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WWLP is a dual NBC/CW+/Ion Television-affiliated television station licensed to Springfield, Massachusetts, United States, serving the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 11 (or virtual channel 22 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Provin Mountain in the Feeding Hills section of Agawam. Owned by Nexstar Media Group, WWLP has studios at Broadcast Center in the Sandy Hill section of Chicopee at the northwest corner of the I-391/MA 116/Chicopee Street interchange.

WWLP operates a full-time low-power digital repeater, WFXQ-CD (channel 28), that has a transmitter at the top of the old Mount Tom Ski Area in Holyoke. WFXQ-CD allows viewers in the core of the Springfield market UHF access to WWLP's signal, as VHF antennas have some issues with reception in the digital age, and with all other Springfield stations carried on UHF channels, it allows those viewers to use one type of antenna rather than two.

Due to the close proximity of the Springfield–Holyoke and Hartford–New Haven markets, many stations in Connecticut can be viewed in the Southern Pioneer Valley. Since WWLP's transmitter on Provin Mountain is not far from the state line, this can be picked up in northern areas of the state. WVIT (channel 30), which serves as the NBC affiliate for all of Connecticut except Fairfield County, is currently the only Hartford–New Haven big three station offered on Comcast Xfinity's basic tier. Charter Spectrum customers in the Pioneer Valley have access to WVIT, but only with a digital set top box.

WWLP serves as the master control hub for most of Nexstar Media Group's northeastern U.S. stations.

HistoryEdit

WWLP began broadcasting on March 17, 1953 one month before rival WGGB-TV (then known as WHYN-TV). The station aired an analog signal on UHF channel 61 and was an NBC affiliate from the start. At its sign-on, WWLP had the distinction of being one of the first UHF television stations in the United States after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened the UHF band as well as Massachusetts' oldest station outside of Boston. It was founded by William L. Putnam and his company, Springfield Television. WWLP's original studios were at the transmitter site on Provin Mountain in Feeding Hills.

It switched frequencies to UHF channel 22 on July 2, 1955. The previous analog allotment would remain unused until the second WTIC-TV signed-on from Hartford in 1984. From its beginnings, the Springfield–Holyoke market was designated as a "UHF island" because it was too close to Boston, Hartford–New Haven, and the Capital District of New York State for VHF analog service. As a result of technical limitations UHF stations faced in the 1950s, WWLP's signal was not viewable in much of the northern portion of the market (which at the time included Brattleboro, Vermont and Keene, New Hampshire). The station would sign-on two full-time satellites to solve that problem and extend its broadcasting radius (see below). From 1975 until 1979, the station aired nationally syndicated National Hockey League games from The NHL Network.

After three decades, Putnam retired from broadcasting in 1984 by selling his company and its three stations (WWLP, KSTU-TV, and WKEF) to Adams Communications. Adams ran into financial trouble and began breaking up the Springfield Television group in 1987 with the sale of KSTU to MWT Ltd. Adams sold WKEF to KT Communications in 1989 before selling WWLP to Brisette Broadcasting in 1991. However, Brisette himself ran into trouble and merged his group with Benedek Broadcasting at the end of 1995. LIN TV Corporation acquired WWLP in 2000 by swapping KAKE-TV in Wichita, Kansas and WOWT-TV in Omaha, Nebraska to Benedek. This was a result of Chronicle Broadcasting, which owned the latter two, being liquidated. The sale could be seen as the ultimate undoing for Benedek which in 2002 declared bankruptcy and sold most of their stations (including WOWT and KAKE) to Gray Television.

In early 2000, the station's studios and offices moved to their current home in the Sandy Hill area of Chicopee. However, its transmitter remained in Feeding Hills. Shortly after the change, then-pending owner LIN TV constructed an addition at WWLP's new facilities which would serve as a master control hub for company-owned stations in the Northeast. At this location, room for future expansion was made in the event LIN TV expanded their Northeast properties. That eventually became the case with sister stations WTNH, WCTX, WPRI-TV (LIN TV flagship), and WNAC-TV having master control and some internal operations currently located at the Chicopee studios.

WWLP was well known for producing As Schools Match Wits, one of American television's earliest and longest-running high school quiz programs. The program first aired in October 1961. In September 2006, the show was canceled because of the costs associated with new FCC regulations requiring all over-the-air television programming in the United States to be closed-captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing. The show returned to the air in January 2007 but on the area's PBS member station WGBY-TV (channel 57) and based at Westfield State College.

