WWOR-TV, virtual channel 9 (UHF digital channel 25), is the flagship station of the MyNetworkTV programming service, licensed to Secaucus, New Jersey and serving the New York City television market. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations division of Fox Corporation, as part of a duopoly with WNYW (channel 5). WWOR-TV's studios and main offices are located in Secaucus, although master control and some internal operations are located at WNYW's studios in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. WWOR-TV's transmitter is located at One World Trade Center.
WWOR is available to Dish Network subscribers as part of the satellite provider's superstations package (available to grandfathered subscribers that purchased the À la carte tier before Dish halted sales of the package to new customers in September 2013), except in markets where the local MyNetworkTV affiliate invokes syndication exclusivity to block access to WWOR's programming within the market.
Channel 9 signed on the air on October 11, 1949 as WOR-TV. It was owned by the Bamberger Broadcasting Service (a division of R. H. Macy and Company and named after the Bamberger's department store chain), which also operated WOR (710 AM) and WOR-FM (98.7 FM). Exactly ten months earlier, Bamberger launched Washington, D.C.'s fourth television station, WOIC, also on channel 9. WOR-TV entered the New York market as the last of the city's VHF stations to sign on, and one of three independents—the others being WPIX (channel 11) and Newark, New Jersey-based WATV (channel 13). On WOR-TV's opening night, a welcome address was read by WOR radio's morning host, John B. Gambling. However, the audio portion of the speech was not heard because of a technical glitch. The problem was fixed and Gambling repeated the message later that evening, prior to the station's sign-off.
That first broadcast and other early WOR-TV shows emanated from the New Amsterdam Theatre's Roof Garden, located west of Times Square. For a short time, the station's transmitter operated from WOR TV Tower in North Bergen, New Jersey and was later moved to the Empire State Building. At the start of 1950, Bamberger Broadcasting changed its name to General Teleradio. Later that year, WOIC was sold to a joint venture of The Washington Post and CBS, who would change that station's call sign to WTOP-TV. In 1951, the station moved uptown to the newly constructed "9 Television Square" facility at 101 W. 67 St. (near the present-day location of WABC-TV's studios). The West 67th St studio was built from the ground up as a television facility. Initially built by the Robert Gless Co. for The Bamberger Broadcasting Service, the building itself was owned by the Macy's employee pension fund, and it had been leased prior to completion to Thomas S. Lee Enterprises (a company that was later absorbed into RKO General) Lee, the son of the broadcasting pioneer Don Lee, owned several Mutual Network stations on the West Coast, and held a 25-year lease on the building running January 1952 to January 1977). Soon after the building was completed in 1952, Macy's/Bamberger's merged the WOR stations with the General Tire and Rubber Company, which already had broadcasting interests in three cities through two other subsidiaries: the regional Yankee Radio Network and WNAC AM–FM–TV in Boston; and the Don Lee Broadcasting System, which operated KHJ AM–FM–TV in Los Angeles and KFRC AM–FM in San Francisco. The subsidiaries were then brought together under the General Teleradio name. The main impetus for the merger was to give General Tire a controlling share in the Mutual Radio Network, which was affiliated with and partially owned by WOR and other stations. The merger also raised speculation that Mutual would launch a television network, plans that were discussed since before WOR-TV went on the air but ultimately did not come to fruition. After a transitional period, WOR relocated TV operations to their headquarters at 1440 Broadway closer to its radio station sisters and to a new compact studio for news and special events programming located on the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building. In early 1954, RKO sublet the 67th St. facility (both building and TV equipment) to NBC for three years with options for extensions.
In 1955, General Tire purchased RKO Radio Pictures, giving the company's TV stations access to RKO's film library, and in 1959, General Tire's broadcasting and film divisions were renamed as RKO General. During the 1950s and early 1960s, all three of New York's independents struggled to find competitive and acceptable programming. The field would increase by one in 1956 when former DuMont flagship station WABD (channel 5) became an independent. During this era, WOR-TV's programming was comparable to its rivals, with a blend of movies, children's programs, cancelled TV series which had previously run on one of the networks and public affairs shows. In 1962, the field of independent stations was narrowed to three, as WOR-TV and its competition benefited from the sale of WNTA-TV (channel 13) to the non-profit Educational Broadcasting Corporation, who would convert the station to a non-commercial educational station.
