WFLA-TV, virtual channel 8 (VHF digital channel 7), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Tampa, Florida, United States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group, as part of a duopoly with St. Petersburg-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA (channel 38). The two stations share studios on South Parker Street in downtown Tampa along the Hillsborough River, and transmitter facilities in Riverview, Florida.
The station first signed on the air on February 14, 1955, with a live broadcast of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. It was originally owned by The Tampa Tribune, along with WFLA radio (970 AM and 93.3 FM, now WFLZ). WFLA-TV has been an NBC affiliate since the station's inception. Largely because of its newspaper background, it was the early ratings leader in the Tampa market until WTVT (channel 13) passed it for first place in 1962. In 1966, Richmond Newspapers, publishers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and part-owner of the Tribune, acquired full control of the paper and the WFLA radio and television stations. Three years later, Richmond Newspapers changed its name to Media General, and WFLA-TV, the first television station owned and operated by the company, would be the flagship of its broadcasting group for the rest of its existence.
Due to an FCC regulation in effect at the time that stated that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different owners had to have differing callsigns, the station's callsign was changed to WXFL on January 19, 1983, after WFLA-AM-FM were sold (WFLA and WFLZ are currently owned by iHeartMedia). At the time, Federal Communications Commission cross-ownership regulations forced Media General to sell the radio stations; however, the company was granted a permanent waiver permitting it to keep The Tampa Tribune and the television station. Channel 8 reverted to its original WFLA-TV call letters on January 1, 1989. That same year, it surged to first place in the Tampa Bay ratings and has stayed there for most of that time, led by one of the most popular anchor teams in the country.
WFLA and The Tampa Tribune remained corporate siblings until Media General sold the newspaper to Tampa Media Group Inc. in October 2012 as part of Media General's selloff of its newspaper holdings in a reorganization to alleviate the company's substantial debt load. (With the exception of the Tribune, the company's other newspapers went to World Media Enterprises). Despite the split, the two outlets have continued a newsgathering partnership and their operations remain located adjacent to one another at the downtown Tampa facility. In January 2013, as a result of the sale, WFLA began outsourcing its digital operations and website to Worldnow, as part of a group deal with the company. Following the takeover of the company by the principal staff of LIN Media, Media General's stations, including WFLA, have since migrated to the WordPress.com-based platform and site design previously introduced by LIN, which in turn is now being replaced by Nexstar's own Lakana CMS platform.
On August 20, 2014, Media General announced that it would acquire MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA channel 38 from Sinclair Broadcast Group. The deal made WTTA a sister station to WFLA.
On January 27, 2016, it was announced that what was then known as the Nexstar Broadcasting Group would buy Media General for $4.6 billion. WFLA and WTTA became part of the newly-minted Nexstar Media Group on January 17, 2017.
WFLA presently broadcasts 42 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours each weekday, three hours on Saturdays and four hours on Sundays). Arch Deal and Bill Henry were the prominent faces of WFLA's newscasts in the 1960s. Deal's tenure was abruptly cut short in 1975, when he suffered injuries from a parachute accident. Bob Koop served as the evening anchor from 1977 to 1979. Longtime anchorman Bob Hite came to the anchor desk in 1979. The station began using a helicopter for newsgathering called "Eagle 8" in October 1985.
Bill Ratliff, who was brought in to anchor the evening newscasts in 1982 and had been morning and noon anchor since 1985, retired from WFLA on June 25, 2009; Ratliff (who was previously a political contributor at WTSP) died on May 8, 2012. WFLA began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition in early September 2007. Following Bob Hite's November 2007 retirement after 30 years, Keith Cate assumed anchor duties of the 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. newscasts along with veteran anchor Gayle Sierens, who herself retired in May 2015.
In the midst of a market shake-up in December 1994, which saw three Tampa area stations swapping network affiliations (CBS affiliate WTVT switching to Fox; ABC affiliate WTSP, channel 10, switching to CBS; and Fox affiliate WFTS-TV, channel 28, switching to ABC), WFLA was one of the few major stations in the market that did not change its network affiliation. As a result, it became the highest-rated station in the market, a position formerly held by WTVT, which saw its ratings drop after switching from CBS to Fox. However, since NBC's ill-fated prime time experiment with The Jay Leno Show from September 2009 to January 2010, WTVT regained the top spot.
In the February 2012 sweeps period, WFLA was the clear ratings winner for early morning, evening, and late news. It was also the only station in the market to gain an audience for its late newscast despite NBC's lackluster ratings performance at the time. On July 30, 2012, WFLA debuted a new weeknight 7:00 p.m. newscast; the first such program in that timeslot in the Tampa market since WFLA produced a similar newscast for WXPX-TV (channel 66) from 2000 to 2002. On August 26, 2013, WFLA launched an hour-long 4:00 p.m. newscast. Concurrent with the addition, WFLA dropped its 11:30 a.m. newscast on August 23 (the second time WFLA discontinued its midday newscast in its history, although it retains a noon newscast on Saturdays and Sundays), however, management stated that a midday newscast may return to the station's weekday schedule in September 2014. However, it was less than 3 years later in May 2016, when WFLA reintroduced a new one-hour midday newscast at 11:00 a.m.
