WZZM, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States and serving the Grand Rapids–Kalamazoo–Battle Creek television market. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. WZZM's studios are located on 3 Mile Road NW in Walker (with a Grand Rapids address), and its transmitter is located in Grant, Michigan.
The station's transmitter is about 40 miles (64 km) north of other stations in the Grand Rapids market, and its over-the-air signal is unavailable in the market's two other major cities as a result. Since April 2009, however, WZZM has been available on most cable providers in Southwest Michigan, even though Battle Creek-based WOTV (channel 41, owned by Nexstar Media Group) serves as the ABC affiliate for that part of the Grand Rapids market. Until then, viewers outside of the reach of WZZM's signal (which remains true in Coldwater and Sturgis as of January 2019) relied on out-of-market stations from South Bend, Indiana or Lansing to view syndicated programs carried by WZZM.
A local group known as West Michigan Telecasters received a construction permit to operate a television station on VHF channel 9 in 1961. However, later that year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revised the channel positions in the area, resulting in the VHF channel 13 allocation moving from Cadillac to Grand Rapids. WWTV in Cadillac, then on channel 13, was required to move to channel 9 as a result of the action.
WZZM-TV officially signed on the air at 6:30 p.m. on November 1, 1962. The station went off the air just 20 minutes later, after a tube on its transmitter failed; it returned to the air 10 minutes later. The celebratory opening show anchored by news director Jack Hogan. WZZM certainly had humble beginnings; its first broadcasts were from a banquet room-turned studio at the Pantlind Hotel (now the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel). Live broadcasts included This Morning with Bud Lindeman, Shirley's Show and an evening news program, though the station's most notable show is The Bozo Show, which was broadcast on the station for more than 30 years. Bill Merchant was the original Bozo, with Dick Richards as "The Ringmaster"; Richards took over the role of Bozo shortly thereafter.
As a result of the swap with WWTV, WZZM was now short-spaced to WSPD-TV (now WTVG) in Toledo, Ohio. It had to build its transmitter about 40 miles farther north than the other stations in West Michigan and redirect its signal in order to protect WSPD-TV from interference. As a result, WZZM's signal barely reached Kalamazoo and just missed Battle Creek. Southwestern Michigan viewers had to rely on WSJV in Elkhart, Indiana, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, or WLS-TV in Chicago for ABC programming until WUHQ-TV (channel 41, now WOTV) signed on from Battle Creek in 1971. Sometime in late 1964, WZZM-TV signed on a satellite station in Kalamazoo, operating on VHF channel 12.
In August 1971, WZZM opened a multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art studio in Walker, with Congressman Gerald Ford presiding over the ceremony. In the following years, WZZM became a formidable force in the Grand Rapids market, gathering high ratings and a reputation as having one of the top newscasts in the West Michigan area.
In 1978, West Michigan Telecasters sold WZZM to Miami-based Wometco Enterprises. WZZM (95.7 FM) was sold at that time, becoming WZZR. Wometco's stations were sold to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) in 1985; KKR subsequently sold the station to Price Communications in 1986. A local investor, Richard Appleton, formed Northstar Television in 1989 and purchased WZZM. Appleton tried to acquire WUHQ in 1991 and turn it into a satellite of WZZM, which would have created a strong combined signal with about 40% overlap. However, the proposed deal fell through at the last minute. Ironically, WUHQ had served as a de facto satellite of WZZM for most of its history; its engineers had to switch to and from WZZM's signal on most occasions before the station was able to acquire a network feed from ABC.
In 1982, the Northstar Television group (WZZM, along with WNAC-TV in Providence, Rhode Island and WAPT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi) was sold to Argyle Television Holdings II. The Gannett Company bought WZZM and sister station WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, New York in January 1997 in a trade deal with Argyle involving WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio and KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This deal was done to resolve cross-ownership issues that stemmed from Gannett's ownership at the time of cable provider Multimedia Cablevision (which it had acquired with its purchase of Multimedia, Inc. in 1995) in the Oklahoma City market (as well as cross-ownership issues with the newspapers The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Niagara Gazette) as the FCC at the time barred a television station and a cable provider or newspaper from being owned by the same company in a single market.
In the 1990s, WZZM made an array of changes with the new millennium looming. The station purchased new news vehicles, a new tape format (Beta SP) was introduced to digitize all media, a new radar receiver and new weather cameras were added across the state; it also built a new set, coinciding with the introduction of a new logo. In early spring of 2006, WZZM finalized a major station overhaul, complete with a new logo, graphics, and promotional campaign.
In late September 2006, WZZM announced on-air through a series of commercials that the morning newscast (with Derek Francis, Lauren Stanton and Hally Vogel) moved into first place in viewership, according to Nielsen.
On September 14, 2006, WZZM broadcast its first local program in high definition, the special Great Lakes Adventure. Lee Van Ameyde and Juliet Dragos hosted the special about Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mackinac Island, Mackinac Bridge, as well as Michigan's wine country, and charter boats. In 2007, WZZM launced three websites co-developed with Gannett's Michigan newspapers: MichiganMoms.com (now MomsLikeMe.com), MichiganSmartShopper.com, and MyMitten.com.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for WZZM, thus causing major problems in the West Michigan area. Gannett threatened to suspend its contact with the satellite provider should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WZZM was retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
|TV stations in Michigan|
|TV stations in West Michigan, including Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek|
|WWMT 3 (CBS) |
WOOD 8 (NBC)
WZZM 13 (ABC)
WXSP-CD 15 (MNTV)
WXMI 17 (Fox)
WUHQ-LD 29 (Daystar)
WGVU 35 (PBS)
WMKG-CD 38 (TFC)
WOTV 41 (ABC)
WZPX 43 (Ion)
W48CL 48 (3ABN)
WTLJ 54 (TCT)
WLLA 64 (Rel)