end up being known as the "Viacom Mandate" (later the "CBS Mandate").
WCBS-TV's over-the air signal was not affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center. Unlike its competitors, channel 2 had long maintained a full-powered backup transmitter at the Empire State Building after moving its main transmitter to the North Tower of the then-new World Trade Center in 1975. The station's coverage of the attacks was also simulcast nationally on Viacom (which owned CBS at the time) cable network VH1 that day. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, WCBS-TV was briefly the only full-coverage over-the-air television service operating in New York City, although the station lent transmission time to other stations who had lost their transmitters until they found suitable backup equipment and locations. The backup transmitter had been put into operation once before, when the World Trade Center bombing of February 26, 1993 knocked most of the area's stations off the air for a week.
On December 12, 2011, CBS Television Stations announced its intent to purchase Riverhead, Long Island-licensed WLNY-TV (channel 55), later announced for a purchase price of $55 million, creating a duopoly with WCBS-TV. The company announced that it would add additional on-air staff and expand WLNY's local news programming (at the time, that station had only an 11 p.m. newscast). The FCC approved the sale on January 31, 2012, and CBS took control of the station on March 30. WLNY suspended its own news operations the previous day and began airing WCBS-TV produced newscasts on July 2, 2012.
On May 9, 2017, it was announced that WCBS-TV would return to broadcasting from the top of the World Trade Center at One World Trade Center by the end of the year.
|TV stations in New York|
|WCBS, New York City|
|TV Stations in the New York City Metropolitan Area|
WLIW 21 (PBS)|WVVH-CD50 (YTA)|WLNY 55 (IND)|WFTY 68 (UNM)