For much of the 1960s, WOR-TV was a standard independent station with a schedule composed of some local public affairs shows, off-network programs, children's shows such as The Friendly Giant (which later moved to WNDT) and Romper Room (which moved to the station from WNEW-TV in 1966), sporting events, and a large catalog of movies, some of which came from the RKO Radio Pictures film library. Until 1990, the station had a tradition of showing King Kong, Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young on Thanksgiving and Godzilla films the day after Thanksgiving.
In 1962, nostalgia maven Joe Franklin moved his daily talk program to WOR-TV, after a 12-year run on WABC-TV. The Joe Franklin Show ended on August 6, 1993, making it one of the longest-running programs in television history, local or national. The long-running public affairs show Firing Line began on WOR-TV in 1966 and ran on the station until 1971, after which its host, William F. Buckley, Jr., moved the program to public television where the program aired until it ended in 1999. In 1968, the station continued to maintain offices at 1440 Broadway, while the station moved to new studio facilities two blocks north at 1481 Broadway.
By the early 1970s, WNEW-TV evolved into the leading station for cartoons and sitcoms, while WPIX aired a similar format though with more movies. In the early 1970s, WOR-TV had shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan's Island and The Avengers. But channel 9 was behind the other two independents in the local ratings. Beginning in 1971, the station began gradually seeking a different programming strategy—one that was more adult-oriented with a heavy emphasis on films, reruns of hour-long network dramas, game shows and sports. The station also gradually phased out most sitcoms and all children's programming with the exception of Romper Room. It was also the first New York City station to have a 12 p.m. newscast on weekdays, in addition to producing several hours a day of local talk shows (such as The Joe Franklin Show, Straight Talk and public affairs shows such as Meet the Mayors, titles that were shared by other RKO General television stations).
Later in the 1970s, WOR-TV looked towards the United Kingdom for alternative offerings. On September 6, 1976, WOR-TV offered a week of programs from Thames Television during prime time; many of these shows had never before been seen on American television, including the first U.S. telecast of The Benny Hill Show, and an airing of an episode of Man About the House, which would be adapted by ABC as Three's Company the following year. WOR-TV also aired episodes of the ITV musical drama Rock Follies and the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who during this period. On April 5, 1980, WOR-TV presented Japan Tonight!, a seven-hour block of programs from Japan's Tokyo Broadcasting System, featuring shows that were either dubbed or subtitled in English. During this period, various sports telecasts aired on most nights in prime time, with feature films running on nights where sports did not air under the Million Dollar Movie banner.
Despite its ambitious programming, WOR-TV was perceived by people that preferred a more traditional independent to be an also-ran, even though the station was very profitable for RKO General. In 1984, WOR-TV began moving classic sitcoms like Bewitched, Burns & Allen, I Dream Of Jeannie, and others into its weekday lineup, focused slightly less on sports, and added more off network drama shows to the lineup. The station also pulled back religious programming as well, pushing it earlier in the morning. With the advent of cable and satellite-delivered television, independent stations were being uplinked for regional and national distribution, thus becoming "superstations". In April 1979, Syracuse, New York-based Eastern Microwave, Inc. began distributing WOR-TV to cable and C-band satellite subscribers across the United States, joining WTBS (now WPCH-TV) in Atlanta and WGN-TV in Chicago as national superstations.
Troubles with the FCC
While WOR-TV was gaining national exposure, a battle for the station's survival—and that of its owner—was well underway. In 1975, RKO applied for renewal of its license to operate WOR-TV. The Federal Communications Commission conditioned this renewal on that of its Boston sister station, WNAC-TV. In 1980, the FCC stripped RKO of WNAC-TV's license due to a litany of offenses dating back to the 1960s, but ultimately because RKO had withheld evidence of corporate misconduct by General Tire. The decision meant that RKO lost WOR-TV's license and that of Los Angeles sister station KHJ-TV. However, an appeals court ruled that the FCC had erred in tying WOR-TV and KHJ-TV's renewals to WNAC-TV, and ordered new proceedings. RKO soon found itself under renewed pressure from the FCC, which began soliciting applications for all of the company's broadcast licenses in February 1983.
