WOTV, virtual channel 41 (UHF digital channel 20), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Battle Creek, Michigan, United States and serving the Grand Rapids–Kalamazoo–Battle Creek television market. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group, as part of a duopoly with Grand Rapids-licensed NBC affiliate WOOD-TV (channel 8), and is also a sister station to Class A MyNetworkTV affiliate WXSP-CD (channel 15). All three stations share studios on College Avenue Southeast in the Heritage Hill section of Grand Rapids; WOTV's transmitter is located on South Norris Road in Orangeville Township. The station brands itself as WOTV 4 based on its channel 4 position on most area cable systems, though it is on channel 41 on Dish, along with AT&T's DirecTV and U-verse.
The Grand Rapids–Kalamazoo–Battle Creek market is one of four instances where there are two affiliates of the same network. ABC programming is also seen on WZZM (channel 13, owned by Tegna, Inc.), which is based out of Grand Rapids. Although WZZM clears all network programming and operates a full news department, its digital signal cannot reach the southern portions of the market (Battle Creek and Kalamazoo). This is because its transmitter is located northwest of Grand Rapids in Grant, farther north than the area's other network stations. While WOTV once focused primarily on the southern portion of the market in an area between WZZM and South Bend, Indiana's WBND-LD, in recent years it has billed itself as a full-market ABC affiliate, including Grand Rapids. ABC is the only remaining network with such dual-affiliate arrangements, which exist in Grand Rapids–Kalamazoo–Battle Creek, Boston–Manchester (WCVB-TV and WMUR-TV), Tampa–St. Petersburg–Sarasota (WFTS-TV and WWSB), and Lincoln–Hastings–Kearney (KLKN and KHGI-TV).
History The station signed on the air on July 24, 1971 as WUHQ-TV (standing for "UHF HeadQuarters"). It was owned by Channel 41, Inc. a group of 19 investors from Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. WUHQ signed on because the southern portion of the market did not receive an adequate signal from WZZM. Originally licensed on VHF channel 9, that station swapped channels with WWTV in Cadillac and moved to channel 13 just before signing on in 1962. As a result, its transmitter is farther north than the other West Michigan stations in order to protect WTVG in Toledo, Ohio. Before WUHQ signed on, viewers in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek watched ABC from either WSJV in Elkhart, Indiana, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, or during the summer months with tropospheric propagation across Lake Michigan, WLS-TV in Chicago and WITI in Milwaukee (then that city's ABC affiliate).
In its early days, the station could not get ABC to provide a direct network feed. This forced channel 41 to switch to and from WZZM's signal during the times when ABC network programming was being shown. This practice, however, was less than satisfactory as WZZM often preempted network shows in favor of locally originated or other programming (such as Billy Graham crusades). In cases where WUHQ had advance notice of such changes, the station was able to procure filmed copies of the pre-empted network programming for broadcast. However, WZZM sometimes pre-empted a program with no advance notice such as for breaking local news or severe weather coverage. When this happened, WUHQ simulcast WSJV, usually with less than satisfactory results. At times, atmospheric conditions were not suitable enough to simulcast WSJV, forcing WUHQ to substitute a film or other non-network programming.
WZZM's owners, Northstar Television, planned to buy WUHQ in 1991 and turn it into a satellite. This would have created a strong combined signal with about 40% overlap. Northstar received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to do this, but the deal fell through when the company was unable to come up with the funds necessary to close the transaction. Instead, WUHQ's owner entered into a local marketing agreement (LMA) with LIN Broadcasting, owner of WOTV in Grand Rapids. The deal closed on November 11, 1991. Shortly after, channel 8 regained its heritage WOOD-TV calls and moved the WOTV calls to channel 41 on June 12, 1992. The previous WUHQ call letters are currently used on a low-powered Daystar affiliate in Grand Rapids.