On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives including the sale of the company. On March 21, 2014, Media General announced that it would purchase LIN Media and its stations, including WWLP and WFXQ-CD, in a $1.6 billion merger. The merger was completed on December 19.

On September 8, 2015, Media General announced that it would acquire the Meredith Corporation for $2.4 billion, with the combined group to be renamed Meredith Media General once the sale was finalized. Because Meredith already owns WGGB-TV, and the Springfield–Holyoke market does not have enough full-power television stations to legally allow a duopoly in any event (WGGB-TV and WWLP are the only full-power licenses assigned to the market), the companies would have been required to sell either WGGB-TV or WWLP to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as recent changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations that restrict sharing agreements had the sale gone through. Meredith-owned CBS affiliate WSHM-LD (channel 3) was the only one of the three stations affected by the merger that could legally be acquired by Meredith Media General, as FCC rules permit common ownership of full-power and low-power stations regardless of the number of stations within a single market. On January 27, 2016, however, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Media General, who subsequently abandoned its plans to purchase Meredith.

Former satellitesEdit

In 1957, WRLP in Greenfield signed-on as a full-time satellite of WWLP. WRLP served the northern portion of the Pioneer Valley market, where WWLP's signal was marginal at best due to the area's rugged and mountainous terrain. From a transmitter on Gunn Mountain in Winchester, New Hampshire (one of the highest points in the region), WRLP could also be seen in Springfield as well, creating a strong combined signal with over 50 percent overlap.

In 1958, Putnam purchased a defunct station in Worcester, WWOR-TV (no relation to the current Secaucus, New Jersey/Tri-State station with the same callsign), and returned it to the air as a second full-time satellite of WWLP. However, Worcester is part of the Boston market, and WWLP was forced to limit WWOR's broadcast day to only six hours in order to protect the interests of WBZ-TV, then Boston's NBC affiliate. In 1964, WWOR changed its calls to WJZB-TV and became an independent station while continuing to simulcast some programming from WWLP.

WRLP and WJZB eventually went off the air due to financial difficulties, with WJZB going dark in 1969 followed by WRLP in 1978. Almost immediately after WRLP left the air, its transmitter was shipped to Salt Lake City, Utah in order to launch KSTU, an independent sister station on UHF channel 20. That station eventually became a Fox affiliate on analog VHF channel 13 operating under a different owner.

SubchannelsEdit

WWLP-DT2 (The CW)Edit

WWLP-DT2, branded on air as Pioneer Valley CW, is the CW+-affiliated second digital subchannel of WWLP, broadcasting in 720p high definition on VHF channel 11.2 (or virtual channel 22.2 via PSIP). On cable, the subchannel is available on Xfinity channel 16 and Spectrum channel 13 to viewers in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.

HistoryEdit

As cable-only WBQTEdit

What is now WWLP-DT2 began its life in September 1998 as WBQT, a cable-only affiliate of The WB through the national WB 100+ service. Since it was only available on cable, the call sign was fictional in nature solely for the purposes of electronic program guide and rating diary identification, and thus not officially recognized by the FCC. As a WB 100+ station, it was one of the few in the group that was not aligned with an established over-the-air station in the market. WBQT did not initially replace out-of-market WB affiliates (such as WPIX from New York City, WBNE from Hartford, which was later replaced with WTXX, and WLVI from Boston) on local cable systems.

In 1999, WBQT was taken off of AT&T Broadband systems serving the majority of the Springfield–Holyoke market. When Comcast took over AT&T's cable system in 2001, the company began a push to expand WBQT's reach. In late 2001, it replaced out-of-market WB affiliates on most systems with near total replacement taking place by 2003 (mainly taking the cable channel positions formerly held by WTXX, following a pattern where WSHM-LP replaced Hartford CBS affiliate WFSB on channel 3 and new Fox affiliate WGGB-DT2 replaced WTIC-TV on channel 6 in the Springfield market upon their launches). Throughout the station's affiliation with The WB, it was known on-air as Pioneer Valley's WB 16 (named after its channel location) and had its own logo.

On January 24, 2006, The WB and UPN announced the two networks would shut down and merge into a new network, The CW. The next few months saw uncertainty about The CW's place in Springfield due to a lack of broadcast stations in the market and The CW's preference for over-the-air affiliates, along with cable providers then not being receptive to picking up digital subchannels. UPN service was provided by New Haven's WCTX via cable in the Springfield market, but WTXX, being Tribune-owned, was named a charter affiliate in The CW's launch announcement, shutting out WCTX from the CW affiliation entirely. As WBQT had no web presence or communications department as a WB 100+ affiliate, there was no word about it becoming the Springfield affiliate for The CW, nor of a return of WTXX to market cable systems.