Move to New Jersey
In order to buy itself some time, RKO (with the help of New Jersey senator Bill Bradley) persuaded the U.S. Congress to pass a law requiring the FCC to automatically renew the license of any VHF station that moved its license to a state not served by a commercial VHF station. New Jersey and Delaware were the only states not to be served by a commercial VHF station, and there were complaints for many years that New Jersey in particular had been "underserved" by VHF stations from the New York City and Philadelphia markets (New Jersey was left without any commercial VHF allocations located within the state due to the 1962 conversion of Newark's channel 13 to a non-commercial outlet). Soon after this law took effect, RKO moved WOR-TV's license to Secaucus, New Jersey (seven miles (11 km) west of Manhattan) on April 20, 1983. However, for all intents and purposes, it remained a New York City station. WOR radio had originally been licensed to Newark when it signed on in 1922; while it moved its studios across the Hudson River in 1926, it remained licensed in Newark until 1941.
One of the FCC's conditions of renewing channel 9's license required RKO to also move the station's main studio to New Jersey. Three years after its city of license was moved to New Jersey, WOR-TV moved its operations to the newly-built Nine Broadcast Plaza in Secaucus on January 13, 1986. The FCC also required channel 9 to increase its coverage of events on the New Jersey side of the market. One month later, the New Jersey State Senate petitioned the FCC to approve an extension of the channel 9 signal into southern New Jersey. Because of various other issues, one of which would be the fact that rights to most syndicated programs would interfere with the local broadcast rights to these shows on Philadelphia stations, the request was denied.
The move to New Jersey did little to relieve the regulatory pressure on RKO. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, RKO put channel 9 up for sale in 1985. Westinghouse Broadcasting, Chris-Craft Industries (which would later become one of the founding partners in the future UPN network, which channel 9 would be affiliated with), and a joint venture of Cox Enterprises and MCA/Universal emerged as the leading suitors for WOR-TV; the station was sold to the Cox/MCA group in late 1986 for US$387 million. Cox later withdrew the joint venture due to disagreements between the two firms on who would be responsible for running the station, leaving MCA to take sole control of WOR-TV on April 21, 1987. The sale came just in the nick of time for RKO: two months after MCA closed on the purchase, an administrative law judge recommended that RKO be forced out of broadcasting altogether due to a litany of misconduct. Eventually, WOR radio would be sold to Hartford, Connecticut-based Buckley Broadcasting, and WRKS-FM would go to Summit Broadcasting.
As WWOR-TV (1987–present)
Upon taking control, MCA added an extra W to its call letters calling itself as WWOR-TV on April 29, 1987. MCA knew it had to change the call letters (due to FCC rules at the time that dictated that TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership, had to use different callsigns), but still wanted to trade on the 65-year heritage of the WOR calls in the New York area. Programming stayed pretty much the same, while the RKO-era "dotted 9" logo was replaced by a new "red 9". MCA relaunched WWOR-TV that fall with a new, all-CGI look. The logo was replaced with a new "Venetian-blinds 9"; movie and special presentations were preceded by a new, more dramatic intro, while a new, three-pointed triangle was used in the main ident and in the first intro for The News at Ten, representing the Tri-State area. However, the RKO-era announcers stayed on, and all but six hours of programming per day remained the same. The station dropped most of its public affairs shows, Romper Room was cut back to a half-hour and moved to 6:00 a.m., all religious shows except for the Sunday Mass were dropped, cartoons were added to the station's morning lineup, and stronger syndicated shows were added in the early evenings. Late morning timeslots consisted of classic sitcoms and afternoons continued to consist of game shows, drama series and movies—programs seen in both dayparts were largely those held over from the station's final years under RKO ownership. Later that fall, in primetime, the Million Dollar Movie was relegated to weekends in favor of Morton Downey Jr.'s controversial new talk show, while the 8:00 newscast was moved to 10:00 p.m., and expanded to one hour (to emphasize this, it was briefly titled The News at Ten; this did not last long and by 1988, it became Channel 9 News).
