WZTV, virtual channel 17 (UHF digital channel 20), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Nashville, Tennessee, United States. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, it is part of a virtual triopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WUXP-TV (channel 30, also wholly owned by Sinclair) and CW affiliate WNAB (channel 58, owned by Tennessee Broadcasting but operated by Sinclair through an outsourcing agreement). The three stations share studios on Mainstream Drive along the Cumberland River and transmitter facilities along I-24 in Whites Creek.
First independent station in Nashville
The station originally began broadcasting on August 5, 1968 as WMCV from a small studio in West Nashville. It was the area's first UHF station, as well as the state's first independent station. Not surprisingly with three well-established network affiliates in the market, WMCV did not attract many advertisers and relied mainly on old movies, cartoons, religious programs, and syndicated fare. Additionally, the Nashville market is a fairly large market geographically; UHF stations usually do not carry very well over long distances. Many area households probably did not have sets capable of receiving the station's signal anyway. This was very typical of UHF start-ups in the late-1960s and early-1970s. WMCV went off the air on March 10, 1971. After a false start ended hopes for a 1974 return, new owner Reel Broadcasting brought the station back as WZTV on March 6, 1976, initially branding it as "Z TV" and later "Z 17".
Second attempt as an independent station
WZTV's first several years showed far more promise than WMCV ever did. With wealthier ownership, it was able to buy the rights to college basketball and Cincinnati Reds baseball supplementing the usual independent syndicated program assortment such as cartoons, classic sitcoms, older movies, westerns, and reruns of old network dramas. Even though the station placed ads in TV Guide in 1979 and 1980 offering assistance to Middle Tennessee viewers who had problems receiving its UHF signal, the problem became mostly a moot one as many households could now view the station clearly via cable.
In the early 1980s, WZTV was sold to Multimedia, which owned several NBC and CBS affiliates around the country. WZTV soon got some competition in the form of Murfreesboro-based WFYZ (channel 39), which took to the air in 1983. Soon after, in 1984, TVX Broadcast Group signed on WCAY-TV (channel 30). However, WZTV not only remained the dominant independent station in Middle Tennessee, but was the only one that was profitable.
Nashville was only a medium-sized market at the time, and by 1985, it was obvious that it was not big enough for three independent stations. However, Multimedia and TVX had more resources than Murfreesboro TV Corporation, owners of WFYZ, could possibly hope to match. With this scenario, channel 39 opted to broadcast only music videos (similar to MTV). Later that year, the Christian Television Network bought WFYZ and switched it to an all-religious format in 1986 under new calls, WHTN. WZTV then acquired most of WFYZ's former shows.
In 1988, Multimedia sold WZTV to Act III Broadcasting, who had a reputation for buying its competitors' stronger programming inventory. However, this strategy wasn't successful in Nashville, since TVX was far wealthier than Act III's competition in most other markets. In 1987, TVX affiliated all of its stations, including WCAY, with the newly launched Fox network. However, WCAY did not get a substantial ratings boost. TVX bought Taft Broadcasting's five non-Big Three stations later that year; two of these stations were Fox affiliates, while the other three were independent. TVX acquired massive debt as well, and was forced to sell some of its underperforming medium-market stations to service the new debt. WCAY and sister station WMKW in Memphis were sold to MT Communications. After the sale was complete, WCAY changed its call sign to WXMT.
As a Fox affiliate
The deal between Fox and TVX had one catch. If one of TVX's underperforming stations (like WCAY/WXMT) was sold, that station could lose its Fox affiliation. As a result, in 1990, Fox pulled its affiliation from WXMT and moved it to WZTV. Act III was not done yet. The company approached MT about buying WXMT's syndicated programming inventory and moving it to WZTV, which would have left WXMT with only religious shows and Home Shopping Network programming. MT initially agreed, but backed out of the deal a few days later. He came up with another idea in which WXMT would sell its sitcoms, dramas and movies to WZTV, while WXMT would keep barter shows and cartoons. The deal closed in mid-February, around the same time that WZTV changed its on-air name to the current "Fox 17".
Over the years, WZTV's schedule began migrating towards more first-run talk, court, and reality shows. Most of channel 17's sitcoms and cartoons moved to WXMT around this time. In 1994, Act III merged with Abry Communications. Only a year later, Sinclair Broadcast Group bought most of Abry's stations, including WZTV. Sinclair then entered into a local marketing agreement (LMA) with channel 30, which was now UPN affiliate WUXP. Most of WZTV's sitcoms and cartoons moved to WUXP; Sinclair eventually bought that station outright in 2001. Fox discontinued its weekday cartoon block in 2001, allowing its affiliates to add even more first-run syndicated shows. Today, WZTV offers Fox programming, first-run reality, talk and court shows, and recent sitcoms.
On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year extension to the network's affiliation agreement with Sinclair's 19 Fox stations, including WZTV, that will run through 2017.
Averted loss of Fox affiliation; near-sale to Fox
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The deal has brought concerns by Fox who see Sinclair as a competitor towards conservative-leaning news, as well as increased leverage by Sinclair on reverse compensation to air Fox programming.
On August 2, 2017, it was reported that Fox Television Stations was in talks with Ion Media to create a joint venture that would own their respective stations. The partnership was said to include plans to shift affiliations from Sinclair stations in favor of Ion-owned stations, such as those whose affiliation agreements are soon to expire. In Nashville's case, this would include shifting Fox from WZTV to WNPX-TV (channel 28). In the event that WZTV loses its Fox affiliation, the station may return to independent status.
The chances of WZTV keeping its Fox affiliation increased in October 2017 when Ion elected its stations to have must-carry status instead of retransmission consent, which the FCC ruled Ion must keep for three years. However, must-carry only applies to a main signal, allowing Fox to possibly affiliate with a digital subchannel on WNPX-TV and other Ion stations.
On December 6, 2017, it was reported that Sinclair and Fox were working on a deal that would see its Fox affiliates renew their affiliation agreement in exchange for Sinclair selling some of its Fox affiliates directly to Fox Television Stations. The deal would have seen between six and ten Fox affiliates owned by Sinclair and Tribune (all in markets with an NFL team) become Fox owned-and-operated stations. It was not known if WZTV will be one of the stations sold, although the stations being sold to Fox were expected to be from Tribune Media (notably KCPQ in Seattle, where Sinclair already owns KOMO-TV), many of which were previously owned by Fox. On May 9, 2018, Sinclair announced that seven Fox affiliates would be sold to FTS, but WZTV was not included and an affiliation renewal was announced for that station instead, keeping WZTV with Sinclair.
|TV stations in Tennessee|
|TV stations in Tennessee|
|TV stations in Middle Tennessee, including Nashville, Murfreesboro and Clarksville|
|WKRN 2 (ABC) |
WSMV 4 (NBC)
WTVF 5 (CBS)
WRTN-LP 6 (Daystar)
WNPT 8 (PBS)
WETV-LP 11 (Ind)
WIIW-LP 14 (Silent → Ind)
WZTV 17 (Fox)
WCKV-LD 21 (The Walk TV)
WCTE 22 (PBS)
WNPX-LP 24 (Silent → Daystar)
WNTU-LP 26 (Daystar)
WNPX 28 (Ion)
WUXP 30 (MNTV)
WJDE-LD 31 (H&I)
WJNK-LD 34 (3ABN)
WHTN 39 (CTN)
WKUW-LD 40 (Buzzr)
WLLC-LP 42 (UNI)
WJFB 44 (TCT)
WPGD 50 (TBN)
WNAB 58 (Dabl)