WTTV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 48), is a CBS-affiliated television station serving Indianapolis, Indiana, United States that is licensed to Bloomington. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company, as part of a duopoly with Fox affiliate WXIN (channel 59). The two stations share studios on Network Place (near 71st Street and I-465) in the Intech Park office development in northwestern Indianapolis; WTTV's transmitter is located on State Road 252 in Trafalgar.
WTTV operates a full-time satellite station, WTTK (virtual and UHF digital channel 29), licensed to Kokomo, which shares transmitter facilities with WXIN on West 73rd Street/Westlane Road on the northern outskirts of Indianapolis (west of Meridian Hills). WTTK was originally used to bring WTTV's programming to areas of central Indiana that had marginal to non-existent reception of the main WTTV signal (including the cities of Kokomo, Muncie and Lafayette). However, post-digital transition with the transmitter's relocation into Marion County, it nearly duplicates the signal contours of WRTV (channel 6), WISH-TV (channel 8) and WXIN; there is significant overlap between the coverage areas of both WTTV and WTTK's signals otherwise. On-air references to WTTK are limited to Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-mandated hourly station identifications during newscasts and other programming, along with tuning recommendations for over-the-air viewers to the north of Indianapolis.
On cable, WTTV is available on Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum and AT&T U-verse channel 4.
The station first signed on the air on November 11, 1949, originally broadcasting on VHF channel 10. It was the second television station to sign on in the state of Indiana, debuting almost 6½ months after WFBM-TV (now WRTV) signed on in May 1949. It has made the claim to being Indiana's oldest "continuously operating" television station because WFBM-TV had experienced a transmitter failure which took it off the air for an extended period of time shortly after WTTV signed on. Owned by Sarkes Tarzian, a Bloomington-based radio manufacturer and broadcaster, the station originally operated as a primary NBC affiliate with secondary affiliations with ABC and the DuMont Television Network. It also aired programming from CBS on occasion.
WTTV originally transmitted its signal from its studio just south of downtown Bloomington, shared with sister station WTTS 1370. Sarkes Tarzian built a new studio and transmitter on the north end of the Tarzian factory property on Bloomington's south side in 1952. When it moved from Channel 10 to 4 on February 21, 1954, the transmitter was moved to a 1,000-foot (305 m) tower near Cloverdale, and the power was increased to 100,000 watts. The Channel 10 allocation had been reassigned to Terre Haute when the FCC lifted the TV freeze in 1952, and was then used by WTHI-TV, which signed on in July 1954.
In its early years, instead of buying most of the expensive items needed to run a television station, Tarzian had his own engineers and technicians design and build the items needed. For example, an overhead microphone boom cost approximately $300. Tarzian employees built one for less than $30. When Tarzian decided to start broadcasting network programs, establishing a coaxial cable link from Cincinnati would prove impractical, so Tarzian built his own microwave relay system from Cincinnati to Bloomington.
The station lost the ABC affiliation after WISH-TV signed on in July 1954. In 1956, the station lost the NBC affiliation to WFBM-TV; WTTV rejoined ABC after WISH-TV took a primary affiliation with CBS. That same year, it relocated its studio facilities to a site at Bluff Road on the south side of Indianapolis, although the station retained its studios on the Tarzian property in Bloomington as an auxiliary site for many years afterward. In the late 1950s, the station began producing some of its local programs in color; WTTV would convert to full color broadcasts in the fall of 1965, after it purchased color-capable camera equipment.
The station activated its current tower in Trafalgar, the tallest structure in Indiana at 1,132 feet (345 m) above ground level, in 1957. The transmitter facility is located farther south than Indianapolis' other major television stations due to FCC regulations that require a station's transmitter site be located no more than 15 miles (24 km) from its city of license—in this case, Bloomington, which is 50.5 miles (81.3 km) south of Indianapolis. WTTV only provided a grade B ("rimshot") signal to the city's northern suburbs and could not be seen at all in the far northern portions of the market. As a result, most of these areas only got a clear signal from channel 4 when cable television arrived in central Indiana in the late 1960s. Because of this rule, when WTTV regained the ABC affiliation, WLBC-TV in Muncie (channel 49, allocation now occupied by PBS member station WIPB) served as the de facto ABC affiliate for the northern part of the market.
