WWL-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 36), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. as part of a duopoly with Slidell-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WUPL (channel 54). The two stations share studios on Rampart Street in the historic French Quarter district; WWL-TV's transmitter is located at 4 Cooper Road in Terrytown.
On cable, the station is available on Cox Communications channel 3 in standard definition (Cox's local origination channel YurView Louisiana is carried on channel 4) and digital channel 1003 in high definition. WWL serves as the primary CBS station for the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi, and formerly served as the default CBS affiliate for the area until ABC affiliate WLOX (channel 13) in Biloxi launched a CBS-affiliated digital subchannel in 2012.
The station first signed on the air on September 7, 1957; coincidentally, it was the fourth television station to sign on in the New Orleans market, behind WDSU-TV (channel 6)—which signed on in December 1948, WJMR-TV (channel 61, now WVUE-DT on channel 8)—which signed on in November 1953, and WYES-TV (channel 8, now on channel 12)—which signed on in April 1957, five months before WWL-TV's launch. It was originally owned by Loyola University New Orleans, which also owned radio station WWL (870 AM). WWL-TV has been an affiliate of the CBS television network since its inception, as WWL radio had been (and still is) an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network since 1935. Channel 4 competed head-to-head with NBC affiliate WDSU for first place during the 1960s and 1970s. However, after Edgar B. Stern, Jr. sold WDSU to South Carolina-based Cosmos Broadcasting in 1972, it began deemphasizing local features in favor of its highly regarded newscasts. By comparison, WWL, as the only locally owned station, heavily stressed its local roots. By the early 1980s, WWL had emerged as the market's ratings leader.
In 1988, WWL and Cox Cable, the major cable provider serving areas of Greater New Orleans located south of Lake Pontchartrain, entered into a joint venture to form a cable-only news channel called NewsWatch 15 (named after the cable slot on Cox where the channel is carried), which debuted on October 20, 1989. NewsWatch 15 was one of the first regional cable news channels in the United States at the time. The channel airs rebroadcasts and live simulcasts of local newscasts seen on WWL, along with breaking news coverage that does not necessarily warrant extended coverage on channel 4.
In 1989, Loyola sold its media properties to different owners. WWL radio and its FM sister station, WLMG (101.5) were purchased by Keymarket Communications, while WWL-TV's employees formed a group called Rampart Broadcasting (named after the road, Rampart Street, where the station's studio facility is located), led by general manager J. Michael Early and longtime news director and station editorialist Phil Johnson, and bought the station. It was the first (and thus far, only) time that an employee-investor group acquired a U.S. television station (CHEK-TV in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada was similarly acquired by an employee-led group in 2009, which narrowly avoided the station's shutdown).
In 1990, WWL-TV began running one of the most successful station image campaigns in the United States with the debut of its "Spirit of Louisiana" promotions. The one-minute spots focus on the region's musical and cultural heritage, and also showcase life in southeastern Louisiana. Many of the ads aired as part of the campaign, which continues to this day, feature well-known area musicians and singers.
The station's local ownership came to an end in 1994, when the station was bought by the Dallas-based Belo Corporation. That year, channel 4's status as the unofficial "home" station of the New Orleans Saints came to an end after CBS lost the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference television package to Fox in December 1993. WWL-TV had aired most of the Saints' games since the team's inception in 1966, when CBS was the broadcast rightsholder for the pre-merger NFL, and continued upon the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League in 1970 with CBS becoming the NFC rightsholder. After CBS lost the NFC broadcast rights, the Saints telecasts moved to then-Fox affiliate WNOL-TV (channel 38) for the 1994 and 1995 seasons, before moving again to WVUE-TV (channel 8) upon that station's switch from ABC to Fox in January 1996. Today, WWL-TV only carries select games televised by CBS, primarily those in which the Saints play host to an AFC opponent at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome although NFL cross-flexing procedures established in 2014 now allow for road games or NFC home games to be carried by CBS. The station also aired the Saints' victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
In 2005, Viacom—which owned UPN station WUPL-TV (channel 54, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) at the time through its Paramount Stations Group subsidiary—had made an offer to acquire WWL-TV, which would have created a duopoly with WUPL and turned channel 4 into a CBS owned-and-operated station (Viacom owned CBS from its 1999 merger with the network, which ironically traces the former company's history back to its existence as a syndicator of CBS programming, until December 2005, when shared parent National Amusements decided to split Viacom and CBS into two separate companies). However, after Belo rejected Viacom's purchase offer for WWL, Viacom instead reached a deal to sell WUPL to Belo in July of that year for $14.5 million. The deal was slated to close by the end of 2005, but was placed on hold when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Greater New Orleans area in late August. As a result, on February 9, 2006, CBS filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the Belo Corporation over the failure to finalize the sale of WUPL to Belo. The litigation was later settled on February 26, 2007, with Belo announcing that it would complete its purchase of WUPL. The deal had already received Federal Communications Commission approval, and was finalized on February 26, 2007; Belo moved WUPL's operations into WWL's Rampart Street studio facility in mid-April 2007.
