WDSI-TV is a primary This TV-affiliated and secondary Comet-operated television station licensed to Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 14 (or virtual channel 61 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Signal Mountain in the town of Walden.
Owned by New Age Media, WDSI operates Cleveland-licensed CW/MyNetworkTV/MeTV affiliate WFLI-TV (channel 53) through a local marketing agreement (LMA) with owner MPS Media, LLC. Both stations, in turn, are operated under a master service agreement by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of Chattanooga-licensed dual ABC/Fox affiliate WTVC (channel 9). WDSI and WFLI share studios on East Main Street (SR 8/US 41/US 76) in Chattanooga's Highland Park section. Master control and some internal operations for the two stations are based at WTVC's studios on Benton Drive in Chattanooga.
The station signed on the air on January 24, 1972 with the call letters WRIP-TV. It aired an analog signal on UHF channel 61. It was Tennessee's second independent outlet having launched a little over nine months after the state's first Independent, WMCV in Nashville, went off the air but only to return in 1976 as WZTV. It is the state's oldest television station in continuous operation to have never had affiliation with any of the big three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). The station was owned by Jay Sadow.
Initially, WRIP was positioned as an all-movie station. Therefore, early programming on WRIP included older movies from the 1930s to early 1960s for most of its broadcast day along with some theatrical cartoons and shorts. These selections included Little Rascals, Three Stooges, and Looney Tunes. The station was on-the-air for about twelve hours a day signing on at noon. By the summer the station was on 19 hours a day signing on at 7 a.m.
The station was plagued by financial problems for several reasons. It was a UHF station serving a small market in a very mountainous area. In analog days, UHF stations, especially those on high channel numbers, usually did not get good reception more than about 30 miles (48 km) away in rugged terrain. Also, the station was losing money because it overspent on movie packages. The station was locally owned and its owner did not have the money to spend on any other programming investments. In the course of 1973, WRIP-TV gradually shifted to a somewhat traditional independent station schedule of programs but with a low-budget approach.
By 1974, it added low-budget cartoons, low-budget syndicated shows such as wildlife and sporting shows, and locally based religious shows. That year, the station completely eliminated movies as well as cutting hours on the air, signing on at 3 p.m. and off the air by midnight. In the fall of 1974 it expanded the broadcast day slightly and added a run of the ninety-minute edition of The 700 Club in 1975 and two runs of the two-hour version of the PTL Club. The station then began selling huge blocks of time to mostly churches in the local area cutting back more on low-budget secular shows.
By 1976, the station was running mostly Christian programs about twelve hours a day along with some low-budget secular programs such as children's programs (including The New Zoo Revue, Devlin, and Gigantor), outdoor sporting and hunting shows, The Mike Douglas Show, as well as some low budget instructional shows about four hours a day. The station was basically profitable by selling thirty- and sixty-minute blocks of time most of the day to local religious broadcasters.
By 1978, WRIP was running Christian programs (both local and syndicated) for all except a couple of hours a day. The station produced and scheduled many hours per day of programs from local churches. By 1980, it was running nearly all religious shows (again half local and half syndicated) with an hour or so a day set aside for a couple of secular shows. In fall 1981, it began adding additional secular shows in the 3 to 6 p.m. time slot, bringing back Gigantor and Bullwinkle as well as youth-appeal shows such as Superfriends, Little Rascals, McHale's Navy, Make Room For Daddy, The Brady Bunch, and Leave It To Beaver, among others. Weekends, the station added shows like The Hardy Boys, Those Amazing Animals, America's Top 10, and others. In winter 1982, the station expanded secular programming to the 2 to 8 p.m. weekday timeslots as well as the 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. time slot. Shows added included off network dramas such as Kojak, Star Trek; sitcoms such as I Love Lucy, and Munsters along with some movies. The station was about half religious and half secular. That summer, the station added a prime time movie and was secular from about 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. That fall, more cartoons such as Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones were added along with some more movies and by now the station was two-thirds secular and one-third religious. For the first time since the mid-1970s, the station was secular a few hours a day on Sundays as well.
It seemed like it was being spruced up for a sale, because in January 1983, Jay Sadow sold the station to Roy Hess. The station immediately changed its call sign to the current WDSI-TV. It modified its then-hybrid religious/general entertainment format (which was leaning more on entertainment for the first time since about 1975) adding cartoons in the 7 to 9 a.m. time slot. The religious shows remained in the late mornings, but in the early afternoons, more old movies were added along with holdover classic sitcoms. Cartoons, older sitcoms, and drama shows continued in the late afternoons and early evenings. A prime-time movie was also added along with some older shows late at night. The station was on-the-air about twenty hours a day by then. Its on-air branding at that time was "Watch What We're Doing Now".
