WABC-TV is best known in broadcasting circles for its highly successful version of the Eyewitness News format and for its morning show Live! with Kelly and Michael, syndicated nationally by corporate cousin Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
The station signed on August 10, 1948 as WJZ-TV, the first of three television stations signed on by ABC during that same year, with WENR-TV (now WLS-TV) in Chicago and WXYZ-TV in Detroit being the other two. Channel 7's call letters came from its then-sister radio station, WJZ (770 AM, now WABC). In its early years, WJZ-TV was programmed much like an independent station, as the ABC television network was still, for the most part, in its very early stages of development; the ABC-owned stations did air some common programming during this period, especially after the 1949 fall season when the network's schedule in prime time began to expand.
The call letters were changed to WABC-TV on March 1, 1953, after ABC merged its operations with United Paramount Theaters, a firm which was broken off from former parent company Paramount Pictures by decree of the U.S. government. The WJZ callsign was reassigned to Westinghouse Broadcasting (the original owners of WJZ radio in New York) for their newly-acquired television station in Baltimore in 1957—a station that was an ABC affiliate by coincidence until 1995.
On September 11, 2001, the transmitter facilities of WABC-TV, as well as eight other local television stations and several radio stations, were destroyed when two hijacked airplanes crashed into and destroyed the World Trade Center towers. Transmitter maintenance engineer Donald DiFranco died in the attack. In the immediate aftermath, the station fed its signal to several UHF stations that were still broadcasting (notably WNYE-TV), before establishing temporary facilities at the Armstrong Tower in Alpine, New Jersey. The station eventually established transmission facilities at the Empire State Building.
2007 studio fire
On May 27, 2007, the station's studios at Columbus Avenue and 66th Street suffered major damage as the result of a fire that knocked the station off the air shortly before the start of the 11:00 p.m. newscast. According to preliminary reports, the fire may have been ignited by a spotlight coming into contact with a curtain inside the news studio; the station's website later reported the cause as an "electrical malfunction". The station's building was evacuated and the fire was brought under control, though there is said to have been "extensive damage", including smoke and water damage, to the studio. WABC-TV resumed broadcasting at around 1:00 a.m. on May 28, 2007 (initially carrying the network's 10:00 p.m. West Coast feed of Brothers & Sisters, followed by the full version of World News Now).
Due to the fire, the station broadcast Eyewitness News from a temporary set in the newsroom, while Live with Regis and Kelly, whose set was also affected, moved to the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Starting with the 5:00 p.m. newscast on June 20, 2007, the station resumed Eyewitness News and Live... broadcasts from its main studios at Columbus Avenue and 66th Street.
Cable and satellite carriage
WABC-TV is carried on the following cable and satellite systems:
|Cablevision||Comcast||DirecTV||Dish Network||RCN||Time Warner Cable||Verizon FiOS|
- HD in Mercer County, NJ
- Available to DirecTV subscribers in portions of the eastern United States who are unable to receive ABC programming from a local affiliate.
- Available to qualified Dish Network subscribers through My Distant Network's distant network package.
- Available to DirecTV subscribers in portions of the eastern United States who are unable to receive ABC programming from a local affiliate.
Disputes with Cablevision and Time Warner Cable
On March 1, 2010, the station announced that it would likely end its services with Cablevision on March 7, 2010. It warned Cablevision that if it could not come up with a retransmission consent agreement by March 7, the station would remove itself from Cablevision's systems, which would affect up to three million Cablevision subscribers in the station's viewing area, currently on a subscription with iO Digital Cable and Cablevision services.
On March 7, 2010, at 12:02 a.m., the station turned off its signal and was unviewable to Cablevision customers; the station was replaced by either a blank screen or a looping video containing a message from Cablevision about the removal. To avoid interruption of programming, the station urged viewers to begin switching to other services, such as Verizon FiOS and DirecTV, or simply view the station over the air. Viewing the station over the air typically requires the purchasing an over-the-air digital antenna and, if necessary, a digital-to-analog converter box, for older television sets. WABC's sister station, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia was also pulled from Cablevision service in the central New Jersey counties of Mercer County and parts of Ocean County, Middlesex County and Monmouth County.
Later that same day at approximately 8:50 p.m., twenty minutes into ABC's broadcast of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Cablevision and ABC had reached a deal; WABC-TV and WPVI-TV came back on for Cablevision subscribers. The station had been off the cable for nearly 21 hours.
