CBS affiliation switch means major changes at WTTV

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A new network affiliation agreement means WTTV-TV Channel 4 is likely in for major changes starting in January, including having its own local news broadcasts as well as an entirely different lineup of national programming.

Those changes are coming in the wake of Monday's huge announcement that Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting, parent to WTTV, has wrestled away the CBS-TV affiliation held by WISH-TV Channel 8 since 1956.

A source familiar with the deal said big plans are currently on the drawing board for WTTV.

As part of its new relationship with CBS, which starts Jan. 1, WTTV will air National Football League games—including many of the Indianapolis Colts games—NCAA basketball games, The Masters golf tournament and other sports programming, as well as all of CBS-TV’s prime-time and national news shows.

A source familiar with WTTV’s preliminary plans said the station will have its own newscasts separate from its local sister station, WXIN-TV Channel 59, which is affiliated with Fox Broadcasting.

“It will be its own news; nothing will be repurposed from WXIN,” the source said. “The specifics are still being worked out.”

Though WTTV’s plans are still being formulated, the source familiar with the station’s discussions said WTTV will hire its own TV personalities and not rely on WXIN’s on-air talent.

The source said it is unclear exactly what times the station would air local news, but the possibility of local newscasts multiple times a day “is a very good possibility.”

WTTV currently airs programming from The CW Television Network, and will continue to do that on one of its digital channels, sources said. CW is a division of CBS. The CW does not produce news programming.

Rick Gevers, an Indianapolis-based agent who represents on-air television news talent, said launching a local newscast by January will be a tall order.

“Getting everything in place in just four months would be, I’d say, almost impossible without at least initially leaning on WXIN,” Gevers said.

Local on-air newspeople have contracts with local station owners, not the stations' national broadcast affiliates, which means the on-air talent at WISH is under contract to owner LIN Media.

WISH officials did not return calls seeking comment, nor did officials from Rhode Island-based LIN Media.

WTTV, meanwhile, will have to find and hire news anchors, field reporters and weather forecasters.

WISH, too, has “a big challenge ahead of it,” Gevers added.

“The big question is, what does [WISH] do for programming?” he said. “I’m sure they’re all in shock there.”

Tribune Broadcasting and WTTV officials declined to comment beyond what was in a short news release.

 “WISH’s best bet at this point might be to go independent and expand their local news coverage,” Gevers said. “I’ve seen that work in other markets: KRON in San Francisco and WJXT in Jacksonville.”

The big question, Gevers said, is, how much appetite is there for local news?

“WXIN is already producing a ton of local news, and now you’ll have WTTV, and if WISH expands its local news to fill its programming hole, I just don’t know how many advertisers there are for local news shows,” he said.

The demand for advertising during local TV newscasts is relatively strong, but primarily flat as far as growth, said Bruce Bryant, president of Indianapolis-based Promotus Advertising.

“Each local station has already broadened its coverage and scope,” Bryant said. “If you load another property in this market with a whole new crew, I begin to wonder if there are enough advertisers to go around. I would say launching a new local TV news product is a real risky proposition at this point.”  

Local news has traditionally been a powerful moneymaker for local stations, with advertising sold in local news shows constituting 40 percent to 60 percent of revenue.

“Yes, the local news can be a lucrative venture for local stations, but to do it right, it can also be very expensive,” Bryant said. “If they’re going to steal audience from other established players in this market, WTTV is going to have to spend some serious money. Either that or they’ll be an afterthought when it comes to local news.”

Gevers pointed out, however, that a local station can get a big bounce in its local news ratings if its affiliate’s national programming rates high.

“Lead-in programming is very important,” Gevers said, “so we’ll have to see how that plays out for WTTV.”

In the local TV news rating race, WTHR-TV Channel 13 has been a market leader for more than a decade. WISH has been a solid No. 2, while WRTV-TV Channel 6 has been third. But, in the last two years, WXIN has made a major move in the ratings, scoring in the top two in some time slots while expanding to offer more local news than any other Indianapolis station.

CBS Corp. did not say specifically why it was switching from WISH to WTTV, but one of its executives hinted at the reason in a prepared statement.

"There's nothing more valuable to a local station than programming from the No. 1 television network, and Tribune Broadcasting has been a great partner in reaching this agreement," said Ray Hopkins, president of television networks distribution for CBS. "We're very pleased that Tribune recognized the full value that CBS brings to their business and brands across all of their stations included in this deal."

Tribune also renewed CBS affiliations in Memphis, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; Ft. Smith, Arkansas; and Richmond, Virginia.

Variety reported Monday that CBS couldn't reach an agreement with LIN over reverse retransmission consent compensation.

"CBS’ shuffle in Indianapolis sends a clear message to other affiliate stations that the network is willing to move if station owners don’t want to pay the Eye’s price," Variety said. "Networks were once loathe to move stations in a market for fear that the disruption in channel position would cost them viewers. But in the programming environment driven by digital listings and on-demand options, the Eye is clearly confident that viewers will find its shows no matter where it lands on the dial."

