WVUE-DT, virtual channel 8 (UHF digital channel 29), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The station is owned by Gray Television. WVUE's primary studios are located on Jefferson Davis Parkway in the city's Gert Town section, with a secondary studio within the Benson Tower in downtown New Orleans; its transmitter is located on Magistrate Street in Chalmette. On cable, WVUE is available on Cox Communications channel 9 (cable channel 8 is occupied by an educational access channel).
Early years with ABC and CBS
The station first signed on the air on November 1, 1953 as WJMR-TV. Founded by Supreme Broadcasting Co., a locally based company run by lawyer Chester F. Owens (who served as the company's president), it was the second television station to sign on the air in the New Orleans market (behind WDSU-TV, which signed on in December 1948) and the third in Louisiana (behind WDSU-TV and Baton Rouge's WAFB, which signed on in April 1953). Originally broadcasting on UHF channel 61, it was moved to channel 20 on July 20, 1955. It originally operated as a primary CBS affiliate, while splitting ABC programming in off-hours with WDSU-TV. During 1957 and 1958, WJMR-TV had simulcast its signal on VHF channel 12, using the call sign KK2XFW. When WWL-TV (channel 4) signed on in September 1957, WWL took over the CBS affiliation because of WWL radio's longtime affiliation with the CBS Radio Network, leaving WJMR with ABC.
The station moved to VHF channel 13 on January 13, 1959 and subsequently changed its call letters to WVUE on February 1. The station moved to channel 12 on September 6, 1962 due to interference with Biloxi, Mississippi ABC affiliate WLOX, which also broadcasts on channel 13. Screen Gems, the television arm of Columbia Pictures, acquired the station from Supreme Broadcasting in 1965. On June 8, 1970 at 8:00 p.m., it made a highly publicized switch of channel positions with the city's PBS member station, WYES-TV, and moved to VHF channel 8, during an airing of the 1954 movie The Naked Jungle. This was done to give WVUE a greater broadcast signal range; while on channel 12, it had operated at relatively low power to avoid interfering with the signal of Jackson, Mississippi's WJTV, which had also broadcast on channel 12. The channel 61 allocation was later assigned to WLPN-LP (which operated from 1989 to the late 2000s) and the channel 20 allocation was assigned to religious station WHNO (which signed on in October 1994).
Columbia Pictures sold WVUE to Oklahoma City-based Gaylord Broadcasting Company in 1977. WVUE started broadcasting 24 hours a day in June 1986, becoming the last commercial television station in New Orleans to transition to a round-the-clock schedule. When Gaylord Broadcasting began a gradual paring down of its station group in 1987 (which would not be completed until 1999), WVUE was sold to the Burnham Broadcasting Company.
On December 18, 1993, the Fox Broadcasting Company outbid CBS for the rights to the NFL's National Football Conference television package. In March 1994, Fox partnered with minority-owned communications firm Savoy Pictures (which would serve as majority partner) to form SF Broadcasting. On August 25, 1994, the company bought WVUE, WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama and KHON-TV in Honolulu, Hawaii for $229 million; fellow sister station WLUK-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin was sold to the company one month earlier in a separate $38 million deal, which for a time, was challenged by an FCC petition filed by NBC alleging that the deal violated foreign investment limits for U.S. broadcasters (the only Burnham station exempted from the deal was KBAK-TV in Bakersfield, California, which was spun off to Westwind Communications, a company founded by several former Burnham executives). As part of the deal, Fox signed a long-term agreement, in which the network would affiliate with SF's four "Big Three" network affiliates, beginning in the fall of 1995. Fox originally planned to own a minority voting stock in SF Broadcasting; however, in 1995, Fox opted against holding a voting interest (which would have resulted in the stations being counted against the FCC's station ownership total), although it would retain an ownership stake. The transaction was completed in the summer of 1995.
WVUE-TV affiliated with Fox on January 1, 1996, ending its 43-year affiliation with ABC, which moved to independent station WGNO (channel 26); New Orleans's original Fox affiliate, WNOL-TV (channel 38), took the WB affiliation (that network had been affiliated with WGNO for just shy of a year prior to the switch, due to that station's owner, Tribune Broadcasting's partial ownership interest in The WB). Of the former Burnham stations that switched to Fox, WVUE was the only one involved in the deal that was an ABC affiliate: WALA (now owned by the Meredith Corporation), WLUK (now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group) and KHON (now owned by Nexstar Media Group) had previously been affiliated with NBC.
Because of Fox's acquisition of television rights to the National Football Conference, the switch resulted in channel 8 becoming the unofficial "home" station for the New Orleans Saints, carrying many of the team's Sunday afternoon road games. WWL-TV had aired most of the Saints' games beginning in 1970, when CBS assumed rights to the NFC upon the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League; when CBS lost the NFC broadcast rights to Fox in 1994, the Saints telecasts resided on WNOL-TV for the following two years. In addition to WVUE, the team's regular season games televised over-the-air locally are split primarily between WWL-TV (for select games televised by CBS in which the Saints play against an AFC opponent; CBS also had the rights to the Saints' lone Super Bowl), WGNO (through over-the-air rights to the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football package), WDSU (through NBC's rights to Sunday primetime and select playoff games as well as its local broadcast rights to Monday Night Football games during occasions when a game involving the Saints is scheduled) and preseason games (which, as of 2015, are produced by Raycom's sports division Raycom Sports).
