WMTW, virtual and VHF digital channel 8, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Poland Spring, Maine, United States and serving the Portland, Maine television market, including southern Maine and eastern and northern New Hampshire. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications, as part of a duopoly with Portland-licensed CW/MyNetworkTV affiliate WPXT (channel 51). The two stations share studios on Ledgeview Drive in Westbrook; WMTW's transmitter is located in West Baldwin, Maine.
WMTW also operates a low-powered digital fill-in translator (on UHF channel 26 or virtual channel 8 via PSIP) from the Time and Temperature Building in downtown Portland's Monument Square. The translator serves the immediate part of Portland and some surrounding areas to serve viewers that have difficulty receiving the main signal.
In addition to WPXT, WMTW shares common coverage areas with four other Hearst-owned sister stations in New England: fellow ABC affiliates WCVB-TV in Boston and WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire; and its duopoly of NBC affiliate WPTZ and CW affiliate WNNE in Vermont.
WMTW signed on September 25, 1954 as the third television station in the Portland market and under the ownership of Mount Washington Television, a group that included former Maine Governor Horace Hildreth. It has always been an ABC affiliate although it aired some DuMont programming in its first year. The station's sign-on made Portland one of the smallest markets in the United States with three network affiliates on the analog VHF band. WMTW is also the longest-tenured primary ABC affiliate in New England. The WMTW call sign was modified to include a "-TV" suffix on September 1, 1958.
The station originally broadcast from a transmitter on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. This gave WMTW one of the largest coverage areas of any station east of the Mississippi River. In addition to its main coverage area of Southern Maine and Northern New Hampshire, it could also be seen in parts of New York State, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The station also had significant viewership across the Canada–U.S. border in Montreal, a city with almost five times the population of WMTW's American coverage area. As a result, viewers in Vermont, northeastern New York state and southern Quebec were able to watch the full ABC schedule on WMTW.
The Burlington, Vermont–Plattsburgh, New York market got its own ABC affiliate when WVNY (channel 22) signed-on from Burlington in 1968. However, for some time afterward, WMTW-TV continued to have a large audience in that area (despite being difficult to receive over-the-air due to co-channel interference from Ottawa station CJOH-TV's repeater in Cornwall, Ontario). WMTW stayed on most Montreal cable systems until the early-1990s.
The station's transmitter tower on Mount Washington had been originally designed in 1940 by Major Edwin Armstrong for one of the first FM radio stations in the country. WMTW-TV built a new tower there in the 1960s but Armstrong's tower remained as a standby.
Mount Washington Television sold the station to Dolphin Enterprises, Inc., a company whose chief officer was former Tonight Show host Jack Paar, in 1963. Initially barred from appearing on WMTW-TV due to contractual obligations with NBC, he later hosted several programs on the station including a Thursday night movie feature. In 1967, Paar sold WMTW to Mid New York Broadcasting which changed its name to Harron Communications a decade later.
WMTW-TV had to leave Mount Washington in 2002 due to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s digital television mandate. The station had been allocated channel 45 for digital broadcasts, and Harron realized that it would not be possible to provide an acceptable signal to southern Maine if it built its digital transmitter on Mount Washington. As a result, channel 8 built a new tower in West Baldwin, a few miles from the towers of rival stations WGME-TV and WCSH, and signed-off from Mount Washington for the last time on February 5, 2002. Obviously, the new transmitter site does not serve as large an area as the Mount Washington tower did, but it provides a better signal to the highly populated areas.
Harron announced in December 2003 that it was exiting broadcasting and the station was sold to Hearst-Argyle Television a few months later. On October 9, 2007, WMTW dropped the "-TV" suffix.
Until 2009, WCVB-TV in Boston served as the flagship station of the New England Patriots Preseason Television Network, which allowed WMTW and WMUR-TV to be part of the network. Even though WBZ-TV became the flagship station for the telecasts that year, WMTW and WMUR continue to simulcast games which results in ABC programming being preempted.
WMTW added The Local AccuWeather Channel on August 30, 2007, after launching digital subchannel 8.2. Branded as "News 8 Now", programming consisted of a loop of local weather forecast segments as well as regional and national coverage from AccuWeather. There was a live feed of the National Weather Service's Doppler weather radar (based at the Local Forecast Office in Gray) as well as local news and sports headlines. In addition, several public service announcements and station promotions were seen. As of March 2015, this service was replaced by Heroes & Icons, a classic TV network. In October 2018, following Hearst's purchase of WPXT, Heroes & Icons was moved to that station's second subchannel, with its previous MeTV programming in turn moving to the 8.2 subchannel; WMTW also added a third subchannel to add Laff, which moved from another WPXT subchannel.
In July 2012, during a retransmission consent dispute between Hearst Television and Time Warner Cable, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries was substituted for WMTW and WMUR-TV.
Sister radio stations
Several radio stations have been co-owned with WMTW. The first, WMTW-FM (94.9), was co-owned with the television station from the radio station's launch in 1958 until 1971. 94.9 FM, which became WHOM in 1976 and is now owned by Townsquare Media, continues to transmit from Mount Washington. The other two, WMTW (870 AM) in Gorham and WMTW-FM (106.7) in North Windham, held those call signs from 2001 to 2004 (Harron had acquired the stations in 1999), serving first as news-talk stations and later as all-news stations; WMTW and WMTW-FM were also simulcast on WLAM (1470 AM) in Lewiston. The three stations, branded as "Newsradio WMTW", aired and produced local news and talk programs as well as simulcasts of WMTW-TV's newscasts and the now-defunct news radio service of the Associated Press.
The "Newsradio WMTW" stations were sold by Harron Communications to Nassau Broadcasting Partners in 2003. Soon after taking over, Nassau discontinued the format. The 870 frequency is now WLVP and simulcasts an oldies format with WLAM while 106.7 FM is now WXTP, a Catholic radio station. An earlier WMTW-FM was not connected to WMTW-TV (having predated the station by several years) apart from also transmitting from Mount Washington.
|TV stations in New England|
|WTNH, Hartford/New Haven|
|TV stations in Southern Maine and Carroll and Coös Counties, New Hampshire, including Portland, Augusta, Berlin, and Rockland|
|WCSH 6 (NBC) |
WMTW 8 (ABC)
WCBB 10 (PBS)
WGME 13 (CBS)
W14DA-D 14 (Ind.)
WLLB-LD 15 (Daystar)
WGBI-LP 21 (RTV)
WPFO 23 (Fox)
WMEA 26 (PBS)
WIPL 35 (Ion)
WFYW-LP 41 (3ABN)
WPXT 51 (CW)