WTKR, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 40), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Norfolk, Virginia, United States, serving the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia (comprising the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Virginia Beach and environs), and the Outer Banks region of northeastern North Carolina. The station is owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, LLC, as part of a duopoly with Portsmouth-licensed CW affiliate WGNT (channel 27); the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company operates both stations under a shared services agreement. The two stations share studios on Boush Street in downtown Norfolk; WTKR's transmitter is located in Suffolk, Virginia.
The station began operation on channel 4 on April 2, 1950 as WTAR-TV, Virginia's second television station. It carried programming from all four networks of the time—NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont—but was a primary NBC affiliate. In its first year of operation, when only 600 TV sets existed in the area, it had 19 locally originated programs in addition to network shows. Within a year of the station's debut, it moved into a new radio-TV center at 720 Boush Street.
It was owned by Norfolk Newspapers, publisher of The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, along with WTAR radio (AM 790, now on AM 850), Virginia's first radio station, and WTAR-FM. It moved to channel 3 in 1952 in order to avoid interference with WNBW (now WRC-TV) in Washington, D.C.. When WVEC-TV signed on a year later as an NBC affiliate, WTAR-TV became a primary CBS affiliate, retaining its secondary ABC and DuMont affiliations.
WTAR became solely affiliated with CBS in 1957, when WAVY-TV signed on as the ABC affiliate (WAVY and WVEC would swap affiliations in 1959 making the latter station the ABC affiliate). DuMont also shut down in 1956. In 1967, Norfolk Newspapers was reorganized as Landmark Communications, WTAR-AM-FM-TV became the flagship stations. The station was one of several in the country to produce a local version of PM Magazine from the late 1970s to mid-1980s.
The Federal Communications Commission began tightening its ownership restrictions in the 1970s, eventually barring common ownership of newspapers and broadcasting outlets. Landmark was able to get grandfathered protection for its flagship Hampton Roads cluster. However, in 1981, it opted to sell channel 3 to Knight-Ridder, who changed the station's calls to WTKR on March 4. The new calls not only reflected the new ownership, but also sounded similar to the old ones. Knight-Ridder sold WTKR and sister station WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island to Narragansett Television in 1989. Narragansett sold WTKR to The New York Times Company in 1995.
Local TV and Tribune ownership
On May 7, 2007; the Times sold its entire broadcasting division, including WTKR, to Local TV. In June 2010, Local TV announced that it would be acquiring CW affiliate WGNT (channel 27) from CBS Corporation's Television stations group. WTKR managed the station through a time brokerage agreement from that point until Local TV closed on the purchase on August 4. This purchase created the market's second co-owned duopoly operation, after the LIN TV-owned combination of WAVY and Fox affiliate WVBT.
On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its 19 stations would be acquired by the Tribune Company, the owner of the Daily Press in Newport News, for $2.75 billion; Since this would conflict with FCC regulations that prohibit newspaper-television cross-ownership within a single market (although Tribune has maintained cross-ownership waivers for its newspaper-television station combinations in four other media markets), Tribune spun off WTKR and WGNT to Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, an unrelated company owned by former Tribune Company executive Ed Wilson. Tribune will provide services to the stations through a shared services agreement, and will hold an option to buy back WTKR and WGNT outright in the future. The sale was completed on December 27. Tribune later announced on July 10, 2013 that it would spin off its newspapers (including the Daily Press) into a separate company, the Tribune Publishing Company, in 2014, pending shareholder and regulatory approval.
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group—which has owned MyNetworkTV affiliate WTVZ (channel 33) since 1996—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in Tribune-held debt. While WTKR would not have been in conflict with existing FCC in-market ownership rules and could have been acquired by Sinclair in any event, the group was precluded from acquiring WGNT directly as broadcasters are not currently allowed to legally own more than two full-power television stations in a single market (both WTVZ-TV and WGNT rank below the ratings threshold that forbids common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations by total day viewership in a single market). Given the group's tendency to use such agreements to circumvent FCC ownership rules, Sinclair could have opted to either take over the operations of WTKR/WGNT or transfer ownership of and retain operational responsibilities for WTVZ-TV through a local marketing agreement with one of its partner companies.
Less than one month after the FCC voted 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 (such as KAUT-TV), 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.
Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group and resale
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned WAVY-TV and Fox affiliate WVBT (channel 43) since January 2017—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WTKR and WGNT 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. (WAVY and WTKR consistently rank among the top four in terms of total-day viewership in the Norfolk–Virginia Beach–Hampton Roads market, while WVBT and WGNT have occasionally rotated between fourth and fifth place, a situation that allowed for Media General and, later, Nexstar to acquire WVBT directly in their respective group acquisitions involving the WAVY/WVBT duopoly. Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WTKR/WGNT through local marketing or shared services agreements may be subject to regulatory hurdles that could delay completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, Nexstar will be required to sell two of the stations (and potentially, depending on its ratings status during the acquisition review, WVBT, either sold alongside WAVY or spun off to a second independent buyer depending on the ratings situation at the time) to separate, unrelated companies to address the ownership conflict. On January 31, 2019, Nexstar announced that WTKR and WGNT, along with WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania would be the first stations to be resold in order to comply with FCC regulations. However, a buyer for the stations has not been named yet.
|TV stations in Commonwealth of Virginia|
|WTKR, Hampton Roads/Norfolk|
|TV stations in the Hampton Roads region, including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Newport News, Virginia|
|WUND 2 (PBS) |
WTKR 3 (CBS)
WSKY 4 (Ind)
WGBS-LD 7 (RTV)
WAVY 10 (NBC)
WVEC 13 (ABC)
W14DC 14 (HSN2)
WHRO 15 (PBS)
WYSJ-CA 19 (Classic TV)
WTPC 21 (TBN)
WVAD-LD 25 (Daystar)
WGNT 27 (CW)
WTVZ 33 (MNTV)
WJGN-CD 38 (NRB)
WVBT 43 (Fox)
WPXV 49 (Ion)