There was an early-2006 sign-on of low-powered W28CT broadcasting from the summit of the old Mount Tom Ski Area in Holyoke. After a short period of time, the station's call letters were changed to WXCW-CA in anticipation of it becoming an affiliate of that network. In August 2006, the call letters changed again to WFXQ-CA after word was confirmed that WBQT would continue operations as Springfield's CW affiliate. The station (now WFXQ-CD) eventually became a full-time repeater of WWLP.

As it joined The CW, WBQT also became part of The CW Plus, a similar operation to The WB 100+. The station began airing promotions of the new network, with WBQT's branding becoming Pioneer Valley CW. The network launched on September 18 with proper on-air changes on WBQT, along with a website on The CW Plus's web presence with schedule information. It branded solely by its listed branding, discounting its varied market channel positions (Comcast 16 and Charter 13). During its cable-exclusive period with The WB and The CW, the station did not have an actual owner and had a signal provided to cable companies through a closed circuit satellite feed.

As WWLP-DT2Edit

WWLP-DT2 originally signed on in 2007, airing a live feed of its weather radar, with no background audio. As a byproduct of an affiliation agreement between LIN TV and TheCoolTV to carry the music video network on LIN's stations, WWLP affiliated with the network on its second digital subchannel in 2010. The network was dropped on July 15, 2013, with the subchannel remaining dark for the next 20 months.

On December 23, 2014, as part of a long-term affiliation renewal with the network, Media General announced that WWLP and WFXQ-CD would affiliate their respective second digital subchannels with The CW, allowing the former cable-exclusive "WBQT" channel serving the market to have an over-the-air presence. On January 1, 2015, WWLP took over promotional and advertising responsibilities of WBQT from the area's cable companies. As a result, the service was added to the second subchannel of WWLP in order to offer over-the-air viewers access to The CW for the first time. The main station launched a prime time newscast at 10:00 p.m. on this CW subchannel on April 13, 2015. It also started replaying WWLP's weekday morning lifestyle show, Mass Appeal, at 1:00 p.m., and as of April 1, WBQT Pioneer Valley CW was re-branded as The CW Springfield as well.

Xfinity began carrying the subchannel's high definition feed on digital channel 820 on April 1, 2015, with Charter adding the feed on digital channel 788 in mid-April 2015 (for viewers in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties), making CW programming available in HD in the Pioneer Valley for the first time.

WWLP-DT3 (Ion Television)Edit

WWLP-DT3 is the Ion Television-affiliated third digital subchannel of WWLP, broadcasting in standard definition on VHF channel 11.3 (or virtual channel 22.3 via PSIP).

On November 5, 2015, WWLP soft-launched a standard definition feed of Ion Television's main signal over subchannel 22.3 as part of Media General's carriage agreement of the network in markets without a dedicated Ion affiliate. New London, Connecticut-based WHPX-TV has served as the market's nominal affiliate for years with some cable coverage, though over-the-air coverage of that station is generally poor in the Pioneer Valley and the national feed has mainly been offered by local providers who carry the network.


TV stations in New England
WVIT, Hartford/New Haven

WCSH, Portland; WLBZ, Bangor
WBTS-LD/WYCN-CD, Boston/Nashua; WWLP/WFXQ-CD, Springfield
WJAR, Providence

TV stations in New England
WCCT, Waterbury

WPXT, Portland; WABI-DT2, Bangor; WAGM-DT3, Presque Isle
WLVI, Boston; WWLP-DT2/WFXQ-CD2, Springfield
WNAC-DT2, Providence
WNNE, Montpelier

TV stations in New England
WHPX, New London/Hartford/New Haven

WIPL, Lewiston/Portland; WLBZ-DT3, Bangor
WBPX, Boston; WWLP-DT3/WFXQ-CD3, Springfield
WPXG-DT2, Concord/Manchester
WPXQ, Providence
WCAX-DT3, Burlington/St. Johnsbury/Rutland/Windsor

TV stations in the Pioneer Valley region, including Springfield
WSHM-LD 3 (CBS)
WWLP 22 (NBC)
WFXQ-CD 22 (NBC)
WGGB 40 (ABC)
WHTX-LD 43 (UNI)
WDMR-LD 50 (TLM)
WGBY 57 (PBS)
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