As an independent stationEdit
On October 30, 1957, WTTV became an independent station after losing the ABC affiliation to upstart WLWI (channel 13, now WTHR). In its early years as an independent, WTTV began running a test pattern at 2 p.m. until regular programming began at 4 p.m. The station initially ran older movies and low-budget syndicated programs as well as some of its own locally produced programming. By the 1970s, WTTV began signing on by 6 a.m. and stayed on the air until at least 2 a.m. In addition to local programming, WTTV aired plenty of movies during the early afternoon hours and in primetime. It also aired cartoons, which were mixed in with locally produced children's programs in the afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m. as well as off-network sitcoms in the evenings.
As cable expanded in the Midwest during the 1970s, WTTV became a regional superstation. At its height, it was available on nearly every cable system in Indiana (except the northwest). It was also carried in large portions of Ohio and Kentucky, including Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville and Lexington. Due to the syndication exclusivity rule, it disappeared from most cable systems outside Indiana (except for the Kentucky side of the Evansville market) in the late 1980s.
Sarkes Tarzian sold WTTV to Teleco for $26.5 million in September 1978; the station was then sold to the Tel-Am Corporation in March 1984. By the mid-1980s, WTTV began airing more cartoons and first-run syndicated talk shows during the daytime hours, as well as an increased number of recent off-network sitcoms during the evening. The station also began broadcasting 24 hours a day of programming by that time. Although it was one of the strongest independent stations in the country, WTTV opted against affiliating with the upstart Fox network in 1986—one of the few long-established independents to do so. This was mainly because most of the markets in its large cable footprint had enough stations to provide Fox affiliates of their own, making the prospect of being a multi-state Fox affiliate unattractive to channel 4. The Fox affiliation in the Indianapolis market instead went to eventual sister station WXIN (channel 59), which became a charter affiliate of the network when it launched on October 6 of that year.
In 1987, Tel-Am purchased the construction permit for WWKI-TV (channel 29) in Kokomo, 52 miles (84 km) north of Indianapolis, from B.G.S. Broadcasting. B.G.S., who also owned WWKI radio (100.5 FM) until 1986, had concluded that there were not nearly enough viewers in north-central Indiana for WWKI-TV to be viable as a standalone station, and its merger with WTTV allowed channel 29 to come on the air. On May 1, 1988, Tel-Am signed channel 29 on as WTTK, a full-time satellite of WTTV, to improve its over-the-air coverage in northern portions of the market that could not receive the WTTV signal. Tel-Am filed for bankruptcy in 1987; Raleigh, North Carolina-based Capitol Broadcasting Company purchased WTTV and WTTK in July 1988, after an attempt to sell the station to locally based Emmis Communications fell through. The stations were then sold to River City Broadcasting in 1991. In September 1993, the station began carrying programming from the Prime Time Entertainment Network syndication service.
From UPN to The WBEdit
WTTV became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN) when the network launched on January 16, 1995. In April 1996, River City Broadcasting merged with the Sinclair Broadcast Group in a $1.2 billion deal. However, due to FCC regulations at that time which prohibited the common ownership of two full-power commercial television stations in the same market, Sinclair had to obtain a cross-ownership waiver to retain ownership of WTTV/WTTK and the company's existing Indianapolis station, inTV affiliate WIIB (channel 63, now Ion Television owned-and-operated station WIPX-TV), which the company eventually sold to DP Media two years later.
In 1997, Sinclair signed a deal with The WB to affiliate with several UPN-affiliated and independent stations that the company either managed or owned outright. While WTTV was not included in the original deal, Sinclair subsequently notified UPN that it was not interested in renewing the station's affiliation, leading network sister company Paramount Stations Group to strike a deal to buy WB charter affiliate WNDY-TV (channel 23), though Paramount pledged at the time to keep WNDY a WB affiliate through the expiration of its contract in January 1999. WTTV temporarily returned to being an independent station when its contract with UPN expired on January 16, 1998, filling its primetime schedule with movies; on January 22, WNDY began to carry UPN programming in addition to The WB. WTTV then replaced WNDY as the market's WB affiliate on April 6, 1998 and changed its on-air branding to "WB 4 Indiana"; channel 23 then became a full-time UPN affiliate.
