WDSU, virtual channel 6 (UHF digital channel 43), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications. WDSU's studios are located on Howard Avenue in the city's Central Business District, and its transmitter is located on East Josephine Street in Chalmette. On cable, WDSU is carried on Cox Communications channel 7 in standard definition (cable channel 6 is occupied by a local access channel) and digital channel 1007 in high definition.
The station first signed on the air on December 18, 1948. It was the first television station to sign on in the state of Louisiana, the first in the city of New Orleans, the first on the Gulf Coast, the first in the Deep South, and the 49th in the nation. WDSU-TV was founded by New Orleans businessman Edgar B. Stern, Jr., owner of WDSU radio (1280 AM, now WODT; and 93.3 FM, now WQUE-FM), which he had recently purchased—along with the construction permit to build the television station—for $750,000. The station has been a primary NBC affiliate since it signed on, earning the affiliation as a result of WDSU (AM)'s longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network, however it initially also carried programming from the three other major broadcast networks at the time: CBS, ABC and DuMont. It lost DuMont programming when that network ceased operations in August 1956. Even after WJMR-TV (channel 61, now Fox affiliate WVUE on channel 8) signed on in November 1953 as a primary CBS and secondary ABC affiliate, WDSU continued to "cherry-pick" a few of the higher-rated programs carried by those two networks until September 1957, when WWL-TV (channel 4) signed on as a full-time CBS affiliate. At that time, WJMR became a full-time ABC affiliate, leaving WDSU exclusively with NBC.
The radio station was originally located at the DeSoto Hotel (now the Le Pavillon Hotel) on Baronne Street; the "D" in the name stood for the DeSoto, while "S" referred to the now-defunct New Orleans States newspaper (which had maintained a news share agreement with WDSU radio that lasted for one year; the paper later merged with the New Orleans Item-Tribune in 1960, which in turn merged with the Times-Picayune in 1980) and the "U" stood for Joseph Uhalt, who founded the radio station as WCBE in 1923. WDSU-TV originally operated out of studio facilities located within the Hibernia Bank Building, the tallest building in New Orleans at the time (a plaque commemorating its distinction as the station's original broadcasting facility is located on the 14th floor of the building). The WDSU stations moved into the historic Brulatour Mansion on Royal Street in the French Quarter in April 1950; Stern had also bought other buildings near the mansion (including a lumber yard and an ice house) to construct production studios for the radio and television stations. At that point, Stern reorganized his business interests as the Royal Street Corporation. The transmitter site remained at the Hibernia Bank Building until 1955, when a new transmitter facility in Chalmette—where the tower remains today—was completed.
In the 1950s, WDSU-TV became the springboard for the career of Dick Van Dyke, first as a single comedian and later as the emcee of a locally produced comedy program on the station; among his duties, Van Dyke had also served as a staff announcer, hosted music programs and appeared in a segment during the station's noon newscast. WDSU became the first television station in the New Orleans market to telecast its programming in color in 1955. WDSU was the ratings leader in New Orleans for over a quarter century, largely because of its strong commitment to coverage of local events and news. It originated the first live broadcasts of the Sugar Bowl and Mardi Gras, and was the first area station to provide extensive local hurricane coverage. The station was also the first television station in the market to provide statewide election coverage, as well as the first to utilize a mobile newsgathering unit.
WDSU was also the first to originate an international broadcast, relaying a Today broadcast from Bimini to the United States in 1955, using a 300,000 watt transmitter built by WDSU-TV engineers via special permission granted to NBC by the Federal Communications Commission.
In January 1972, Royal Street merged with Columbia, South Carolina-based Cosmos Broadcasting in a $17 million deal. Cosmos decided to sell off the radio stations because the ownership of the three station properties combined would exceed ownership limits of the time set by the FCC. Cosmos eliminated much of the local flavor that had been the station's hallmark, opting to concentrate on its already strong news operation (channel 6 had been saluted by Time as a news pioneer in 1966). By the early 1980s, rival WWL-TV had overtaken WDSU as the top-rated station from sign-on to sign-off as well as in local news. WDSU has been a solid runner-up to WWL for most of the last quarter-century, although since the mid-2000s, it has had to fend off a strong challenge from a resurgent WVUE. In 1984, WDSU built the first working television studio at a World's Fair for the station's live broadcasts from the event held in New Orleans that year.
