WPVI-TV, branded on-air as 6 ABC, is an ABC owned-and-operated television station licensed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 6 from a transmitter located in Philadelphia's Roxborough neighborhood at 40°02′33.0″N 75°14′32.0″W. Owned by the ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, WPVI maintains studios on City Line Avenue (US 1) in the Wynnefield Heights section of Philadelphia.
The station first signed on the air on September 10, 1947, as WFIL-TV; it is Philadelphia's second-oldest television station. It was originally owned by Triangle Publications, publishers of The Philadelphia Inquirer and owners of WFIL radio (560 AM, and 102.1 FM). WFIL radio had been an ABC radio affiliate dating back to the network's existence as the NBC Blue Network. However, WFIL-TV started out carrying programming from the DuMont Television Network, as ABC had not yet ventured into broadcast television. When the ABC television network debuted on April 19, 1948, WFIL-TV became its first affiliate. Channel 6 joined ABC before the network's first owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City (now WABC-TV), signed on in August of that year. However, it retained a secondary affiliation with DuMont until that network shut down in 1956.
The WFIL stations were the flagship of the growing communications empire of Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications, which owned two Philadelphia newspapers (the morning Inquirer and, later, the evening Daily News), periodicals including TV Guide, Seventeen and the Daily Racing Form, and a broadcasting group that would grow to ten radio and six television stations.
The WFIL radio stations originally broadcast from the Widener Building in downtown Philadelphia. With the anticipated arrival of WFIL-TV, Triangle secured a new facility for the stations, located at Market and 46th streets, which opened in 1947. In 1963, Triangle built one of the most advanced broadcast centers in the nation on City (or City Line) Avenue in the Wynnefield Heights community, in a circular building across from rival WCAU-TV (channel 10). The station still broadcasts from the facility today, even as a new digital media building was constructed that now houses production of the station's newscasts and other local programs, while the original studio was turned over to public broadcaster WHYY-FM-TV.
Channel 6 has a long history of producing local programs. On March 26, 1948, it aired a production of "Parsifal" from the John Wanamaker Store that featured Bruno Walter conducting 50 players from the Philadelphia Orchestra, a chorus of 300, and the Wanamaker Organ. Perhaps its most notable local production was Bandstand, which began in 1952 and originated from WFIL-TV's newly constructed Studio B (located in the 1952 addition to the 46th and Market studio). In 1957, ABC added the program as part of its weekday afternoon network lineup and renamed it American Bandstand to reflect its more widespread broadcast scope.
Other well-known locally produced shows included the children's programs Captain Noah and His Magical Ark; a cartoon show hosted by Sally Starr; and Chief Halftown (whose host, Traynor Ora Halftown, was a full-blooded member of the Seneca Nation), and two variety programs: The Al Alberts Showcase, a talent show emceed by the lead singer of The Four Aces; and The Larry Ferrari Show, on which the host played organ versions of both popular and religious music. WFIL-TV also produced an early, yet long-running, program on adult literacy, Operation Alphabet. One of its earliest local series was Let's Pop the Question, from 1947 to 1948.
Channel 6 was the first station to sign on from the Roxborough neighborhood. It originally transmitted from a 600-foot (183 m) tower, but in 1957, it moved to a new 1,100-foot (335 m) tower, which it co-owned with NBC-owned WRCV-TV (channel 3, now CBS owned-and-operated station KYW-TV). The new tower added much of Delaware and the Lehigh Valley to the station's city-grade coverage. WFIL-TV was also one of the first TV stations in Philadelphia to broadcast local color.
As WPVI-TV (1971–present)Edit
In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a rule barring companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market. However, the agency "grandfathered" several existing newspaper and broadcasting cross-combinations in several markets. Triangle asked the FCC to grandfather its cluster of the Inquirer, the Daily News and WFIL-AM-FM-TV, but was turned down. As a result, in 1969, one year after the new regulation was made official, Triangle sold the Inquirer and the Daily News to Knight Newspapers (later renamed Knight Ridder).
In 1970, the FCC forced Triangle to sell off its broadcasting properties due to protests from then-Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp. Shapp complained that Triangle had used its three Pennsylvania television stations—WFIL-TV, WLYH-TV in Lebanon and WFBG-TV (now WTAJ-TV) in Altoona—in a smear campaign against him. The WFIL stations, along with radio-television combinations in New Haven, Connecticut and Fresno, California, were sold to Capital Cities Communications. As a condition of the sale, Capital Cities had to spin off the radio stations to other entities – in Philadelphia, WFIL-FM (now WIOQ) was sold to its general manager John Richer, and WFIL radio went to LIN Broadcasting. On April 27, 1971, shortly after the sale was approved and Capital Cities took control of channel 6, the station (due to a now-repealed FCC rule that stated that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership had to use different call letters) changed theirs to the current WPVI-TV.
