WGRZ, virtual channel 2 (UHF digital channel 33), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Buffalo, New York, United States. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. WGRZ's studios are located on Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo, and its transmitter is located on Warner Hill Road in South Wales, New York.
The station first signed on the air on August 14, 1954, as WGR-TV, owned by the WGR Corporation (founder George Rand), along with WGR (550 AM). It was an NBC affiliate sharing the 184 Barton Street studios of UHF outlet WBUF-TV (channel 17). In 1955, WBUF-TV, which was dark at the time, was sold to NBC. In January 1956, WGR-TV became an ABC affiliate after NBC moved its programming to WBUF-TV; it turned out to be a bad move. All television reception at the time was via set-top or rooftop aerial antennas. UHF television technology was in its infancy, and most people did not understand how to receive the signals, which are very different and subject to much greater degradations in strength than those of the other local stations, which transmitted on VHF. (WGR-TV itself began its existence using the tower and transmitter of another defunct UHF station, the short-lived WBES-TV on channel 59.)
WGR-TV returned to NBC in September 1958, after NBC shut down the money-bleeding WBUF-TV (which eventually was revived as a public television station; the license is currently held by WNLO (channel 23), while the channel 17 space is currently occupied by WNED-TV), although WGR-TV continued to carry a secondary affiliation with ABC for another two months until WKBW-TV (channel 7) signed on in November of that year as a full-time ABC affiliate. The abject failure of WBUF-TV in Buffalo actually gave UHF a bad name to the broadcasting industry and the viewing public, but served as a boon to WGR-TV locally. Viewers still wanted more choices, could easily receive the VHF channel 2 signal, and the station now had more syndicated and network program options. The station also carried programming from the now-defunct DuMont Television Network.
In 1959, WGR-TV launched an FM radio station, WGR-FM (96.9, now WGRF). Originally a simulcast of its AM radio sister, it began airing its own programming under the WGRQ callsign in 1973. Over the years, WGR Corporation bought several other radio and television stations across the country, including WNEP-TV in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, WHAM-TV in Rochester (the call letters of which Transcontinent would change to WROC-TV, and is of no relation to the current station using the WHAM-TV callsign) and WDAF-AM/FM/TV in Kansas City, and eventually became known as Transcontinent Broadcasting. Transcontinent merged with Taft Broadcasting in 1964. During the 1960s, WGR-TV also operated a repeater station on VHF channel 6 in Jamestown, New York; this continued until the channel 2 transmitter was moved from Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo to the South Wales transmitter site, which greatly improved signal coverage into the population center of the mountainous Chautauqua region south of Buffalo.
In 1972, the station moved into its current Downtown Buffalo facility at 259 Delaware Avenue. On May 1, 1983, WGR-TV added a "Z" to its callsign, thus becoming WGRZ-TV. Less than two weeks later, Taft Broadcasting and General Cinema Corporation (which operated the Coral Television division) completed the trade deal that was first announced in December 1982 in which Taft gave channel 2 to General Cinema (the call-letter modification was brought on by a now-repealed FCC rule that prohibited TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different owners from sharing the same call letters), while in exchange Taft acquired Miami's WCIX (Taft held on to WGR radio and WGRQ/WRLT until 1987, when both stations were sold to Rich Communications; the AM station is now owned by Entercom Communications, while its former FM sister is now owned by Cumulus Media).
In the years following the 1983 exchange deal, WGRZ-TV changed hands several times. General Cinema exited the broadcasting business by selling Coral Television to WGRZ Acquisition Corp., a partnership between SJL Broadcast Management, TA Associates and Smith Broadcasting for $56 million in 1986. Native Buffalonian and former Newport Television CEO Sandy DiPasquale also held an ownership stake in WGRZ-TV (through his stake in Smith Broadcasting) at this time. Two years later, Tak Communications purchased WGRZ-TV from the SJL-led group for $100 million in 1988. Less than four years later in 1991, Tak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and a group of creditors seized the company's assets in 1994. Argyle Television Holdings II, a broadcasting holding company formed by a group of managers who had recently left Argyle I after that company sold all of its stations to New World Communications, purchased the station (and then-sister station KITV in Honolulu, Hawaii) from Tak's creditors for $91 million (on WGRZ-TV's end) in 1995. Argyle II closed on WGRZ-TV in April of that year, followed by KITV two months later.
WGRZ-TV nearly lost its NBC affiliation in 1994 when NBC's parent company, General Electric, announced plans to purchase King World Productions, the then-owner of CBS affiliate WIVB-TV (channel 4). Had it occurred, WIVB-TV would have become an NBC owned-and-operated station. However, the deal never materialized, and WIVB-TV was sold to the LIN TV Corporation instead (coincidentally, King World would eventually be acquired by CBS parent CBS Corporation, who merged the company into CBS Television Distribution in 2007). However, it did lose the local rights to the Buffalo Bills to WIVB-TV when the NFL returned to CBS in 1998 after the network acquired the rights to the American Football Conference package (this ended a 33-year run for channel 2 as the Bills' unofficial home station). Presently, the station airs Bills games when they are featured on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
Gannett acquired WGRZ-TV and WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan from Argyle II in a 1996 swap deal that saw KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and WLWT in Cincinnati, Ohio being traded by Gannett to Argyle II. The deal—which was related to issues from cross-ownership rules related to Gannett's ownership of The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Niagara Gazette (as well as cross-ownership rules related to Gannett's 1995 acquisition of Multimedia Cablevision in the Oklahoma City market)—closed in January 1997, seven months prior to Argyle II's merger with the broadcasting unit of the Hearst Corporation to form what then became Hearst-Argyle Television (which Hearst now wholly owns under the name Hearst Television). WGRZ dropped the "-TV" suffix in 2009.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for WGRZ. Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations (such as WGRZ) should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WGRZ was retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
|TV stations in New York|
|WNBC, New York City|
|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.)