The overhaul continued in 1988 and 1989, when it added the locally produced kids' show Steampipe Alley, and more evening sitcoms, including among others, reruns of NBC's top-rated sitcom The Cosby Show, Columbia Pictures Television's Who's The Boss? and 227, as well as MCA/Universal-sourced programming including The Munsters Today, Out of This World, My Secret Identity, Bionic Six, and The New Lassie. WWOR-TV also borrowed program formats used on the Westinghouse stations: a short-lived version of Evening Magazine aired in primetime, and a locally produced talk show called People Are Talking ran at 11 a.m. That show would later change its title to 9 Broadcast Plaza (named after the station's Secaucus studio location), and then to The Richard Bey Show for syndication. During this time, the studios were a hotbed of production, including the aforementioned local shows, The Morton Downey Jr. Show (which was nationally syndicated by then-sister firm MCA TV), and The Howard Stern Show hosted by New York radio personality Howard Stern from 1990 to 1992. Because of this, the station's newscasts had to be moved to the newsroom, and it would not return to having its own set until joining UPN.
In 1989, the FCC passed the "Syndicated Exclusivity Rights" rule (or "SyndEx") into law—which required cable providers to black out certain syndicated programs on out-of-market stations that stations claim the rights to air in a particular market. In order to lighten the burden on cable providers as a result of this law, Eastern Microwave acquired the rights to programs to which no station owned exclusive in-market rights. It then broadcast aired this programming on WWOR's national feed to replace programs that could not be aired nationally. Most of the programs came from the Universal and Quinn Martin libraries, along with some shows from the Christian Science Monitor's television service, as well as some holdover shows that had aired on the local New York feed before the SyndEx law's passage. Eastern Microwave would eventually launch a separate feed for satellite and cable subscribers on January 1, 1990, called the "WWOR EMI Service". By the early 1990s, WWOR and WPIX began to be replaced on many cable systems by the its superstation feed of WGN-TV.
In the fall of 1990, WWOR-TV began branding itself as Universal 9 on-air, highlighting its association with the MCA/Universal entertainment empire. However, later that same fall, MCA's ownership of the station ended with the company's purchase by Osaka, Japan-based Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., which is now known as Panasonic. Since FCC regulations do not allow foreign companies to own more than a 25% interest in a television station, MCA spun off the assets of WWOR-TV into a new company called Pinelands, Incorporated on January 1, 1991. Universal would re-enter the New York television market after it merged with NBC to form NBCUniversal in 2004, acquiring the network's flagship station, WNBC in the process. WWOR partnered with KCOP and MCA TV Entertainment on a two night programming block, Hollywood Premiere Network starting in October 1990, the month before Matsuhita's purchase of MCA.
On March 30, 1992, Disney Studios agreed to sell KCAL-TV to Pinelands, Inc. for a 45% ownership stake in Pinelands, so as to have interest in TV stations in the two largest markets, Los Angeles and New York City, allowing for increased original programming. Instead, Pinelands agreed to an unsolicited bid in May from Chris-Craft Industries's BHC Communications subsidiary, thus ending the planned business merger with Disney's KCAL. Disney later acquired WABC-TV as part of its larger purchase of Capital Cities/ABC in 1996.
In 1993, BHC aligned its independent stations with the Prime Time Entertainment Network. WWOR carried Spelling Premiere Network at its launch in August 1994.
UPN affiliation (1995–2006)
In 1994, Chris-Craft and its broadcasting subsidiary, BHC Communications, and Viacom's newly acquired subsidiary Paramount Pictures partnered to form the United Paramount Network (UPN), which debuted on January 16, 1995. At the network's launch, WWOR-TV was UPN's "flagship" station. However, UPN did not allow WWOR's superstation feed to carry the network's programs nationally (in contrast, The WB allowed WGN-TV to air network programming on cable feed during that network's first four years on the air). In the 1990s, the station continued with a large amount of younger-skewing talk shows, reality programming, some sitcoms in evenings, and syndicated cartoons during the morning hours.
