WTVH, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 47), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Syracuse, New York, United States. It is the only station whose broadcast license continues to be held by Granite Broadcasting, a moribund company (controlled by Greenwich, Connecticut-based hedge fund Silver Point Capital) that sold most of its remaining assets in 2014 and 2017. The station is operated under joint sales and shared services agreements by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, making it a sister station to NBC affiliate WSTM-TV (channel 3) and low-powered CW outlet WSTQ-LP (analog channel 14, which WSTM simulcasts on its second digital subchannel). The three stations share studios on James Street/NY 290 in the Near Northeast section of Syracuse; WTVH's transmitter is located in the town of Onondaga.
The station debuted on December 1, 1948 as WHEN-TV airing an analog signal on VHF channel 8. It went on-the-air as Syracuse's first television station. The channel was the first station owned and operated by the Meredith Corporation and was the 47th station to launch in the United States. Meredith simultaneously entered the television field in several Midwestern cities including Omaha and Kansas City. In 1954, it purchased WAGE radio (620 AM) and changed that station's call letters to WHEN (AM); it also switched the station's network affiliation to CBS Radio in 1956 matching it with other Meredith-owned outlets.
The station became a primary CBS affiliate on January 1, 1949, and also carried secondary affiliations with NBC, ABC, and DuMont. When the original WSYR-TV (now WSTM-TV) signed-on in 1950 and took the NBC affiliation, WHEN-TV shared ABC with that channel until WNYS-TV (channel 9, later WIXT-TV and now the present WSYR-TV) signed-on in 1962 and took the ABC affiliation. The affiliation with DuMont ended in 1956 when that network ceased operations.
In July 1961, WHEN-TV moved to channel 5 swapping channel locations with WROC-TV in Rochester as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revised its Upstate New York allocation table to provide more VHF service in the two cities. In 1963, the WHEN stations moved from their original Court Street studios into a new state-of-the-art facility on James Street near WSYR (AM)-FM-TV's studios. Popular national radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey originated his late-morning CBS network radio show from the new WHEN studios on the day the facility opened to help Meredith celebrate.
In 1976, the company sold WHEN radio to Park Communications but retained WHEN-TV. Since the radio station kept the WHEN call letters, Meredith had to change channel 5's call sign. It originally wanted the new call letters WTVF (TeleVision Five, referring to the station's on-air identity) but those had already been claimed by a station in Nashville, Tennessee. At this point, Meredith chose WTVH as the new calls with "H" being a link to its WHEN-TV heritage. In June 1993, Meredith announced the sale of WTVH and sister station KSEE-TV in Fresno, California to Granite Broadcasting with the sale closing on December 23 of that year.
Granite soon increased its Northeastern holdings with the purchase of WKBW-TV in Buffalo in 1995 and WBNG-TV in Binghamton in July 2006. As part of the WBNG-TV purchase, Les Vann (formerly President and General Manager of WTVH) was promoted to Executive Vice President of Central and Southern New York operations with regional responsibilities at both WBNG-TV and WTVH. At the same time, Matthew Rosenfeld was promoted to Vice President and Station Manager of this channel after holding the General Sales Manager position since 2004.
In April 2008, Matthew Rosenfeld was appointed to the position of President and General Manager of WTVH and its Binghamton sister stations (WBNG and "WBXI"). On April 6, 2008, Jean Daugherty died at age 84. She was known to many baby boomer children as "The Play Lady" on this station's locally produced children's program, The Magic Toy Shop, from 1955 until 1982. Daugherty wrote more than 6,000 episodes of the program, which after ending its run, was the longest-running local children's show in the country.
On March 2, 2009 as a result of continual low ratings, slow advertising sales, and the loss of the Ithaca area to WENY-DT2, it was announced that WTVH would enter into joint sales and shared services agreements with rivals WSTM-TV and WSTQ-LP. Initially, WTVH continued to operate out of its own facilities on James Street but eventually moved into WSTM-TV's studios a block away. WTVH's studios were put up for lease in Summer 2009 and were eventually sold after several years of vacancy to developer Lou Santaro in October 2016, who plans to convert the old studios into office space.
On September 6, 2009, its transmitter was damaged after a power failure. While Granite Broadcasting worked to fix the signal, WSTM-TV's third digital subchannel (normally a 24-hour local weather channel) carried WTVH. As of September 12, WTVH's signal was restored even though, as late as November 12, over-the-air viewers continued to experience breakup of the signal.