Cosmos sold WDSU to Pulitzer, Inc. for $47 million in 1989. In March 1996, the station moved into its current facility on Howard Avenue, located a few blocks from the Le Pavillon Hotel, where WDSU radio began operations in 1923. Also during the 1990s, WDSU became the first New Orleans station to operate its own Doppler weather radar system ("Super Doppler 6000"). Pulitzer sold its entire television station division, including WDSU, to Hearst-Argyle Television (predecessor to the present-day Hearst Television) in 1999 for $1.8 billion. WDSU celebrated its 60th anniversary of broadcasting on December 18, 2008.
As of 2012, although the "channel 6" red dot logo is part of the station's branding, WDSU simply identifies its branding by its callsign only in verbal usage, with no mention of the 6. In 2015, the NBC Peacock logo was added to the "channel 6" red dot logo; due to the network's requirement to the NBC logo included with any affiliate's logo.
Prior to the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, WDSU shut down operations at its studios in New Orleans around 9:30 p.m. on August 28, 2005, in order to allow station staff to take shelter from the oncoming hurricane. At that point, WDSU's broadcasts began to originate from the studios of ABC-affiliated sister station WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi, where some of WDSU's on-air staff had already evacuated. Fellow sister station, NBC affiliate WESH in Orlando, Florida, also originated some on-air weather content during the storm. In the weeks that immediately followed the hurricane, WDSU's news programming originated from the WAPT facility, using meteorologists and anchors from both stations, with programs being simulcast in Jackson and New Orleans.
The Howard Avenue studio facility largely withstood Hurricane Katrina with minimal damage, but WDSU's analog and digital transmitters were both destroyed in the storm. In early September, WDSU arranged to transmit its signal via i: Independent Television affiliate (now Ion Television owned-and-operated station) WPXL-TV (channel 49) through the end of December 2005; WDSU also partnered with i O&O KPXB-TV in Houston to simulcast WDSU's morning newscast and continuing coverage of the storm's aftermath that channel 6 had aired between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. from September 7 to September 13, 2005. The station restored its analog signal, operating at reduced power, in October 2005. WDSU chose to replace its existing transmitter building with an elevated and rugged hurricane resistant building to house its analog and digital transmitters; construction of this building was completed in early February 2008. WDSU's digital signal was restored on August 1, 2007, having temporarily shared a frequency with LeSEA Broadcasting-owned WHNO's digital signal on UHF channel 21. In late February 2008, WDSU's analog signal was upgraded to full power and its digital signal on channel 6.1 was restored on March 6, 2008.
In September 2008, WDSU broadcast continuous coverage of the approach, landfall and aftermath of Hurricane Gustav for five consecutive days. The storm prompted a massive evacuation of much of the station's viewing area. As a result, on September 1, 2008, satellite provider DirecTV began simulcasting WDSU's coverage of Hurricane Gustav nationally on channel 361. Its storm coverage was also streamed on the station's website, while its broadcast audio was carried by the stations within Citadel Communications' New Orleans radio cluster. C-SPAN2 and ABC affiliate WBRZ (channel 2) in Baton Rouge also ran portions of the station's live news coverage of Gustav.
WDSU tapped the resources of parent company Hearst-Argyle Television, and brought in personnel from Hearst-owned television stations across the country to assist in various capacities. Some members of WDSU's news staff were relocated to support studios in Baton Rouge and Orlando, and provided reports via satellite. All three locations stayed operational throughout the storm's duration. Another of WDSU's sister stations, ABC affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, also provided WDSU's coverage of Hurricane Gustav via its second digital subchannel for evacuees who came to Oklahoma City.
|TV stations in Louisiana|
| WDSU, New Orleans|
|TV stations in Greater New Orleans|
| WWL 4 (CBS) |
WDSU 6 (NBC)
WVUE 8 (Fox)
WYES 12 (PBS)
WHNO 20 (CTN)
WTNO-LP 22 (AZA)
WGNO 26 (ABC)
KNLD-LD 28 (Daystar)
KFOL-CD 30 (Ind)
WLAE 32 (ETV)
WQDT-LD 34 (Buzzr)
WNOL 38 (CW)
KNOV-CD 41 (Info)
KGLA 42 (TLM)
K47JO-D 47 (HSN2)
WPXL 49 (Ion)
WUPL 54 (MNTV)