On January 1, 1997, with only a month's advance warning, Advance Entertainment Corporation, which had purchased the satellite distribution rights to WWOR from Eastern Microwave a few months earlier, stopped uplinking the national version. The EMI Service's transponder space was sold to Discovery Communications for the then six-month-old Animal Planet. Amid outcries from satellite dish owners, National Programming Service, LLC uplinked the station again exclusively for satellite subscribers. The national feed was once again the same feed as the New York market feed. NPS dropped WWOR in 1999, in favor of Pax TV, but Dish Network still carries the New York feed of WWOR as part of its superstations package except in areas where the local UPN (and later, MyNetworkTV) affiliate invoked SyndEx to block the feed.
In 2000, Chris-Craft announced that it was selling its television stations. It was believed that Viacom, which had purchased Chris-Craft's half of the network that year not long after buying CBS—gaining full control of UPN (and effectively stripping WWOR of its status as an owned-and-operated station of the network in the process), would buy the stations. However, Viacom lost its bid for the group to News Corporation on August 12, 2000 in a $5.5 billion deal, making WWOR-TV a sister station to longtime rival WNYW—creating a unique situation in which the largest affiliate station of one network was owned by the operator of another network. While some cast doubt on UPN's future, Fox quickly cut a new affiliation deal with UPN.
On September 11, 2001, the transmitter facilities of WWOR-TV, eight other New York City television stations and several radio stations, were destroyed when two hijacked airplanes crashed into and destroyed the World Trade Center towers. The attacks delayed the closing of the Chris-Craft deal for several days. With its broadcast signal shut down, WWOR fed its signal directly to cable and satellite systems, running wall-to-wall coverage of the attacks from CNN and later the Fox News Channel; channel 9 resumed regular programming on September 17, 2001. The transmitter has since been relocated to an antenna located atop the Empire State Building (where the transmitter had been based prior to 1975) along with most of the other major New York City stations.
Fox began integrating the operations of its two stations soon afterwards. In the fall of 2001, the Fox Kids weekday afternoon block moved to WWOR-TV from WNYW, while the station also ran UPN's Disney's One Too during the morning hours. Channel 9 was New York City's last remaining commercial station to air children's programming on both weekday mornings and afternoons, an ironic twist from 20 years earlier; however, Fox later discontinued the Fox Kids weekday block in January 2002 while UPN ended its cartoon block in August 2003, WWOR then picked up syndicated cartoons in the fall of 2003 in the 7 to 9 a.m. slot (and later until 8 a.m.), before dropping them in 2006. This made WWOR-TV the last commercial station to run any cartoons on weekdays. This will be the second time the station phased out cartoons in favor of mandated children's programing which WWOR has aired in its early years. WNYW also placed several of its underperforming syndicated shows on WWOR, and cherry-picked channel 9's stronger programs for broadcast on channel 5's schedule. Currently, WWOR offers several "double-runs" of WNYW's programs, but the two stations' individual schedules (outside of network programming) are much different.
In 2004, Fox Television Stations announced that it would shut down WWOR-TV's Secaucus facilities and move its operations to WNYW's facility at the Fox Television Center in Manhattan. WNYW had already been handling some of WWOR's internal operations for some time before then. Fox planned to keep 9 Broadcast Plaza as a satellite relay station for WNYW and WWOR (the facility also performed master control operations for Baltimore's MyNetworkTV affiliate WUTB until locally based Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased WUTB from Fox in 2013). While some office functions were merged, plans for a full move to Manhattan were scuttled later that year due to pressure from New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman (whose congressional district included Secaucus) and Senator Frank Lautenberg. The two lawmakers contended that if WWOR moved its operations back across the Hudson, it would be violating its conditions of license. According to Rothman, WWOR's license specifically required that its main studio be based in New Jersey. Even without this to consider, a full merger of WNYW and WWOR's operations would have likely resulted in channel 9's news department being downsized to the point that it would not be able to adequately cover news events focused on New Jersey, if not shut down altogether. As mentioned above, WWOR's license requires it to emphasize coverage of events on the New Jersey side of the market.