WDSI provided, free of charge, UHF antennas (which customers could obtain at local convenience stores) so viewers could watch the station. At that time, many households in the Chattanooga media market were still not wired for cable. After the overhaul in programming, the station was sold to Donatelli and Klein in 1985. Stronger, more recent sitcoms such as Benson, M*A*S*H, and better movies were added to the schedule and the religious shows were scaled back even more becoming relegated only to Sunday mornings. On October 9, 1986, WDSI became a charter affiliate of Fox beginning with The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, remaining with the network until October 2015. It was a typical Fox station at that time running a blend of newer cartoons, recent off network sitcoms, classic cartoons, old sitcoms, old movies, and drama shows. The station was becoming one of the strongest independents in Tennessee, the polar opposite of what it was just five years before.
In 1993, the station was sold to Pegasus Communications. As time went on due to changes in the industry, classic sitcoms and movies were gradually replaced by more modern talk/reality programs and court shows. Cartoons began to fall off the schedule from 1999 until 2002 and replaced by more first run reality programs. In 2002, WDSI began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 40. On September 5, 2006, the station launched Fox's new sister network MyNetworkTV on a new second digital subchannel. It was not until March 2009 that WDSI-DT2 was added to area digital cable systems.
Pegasus sold most of its stations, including WDSI, to investment group CP Media, LLC on January 4, 2007; with the sale consummated on March 31. CP then formed New Age Media as the parent company for the former Pegasus stations.
Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased the non-license assets of WDSI-TV and WFLI-TV from New Age Media for $1.25 million in September 2015.
Move of Fox to WTVC-DT2Edit
During a transition process that was completed on October 31, 2015, WTVC's second digital channel simulcast WDSI. On that date, when Sinclair launched their new network Comet, the Fox schedule and the intellectual unit for WDSI's main signal moved permanently to WTVC-DT2 under the on-air moniker "Fox Chattanooga." The programming on This TV which had been on WTVC-DT2 moved to WDSI's main signal, with Comet launching on WDSI-DT2; the MyNetworkTV subchannel was moved to WFLI-DT2, with the MeTV signal which had been carried on that slot moved to WFLI-DT3. Cable, satellite, and EPB viewers saw no change in any channel slots, as WTVC-DT2 took over the former channel slots for WDSI's main signal.
|TV stations in Tennessee|
|Southeast Tennessee||Mid-west Tennessee||Mid-Eastern Tennessee||West Tennessee||Middle Tennessee||Tri-Cities/Far East TN||Northwest Tennessee|
|WOOT-LP, Chattanooga||W18BL-D, Adamsville||WKNX, Knoxville||WPGF-LD, Memphis||WRTN-LD, Alexandria||WOPI-CD, Kingsport||WUWT-CD, Union City|
|W18DS-D, Chattanooga||WHJK-LD, Jackson||WJDP-LD, Pigeon Forge||WTWV, Memphis||WETV-LP, Murfreesboro||WKPT, Kingsport|
|WCNT-LP, Chattanooga||WYJJ-LD, Jackson||W14CX-D, Farragut||WPYM-LD, Memphis||WIIW-LP, Nashville||WAPK-CD, Kingsport|
|WHUA-LP, Chattanooga||WDTT-LD, Knoxville||WBXP-LP, Memphis||WCKD-LD, Clarksville|
|WDSI, Chattanooga||WVLR, Tazewell||W50EA-D, Memphis||WNTU-LP, Nashville|
|WKXT-LD, Morristown||WDNM-LD, Memphis||W29DM-D, Lewisburg|
|W45DF-D, Knoxville||WJDE-LD, Nashville|
|WKUW-LD, White House|
|TV stations in Southern East Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, including Chattanooga|
| WRCB 3 (NBC) |
WOOT-LD 6 (HRTLND)
WTVC 9 (ABC)
WDEF 12 (CBS)
WNGH 18 (PBS)
WELF 23 (TBN)
W18DS-D 26 (3ABN)
WHUA-LP 44 (Youtoo)
WTCI 45 (PBS)
WDNN-CD 49 (Ind)
WFLI 53 (CW)
WDSI 61 (THIS)