In 1996, WOTV boosted its transmitter power to five million watts, making it the most powerful television station in West Michigan. It now had at least Grade B coverage throughout the entire market. AT&T bought WOOD-TV and the LMA with WOTV in 1994, when LIN spun off its television division as LIN TV. However, LIN continued to operate both stations. LIN TV reacquired WOOD-TV from AT&T in 1999 and bought WOTV outright in 2002. By December 2006, all operations of the station were consolidated into WOOD-TV's facilities in Grand Rapids. Reporter Gerry Barnaby, who joined WOTV in 1993, left the station at end of the year. WOTV's studios on West Dickman Road (M-96) in Battle Creek were donated to a city entity, Battle Creek Unlimited, and were later demolished in February, 2014. The equipment went to the Calhoun County Vocational Educational Center.
Both WOTV and WZZM have had a unique history of having one ABC affiliate preempt network programming during Labor Day weekend for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon while another aired the preempted ABC programming. In recent years, WOTV has aired the MDA Telethon while WZZM has aired ABC programming preempted by the telethon. It was the other way around in previous years, however. Bill Steffen was also the only current news personality to appear on the telethon on both stations having been employed by WZZM and WOOD-TV. Starting in 2013, however, both WZZM and WOTV aired the MDA Show of Strength at the same time as the program switched from a syndication format to a network telecast on ABC.
On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives that could have resulted in the sale of the company.
Soon after rebranding as "WOTV 4" in 2007, the station adopted a modified version of the numeric "41" it had used since the 1990s, highlighting the "4" in positive space and displaying the "1" immediately adjacent in negative space (similar to the hidden numeral "11" in the former Big Ten Conference logo). In March 2012, WOTV launched a new logo, website, and daytime lineup under the brand WOTV 4 Women. With the launch, the station began to shift its focus towards the female demographic—its website was redesigned to feature more lifestyle-oriented content, and its daytime lineup began featuring more female and lifestyle-oriented programming (such as Dr. Oz, Swift Justice with Jackie Glass, The Nate Berkus Show, Better, and The Wendy Williams Show); the format change was one of the first such instances in which a broadcast television station attempted to target a more specific demographic (in this case, based on gender). By the 2015–16 season, the branding had changed slightly to "My ABC, WOTV 4", though due more by the trends of syndication, as fewer talk shows exist in the market. On early weekend mornings, the station simulcasts WOOD-DT3, which is a feed of WOOD-TV's weather radar (known as the "Storm Team 8 Live Doppler Network") with audio from NOAA Weather Radio station KIG63. The radar feed is carried full-time on WOTV's fourth subchannel.
On March 21, 2014, it was announced that Media General would acquire LIN. The deal closed on December 19, making WOTV, along with WOOD and WXSP, siblings to CBS affiliate WLNS-TV and ABC affiliate WLAJ-TV in Lansing.
On January 27, 2016, Media General announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Nexstar Broadcasting Group. The combined company is known as "Nexstar Media Group" and owns 171 stations (including WOOD and WOTV), serving an estimated 39% of households. The sale was completed on January 17, 2017.
On December 3, 2018, Nexstar announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media (owners of Fox affiliate WXMI) for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WXMI directly or indirectly, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of more than two stations in the same media market, or two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the market. As such, Nexstar was required to sell either WXMI, WOOD and/or WOTV to separate, unrelated companies to address the ownership conflict. The WXSP network of stations would be retained in any situation, as its Class A low-power license is free of regulatory requirements.
On March 20, 2019, it was announced Nexstar would retain the WOOD-TV/WOTV duopoly and WXSP station network as-is, selling WXMI to Cincinnati-based E. W. Scripps Company, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Scripps and Tegna Inc. in separate deals worth $1.32 billion.
|TV stations in Michigan|
|TV stations in West Michigan, including Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek|
|WWMT 3 (CBS) |
WOOD 8 (NBC)
WZZM 13 (ABC)
WXSP-CD 15 (MNTV)
WXMI 17 (Fox)
WUHQ-LD 29 (Daystar)
WGVU 35 (PBS)
WMKG-CD 38 (TFC)
WOTV 41 (ABC)
WZPX 43 (Ion)
W48CL 48 (3ABN)
WTLJ 54 (TCT)
WLLA 64 (Rel)