MyNetworkTV affiliation (2006–present)
On February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of a new "sixth" network called MyNetworkTV, which would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television. MyNetworkTV was created to compete against another upstart network that would launch at the same time that September, The CW (an amalgamated network that was originally consisted primarily of UPN and The WB's higher-rated programs) as well as to give UPN and WB stations that were not mentioned as becoming CW affiliates another option besides converting to independent stations. WPIX, which had been a WB affiliate since 1995, was announced as The CW's New York City area affiliate as part of a 10-year affiliation deal with channel 11's parent company Tribune Broadcasting. The network's officials were on record as preferring the "strongest" stations among The WB and UPN's affiliates, none of which included any of Fox's UPN-affiliated stations – locally, WPIX had been well ahead of WWOR-TV in overall viewership for some time.
The day after the announcement of The CW's formation (January 25, 2006), Fox removed all network references from the on-air branding of its UPN affiliates, and stopped promoting UPN programs altogether. WWOR accordingly changed its branding from UPN 9 to WWOR 9 (although the station was referred to on-air as simply "9"), and altered its logo to only feature the boxed "9" with a small red strip on the left side. WWOR had just introduced a new graphics package for its newscasts and a revised logo almost three weeks prior, with UPN branding.
With the impending switch to MyNetworkTV, channel 9's on-air branding was changed to My 9 beginning on April 4, with the new brand being introduced during Nets and Yankees game telecasts; two weeks later on April 17, WWOR incorporated the My 9 name into the station's remaining branding elements, including news. On June 2, WWOR changed its logo again, this time adopting one similar to the MyNetworkTV logo presented at the launch announcement. Despite MyNetworkTV's announcement that its launch date would be September 5, 2006, UPN continued to broadcast on stations across the country until September 15, 2006. While some UPN affiliates that switched to MyNetworkTV aired the final two weeks of UPN programming outside its regular primetime period, WWOR and the rest of the network's Fox-owned affiliates dropped UPN's programming entirely on August 31, 2006.
WWOR-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 9, at 11:59 p.m. on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The last program to air on analog was Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 38, using PSIP to display WWOR-TV's virtual channel as 9 on digital television receivers.
On December 15, 2011, WWOR introduced an official mascot, C.More (pronounced SEE-more, and corresponding with its new slogan, "C.More My9"), an anthropomorphic "My9" logo featured on station promotions. WWOR started a Facebook and Twitter page dedicated to C.More, and also uploaded a YouTube video that C.More "recorded via webcam". Localized versions of the C.More mascot have since been used on Fox's other MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated stations. In recent years C more appears less and since has been removed from the promo ads. Around 2015 the my 9 box was removed leaving only its white type with a modernized version was use simply as my9 which the inside 9 log is still visible thus leaving out the exterior being used by previous owners.
On October 15, 2010, News Corporation pulled WWOR, WNYW, Fox Business Network, Fox Deportes, and National Geographic Wild from Cablevision systems in the New York City Tri-State area due to a dispute between Fox and Cablevision in which Cablevision claimed that News Corporation demanded $150 million a year to renew its carriage of 12 Fox-owned channels. News Corporation responded to Cablevision's claims, stating that "Cablevision has refused to recognize how much [its subscribers] value our programming." Cablevision offered to submit to binding arbitration on October 14, 2010, though News Corporation rejected Cablevision's proposal, stating that it would "reward Cablevision for refusing to negotiate fairly". WWOR, WNYW and the three cable channels were restored on October 30, 2010, when Cablevision and News Corporation struck a new carriage deal.
On November 3, 2011, Fox Television Stations signed an affiliation agreement with Bounce TV, a subchannel network aimed at African American audiences, to carry the service on the second or third digital subchannels of its MyNetworkTV-affiliated stations.
On January 7, 2014, WWOR applied for a digital fill-in translator on channel 34 from the Armstrong Tower and licensed to Alpine, New Jersey that will serve the northern viewing area.
|TV stations in New York|
|WWOR, Secaucus/New York City|
|TV Stations in the New York City Metropolitan Area|
WLIW 21 (PBS)|WVVH-CD50 (YTA)|WLNY 55 (IND)|WFTY 68 (UNM)