On February 28, 2013, Barrington Broadcasting announced the sale of its entire group, including WSTM-TV and WSTQ-LP, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. The existing LMA for WTVH was included in the deal; however, Granite retained ownership of WTVH's license assets. WSTM-TV planned to continue to operate the station until March 2016 (the agreement was earlier expected to last until March 2017 but the FCC later voted to outlaw all existing joint sales agreements by 2016). However, Sinclair continues to operate WTVH as of April 2016 pending legal action on the JSA regulations. The group deal also resulted in Sinclair selling its existing Syracuse market station (Fox affiliate WSYT, channel 68) and the LMA and purchase option for MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYS-TV (channel 43) to its sidecar company, Cunningham Broadcasting.
However, in an updated filing that August, Sinclair would instead sell WSYT and the LMA for WNYS-TV to Bristlecone Broadcasting, a company owned by Northwest Broadcasting owner Brian Brady. Sinclair continued to operate WSYT and WNYS-TV through a transitional services agreement for six months after the sale was consummated (until May 2014). With the sale of KSEE to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group in February 2013 and the announced sales of most of Granite's remaining stations to the E. W. Scripps Company and Quincy Newspapers in February 2014, along with the surrender of San Francisco independent station KOFY-TV's spectrum in the 2017 incentive auction, WTVH is the last remaining station whose license is held by SP Granite. As of April 2017, a month after the expiration of the joint sales agreement, WTVH continues to be operated by Sinclair.
From 1956, when CBS ended a secondary affiliation with WKTV after a dispute, to November 22, 2015, when WKTV affiliated its second digital subchannel with the network, WTVH served as the de facto affiliate for the majority of the Utica market, namely Herkimer County and that area's portion of Oneida County (Otsego County had former sister station WBNG as its default). WTVH was extremely protective of this status, barring current ABC affiliate WUTR from affiliating with CBS on at least one occasion. CBS also blocked a 1983 attempt by new station WTUV (now WFXV) to affiliate with the network, as it felt that its existing coverage in Utica (including carriage of WTVH on area cable systems) was sufficient (WTUV would sign on in 1986 as a Fox affiliate). Under Granite's ownership, WTVH did not take advantage of this status in terms of targeted advertising and news coverage focusing on the Utica area. Portions of that market lost access to WTVH's over-the-air broadcasts as a result of the 2009 digital television transition.
WTVH's schedule was carried in full on cable in Watertown due to its status as an out-of-market station that was "significantly viewed" over-the-air, even though the area has WWNY-TV as its own CBS affiliate. WWNY-TV's owner, United Communications, argued in a 2018 petition that WTVH's significantly-viewed status should be removed as it provides no over-the-air coverage to Watertown after the transition to digital. The FCC decided in United's favor, and WWNY-TV is now allowed to black out network and duplicate syndicated programming on WTVH's feed on local cable providers.
NFL/Buffalo Bills coverage issues
In 1997, CBS gained the rights to the American Football Conference of the National Football League. The league determined that portions of Yates County, a fairly narrow location only a few miles wide at certain points, was within 75 miles (121 km) of Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. That area is on the far western fringe of the Syracuse market and has varied between the Syracuse and Rochester markets several times. Therefore, WTVH was formerly forced to black out Buffalo Bills games if they do not sell out before a 72-hour deadline prior to kickoff. Before the launch of WKTV-DT2's CBS subchannel, this also meant the blackout de facto extended into the Utica market for CBS games. Since the 2015 NFL season the league's blackout policy has been suspended on a season-to-season basis, allowing Bills home games to air on WTVH regardless of sell-out status. WTVH's status was different from the years NBC held the AFC package, where WSTM was allowed to broadcast Bills home games regardless of sell-out status, mainly due to less finessed market boundary maps in the pre-digital age.
|TV stations in New York|
|WCBS, New York City|
|TV stations in Central New York, including Syracuse|
|WSTM 3 (NBC) |
WTVH 5 (CBS)
WSYR 9 (ABC)
WONO-CA 11 (COR)
WSTQ-LP 14 (CW)
WTVU-CD 22 (COR)
WCNY 24 (PBS)
WWLF-LP 35 (AMGTV)
W42EB-D 42 (Ind.)
WNYS 43 (MNTV)
WBLZ-LD 49 (Ind.)
WHSU-CD 51 (HSN)
WNYI 52 (Daystar)
WSPX 56 (Ion)
WSYT 68 (Fox)