WNOL-TV, virtual channel 38 (UHF digital channel 15), is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Media Group subsidiary of the Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., as part of a duopoly with ABC affiliate WGNO (channel 26). The two stations share studios at The Galleria on Galleria Drive (just south of I-10) in Metairie; WNOL's transmitter is located on East Josephine Street in Chalmette. On cable, WNOL is available on Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse channel 13.
The station first signed on the air on March 25, 1984. It was the second independent station to sign on in the New Orleans' market, after eventual sister station WGNO, which signed on the air in October 1967; the station maintained a general entertainment format, running a variety of cartoons, sitcoms, older movies, drama series and religious programs (many of which were formerly carried by WGNO). The station's original slogan, "Don't Stay Home Without Us," was an homage to the popular American Express advertising campaign featuring Karl Malden.
In 1985, the station was sold to the TVX Broadcast Group. WNOL, as with TVX's other television stations, became a charter affiliate of Fox when the network launched on October 6, 1986. (The station's schedule continued to represent more of an independent station as Fox's lone series at that time was a late night talk show, and they wouldn't start a full seven days of programming until 1993.) Reportedly, WGNO passed on the Fox affiliation; after that occurred, TVX used WNOL as leverage to get Fox to sign a deal to affiliate with the majority of the company's independent stations. TVX acquired Taft Broadcasting's independent and Fox-affiliated stations in 1987. Subsequently, the following year, TVX began selling off many of its television stations; in 1989, TVX sold WNOL to Qwest Broadcasting, a company owned by minority investors led by musician Quincy Jones. In addition to Fox network programming, WNOL continued to offer cartoons, sitcoms, movies and drama series on its schedule into the 1990s.
In March 1994, Fox entered into a partnership with minority-owned communications firm Savoy Pictures (which would serve as majority partner) to form SF Broadcasting. On August 25 of that year, SF Broadcasting announced that it would acquire three television stations from Burnham Broadcasting—among them, New Orleans's longtime ABC affiliate WVUE (channel 8)—adding those stations alongside a fourth Burnham station that SF had acquired two months earlier in a separate deal. As part of the deal, WVUE and the three other acquired stations (WLUK-TV in Green Bay, KHON-TV in Honolulu and WALA-TV in Mobile) would switch their respective network affiliations from ABC (on WVUE) and NBC (on the three other stations) to Fox beginning in the fall of 1995. The Fox affiliation moved to WVUE on January 1, 1996; unlike the "Big Three" affiliates that switched to Fox through a similar deal between the network and New World Communications, WVUE and the other former Burnham stations also carried the Fox Kids weekday and Saturday blocks. The switch spawned a three-way affiliation swap in the market as WNOL joined The WB, a network that had been carried from the network's launch in January 1995 on WGNO (the result of that station's ownership by network part-owner Tribune Broadcasting)—which in turn picked up the ABC affiliation from WVUE. WNOL also acquired select cartoons and other syndicated programs that were previously part of WGNO's programming inventory. As the 1990s progressed, WNOL began to decrease its reliance on classic sitcoms, and gradually added more talk and reality series for the station's daytime schedule. After Fox picked up the rights to air NFL games in 1994, channel 38, via the NFL on Fox, succeeded WWL-TV as the New Orleans Saints' station of record; it only served in this role for the 1994 and 1995 seasons; in 1996, WVUE-TV took over this role.
WGNO's owner Tribune Broadcasting, which held a minority ownership interest in The WB, entered into a local marketing agreement to operate WNOL in 1996; Tribune purchased the station outright in 2000, following the company's merger with Qwest, creating the first television duopoly in the New Orleans market between WNOL and WGNO. Along with other similarly formatted stations, WNOL began to scale back on carrying cartoons (such as The Wacky World of Tex Avery) beginning in 2000. Cartoons on the station were eventually relegated to weekends only, when The WB discontinued the Kids' WB weekday afternoon block in December 2005, leaving its existing Saturday morning block.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans metropolitan area on August 29, 2005, the storm destroyed the transmitter facilities of both WNOL and WGNO. The two stations set up temporary analog transmitter facilities from a multi-purpose tower in Algiers; WGNO and WNOL also partnered with i: Independent Television affiliate (now Ion Television owned-and-operated station) WPXL-TV (channel 49) to transmit its digital signals as separate subchannels on that station. On March 29, 2008, WNOL began transmitting its digital signal from a new tower in Metairie, broadcasting on UHF channel 15, ending the relay of both stations on WPXL. Tribune management decided that since it elected to relocate WGNO's digital signal to its analog-era UHF channel 26 when most full-power stations switched to digital-only transmissions in 2009, that it would instead flash-cut WGNO's digital signal on the air upon the transition and instead carry WGNO's digital signal as a digital subchannel of WNOL in the interim.