WISH's operations have seen some upheaval in recent years with the departure of longtime general manager Jeff White in June and a series of talent losses, including longtime anchor Debby Knox, who retired in November, and popular meteorologist Angela Buchman, who fled to WTHR-TV Channel 13 in 2012.



  • No Lauren, No way!
    If I can't stare at Lauren Lowery each morning, I don't know what I'll do!
  • disappointed
    It's just sad that due to the CBS affiliation conflict no station would cover or air the story that Shannon Merrill Brown - a 10-year-old Nora Elementary School student is the guest star and "The Offspring" in the Halle Berry series EXTANT. He was introduced and featured in the final two episodes. Shannon lives right here in Indy. His mother, Sheila McPherson is an IPS teacher and coach. I was so disappointed that the media shunned the hard work, accomplishment, and success of this child. It really is a shame.
  • Paul Poteet
    WTTV should hire Paul Poteet to do the weather.
  • In mourning!
    Been a loyal WISHTV News viewer for 50 years. Was just thrilled when they finally came on at 4:30 AM and I didn't have to watch WXIN in the early AM for local news. Hopefully the news, weather and sports crew can jump ship to WTTV.
  • Ditto Lonnie B
    Ditto Lonnie B
  • Julie Patterson
    Where is Julie Patterson? Will she be part of the team going to WTTV? She adds something unique and special in the mornings. Her participation in Runs locally and nationally is inspirational to her viewers at IU Health.
  • Boring News.
    It's a;; Boring News, nothing but death and destruction. Channel 4 will Hire all new News People. Hey maybe Jenny A would come back to Indy for a Lead Position!!. And Jamie S, would leave Cleveland for Indy. (NOT)!!!! anyway I am asleep by the time the late news comes on because I don't need to see it, because I've already heard it all on the RADIO!! I just wanna be able to see Arrow and the New Flash series on the CW, plus the 100.. Does WTTV even have a building?? and what would the "Digital Channels" be???
  • LIES??
    Mary, You've been watching CBS way too long they are the ones that lie and twist the stories to fit the Obama agenda and the Liberal mess. Fox will guide you in the right direction. Try it you'll like it. Besides, how could Liars LEAD the Ratings night after night.
  • WISH TV? Gone?
    As time goes by, WISH TV was the best news station serving all over Central Indiana since 1956 working with CBS and had a great 58 year bondage between CBS and WISH and now WISH is set to exit out of the television industry and WTTV will take over full time and carry CBS programming as WISH TV's successor full time as part the network's transition leaving WISH for WTTV full time. WTTV and CBS will work together for the next 60 years becoming partners. Much continued success to WISH TV on becoming known as WNDY full time as an independent TV station on their forthcoming second stint as an independent TV station. WISH TV will become as a TV station museum full time (Maybe) or shutting it's doors down forever and becoming WNDY owning the WISH TV station building full time. Thank you WISH TV for serving Indianapolis, IN and Central Indiana!
    • What a mess! But no FOX for me
      This is a mess because CBS wants to make an example of Indianapolis and WISH. The owners of WISH really did not think that the network would move and, of course, the Tribune folks were just waiting in the wings. It is nearly time for all TV to leave networks and just be online, but not yet. WISH has a great news team and it is a shame to lose their network affiliation. If channel 4 goes to FOX news, they will lose ALL of my viewing; I don't like lies.
      • Love,WISH TV
        I won't abandon wish tv for my news. I love the morning show and can't imagine my mornings without Randy Ollis. Dave Barras is my favorite anchor and I will watch them no matter what. WTTV if possible should try and hire as many of WISH news that they can.
      • Network affiliation switch
        The 58-year union between CBS and WISH-TV coming to an end could be summed up as a divorce and marriage announcement to shock the television industry. Tribune moving to affiliate WTTV-TV with CBS, and moving CW to WTTV sub-channel. I do like Dan Gates' thinking about Media General/LIN working out a deal to affiliate WISH with Fox... and WXIN-TV getting CW affiliation. I believe WXIN's Fox affiliation contract is due to expire in 2016... even if it means WISH having to go independent for at least a year and a half. I doubt that Fox would be interested in owning WISH & WNDY-TV. However, with Indianapolis being an AFC football market, I could picture WTTV & WXIN becoming CBS O&O duopoly eventually. This would be anyone's guess.
      • YES
        Oh, goody goody! I receive CH 4 and 29 a whole lot better than CH 8 and I live inside the beltway! I am very happy about this because I will not pay for cable...I do wonder what CH 8 will do for programming. Is CH 23 going along for the ride also? I don't get it at all. :(
      • broadcast into Bloomington?
        Uh what? I have never received WTTV since the switch to digital and before that it was mostly snow. There's no reception here in Bloomington.
      • What does this mean
