WUTV, virtual channel 29 (UHF digital channel 14), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Buffalo, New York, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYO-TV (channel 49). The two stations share studios on Hertel Avenue near Military Road in Buffalo; WUTV's transmitter is located on Whitehaven Road (near I-190) in Grand Island, New York.
Since February 2008, WUTV serves as the Fox network feed received in the Cayman Islands. It joined the Primetime 24 lineup in 2009, serving most of the Caribbean islands.
WUTV signed on the air on December 21, 1970 as a general entertainment independent station; its schedule included cartoons (such as Astro Boy and Yogi Bear), sitcoms (such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Patty Duke Show, and The Munsters), sci-fi shows (such as Lost in Space, Ultraman, The Invaders and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), along with classic movies and drama series. WUTV's original studios were located at the transmitter site in Grand Island, New York. The station was owned by Ultravision Broadcasting Company, from which the "UTV" in the WUTV callsign originates (the WUTV call sign was originally to be used for a station on VHF channel 3 in Indianapolis, Indiana under the ownership of department store William H. Block Co., which never went on the air; the call sign was later issued to another station in Youngstown, Ohio with a construction permit on channel 21 that also never launched, with NBC affiliate WFMJ-TV purchasing that permit and moving from channel 73 to the channel 21 allocation that the Youngstown WUTV permit was originally intended to broadcast on). Ultravision was owned by Stan Jasinski, who also owned Buffalo's WMMJ (1300 AM) at the time; shortly thereafter, Jasinski spun off WMMJ to country musician Ramblin' Lou Schriver, who turned it into present-day WXRL. Jasinski had first filed an application for the station's license in 1963.
WUTV was the only independent station in Buffalo for many years and was the first commercially successful UHF station in Western New York; previous efforts on the UHF dial, including WBES-TV (channel 59), WBUF-TV (channel 17) and WNYP-TV (channel 26) all had failed within a few years of their debuts. Ultravision Broadcasting sold the station to Whitehaven Entertainment Corporation in 1977. The station was acquired by Citadel Communications, a Bronxville-based company not related to the larger radio station owner Citadel Broadcasting, in 1984.
On October 9, 1986, WUTV became one of the original charter affiliates of the newly launched Fox network. At the time, Fox only aired late night programming five days a week, so WUTV was still essentially programmed as an independent station. However, by 1989, WUTV was one of several Fox affiliates nationwide that were disappointed with the network's weak primetime programming offerings, particularly on Saturday nights, which were bogging down WUTV's otherwise successful lineup. Fox then signed an agreement with WNYB-TV (channel 49, now WNYO-TV) to become its new Buffalo affiliate, and WUTV reverted to being an independent station full-time. Later that year, WNYB-TV's owner, Act III Broadcasting (a company controlled by Norman Lear), offered to buy WUTV, and Citadel accepted. The sale was finalized in June 1990, and Lear moved WNYB-TV's stronger programming to WUTV, and brought the Fox affiliation back to the station in turn. He then sold WNYB-TV to Tri-State Christian Television (Act III was known for such acquisition practices).
ABRY Partners, forerunners to the current Nexstar Media Group, purchased WUTV in 1994 following its acquisition of the Act III group. On January 16, 1995, WUTV became a secondary affiliate of the upstart United Paramount Network (the UPN affiliation subsequently moved to WNGS (channel 67, now WBBZ-TV) and WONS (channel 21, WVTT-CD) in 1997, and then to WNLO (channel 23) in 2003). Sinclair Broadcast Group acquired WUTV as part of its purchase of some of ABRY's assets in 1997; Sinclair then bought WNYO-TV in 2001, creating a duopoly with WUTV. Since the 1994 NFL season, the station has aired Buffalo Bills games via the NFL on Fox; they are given at least two games a season to air, usually when the team plays host to an NFC team at New Era Field; although the station has seen more games aired since 2014 when the NFL instituted cross-flex rules, meaning that games can be arbitrarily moved to the station from WIVB, which airs most of the team's games.