As The WB pushed for market exclusivity for its local affiliates as the network increased its national distribution beyond the Tribune Company's television stations and the superstation feed of its Chicago affiliate (and Tribune flagship station) WGN-TV, Sinclair decided to wind down carriage agreements that the station had with cable providers located outside of the Indianapolis market. The station remains available on cable systems on the Indiana side of the Terre Haute market, which until 2017 did not have an over-the-air CW affiliate, though this is expected to end with WTTV's CBS affiliation. CW network programming is now only available in Terre Haute via the third digital subchannel of WTHI-TV.
On April 19, 2002, Sinclair Broadcast Group sold WTTV and WTTK to Tribune Broadcasting for $125 million, creating the market's first television duopoly under current FCC regulations with Fox affiliate WXIN; the purchase was finalized on July 24 of that year (Tribune held an ownership interest in The WB at the time; however, WTTV could not technically be considered an owned-and-operated station since Time Warner held a 78% majority interest in the network).
Although WTTV was the longer-established of the two stations, Tribune chose to keep the Fox affiliation on WXIN due in part to WTTV's then-weaker analog signal in the northern part of the market. Additionally, the NFL on Fox, until the 2014 implementation of Fox/CBS cross-flex scheduling, could only carry two Indianapolis Colts home games with National Football Conference (NFC) opponents each year as the team is part of the National Football League's American Football Conference (AFC), so the need for Fox to have an analog-era VHF affiliate in the market was less important than if it was an NFC market. WTTV merged its operations with those of WXIN in 2004, when the latter moved its operations into new facilities at 6910 Network Place at the Intech Park office development on the city's northwest side.
Affiliation switch with WISH-TVEdit
On August 11, 2014, CBS and Tribune Broadcasting announced that WTTV would become Indianapolis' CBS affiliate beginning on January 1, 2015. The deal, which was part of an agreement that also renewed the CBS affiliations on Tribune-owned stations in four other markets, including WTKR, which is owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting and operated by Tribune through a shared services agreement (SSA), was driven by CBS' desire for reverse retransmission consent compensation from its affiliates; WISH-TV had been in negotiations to renew its agreement with the network, but station management reportedly balked at CBS' demands. This led to CBS reaching a deal with WTTV, which Tribune was eager to land since the network holds the broadcast television rights to the AFC, which includes rights to most of the Indianapolis Colts' regular season games. This marked the second time that WTTV has taken a network affiliation away from WISH, the first being when it took the ABC affiliation in 1956.
After initially announcing plans to move The CW to its second digital subchannel, Tribune announced on December 22, that it would instead sell the CW affiliation in the market to WISH-TV's owner, Media General (which finalized its merger with that station's longtime owner, LIN Media, three days earlier); as a result, WISH effectively swapped affiliations with WTTV and became a CW affiliate. The first CBS program to air on WTTV was a repeat of Indianapolis native David Letterman's talk show, the Late Show, which aired at 12:15 a.m. on January 1.
WTTV became the third television station in Indianapolis to affiliate with CBS. The network had originally been aligned with WFBM-TV (now WRTV) beginning in 1949, before moving to WISH in 1956. WTTV became one of the few stations in the United States, and the second in Indianapolis (after WRTV) to have served as a primary affiliate of all three heritage broadcast networks. It is also the only American television station to have carried affiliations with each of the "Big Three" networks (excluding the "Big Four" era's Fox), three of the four "netlets" (excluding MyNetworkTV and not counting the PTEN programming service) and have independent status on its primary channel all at different periods through its history.
In preparation for the move to CBS, WTTV unveiled a separate website in November 2014, after three years of being relegated to a section of WXIN's website. At the same time, the station announced that it would change its branding from "Indiana's 4" to "CBS 4" (with branding similar mostly to CBS owned-and-operated stations in Denver, Miami, Boston and Minneapolis and unveiled a logo (seen above) that is also similar to KCNC-TV's KCBS-style logo) upon affiliating with the network.
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast GroupEdit
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Had the deal been consummated, it would have returned WTTV back under Sinclair control after sixteen years. Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote 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 U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, 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. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Fox's purchases of KSTU and the other six Tribune stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group and possible resaleEdit
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned WISH-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WNDY-TV (channel 23) 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 WXIN and WTTV/WTTK 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. (Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WXIN and WTTV/WTTK 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 (including one ranking in the top four in ratings; WTTV and WTTK counting as one station) to a separate, unrelated company to address the ownership conflict, potentially creating two new duopolies.
|TV stations in Indiana|
| WTTV, Bloomington|
|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 (Ion Life)
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)