        I have TDS cable. I like the show Supernatural currently showing on Indy's Channel 4 at 9 pm Tuesday. I don't understand this 'digital channel' or 'THIS-TV' that is mentioned. My question is, will I have Supernatural on a channel I get???
      • There is now room....
        For as long as WXIN has been with Fox, Fox has strengthened itself! Since the turn of the 21st Century, Fox has reached audience parity with the other Big 4 networks. There is enough time for WISH-TV 8 to work out a deal that would allow TV8 to wrestle the Fox affiliation away from Channel 59. Channel 8's signal is stronger than Channel 59, it is longer established than Channel 59. And--all important to joining Fox--Channel 8 is a sister station to a MyNetworkTV affiliate. I'd like to see WISH join Fox so that the all of the Big 4 networks will be on the VHF dial.
      • Good news for you
        It will actually benefit you because there is a fox tower in Trafalger. Therefor, your signal on Channel 4.- Should come in better.
      • ' this tv ' channel
        What will happen to the movies on "this tv" on 4.2 now? Surely it is a money-maker, lots of commercials. It should be easy to shift that to 4.3 (currently not used.)
        • studio space
          WTTV is going to need expanded studios, news vehicles w/ remote transmission and relays on a tall structure, maybe a news chopper? This is a short prep time. Somebody needs to spend big bucks fast.
        • wttk 29
          In Whiteland, I have a shaky signal on 4.1, 4.2 with an outdoor antenna facing north (all the other channels)- maybe echo trouble. I get 29.1, 29.2 just fine. Really hope CBS will also be on 29.1
        • WRTV/WTHR switch
          WRTV and WTHR switched affiliations on June 1, 1979. That was probably the biggest local affiliate change until this news.
        • Political Reporter
          Hopefully the new CBS affiliate will hire a good political reporter. That's been missing at WISH-TV for quite some time.
        • WTTK
          AFIK, WTTK will still simulcast WTTV for viewers on the north side of the metro. WTTV doesn't make it up there because it is required to put a city-grade signal into Bloomington, its actual city of license. That's why they bought Channel 29 in Kokomo and made it a WTTV satellite back in the '80s. But look at it this way: At least some IU and Purdue basketball games are back on Channel 4 in January, thanks to CBS. :-D
          • don't mess with this.
            The "Eye" better not screw with my This...Or cbs4 will only get my business during colts, march madness and golf programming. Oh wait, that's all cbs has for me anyway.
          • News
            Much prefer the WISH-tv news and weather over the others, they don't have the hype and weather hysteria of the other stations. Hopefully some of them will move over to WTTV.
          • WTTK
            Does anyone know if 4 (WTTV) will continue simulcasting on 29 (WTTK) once the switchover to CBS happens? I live north of the city and have trouble getting Channel 4 with a regular antenna, but 29 comes in clear without any issues. I imagine they'll have to continue that arrangement, or move their main transmitter from Johnson County to the northside.
            • wrong local landlord
              The talent isn't gone yet landlord, without Angela and Scott, 13 has no personality or talent, just overacting and whining through their little personal stories. 8 has the most down to earth, informative, and in-depth coverage in both weather and news categories, except Kevin Gregory over at 6 of course. Somewhere in the 1960's or 70's?, NBC and ABC switched between 6 and 13, and the bottom didn't fall out for either, just ratings. Sure hope 8 can survive, they have been the backbone since at least 1956. 4 sure has some work to do!
              • WISH to go on...somewhat
                The staff at WISH TV8: sales, news, operations, etc., will remain at WISH. The new CBS4 will create their own news team (they already have a sales team in place at the current WTTV) to air on January 1 2015. While there may be opportunities for the current WISH team to go to the new CBS4, this would depend on each news person's contract with WISH and whether CBS4 is interested. Biggest challenge is that WISH may have a news team but they do not have any network programming and most of the highest rated syndicated shows (Big Bang, Modern Family, Seinfeld, etc)are already under contract to WTTV. These will move to the WTTV 4.2 station in January. All in all, WISH TV8 is the big loser with no programming, no getting annual contracts for 2015 and the onus of anonymity on their horizon. Very sad ending to one of Indy's finest local TV stations.
              • the talent is already gone
                Angela Buchmann was the major draw and when she left a lot of loyal viewers followed.
              • advertising
                so what happens to the advertising that's already sold? and the sales people?
              • So sad!
                I trust and enjoy watching the morning news and weather team on WISH TV and I hope the broadcast continues.
              • For Whom The Bell Tolls
                I will admit that I have never been a big fan of WISH-TV Channel 8 because I do not care for the programming of CBS. I have nothing against the news crew there as they are top notch but I just prefer WTHR 13. I am sorry WISH TV but in this case the bell tolls for thee.

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