After Sinclair came to a retransmission consent agreement in February 2007 nationally with Time Warner Cable, WUTV and WNYO-TV's high definition feeds began to be carried locally by the provider. WUTV's HD feed was not available on the region's other cable provider, Atlantic Broadband, until 2012. The Time Warner Cable agreement was to expire at the end of 2010, and the two companies were late in reaching an agreement. In the event Sinclair had pulled WUTV from TWC, a separate agreement allows Fox programming to be piped in from out of market (likely involving Nexstar Media Group, whose stations have been used as out-of-market superstations in the past to temporarily replace in-market network affiliates displaced due to carriage disputes). This made WUTV particularly vulnerable to a prolonged blackout. It does not produce any local content, serving mostly as a "pass-through" for automated programming. Much of its syndicated programming can be seen on other cable channels (such as TBS, WGN and TVGN), and much of its daytime programming consisted of infomercials. The dispute was resolved without a blackout.
On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WUTV, allowing them to continue carrying the network's programming until 2017. GritTV was added to a subchannel in October-November 2014.
The second subchannel was affiliated with The Country Network until early 2017 when it was announced to be switching over to TBD. On June 1, 2017, both digital subchannels were replaced, 29.2 with the previously announced TBD and 29.3 with Charge!.
Averted loss of Fox affiliation; near-sale to Fox
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The deal is expected to receive FCC approval sometime in the first half of 2018. The deal has brought concerns by Fox who see Sinclair as a competitor towards conservative-leaning news, as well as increased leverage by Sinclair on reverse compensation to air Fox programming.
On August 2, 2017, it was reported that Fox Television Stations was in talks with Ion Media to create a joint venture that would own their respective stations. The partnership was said to include plans to shift affiliations from Sinclair stations in favor of Ion-owned stations, such as those whose affiliation agreements are soon to expire. In Buffalo's case, this would include shifting Fox from WUTV to WPXJ-TV (channel 51). In the event that WUTV loses its Fox affiliation, the station may return to independent status.
The chances of WUTV keeping its Fox affiliation increased in October 2017 when Ion elected its stations to have must-carry status instead of retransmission consent, which the FCC ruled Ion must keep for three years. However, must-carry only applies to a main signal, allowing Fox to possibly affiliate with a digital subchannel on WPXJ-TV and other Ion stations.
On December 6, 2017, it was reported that Sinclair and Fox were working on a deal that would see its Fox affiliates renew their affiliation agreement in exchange for Sinclair selling some of its Fox affiliates directly to Fox Television Stations. The deal would see between six and ten Fox affiliates owned by Sinclair and Tribune (all in markets with an NFL team) become Fox owned-and-operated stations. It is not known if WUTV will be one of the stations sold, although the stations being sold to Fox are expected to be from Tribune Media (notably KCPQ in Seattle, where Sinclair already owns KOMO-TV), many of which were previously owned by Fox. A sale to Fox would make WUTV Buffalo's first Big Four network O&O since WBUF-TV (channel 17, now PBS member WNED-TV), which was owned by NBC from 1955 until its sign-off in 1958. On May 9, 2018, Sinclair announced that seven Fox affiliates would be sold to FTS, but WUTV was not included and an affiliation renewal was announced for that station instead, keeping WUTV with Sinclair.
|TV stations in New York|
|WNYW, New York City|
|TV stations in Western New York, including Buffalo and Niagara Falls|
|WGRZ 2 (NBC) |
WIVB 4 (CBS)
WKBW 7 (ABC)
WNED 17 (PBS)
WNLO 23 (CW)
WVTT 25 (THIS)
WNYB 26 (TCT)
WUTV 29 (Fox)
WDTB-LD 39 (Daystar)
WNYO 49 (MNTV)
WPXJ 51 (Ion)
WBXZ-LP 56 (Cozi)
WBBZ 67 (Ind.)