- Time Warner Cable
In July 2010, ABC's parent company Disney announced that it was involved in another carriage dispute with Time Warner Cable for the first time in ten years. This dispute involved four ABC owned-and-operated stations (WABC-TV and sister stations KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WTVD in Durham, North Carolina, and WTVG in Toledo, Ohio), the Disney Channel and the networks of ESPN. If a deal was not in place, the broadcast stations and cable channels would have been removed from Time Warner and Bright House cable systems across the country. On September 2, 2010, Disney and Time Warner Cable reached a long-term agreement to keep the channels on Time Warner Cable systems.
|7.1||720p||16:9||WABC-DT||Main WABC-TV programming / ABC|
|7.2||LivWell|| Live Well Network|
At 12:30 p.m. on June 12, 2009, WABC-TV discontinued regular analog programming on channel 7. The station returned from channel 45 to channel 7.
Initially, over-the-air digital signals from WABC were difficult to receive in New York City. The explanation given is that WABC was requested by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to broadcast at less power; WABC is among many stations which have found it necessary to increase power to restore coverage to the same level as its old analog signal. On June 29, 2009, WABC did file an application to the FCC to increase power from 11.69 kW to 27 kW. At this time it has yet to be granted. On January 31, 2010, the FCC granted an special temporary authority (STA) for the station to increase power to 26.9 kW.
WABC-TV is best known for popularizing the Eyewitness News format, in which reporters present their stories directly to the viewers. News director Al Primo brought the format to WABC-TV in 1968 from KYW-TV in Philadelphia, but added a twist—a degree of conversational chatter among the anchors, known as "happy talk." Primo used the "Tar Sequence" cue from the musical score from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, composed by Lalo Schifrin, as the theme music. The score included a telegraphic-like melody appropriate for a newscast. The Eyewitness News format and theme music were quickly adopted by ABC's other four owned-and-operated stations at the time—WLS-TV in Chicago, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, and KGO-TV in San Francisco (though KGO-TV and WXYZ-TV did not use the Eyewitness News title for their programs).
The format quickly rejuvenated a station that had long been an also-ran to WCBS-TV and WNBC-TV. Within a year, channel 7 had shot to first place in the ratings for the first time in its history, displacing longtime leader WCBS-TV. It spent most of the decade going back and forth with WCBS-TV for first place. For a time in the 1980s, it fell into last place, but still fought with WNBC-TV for second place.
In 1985, the station lured WLS-TV's news director, Bill Applegate, from Chicago to New York. Applegate claimed credit for taking WLS-TV from last to first in only two years, and ABC hoped he could work the same magic at the flagship station. Their hopes were rewarded in 1987 when Channel 7 surged back into first place. It has been the ratings leader in New York since then, and has grown to become the most watched broadcast television station in the United States.
For sixteen years starting in 1970, Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel were the faces of Eyewitness News. Grimsby came to channel 7 in 1968 from KGO-TV, and was the station's lead anchor when Eyewitness News was introduced. He was known for his opening tagline, "Good Evening, I'm Roger Grimsby, here now the news", and his closing line, "Hoping your news is good news, I'm Roger Grimsby." Beutel had previously anchored at channel 7 from 1962 to 1968 (shortly before ABC moved Grimsby to New York City) before spending two years as the network's London bureau chief. The duo were split up for the first ten months of 1975, as ABC had reassigned Beutel to its new morning show AM America. The station brought in WXYZ-TV's Bill Bonds and veteran Boston anchor Tom Ellis to help replace Beutel; both Bonds and Ellis co-anchored at 11 p.m. for a time. When AM America was cancelled and replaced with Good Morning America, Beutel was re-teamed with Grimsby at 6 p.m. and Bonds returned to Detroit. Ellis remained until 1977 and was replaced by Larry Kane, who lasted only one year as sole 11 p.m. anchor. Kane's successor, Ernie Anastos, began his New York career at the station; he co-anchored at 11 p.m. for his entire 12-year tenure there.
In the wake of declining ratings, Grimsby was fired on April 16, 1986, a move for which Applegate drew considerable fire, and Grimsby was quickly hired by rival WNBC-TV. Beutel stepped down from the anchor desk in 2001, two years before his retirement, which concluded the longest tenure for a main anchor in New York television history, at that time. His record has since been surpassed by WNBC's Chuck Scarborough and WXTV's Rafael Pineda. Scarborough's uninterrupted run behind the desk is second in New York television to WXTV's Rafael Pineda, who started with his station in 1972.
