WHP-TV, virtual and UHF digital channel 21, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States and serving the Susquehanna Valley region (Harrisburg–Lancaster–Lebanon–York). The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Its studio facilities are located on North 6th Street in the Uptown section of Harrisburg, with the building bisected by the city line for Harrisburg and Susquehanna Township; the studios of rival station WHTM-TV are located directly across North 6th Street. WHP's transmitter is located on a ridge north of Linglestown Road in Susquehanna Township (it is co-located with WITF-TV and is distinguishable as the unlit red and white tower; WITF's tower is unpainted and flashes strobes at all times).
On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 2 and in high definition on digital channel 802. Despite the presence of WHP-TV, CBS-owned KYW-TV in Philadelphia serves as an alternate CBS affiliate for South Central Pennsylvania, as it is carried on Xfinity systems in the market.
The station first signed on the air on July 4, 1953. It was owned by Commonwealth Communications, as was WHP radio (580 AM and 97.3 FM, now WRVV). WHP-TV operated from studios located on Locust Street in Harrisburg as a member of the DuMont Television Network. The station lost DuMont when that network folded in 1956. WHP-TV later began to share CBS programming with WLYH-TV (channel 15) in Lebanon and WSBA-TV (channel 43) in York as part of the Keystone Network. This arrangement was necessary in the days before cable television, since the Harrisburg/Lancaster/York market is very mountainous and UHF signals do not travel very far in rugged terrain. The three stations had a strong combined signal with 55 to 60% signal overlap.
WHP-TV moved from channel 55 to UHF channel 21 in 1961. Also around this time, it began airing separate local programming during off-network hours, while WLYH and WSBA-TV continued to simulcast for virtually the entire broadcast day. WLYH and WSBA-TV ran about three-quarters of the CBS schedule, compared to separately programmed and owned WHP. All three stations pre-empted moderate amounts of CBS programming, but any shows preempted by WLYH and WSBA-TV ran on WHP while shows preempted by WHP would run on WLYH and WSBA-TV. In 1975, the station relocated from its original studio facility on Locust Street to its current location on North 6th Street.
The Susquehanna Radio Corporation sold WSBA to Mohawk Broadcasting in 1983 and relaunched it as independent station WPMT (now a Fox affiliate). WHP-TV and WLYH continued as the market's only CBS affiliates, with approximately 75 percent signal overlap. Both stations also stopped the arrangement in which one station ran whatever CBS shows the other declined to air, though they continued to duplicate most network shows, and continued to have separate newscasts and syndicated programs.
The unusual situation of one market having two separately-owned and programmed CBS affiliates that air most of the same network programming continued until the fall of 1995, when Commonwealth sold channel 21 to Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia), which subsequently entered into a local marketing agreement with WLYH's then-owner Gateway Communications. WLYH and WHP-TV merged their operations under this agreement, and on December 16, 1995, WHP-TV became the sole CBS affiliate for South Central Pennsylvania with WLYH converting into an exclusive UPN affiliate (it had carried the network as a secondary affiliation for 11 months prior starting at UPN's launch).
Newport Television and Sinclair ownership
On April 20, 2007, Clear Channel entered into an agreement to sell its entire television station group to Providence Equity Partners' Newport Television. On July 19, 2012, Newport Television sold WHP-TV and five other stations to the Sinclair Broadcast Group as part of a group deal to sell 22 of its 27 stations to Sinclair, Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Cox Media Group. The LMA with WLYH-TV was included in the Newport–Sinclair deal despite Nexstar owning the license to the latter station. The group deal with Sinclair was completed on December 3, 2012. WHP-TV thus became the only Sinclair-owned station, and one of a handful in the United States, to utilize a historic three-letter call sign.
On July 29, 2013, Allbritton Communications announced that it would sell its seven television stations, including WHTM-TV, to Sinclair. As part of the deal, Sinclair was planning to sell the license assets of WHP-TV to Deerfield Media, but would continue to operate the station through shared services and joint sales agreements. This is due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) duopoly regulations that not only disallow common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in a single market, but also require a market to be left with eight unique owners after a duopoly is formed. In this case, the Harrisburg–Lancaster–York market, despite being the 43rd-largest market at the time the purchase was announced, has only six full-power stations, which are too few to permit a legal duopoly. In addition, WHTM and WHP are respectively the second and third highest-rated stations in the market.
On December 6, 2013, the FCC informed Sinclair that applications related to the deal need to be "amended or withdrawn," as the time brokerage agreement between WHP-TV and WLYH-TV would remain with Sinclair; this would, in effect, create a new time brokerage agreement between WHTM and WLYH, even though the FCC had ruled in 1999 that such agreements made after November 5, 1996 covering more than 15% of the broadcast day would count toward the ownership limits for the brokering station's owner. On March 20, 2014, as part of a restructuring of the Sinclair-Allbritton deal to address the noted ownership conflicts, Sinclair announced that it would terminate the sale of WHP-TV to Deerfield Media and instead sell the station to another third-party buyer, with whom Sinclair would not to enter into any operational or financial agreements and would assume the rights to the LMA with WLYH. Sinclair would also seek FCC consent for an asset swap with the buyer of WHP in which the station and WHTM would trade licenses, programming (including their respective network affiliations), virtual channel numbers and transmitter facilities. On May 29, 2014, Sinclair informed the FCC that it had not yet found a buyer for WHP and that it would also consider reselling WHTM to the third-party buyer, while keeping WHP and the LMA for WLYH; on June 23, the company announced that WHTM would be sold to Media General for $83.4 million.
Aborted sale to Standard Media Group
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair entered into an agreement to acquire Chicago-based Tribune Media – which has owned WPMT since 1996 – for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Sinclair was precluded from acquiring WPMT directly, as both it and WHP rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Harrisburg–Lancaster–Lebanon–York market in total day viewership, and there are too few independently owned full-power stations in the Susquehanna Valley area to permit legal duopolies in any event. On April 24, 2018, in an amendment to the Tribune acquisition through which it proposed the sale of certain stations to both independent and affiliated third-party companies to curry the DOJ's approval, Sinclair announced that it would sell WPMT and eight other stations – Sinclair-operated KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, WRLH-TV in Richmond, WOLF-TV (along with LMA partners WSWB and WQMY) in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, KDSM-TV in Des Moines and WXLV-TV in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, and Tribune-owned WXMI in Grand Rapids – to Standard Media Group (an independent broadcast holding company formed by private equity firm Standard General to assume ownership of and absolve ownership conflicts involving the aforementioned stations) for $441.1 million. The transaction includes a transitional services agreement, through which Sinclair would have continued operating WRLH for six months after the sale's completion.
Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the DOJ over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Standard Media's purchases of WPMT and the other six Tribune- and Sinclair-operated stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
|TV stations in the Susquehanna Valley, including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York|
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