TV Stations Wikia
Advertisement

WPMI-TV, virtual and UHF digital channel 15, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Mobile, Alabama, United States and also serving Pensacola, Florida. The station is owned by Deerfield Media, as part of a duopoly with Pensacola-licensed independent station WJTC (channel 44); the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Pensacola-licensed ABC affiliate WEAR-TV (channel 3) and Fort Walton Beach-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WFGX (channel 35), operates WPMI-TV and WJTC under a local marketing agreement (LMA).

WPMI-TV and WJTC share studios on Azalea Road (near I-10) in Mobile; master control and some internal operations are based at the shared facilities of WEAR-TV and WFGX on Mobile Highway (US 90) in unincorporated Escambia County, Florida (with a Pensacola mailing address). WPMI-TV's transmitter is located in unincorporated Baldwin County, Alabama (northeast of Robertsdale).

History[]


Early history[]

WPMI first signed on the air on March 12, 1982 and was the first independent station in the state of Alabama. It was also the first new commercial station to sign on in the Mobile–Pensacola market since future sister station WEAR signed on 28 years earlier. The station was originally owned by Hess Broadcasting and ran a general entertainment programming format consisting of cartoons, westerns, classic sitcoms, old movies, drama shows, and religious programs. WPMI's original studios were located on St. Michael Street in Mobile. In 1985, Hess sold WPMI to Michigan Energy Resources. However, the sale did not affect programming practices. By that time, WPMI was acquiring stronger programming, such as more recent cartoons and off-network sitcom reruns. On October 9, 1986, WPMI became a charter affiliate of the Fox network and began offering prime time programming six months later.

In January 1989, Michigan Energy Resources sold WPMI to Clear Channel Communications; the company (the current-day iHeartMedia) at the time was still a small radio broadcaster in the pre-Telecommunications Act of 1996 era, and WPMI's purchase was its first foray into television.

In 1991, Clear Channel entered into a local marketing agreement, which became a common practice at that time, with Mercury Broadcasting-owned WJTC (channel 44). The company purchased programming time on WJTC to run shows on that station that either did not fit onto WPMI's schedule or were being burned off.

NBC affiliation[]

Fox wanted to upgrade affiliates in many markets when it acquired the rights to broadcast games from the NFL's National Football Conference in the mid-1990s. After signing an affiliation deal with New World Communications to switch its "Big Three" affiliates to Fox, the network decided to make affiliate upgrades in smaller markets. In 1995, Fox formed SF Broadcasting in a joint venture with Savoy Pictures, which the network owned a voting stock in, and bought three NBC affiliates and an ABC affiliate; one of the NBC stations it acquired was local rival WALA-TV (channel 10). Almost by default, WPMI was then left to take the NBC affiliation. On January 1, 1996, WALA switched its affiliation to Fox, while the NBC affiliation moved to WPMI. The first NBC program to air on WPMI was Today at 7:00 a.m. Central Time.

Upon becoming an NBC affiliate, the station began airing more syndicated talk and reality shows. The NBC affiliation's move to WPMI resulted in the station having to move most of the syndicated cartoons and most of the off-network sitcoms that it would no longer have time to air due to network programming commitments to LMA partner WJTC, which became a UPN affiliate two weeks after the switch on January 11, 1995. Clear Channel purchased WJTC outright in 2004, creating a duopoly with WPMI.

On April 20, 2007, Clear Channel Communications entered into an agreement to sell its television stations to private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, in order to focus on its radio properties. On March 15, 2008, WPMI and the other Clear Channel television properties were sold to Providence Equity-operated Newport Television.

In 2009, WPMI began using digital billboards within its viewing area, which featured headlines from the station's Twitter feed alongside a photo of anchors Greg Peterson and Kym Thurman, and chief meteorologist Derek Beasley, a juxtaposition that would prove to be awkward when a headline regarding three people accused in a gang rape which occurred in Monroeville, Alabama appeared next to the staff picture. A motorist took a picture of the digital billboard and sent it to a South Carolina-based blog, "The Palmetto Scoop". The picture would later appear on Mashable, and was then distributed worldwide in e-mails and other blogs, becoming an internet meme. WPMI general manager Shea Grandquest and news director Wes Finley were reportedly suspended over the incident, though it was never officially confirmed by station executives.

On July 19, 2012, Newport Television announced the sale of WPMI and WJTC, along with five other television stations to the Sinclair Broadcast Group (the owner of WEAR-TV and WFGX). However, due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules which forbid both one company from owning two of the four highest-rated stations or more than two stations overall in the same market, the licenses of WPMI and WJTC were transferred to Deerfield Media, although Sinclair would operate the two stations under a local marketing agreement. The transaction was completed on December 3, 2012. As in certain other markets where Sinclair operates two "Big Three" or "Big Four" affiliates, and due to the stations' distance from Pensacola, many of the operations of WPMI and WJTC remain separate from those of WEAR-TV and WFGX.