At the start of 2015, WFLA assumed production of WTTA's news updates, Great 38 News Now. Previously, the news updates, which debuted eleven days before Media General's acquisition of WTTA, were produced by that station's former sister in West Palm Beach, WPEC. On January 4, 2016, WFLA once again began producing a local newscast for WTTA, this time, a nightly hour-long newscast at 8 p.m. under the title NewsChannel 8 at 8:00 on Great 38, pushing WTTA's MyNetworkTV programming back one hour. On August 7, 2017, WFLA began producing another local newscast for WTTA, this time, a two-hour expansion of its morning newscast under the title NewsChannel 8 Today on Great 38, airing from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Until September 28, 2018, the second hour of that program, which was titled, Make Today Gr8 with Gayle and Leigh, was co-hosted by Gayle Guyardo and morning meteorologist Leigh Spann.
- Channel 8 Reports (1960s–1970s)
- NewsWatch 8 (1970s–1993)
- NewsChannel 8 (1993–present)
- TV-8, Proud as a Peacock! (1979-1981; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- TV-8, Our Pride is Showing (1981-1982; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- The Look. Alive. (1981–1982)
- We're Channel 8, Just Watch Us Now (1982-1983; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- The Spirit of Tampa Bay (1982–1985)
- Channel 8 There, Be There (1983-1984; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Channel 8, Let's All Be There (1984–1986; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Helping You Win! (1985–1989)
- Come Home to Channel 8 (1986–1987; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come on Home to Channel 8 (1987–1988; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come Home to the Best, Only on Channel 8 (1988–1990; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- In Touch with Tampa Bay (1989–1992)
- Channel 8, is The Place to Be! (1990-1992; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- It's A Whole New Channel 8 (1992-1993; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- On Your Side (1992–present)
- The Stars Are Back on Channel 8 (1993-1994; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
Current on-air staff
- Keith Cate - weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Jennifer Leigh - weeknights at 5:00, 5:30, 7:00 and 11:00 p.m.
- Stacie Schaible - weekdays at 4 p.m. and weeknights at 6:00 p.m.
- Josh Benson - weekdays at 4 and 5:30 p.m. and weeknights at 8:00 p.m. (on WTTA)
- Evan Donovan - weekend mornings on "NewsChannel 8 Today" and host of Battleground Florida; also political reporter
- Avery Cotton -
- Rod Carter - weekends at 6:00, 8:00 (on WTTA) and 11:00 p.m.
- Jennifer Peñate - weeknights at 8:00 p.m. (on WTTA)
- David Espinosa Hall - weekday mornings on "NewsChannel 8 Today" (4:30-7:00 & 8:00-9:00 a.m.) also 11 a.m.
Storm Team 8
- Steve Jerve - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 & 11:00 p.m.
- Leigh Spann - meteorologist; weekday mornings on "NewsChannel 8 Today" (4:30-7:00 & 8:00-9:00 a.m.)
- Ian Oliver - meteorologist; weekdays at 11 a.m., also weekends at 6:00, 8:00 (on WTTA) and 11:00 p.m.
- Julie Phillips - meteorologist; weekdays at 4:00 and weeknights at 8:00 p.m. (on WTTA)
- Dan Lucas -
- Karen Loftus - weekends, also reporter
- Steve Andrews
Notable former on-air staff
- Dick Crippen – sports director (1981–1999; now with Spectrum Sports)
- Arch Deal – anchor (1950s–1975; later at WRBQ-FM until 1992, died March 13, 2020)
- Rich Fields – meteorology intern (2000–2002; now at KCBS/KCAL in Los Angeles, previously an announcer for The Price Is Right)
- Chris Hansen – reporter (1981–1983; later with NBC News; later host of the weekday syndicated program, Crime Watch Daily)
- Jack Harris – host (NewsWatch 8 at Noon, 1990–1992; Harris & Company/Harris Live, 1992–2000)
- John Muller – reporter (1989–2001; now with WPIX)
- Byron Pitts – reporter (1988–1990; now with ABC News)
- Gayle Sierens – anchor (1977–2015; now retired)
- Tony Zappone – news correspondent (1965–1977)
|TV stations in Florida|
|TV stations in the Tampa Bay Area|
|WEDU 3 (PBS) |
WFLA 8 (NBC)
WTSP 10 (CBS)
WTVT 13 (Fox)
WPDS-LD 14 (ETV)
W15CM-D 15 (HSN)
WEDQ 16 (PBS)
WSVT-LD 18 (Daystar)
WARP-CD 20 (Info)
WCLF 22 (CTN)
WXAX-CD 26 (AZA)
WFTS 28 (ABC)
WTAM-LD 30 (MEGA)
WMOR 32 (Ind)
W40CU-D 33 (HSN)
WSPF-CD 35 (ATeVe)
WTTA 38 (MNTV)
WSNN-LD 39 (Ind)
WWSB 40 (ABC)
W16DQ-D 43 (SBN)
WTOG 44 (CW)
WZRA-CD 48 (ETH)
WRMD-CD 49 (TLM)
WVEA 50 (UNI)
WFTT 62 (UMas)
WXPX 66 (Ion)