WTHR, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. Owned by the Dispatch Broadcast Group of Columbus, Ohio, it is a sister station to low-powered, Class A MeTV affiliate WALV-CD, channel 46 (which is simulcast on WTHR's third digital subchannel) and Columbus' CBS affiliate WBNS-TV (channel 10). WTHR and WALV share studios on North Meridian Street (south of I-65) in downtown Indianapolis; WTHR's transmitter is located near Ditch Road and West 96th Street in Carmel. On cable, WTHR is available on Charter Spectrum channel 12, and Comcast Xfinity and AT&T U-verse channel 13.
The station first signed on the air on October 30, 1957, as WLWI. Founded by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, it originally operated as an ABC affiliate, taking the affiliation from Bloomington-licensed WTTV (channel 4, formerly a CW affiliate, now a CBS affiliate), which had affiliated with the network one year earlier. WLWI was one of four Crosley stations that made up the "WLW Television Network", alongside the company's television and the regional network's flagship WLWT in Cincinnati, WLWC (now WCMH-TV) in Columbus and WLWD (now WDTN) in Dayton, Ohio. Crosley also owned WLW radio in Cincinnati, WLWA (now WXIA-TV) in Atlanta and WOAI-TV in San Antonio. Channel 13 and its sister stations in Ohio shared common programming (such as The Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club, The Bob Braun Show, The Paul Dixon Show, Midwestern Hayride, The Phil Donahue Show, and Cincinnati Reds baseball game telecasts) and similar on-air branding which reflected their connection to each other. Channel 13 called itself "WLW-I" to trade on its association with WLW radio, which can be heard in most of the market during the day with a good radio.
From 1957 to 1962, the station was tied up in one of the most heated licensing disputes in early television history. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) originally awarded the construction permit to build a television station on channel 13 to a group headed by Union Federal Savings and Loan president George Sadlier. However, after an appeal, the FCC reversed its decision and awarded the permit to Crosley. One of the other competitors, Richard Fairbanks, owner of WIBC, then sued to force new license hearings. Fairbanks contended that the FCC had erred in awarding the last VHF channel allocation in Indianapolis to a company based in Cincinnati when there were viable applicants based in Indiana. The suit, however, was filed too late to prevent WLWI from signing on under Crosley ownership.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals overturned the FCC's decision in 1958, but allowed Crosley to continue running the station pending further action by the FCC. In 1961, the FCC awarded Fairbanks the channel 13 license, but Crosley appealed. The following year, Crosley and Fairbanks reached a deal in which Crosley traded WLWA to Fairbanks in return for being allowed to keep WLWI.
Amid this instability in ownership, WLWI found the going rather difficult. It was also dogged by a weaker network affiliation; ABC would not be on an equal footing with CBS and NBC in the ratings until the 1970s. WLWI spent most of its first 17 years of operation languishing as a third place also-ran behind NBC affiliate WFBM-TV (channel 6, now ABC affiliate WRTV) and then-CBS affiliate WISH-TV (channel 8, now a CW affiliate). In some cases, it even fell to fourth place in the local ratings behind then-independent station WTTV.
In late 1974, Avco Broadcasting Corporation (which Crosley Broadcasting was renamed as in 1968) announced it was exiting the broadcasting business in an effort to raise cash. The Wolfe family, owners of the Columbus Dispatch and WBNS-AM-FM-TV in Columbus, bought WLWI from Avco in August 1975; the Wolfes changed the station's call letters to WTHR in early 1976. With new ownership in place, the quality of the station's programming began to improve, but WTHR remained stuck at third place in the ratings behind WISH and WRTV.
Meanwhile, ABC gradually rose to first place during the decade and was seeking out stronger affiliates in many markets. At the same time, NBC tumbled to last place among the "Big Three" networks. Under the circumstances, long-dominant WRTV was very receptive to an offer from ABC. WTHR and WRTV swapped networks on June 1, 1979, with channel 13 becoming the market's NBC affiliate and channel 6 becoming an ABC affiliate. The switch to NBC eventually provided a major windfall for WTHR starting when the NFL's Indianapolis Colts moved from Baltimore in 1984; until NBC lost the rights to the NFL to CBS in 1998 (effectively moving the games to WISH-TV and later WTTV in 2015), WTHR aired the bulk of the team's regular season games under the AFC package. Ratings gradually improved in the 1980s with NBC's powerful primetime lineup, but not enough to get the station out of third place.