Despite the ownership change, channel 6 continued preempting ABC programming in favor of locally produced and syndicated shows. In 1975, when ABC entered the morning news field with AM America, WPVI chose not to carry it, nor pick up AM America's successor, Good Morning America in its entirety for nearly three years, choosing instead to carry Captain Noah and His Magical Ark in place of the second hour of GMA. WPVI-TV also did not run other ABC daytime programs, notably The Edge of Night and numerous sitcom reruns. ABC was able to get most of its daytime schedule on the air in Philadelphia anyway through contracts with independent stations WKBS-TV (channel 48) and WTAF-TV (channel 29).
In March 1985, Capital Cities Communications announced it was purchasing ABC, a move that stunned the broadcast industry since ABC was some four times larger than Capital Cities at the time. Some have said that Capital Cities was only able to pull off the deal because WPVI-TV, the company's flagship property, had become very profitable in its own right. However, the merged company almost had to sell off Channel 6 due to a large signal overlap with WABC-TV. In the FCC's view, the merger gave the new company a de facto duopoly prohibited by the regulations of the time—the same "one-to-a-market" rule that forced Triangle to split its newspaper/broadcast combination in Philadelphia many years earlier. Capital Cities sought a waiver of the rules to keep WPVI, citing CBS' then-ownership of WCBS-TV in New York City and WCAU-TV locally in Philadelphia. The FCC granted the waiver, and when the transaction was finalized in early 1986, WPVI-TV became an ABC owned-and-operated station. A decade later, in 1996, The Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC.
Even in the years after WPVI became an ABC-owned station, it continued to preempt an hour of ABC daytime programs in favor of other programs. Wildwood, New Jersey-based NBC affiliate WMGM-TV (channel 40) picked up the pre-empted ABC shows until 1987, when those programs moved back to channel 29, which was now WTXF-TV. The preempted programs were usually magazine shows, game shows or reruns of ABC primetime sitcoms. By the early 1990s, WPVI preempted only the first half-hour of The Home Show.
On January 22, 1987, the station partially rebroadcast the suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer—which had occurred at a press conference earlier that morning—during its noon newscast.
In 1997, per a directive from the new Disney ownership, WPVI-TV began carrying the entire ABC network schedule for the first time in the station's history with the network. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of its highly rated local talk show, AM/Live (formerly AM/Philadelphia), which was shifted to an overnight timeslot to make room for ABC's then-new talk show The View. AM/Live was moved to 12:35 a.m. following Politically Incorrect and was renamed Philly After Midnight, where it lasted until 2001.
Today, WPVI carries the entire ABC lineup as well as syndicated programs such as Live with Kelly and Ryan and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (both of which are distributed by corporate cousin Disney-ABC Domestic Television). It also carries both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. In fact, the station's entire weekday lineup, including syndicated shows, is identical to that of sister station and ABC flagship station WABC-TV. WPVI is also the #1 television station in the Delaware Valley. From 1977 until 2015, WPVI aired the Pennsylvania Lottery live nighttime television drawings, which occur nightly at 6:59 p.m. ET; the Powerball drawings on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the Tuesday and Friday Mega Millions drawings air during the 11 p.m. newscasts on those nights (those television drawing rights moved to WTXF-TV).
As a result of ABC losing Monday Night Football to now-sister network ESPN in the 2000s, WPVI has aired the Philadelphia Eagles' preseason and Monday night games, as well as the team's coaches' show (those programs moved to WCAU-TV in 2015). However, in recent years, the Monday games have aired on news partner WPHL, while WPVI has opted to air the regularly-scheduled ABC programming, which includes the popular Dancing with the Stars. The Eagles' remaining games are split between KYW-TV (CBS), WCAU-TV (NBC) and WTXF-TV (Fox) through their respectively owned networks' NFL broadcast rights and NFL Network through its Thursday Night Football package. On January 28, 2010, WPVI entered into a multi-year agreement with Major League Soccer expansion team Philadelphia Union to broadcast selected games.
On September 12, 2009, WPVI moved to a new broadcasting complex at their same location at 4100 City Avenue near Bala Cynwyd next door to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The facilities are wired for high definition newscasts and is the third studio in the station's 62-year history since the station has moved to a circular building in 1964.
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
| WPVI, Philadelphia|
|TV stations in Philadelphia, including the Lehigh Valley and Tri State Area|
| WDPN 2 (MeTV)|
KYW 3 (CBS)