WWNY-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 7, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Carthage, New York, United States, serving Watertown and upstate New York's North Country. Owned by Gray Television, it is a sister station to Watertown-licensed low-powered, Class A Fox affiliate WNYF-CD, channel 28 (and its Massena-licensed translator WWNY-CD). The stations share studios on Arcade Street (along NY 3/NY 12) in downtown Watertown; WWNY-TV's transmitter is located along NY 126/State Street on Champion Hill. The station can also be seen on Charter Spectrum channel 4 and in high definition on digital channel 1205.
WWNY can also be seen in Massena (in high definition) on the second digital subchannel of WWNY-CD (virtual channel 28.2, UHF digital channel 18.2) from a transmitter in Colton along NY 56.
WCNY-TV was granted a special temporary authority (STA) to begin broadcasting on October 14, 1954. It was locally owned by the Watertown Daily Times, which also owned WWNY radio (AM 790, now WTNY) in Watertown. The station carried programming from two networks at the time (CBS, ABC then added NBC by the program) but has always been a primary CBS affiliate. During the late-1950s, WCNY was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. By the mid-1960s, the station benefited from the ratings-dominant CBS programming lineup and established a large viewership base, including much of eastern Ontario, Canada. After the FCC allowed television and radio stations to share the same base call sign even when they were licensed to different cities, channel 7 changed call letters to WWNY-TV to match its radio sisters in 1965. The WCNY-TV calls now reside on a PBS member station in nearby Syracuse.
The station was a major beneficiary of a quirk in the FCC's plan for allocating stations. In the early days of broadcast television, there were twelve VHF channels available and 69 UHF channels (later reduced to 55 in 1983). The VHF bands were more desirable because they carried longer distances. Since there were only twelve VHF channels available, there were limitations as to how closely the stations could be spaced.
After the FCC's Sixth Report and Order ended the license freeze and opened the UHF band in 1952, it devised a plan for allocating VHF licenses. Under this plan, almost all of the country would be able to receive two commercial VHF channels plus one noncommercial channel. Most of the rest of the country ("1/2") would be able to receive a third VHF channel. Other areas would be designated as "UHF islands" since they were too close to larger cities for VHF service. The "2" networks became CBS and NBC, "+1" represented non-commercial educational stations, and "1/2" became ABC (which was the weakest network usually winding up with the UHF allocation where no VHF was available).
However, Watertown was sandwiched between Syracuse (channels 3, 8, later 5, and 9) to the south, Rochester (channels 6, later 8, 10, and 13) to the west, Utica (channel 13, later 2) and Albany (channel 4, later 6, later joined by 10 and 13) to the southeast, Burlington/Plattsburgh (channels 3 and 5) to the east, Kingston (channel 11) to the northwest, Ottawa (channels 4, 9, and 13) to the north, and Montreal (channels 2, 6, 10, and 12) to the northeast. This created a large "doughnut" in Watertown where there could only be one VHF license. WWNY was fortunate to gain that license, and as a result was the only television station that was based in Watertown until the early 1970s.
From 1958 until 1971, WCNY/WWNY also aired educational programming through National Educational Television (NET, becoming PBS in 1970) provided by the St. Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council. When the council established its own PBS member station, WNPE-TV (now WPBS-DT) in 1971, WWNY donated its original studios to the new station as it had moved to its current location near the Watertown Daily Times offices on Arcade Street in Downtown Watertown in mid-February 1970. The Johnson family sold WWNY to United Communications Corporation in 1981 for $8.2 million after an unsuccessful struggle against the FCC and its directive for newspapers to divest themselves of television stations held within the same market.
Until WJCK (now WWTI) signed-on in 1985 replacing a small WUTR repeater on analog UHF channel 50 and taking the ABC affiliation, WWNY was Watertown's only commercial station. As a primary CBS affiliate, WWNY carried the network's full prime time schedule and news programs while cherry-picking the most popular ABC and NBC shows aired at other hours. The station also aired some Fox programming starting in 1987 while Sunday Fox Sports National Football League games aired on WWTI. When cable arrived in the region in the 1970s, viewers could watch the full network schedules via NBC affiliate WSTM-TV and ABC affiliate WIXT (now WSYR-TV) in Syracuse or NBC affiliate WPTZ in Plattsburgh.
Channel 7 gradually phased out non-CBS programming in the 1980s. ABC completely disappeared from the schedule when WJCK signed-on. NBC programs (including Today and The Tonight Show) remained on WWNY into the 1980s with some prime time programming (which aired delayed) lasting until 1995. After that, viewers received NBC programming from either WSTM or WPTZ, depending on location, until December 1, 2016 when WVNC-LD signed on as Watertown's first full-time NBC affiliate. Fox programs largely disappeared in the early-1990s with the exception of Major League Baseball games from Fox Sports which lasted until 1998.
In 2001, United Communications entered into an agreement with Smith Broadcasting to operate Fox affiliate WNYF with transmitters in Watertown and Massena. After a year of joint operation, United took complete ownership of WNYF.
On February 8, 2019, Gray Television announced it was purchasing the United stations, including WWNY-TV, WNYF-CD and WWNY-CD. In advance of the purchase, Gray will assume control of the stations via a local marketing agreement (LMA) on March 1. WWNY-TV, WNYF-CD and WWNY-CD would be Gray's first stations in New York State; the acquisition would make them sister stations to fellow CBS affiliate WCAX-TV in adjacent Burlington, Vermont, another station owned by a small independent operator (in WCAX's case, the Hasbrook-Martin family) before Gray bought the station in 2017. The sale was completed on May 1.
|TV stations in New York|
| WCBS, New York City|
|TV Stations in Northern New York State and the St. Lawrence Valley, including Watertown|
|Watertown/Carthage||St. Lawrence County|
|WWNY 7 (CBS)||WNPI 18 (PBS)|
|WPBS 16 (PBS)||WWNY-CD 28 (Fox)|
|WNYF-CD 28 (Fox)|
|WVNC-LD 45 (NBC)|
|WWTI 50 (ABC)|