On April 7, 1991, WTHR participated in an experiment in which it moved NBC primetime programming one hour earlier (mirroring the scheduling of the network's primetime lineup in the Central and Mountain time zones); the half-hour late evening newscast also moved from 11:00 to 10:00 p.m. as a result. (The experiment, which lasted until the fall of 1992, was succeeded by similar efforts by KRON-TV and KPIX-TV in San Francisco, and KOVR in Sacramento later in the decade.)
Channel 13 first saw a significant ratings boost in the mid-1990s, buoyed by NBC's stronger programming as well as improvements in its news department. It has long since left its ratings-challenged past behind, and is now one of the strongest NBC affiliates in the nation.
On September 2, 2007, WTHR celebrated its 50th anniversary; the station used the song "Carousels (Dreaming of Tomorrow)" by Columbus-based rock band Alamoth Lane in an image campaign to promote the event (the song was also used in a market campaign by Columbus sister station WBNS to promote its upgrade to high definition newscasts).
WTHR shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, at 12:37 a.m. on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 46 to VHF channel 13 for post-transition operations.
In February 2009, WTHR began affiliating its third sub-channel with Universal Sports. Starting in August 2009, WTHR preempted regular program on this sub-channel for a high school football or basketball game under the titles, Operation Football Live and Operation Basketball Live, with marketing support from VYPE High School Sports Magazine. These Operation had been a long time franchises for WTHR. WTHR formerly operated the SkyTrak Weather Network, which was carried on WALV-CD (channel 50, now on channel 46, where the service first launched in 2000) and simulcast on digital subchannel 13.2.
On December 14, 2011, the Dispatch Broadcast Group signed an agreement with MeTV to affiliate with WTHR; the station began carrying the classic television network on its second digital subchannel (which is also carried on Xfinity channel 248, and Spectrum channels 93 and 358) on January 1, 2012, replacing Universal Sports (which converted into a cable- and satellite-only network on that date). As January 25, 2013, WALV-CD/WTHR .2 affiliated with the classic television and lifestyle network Cozi TV replacing SkyTrak Weather Network.
For the 2016 Olympics from August 8th to 19th, some of WTHR syndicated programming was moved to WALV and its other subchannel. By May 26, 2017, WALV-CD began broadcasting MeTV, which stayed on WTHR 13.3, dropping Cozi TV programming. However, Cozi was retained by WTHR.2.
Due to reception problems in parts of Central Indiana with its VHF digital signal (including in areas on the fringe of its Grade B coverage such as Bainbridge and Crawfordsville) that did not occur with stations broadcasting on the UHF band following the transition, WTHR filed a request with the FCC in June 2013 to increase its transmitter power to 77,000 watts, which would exceed the Commission's maximum power limit in effect at the time.
On June 11, 2019, Dispatch announced it was selling its broadcasting assets, including WTHR and WALV-CD, to Tegna Inc. for $535 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019, pending FCC and Justice Department approval. It would make WTHR and WALV-CD sister stations to ABC affiliate WHAS-TV in adjacent Louisville and would also result in Tegna owning its first station in Indiana since its predecessor company, Gannett, sold off Fort Wayne's WPTA to the now-defunct Pulitzer, Inc. in May 1983.
|TV stations in Indiana|
|TV stations in Central Indiana, including Indianapolis, Bloomington and Muncie|
|WTTV 4 (CBS) |
WRTV 6 (ABC)
WISH 8 (CW)
WTHR 13 (NBC)
WREP-LD 15 (Youtoo)
WIIH-CD 17 (GetTV)
WDNI-CD 19 (TLM)
WFYI 20 (PBS)
WNDY 23 (MNTV)
WSOT-LD 27 (NRBTV)
WUDZ-LD 28 (Buzzr)
WTTK 29 (CBS)
WTIU 30 (PBS)
WSDI-LD 30 (Quest)
WHMB 40 (FBC)
WCLJ 42 (Bounce TV)
WALV-CD 46 (MeTV)
WBXI-CD 47 (Start TV)
WIPB 49 (PBS)
WIWU-CD 51 (Rel)
WXIN 59 (Fox)
WIPX 63 (Ion)
WDTI 69 (Daystar)