WWBT is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Richmond, Virginia, United States. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 12 from a transmitter co-located with its studios on Midlothian Turnpike (U.S. 60) in the city. Owned by Gray Television, WWBT is part of a duopoly with Ashland-licensed CW affiliate WUPV (channel 65) and the two stations share studios.
WWBT is one of only a few stations in the country to have been affiliated with all three of the original major American television networks.
In the 1950s, there was competition for the market's third television frequency. WTVR-TV had been on-the-air since 1948 while WXEX-TV (now WRIC-TV) had been on-the-air from Petersburg since 1955. The main competitors for the analog VHF channel 12 license were Larus and Brother Tobacco Company, owner of WRVA (AM 1140) and WRVB-FM (94.5, now WRVQ) and Richmond Newspapers, owner of WRNL and forerunner of Media General. Larus later merged its application with Neighborhood Theaters' Richmond Television Corporation, assuming controlling interest. Both applicants had good records and were financially qualified, but RTVC won the license since it did not own a newspaper. At the time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was concerned about co-ownership of newspaper and broadcast outlets and preferred separation.
WRVA-TV signed-on for the first time on April 29, 1956 from a converted cow barn near the station's current facility. The studio and transmitter were located in what was then unincorporated Chesterfield County; the area was not annexed into the independent city of Richmond until the early 1960s. It was initially a CBS affiliate due to WRVA's long affiliation with CBS Radio. That station was one of the broadcasting powerhouses of the South, but that success did not transfer to its television sister. For instance, WRVA radio's top anchorman took the same role with channel 12, but was fired within a year when the popularity he had generated over a decade on radio failed to transfer to television. Part of the problem was that the goal of covering all of Central Virginia resulted in a marginal signal in Richmond itself and several close-in suburbs. With channel 12 remaining stubbornly in third place, CBS opted to return to long-dominant WTVR in 1960. Since WXEX was already affiliated with NBC, WRVA was left with struggling ABC. Ratings improved in the next five years leading Larus to try to seek the NBC affiliation, a switch which occurred in 1965. From 1959 until 1969, it broadcast an in-house children's series, The Sailor Bob Show.
In 1966, the family-owned Larus and Brothers (which had acquired full control of channel 12 in 1960) decided to split its various interests after longtime president William T. Reed died. Jefferson Standard Insurance Company of Greensboro, North Carolina emerged as the winner for WRVA-TV. It would have bought the radio stations as well, but at the time, the FCC normally did not allow common ownership of two clear-channel stations with overlapping nighttime coverage. Larus-owned WRVA's nighttime signal had a significant overlap with the signal of Jefferson Standard flagship WBT in Charlotte; between them, the two would have blanketed most of the eastern half of North America at night. As part of the application, Jefferson Standard requested a callsign change to the current WWBT, which occurred on November 28, 1968. The new owners immediately went to work overhauling the station's look. It was already in second place in the Richmond ratings by then, but by the early-1980s, was the highest-rated station in the market and one of the strongest NBC stations in the country. By this time, Jefferson Standard had changed its name to Jefferson-Pilot Corporation. Also helping matters was NBC's rise in the ratings to become the #1 network as the 1980s went on.
WWBT added a secondary WB affiliation in 1999, airing WB programming in late-night hours. This ended on August 31, 2006, in anticipation of The WB and UPN merging to form The CW; that network affiliated with former UPN affiliate WUPV. On October 10, 2005, Jefferson-Pilot announced a merger with Lincoln Financial Group. The sale became final on April 3, 2006, with the Jefferson-Pilot stations assuming the new corporate name of Lincoln Financial Media. On November 12, 2007, that company announced the sale of WWBT along with its two other television stations and Lincoln Financial Sports to Raycom Media for $583 million. Raycom already owned rival station WTVR. Since he FCC does not allow one company to own two of the four largest stations in a market, Raycom opted to keep the higher-rated WWBT and put WTVR on the market.
On June 24, 2008, the Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its agreement to purchase WTVR and sell Fox affiliate WRLH-TV. However, the United States Department of Justice, under provisions of a consent decree with Raycom Media, denied that company permission to sell WTVR to Sinclair in August 2008. As a result, Raycom sought and was eventually granted a temporary waiver for the purchase of WWBT to buy the company more time to find a suitable buyer for WTVR. The FCC approved the sale on March 25, 2008, and Raycom formally took control on April 1. WTVR was eventually swapped to Local TV.
Sale to Gray TelevisionEdit
On June 25, 2018, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced it had reached an agreement with Raycom to merge their respective broadcasting assets (consisting of Raycom's 63 existing owned-and/or-operated television stations, including WWBT and WUPV, the latter of which is being acquired outright, and Gray's 93 television stations) under Gray's corporate umbrella. The cash-and-stock merger transaction valued at $3.6 billion – in which Gray shareholders would acquire preferred stock currently held by Raycom – resulted in WWBT and WUPV becoming sister stations to CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, ABC affiliate WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg and CBS affiliate WCAV in Charlottesville, along with their low-powered sister stations. The sale was approved on December 20, and was completed on January 2, 2019.
|TV stations in Commonwealth of Virginia|
| WAVY, Hampton Roads/Norfolk|
|TV stations in Central Virginia, including Richmond and Petersburg|
| WTVR 6 (CBS) |
WRIC 8 (ABC)
WWBT 12 (NBC)
WXOB-LP 17 (Ind)
WCVE 23 (PBS)
WRLH 35 (Fox)
WZTD-LD 45 (TLM)
WRID-LD 48 (Daystar)
WCVW 57 (PBS)
WUPV 65 (CW)