From March 29, 2008 to June 12, 2009, WNOL's digital signal was divided into a high definition feed for WGNO on digital channel 15.1 (mapped to virtual channel 26.1) that transmitted in ABC's recommended 720p resolution format, while WNOL's digital feed transmitted in 480i standard definition on digital channel 15.2 (mapped as virtual channel 38.1); Cox Communications continued to carry an HD feed of WNOL (presented in 1080i) via a fiber optic connection over the provider's HD tier to allow high definition broadcasts of CW network programming to continue in some form. When WGNO's analog signal was shut down on June 12, 2009, that station moved its programming to its newly separate digital channel on UHF 26, allowing WNOL to resume broadcasting HD programming in 1080i for the first time since August 2005.
From The WB to The CW
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would launch The CW, a network developed as a joint venture between the two companies that initially featured a mix of programming from both The WB and UPN (the latter of which was acquired by CBS less than a month before the merger announcement on December 31, 2005, after its split from Viacom was finalized). The network signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Tribune Broadcasting to affiliate with 16 of the 19 WB-affiliated stations that the company owned at the time, with WNOL being named as the New Orleans affiliate of the network. Channel 38 became a charter affiliate of The CW when the network commenced operations on September 18, 2006. UPN affiliate WUPL (channel 54), which was owned by CBS at the time (it is now owned by Tegna), became an affiliate of MyNetworkTV, a competing network developed by the Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television subsidiaries of News Corporation.
Unusual for a duopoly, even after Tribune acquired WNOL, its operations remained separate from WGNO; the station continued to be based at a facility located on Canal Street. In February 2007, Tribune announced that rather than move WGNO to WNOL's facility, that channel 26 would instead move to The Galleria building in nearby Metairie. As a result, WNOL merged its operations with WGNO within its studio space at the Galleria.
On April 1, 2012, Tribune Broadcasting removed all WNOL, WGNO, and its then 21 other television stations from satellite provider DirecTV due to a carriage dispute over an increase in payments to transmit the stations' signals. DirecTV signed a new carriage agreement with Tribune on April 4, 2012, restoring both stations as well as the other Tribune-owned stations on DirecTV.
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Had the deal received regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, the acquisition of WNOL-TV and WGNO would have marked Sinclair's entry into Louisiana (the virtual duopolies of fellow ABC affiliate WEAR-TV and NBC affiliate WPMI-TV in the Pensacola, Florida–Mobile, Alabama market and Fox affiliate KBTV-TV and CBS affiliate KFDM in the Beaumont–Port Arthur market are the closest existing Sinclair properties to New Orleans).
On July 18, 2018, hours after Sinclair submitted a revision to the acquisition proposal that rescinded plans for WGN-TV and CW-affiliated sisters KDAF in Dallas-Fort Worth and KIAH in Houston to be sold to closely tied third-party companies—WGN-TV LLC and Cunningham Broadcasting, respectively—in order to address concerns expressed by FCC chairman Ajit Pai concerning the partner licensees Sinclair proposed using to allow it to operate certain Tribune stations in circumvention of the 39% national ownership cap, the FCC Commissioners' Board voted unanimously, 4-0, to send the Sinclair-Tribune acquisition proposal to an evidentiary review hearing before an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain stations in markets where Sinclair and Tribune both had television properties. On August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, and concurrently 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.
Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group announced it would acquire Tribune's assets for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. The deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected closure late in the third quarter of 2019—would give the WGNO/WNOL duopoly additional sister stations in Baton Rouge (Fox affiliate WGMB-TV, CW affiliate WBRL-CD, independent station KZUP-CD and NBC-affiliated SSA partner WVLA-TV), Alexandria (Natchez, Mississippi-licensed Fox affiliate WNTZ-TV) and Lafayette (CBS affiliate KLFY-TV). Factoring in Nexstar's existing properties in Shreveport (NBC affiliate KTAL-TV and SSA partners KMSS-TV [Fox] and KSHV-TV [MyNetworkTV]) and Monroe (Fox affiliate KARD and NBC-affiliated SSA partner KTVE), the combined company would have television stations in every media market within the state of Louisiana, except for Lake Charles, as a result.
|TV stations in Louisiana|
|WNOL, New Orleans|
|TV stations in Greater New Orleans|
|WWL 4 (CBS) |
WDSU 6 (NBC)
WVUE 8 (Fox)
WYES 12 (PBS)
WHNO 20 (CTN)
WTNO-LP 22 (AZA)
WGNO 26 (ABC)
KNLD-LD 28 (Daystar)
KFOL-CD 30 (Ind)
WLAE 32 (ETV)
WQDT-LD 34 (Buzzr)
WNOL 38 (CW)
KNOV-CD 41 (Info)
KGLA 42 (TLM)
K47JO-D 47 (HSN2)
WPXL 49 (Ion)
WUPL 54 (MNTV)