Two days prior to Hurricane Katrina's landfall, WWL-TV began 24-hour continuous coverage of the storm on August 27, 2005 from its Rampart Street facility. Following a meeting between chief meteorologist Carl Arredondo and then-news director Sandy Breland on enacting a plan to evacuate station staff, at 10:45 p.m. on August 28, the station moved its operations to the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge—which had agreed the year prior to allow WWL to use the journalism school as a backup facility in the event that a major hurricane forced the station to evacuate from New Orleans. 20 employees were evacuated to the LSU campus, 20 more were moved to the transmitter site in Gretna and an additional 28 staffers remained at the Rampart Street facility (those staffers eventually evacuated to the Hyatt Regency Hotel as conditions worsened). LSU students and staff helped produce the telecast with WWL-TV staff in a "bare bones" fashion.
The station briefly returned to its Rampart Street studios in New Orleans on August 29 at 4:00 p.m. Flooding forced the station to again move operations back to the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, as well as a foyer used as a makeshift studio at the Gretna transmitter site, which did not sustain significant damage as the facility—built in 2000—was constructed to withstand 140-mile-per-hour (230 km/h) winds with the transmitter building positioned 15 feet (4.6 m) above ground on concrete; the transmitter site was evacuated on August 30 due to looting concerns. WWL was the only New Orleans station that was able to provide coverage of the storm and its aftermath uninterrupted, as it relayed its signal via fiber optic relay and used a satellite truck loaned to the station by Houston sister KHOU-TV to provide live field reports and helicopters loaned from KHOU and Dallas sister station WFAA. Due to overcrowding with WWL and other Belo station staffers at the Manship School building, on September 1, the station moved operations again, this time to the studios of Louisiana Public Broadcasting station WLPB-TV in Baton Rouge. This provided WWL with a much larger facility and expanded its audience to include LPB's statewide network; the station's coverage was also carried by many PBS stations in Louisiana and Mississippi as well as by KHOU and WFAA. WWL's operations returned to New Orleans about six weeks later.
WWL-TV's extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina earned the station its sixth Peabody Award in early April 2006, as well as a duPont–Columbia Award in 2007; it was also recounted in an episode of The Weather Channel documentary series Storm Stories.
After Hurricane Katrina, some of the station's most visible talent—including weekend anchor/reporter Josh McElveen and reporter Stephanie Riegel—left channel 4 to pursue other opportunities. 10:00 p.m. anchor Karen Swensen also left WWL to work at Boston-based regional news channel New England Cable News; meteorologists David Bernard and John Gumm also left the station (Bernard was already scheduled to leave the station before the storm struck).
Following the storm, WWL-TV brought back a station editorial segment. Modeled after the editorials presented for many years until the 1990s by longtime news director and station manager Phil Johnson, editorials seen in the present day (which air during the station's 6:00 p.m. newscast on Tuesday nights) are read via script by WWL-TV political analyst Clancy Dubos, who discusses current political issues related to the post-Katrina redevelopment of New Orleans.
In 2004, WWL-TV and Belo announced plans to construct a new multimillion-dollar broadcasting facility for the station and WUPL at 700 Loyola Avenue in downtown New Orleans. The complex—to have been named the J. Michael Early Broadcast Center, after the station's former general manager—was originally scheduled to be completed in late 2007 or early 2008. Groundbreaking of the new facility occurred on July 25, 2005 (just over one month before Katrina hit on August 29); however, its construction has been delayed (as of recently, the site is still a parking lot). As a result, WWL-TV and WUPL will remain at the existing Rampart Street studio location for the foreseeable future. WWL-TV celebrated its 50th anniversary of broadcasting on September 7, 2007; it observed its 55th anniversary half a decade later, in 2012, and its 60th in 2017.
The same agreement for the use of Louisiana Public Broadcasting's studio facilities and the simulcast on LPB's stations statewide that was enacted following Hurricane Katrina was also utilized for coverage of Hurricane Gustav, when the storm hit southern Louisiana in early September 2008. WWL's coverage also carried on the second digital subchannels of fellow Belo sister stations WFAA-TV in Dallas and KHOU-TV in Houston for the convenience of evacuees who relocated to Texas to avoid the storm.
Sale to the Gannett Company and Gannett-Tegna splitEdit
On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo's television properties, including WWL-TV and WUPL, for $1.5 billion. The sale received FCC approval on December 20, and was formally completed on December 23, 2013.
On June 29, 2015, Gannett split in two with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WWL and WUPL were both retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
|TV stations in Louisiana|
| WWL, 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)