On November 28, 1995, Silver King Communications (operated by former Fox executive Barry Diller) announced that it would acquire Savoy Pictures; at the time of the purchase, Silver King's existing stations had mainly been affiliates of the Home Shopping Network (both Silver King and HSN were later acquired by USA Networks). The sale of WVUE and the other SF stations was approved and finalized in March 1996, with its other assets being merged into the company that November. On April 1, 1998, Silver King subsequently sold the stations to Emmis Communications for $307 million in cash and stock, as part of a sale of its major network affiliates in order to concentrate on its formerly HSN-affiliated independent stations. On May 15, 2005, Emmis Communications announced that it would sell its 16 television stations, including WVUE, in order to concentrate on its radio properties.
After Hurricane Katrina struck Greater New Orleans on August 29, 2005, WVUE temporarily moved its operations to the studios of then-sister station WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama. WVUE's facility on Jefferson Davis Parkway is located in a low-lying part of New Orleans that was badly flooded due to the levee failures caused by Katrina. The damage that was caused to the building was so severe that Emmis released much of the station's on-air staff from their non-compete clauses, allowing them to seek employment outside of the market without penalty. Soon, meteorologist Crystal Wicker left for Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV, where she began work on October 3. Weekend meteorologist Jeff Baskin went to Portland, Oregon's KOIN-TV; reporter Summer Jackson went to Chicago to work at CLTV, while reporter Kerry Cavanaugh took a job at WBAL-TV in Baltimore.
Following the storm, WVUE presented a rotating 15-minute newscast that was streamed on its website and was produced out of WALA's studios, slowly restoring the station's regular schedule as developments faded and reconstruction on WVUE's news operations continued. WVUE later resumed its over-the-air broadcasts from a low-power transmitter as an alternate site, which provided a reduced signal that did not reach most of the market; the station's analog signal was upgraded to full power on September 19, 2005 from its transmitter facility in Chalmette, which had flooded during the storm. In mid-June 2006, construction of the station's permanent news set and weather center was completed. Before then, a temporary news set and newsroom were set up in the station's production room. Station manager Vanessa Oubre said that remodeling/reconstruction of the rest of the building was expected to be completed by November 2006. The sale of the station was also affected and was delayed for two years because of the rebuilding; Emmis had intended to divest all its television assets by the start of 2007, but retained ownership of WVUE in the interim until a buyer was found.
Purchase by Tom Benson
On May 5, 2008, Emmis Communications announced an agreement to sell the station to the Louisiana Media Company, a media group founded by Tom Benson (owner of the city's two major league sports franchises, the NFL's New Orleans Saints and the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans) for $41 million. Benson stated that he planned for the new company to acquire several radio and television stations nationwide and to be involved in movie production. The FCC approved the sale on July 14, 2008, with the transfer being finalized four days later on July 18. In August 2012, WVUE opened a secondary studio facility (branded as the "Window on New Orleans") on the second floor of the Benson Tower in downtown New Orleans (overlooking Champions Square and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) that was utilized for the station's weekday morning newscast and for coverage of sports events. When Hurricane Isaac struck the area in August 2012, the station provided a web stream of the station's storm coverage to Shreveport ABC affiliate KTBS-TV, which carried WVUE's stream over digital subchannel 3.3, to provide information for area evacuees who relocated to the Ark-La-Tex region.
SSA with and eventual outright sale to Raycom
In October 2013, Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) stated in its newsletter, The Advisor, that Raycom Media (a company which RSA invests in), would purchase WVUE for $55.6 million, pending FCC approval. A spokesperson for Tom Benson called The Advisor item "inaccurate" and that the station was not for sale; RSA CEO David Brenner called the report a "mistake." However, on November 20, 2013, Raycom announced that it would begin operating WVUE under a shared services agreement (SSA) to take effect on December 16; under the agreement, Benson remained WVUE's owner and retained the station's license, but most of WVUE's staff became Raycom employees; Louisiana Media president Joe Cook, who relinquished his additional duties as the station's general manager, commented that the deal would allow WVUE to benefit from the regional presence that Raycom provides; the Alabama-based station group has a well-established presence in the Southeastern U.S., including ownership of three other stations in Louisiana (in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Shreveport). Upon the takeover, former WWL-TV news director Sandy Breland was appointed as WVUE's vice president and general manager, joining other WWL and Belo alumni among its staff.
The partnership stemmed from a near-acquisition of the station by Raycom, which had been one of several companies to make offers for the station. However, Benson was not prepared to sell WVUE completely, leading to the negotiation of the SSA. Raycom president Paul McTear also noted that the story in The Advisor was the result of human error, and that there was not a deal to acquire the station. Benson had considered expanding his broadcast holdings into other nearby markets, but noticed that Raycom had a presence in all of the markets he considered.
On February 6, 2017, Louisiana Media Company exercised the option to sell WVUE's license assets to Raycom, pending FCC approval. Two months later on April 4, Raycom formally announced that it would purchase WVUE from the Louisiana Media Company for $51.8 million. Benson would continue to retain a stake in WVUE. Raycom management and Benson finalized the sale on August 8. Benson died several months later, on March 15, 2018; the Benson estate continues to maintain the minority stake in WVUE.
|TV stations in Louisiana|
|WVUE, New Orleans|
|TV stations in Greater New Orleans|
|WWL 4 (CBS) |
WDSU 6 (NBC)
WVUE 8 (Fox)
WYES 12 (PBS)
WHNO 20 (CTN)
WTNO-LP 22 (AZA)
WGNO 26 (ABC)
KNLD-LD 28 (Daystar)
KFOL-CD 30 (Ind)
WLAE 32 (ETV)
WQDT-LD 34 (Buzzr)
WNOL 38 (CW)
KNOV-CD 41 (Info)
KGLA 42 (TLM)
K47JO-D 47 (HSN2)
WPXL 49 (Ion)
WUPL 54 (MNTV)