WLBZ is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Bangor, Maine, United States, serving Central and Eastern Maine. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 2 from a transmitter on Rider Bluff in Holden. Owned by Tegna Inc., the station has studios on Mount Hope Avenue in Bangor. On cable, WLBZ is available on Charter Spectrum channel 3.
Although identifying as a separate station in its own right, WLBZ is considered a semi-satellite of sister station WCSH (channel 6) in Portland. WLBZ's master control, as well as some internal operations, are housed at WCSH's studios. WLBZ simulcasts WCSH's newscasts with local weather inserts. It also clears most of WCSH's syndicated programming (though in some cases at different times). There are also some programs that only air on WLBZ while some are only seen on WCSH. WLBZ also airs separate station identifications and commercials. Although WLBZ and WCSH are based in different locations and technically serve separate markets, the two essentially operate as one station. With their combined resources, the stations provide statewide coverage not offered by any other outlet in Maine.
WLBZ serves as the default NBC affiliate for the Presque Isle market, which does not have an affiliate of its own. It is carried on Spectrum's cable system in Presque Isle, and is also offered as the NBC affiliate on the Presque Isle Dish Network feed. In addition to its main signal, WLBZ operates low-powered digital repeater WGCI-LD on VHF channel 4. Licensed to Skowhegan, this station has a transmitter in Norridgewock's Larone section. WGCI is used to transmit WLBZ programming to Spectrum systems in Skowhegan, Millinocket, and Lincoln.
The station began broadcasting on September 12, 1954 as WTWO (sometimes rendered as "W-TWO"), an independent station locally owned by Murray Carpenter. The following January, it began carrying some CBS programming, becoming a full affiliate by September 1955 (prior to this, CBS programming was seen on WABI-TV (channel 5), which became a primary NBC affiliate). In 1958, WTWO was sold to the Rines family's Maine Broadcasting System, owner of WLBZ radio (620 AM), WCSH-AM-TV in Portland, and WRDO in Augusta. The new ownership changed the station's call letters to WLBZ-TV that June to match its new radio sister (which the Rines had owned since 1944). (The WTWO calls now reside on the NBC affiliate in Terre Haute, Indiana.) The following year, channel 2 swapped affiliations with WABI-TV and joined NBC in order to match WCSH-TV; the two stations also began to share a secondary ABC affiliation (previously, ABC programming was only cleared on WABI). The ABC arrangement remained in place until 1965, when WEMT (channel 7, now WVII-TV) signed on as a full-time ABC affiliate.
In its first decades on the air, channel 2 was best known as the home of Eddie Driscoll. He hosted many programs on the station including Weird, Dialing for Dollars, The Great Money Movie, and My Backyard. Driscoll was also known for his improvisation skills and sense of humor. He retired from WLBZ-TV in 1986, and died on September 24, 2006 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
In the 1970s, WLBZ-TV added a repeater in Calais, W57AQ on channel 57, with a transmitter in Meddybemps shared with W61AO (which repeated WABI-TV). W57AQ allowed cable systems in Atlantic Canada to distribute WLBZ by a microwave link from the border, doubling or even tripling the station's coverage area and viewership. Most Canadian cable systems dropped WLBZ after 1996 once American television signals became available to them by satellite, with the last one doing so in 2010. Although a "flash-cut" to digital on VHF channel 8 was considered, it was instead decided to return the W57AQ license to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which deleted it on April 29, 2010.
In 1981, WLBZ radio was sold-off, eventually becoming WZON; in 1997, the -TV suffix was dropped. In 1998, the Maine Broadcasting System (by this time controlled by the Rines-Thompson family) sold WLBZ and WCSH to the Gannett Company. In 2000, the station, for all intents and purposes, began serving as a semi-satellite of WCSH, when commercials and network programming began to be played from Portland. However, as early as 1989, WLBZ had been reducing its personnel and consolidating some internal operations with WCSH.
In 2002, WLBZ signed on a digital signal on UHF channel 25, bringing NBC's high definition programming to Eastern and Central Maine. WLBZ's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009. However, the station kept its digital operations on channel 25 until September 10, when it was moved to the VHF channel 2 space previously occupied by the analog service.
In 2012, WLBZ's station logo was immortalized in a running sketch series for Saturday Night Live called "Maine Justice," a parody of courtroom shows featuring a judge and a bailiff with Louisiana accents who "try" to act like New Englanders.
This aired in the same year 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 WLBZ. Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations (such as WLBZ) 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. WCSH and WLBZ were retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
|TV stations in New England|
| WVIT, Hartford/New Haven|
|TV stations in New England|
| WHPX, New London/Hartford/New Haven|
|TV stations in Central and Eastern Maine including Bangor and Calais|
| WLBZ 2 (NBC) |
WABI 5 (CBS)
WVII 7 (ABC/JTV)
WMEB 12 (PBS)
WMED 13 (PBS)
WEXZ-LD 13 (RTV)
WBGR-LD 18 (MeTV)
WFVX-LD 22 (Fox/MNTV/JTV)
WCKD-LP 30 (JUCE TV)