WOLF-TV, virtual channel 45 (UHF digital channel 56), is a television station licensed to Hazleton, Pennsylvania, United States, serving as the Fox affiliate for the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre television market. Owned by New Age Media, LLC as its flagship station, it is part of a duopoly with Williamsport-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WQMY (channel 53); New Age Media also operates Scranton-licensed CW/MeTV affiliate WSWB (channel 38) under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with owner MPS Media. All three stations are, in turn, operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group under a master service agreement. The stations share studios on PA 315 in the Fox Hill section of Plains Township; WOLF-TV's transmitter is located at the Penobscot Knob antenna farm near Mountain Top.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted an original construction permit for Hazleton's first full-service television station on September 30, 1982. The new station, given the call letters WERF, was owned by James Oyster and was to broadcast from a tower south of the city. At that location, the station could serve its city of license but not the main cities in the market, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. In April 1983, WERF applied to move its transmitter to the Penobscot Knob antenna farm near Mountaintop where WNEP-TV (channel 16), WDAU-TV (channel 22, now WYOU), WBRE-TV (channel 28), and WVIA-TV (channel 44) also housed their transmitters. The application was denied, however.
Oyster changed the station's call letters to WWLF-TV on July 25, 1984, then sold the construction permit to Hazleton TV Associates on December 13. Two months later on February 20, 1985, the station was sold again, this time to Scranton TV Partners who completed construction of the station and brought it on-air on June 6. WWLF was a satellite of co-owned WOLF-TV in Scranton which was then on UHF channel 38 and was an independent station. That station had just begun broadcasting itself on June 3. WWLF, as a satellite of WOLF-TV, was independent for a little more than a year. On October 9, 1986, it became a charter affiliate of Fox. In 1988, WWLF moved to a new transmitter on Nescopeck Mountain near the junction of I-80 and PA 93 but remained a satellite of WOLF-TV.
On April 27, 1993, WWLF was sold to Pegasus Television and the new owners were able to accomplish something that the station's original owner could not: get permission to move the transmitter to the antenna farm at Penobscot Knob. The completion of the new transmitter ushered in a new era for WWLF. On November 1, 1998, Pegasus moved the WOLF-TV call sign to channel 56 and made it the sole outlet for Fox programming in Northeast Pennsylvania. It changed the call letters of channel 38 to WSWB and made that station an affiliate of The WB. That station's owners had sought for many years to move either the channel 38 or channel 56 transmitters to Penobscot Knob.
On January 4, 2007, WOLF-TV, along with most of the Pegasus stations, was sold to investment group CP Media, LLC with the sale consummated on March 31. For the first time in its history, the station was no longer co-owned with WSWB. However, the new owners of that station signed a local marketing agreement (LMA) with CP Media meaning that the stations continue to be commonly operated. Eventually, CP Media formed a new broadcasting group, New Age Media. More recently, WOLF-TV launched a new website using the Fox owned-and-operated station platform licensed from Fox Television Stations' interactive division; this lasted until some time in 2010 or 2011 when WorldNow took over the operation of the WOLF-TV web site. On December 4, 2011, the station's transmitter was damaged and for the next month WOLF-TV was carried on WBRE's channel 28.2 subchannel.
On September 25, 2013, New Age Media announced that it would sell most of its stations, including WOLF-TV and WQMY, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Concurrently, sister station WSWB was to be sold by MPS Media to Cunningham Broadcasting, while continuing to be operated by WOLF-TV. On October 31, 2014, New Age Media requested the dismissal of its application to sell WOLF-TV; the next day, Sinclair purchased the non-license assets of the stations it planned to buy from New Age Media and began operating them through a master service agreement.
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair entered into an agreement to acquire Chicago-based Tribune Media – which, through a shared services agreement with owner Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, has operated WNEP-TV since December 2013 – for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. The complicated SSA relationships that Sinclair has in the Scranton–Wilkes–Barre market with WOLF, WSWB and WQMY – the former two of which are currently the only legal television duopoly in the market – created an ownership entanglement, as WNEP and WOLF rank among the market's four highest-rated stations, and the market has too few independently owned full-power stations to permit a second legal duopoly in any event. (Sinclair CEO Christopher Ripley cited Scranton–Wilkes–Barre as one of three markets, out of fourteen where ownership conflicts exist between the two groups, where the proposed acquisition would likely result in divestitures). To alleviate some of the regulatory issues that the deal incurred by selling certain stations to both independent and affiliated third-party companies, on April 24, 2018, Sinclair announced that it would sell the non-license assets of WOLF-TV, WQMY, and WSWB and the full assets of eight other stations – Sinclair-operated KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, WRLH-TV in Richmond, KDSM-TV in Des Moines and WXLV-TV in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, and Tribune-owned WPMT in Harrisburg and 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. Sinclair concurrently exercised its option to buy WOLF-TV and WQMY – the latter of which, for regulatory purposes, will continue to be licensed as a satellite of WOLF-TV – to allow Standard Media Group to acquire the stations outright.
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 WOLF/WQMY/WSWB and the other four 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 Northeastern Pennsylvania including Scranton, Wilkes Barre, and Hazelton|
|WNEP 16 (ABC)|