While banter among anchors is still part of the weekday morning and noon broadcasts, the modern-day Eyewitness News has abandoned much of the chattiness of its predecessors. WABC's news department is respected for its straightforward presentation (especially during breaking news). For the last decade, it has waged a spirited battle for first place with WNBC, but for most of the time has held onto the lead, helped in part by lead-ins from highly-rated talk and entertainment shows. For over 24 years (December 1986 until May 2011) the 5:00 p.m. Eyewitness News lead-in had been The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4:00 p.m., and its strong ratings brought viewers along to the 5:00 p.m. newscast.
The station cooperates with sister station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia—popularizer of the Action News format—in the production and broadcast of statewide New Jersey political debates. When the two stations broadcast a statewide office debate, such as for governor or U.S. Senate, they will pool resources and have anchors or reporters from both stations participate in the debate. Additionally, the two stations cooperate in coverage of news from New Jersey where their markets overlap, sharing reporters, live trucks, and helicopters.
Eyewitness News airs six hours daily and four and a half hours on weekends. The newscasts were replayed on one of channel 7's digital subchannels, another which also carried a local weather and news channel. WABC-TV's website had a link for live streaming video of "Eyewitness News Now", which offered live local and national weather updated from AccuWeather. Local news headlines and updates were also provided. The format of "Eyewitness News Now" was similar to the defunct NBC Weather Plus. In February 2011, ABC pulled ENN off the air and cable, not just in New York but also similar channels on its Los Angeles and Chicago sister station as well, and replaced them with a standard definition, letterboxed simulcast of the Live Well Networkin all three cities. On December 2, 2006, the station began broadcasting newscasts in high definition, becoming the second station in the New York market to do so.
On September 7, 2010, WABC-TV expanded its weekday morning newscast, now airing at 4:30 a.m.; ABC's national early morning newscast America This Morning was moved a half-hour earlier as a result. Three days earlier on September 4, 2010 WABC added an hour-long extension of its Saturday morning newscast from 9 to 10 a.m. On May 26, 2011, WABC-TV added another hour of local news at 4:00 p.m., replacing Oprah, which aired its final original episode the previous day. This news cast is branded as Eyewitness News First at 4.
On September 24, 2011, the station began broadcasting its newscasts and public affairs programs from a new street-level window studio at a former Disney Store location in the ABC building on 66th Street and Columbus Avenue. The space previously used for news broadcasts will be used to expand the Live with Kelly studio. In January 2012, the station also expanded its weekend 11 p.m. newscasts to an hour.
(as of December 27, 2011)
- Bill Ritter - weeknights @ 6 PM & 11 PM
- Liz Cho - weeknights @ 4 PM and 11 PM
- Sade Baderinwa - weeknights @ 5 PM and 11 PM
- Shirleen Allicot - weekdays at Noon
- David Novarro - weekdays at Noon and 4 PM
- Diana Williams - weeknights @ 5 PM
- Joe Torres - weekend evenings
- Sandra Bookman - weekend evenings
- Michelle Charlesworth - weekend mornings
- Rob Nelson - weekend mornings
- Ken Rosato - weekday mornings & @ Noon
- Lori Stokes - weekday mornings & @ Noon
- Bill Evans - weekday morning & noon meteorologist
- Lee Goldberg - chief/weeknight meteorologist
- Amy Freeze - weekend evening meteorologist
- Jeff Smith - weekend morning meteorologist
- Rob Powers - 6 PM and 11 PM
- Laura Behnke - weekends 6 PM and 11 PM
- Saundra Bookman hosts "Here and Now"
- Diana Williams hosts "UpClose"
- Joe Torres hosts "Tiempo"
- Ken Rosato hosts "Viewpoint"
- NJ Burkett
- Dray Clark
- Michelle Charlesworth
- Josh Einiger
- Jim Dolan
- Dave Evans (Political)
- Tim Fleischer
- Lauren Glassberg (Features)
- Jim Hoffer (Investigative)
- Anthony Johnson (New Jersey)
- Sandy Kenyon (entertainment)
- Carolina Leid
- Nina Pineda (consumer)
- Darla Miles
- AJ Ross
- Kristin Thorne
- Kemberly Richardson
- Stacey Sager
- Marcus Solis (Westchester)
- Lucy Yang
- Toni Yates (New Jersey)
- John Del Giorno (Newscopter 7 HD)
- Shannon Sohn (Newscopter 7 HD)
- Heather O'Rourke (Newscopter 7 HD)
- Camille Edwards – news director
- John Stone – assistant news director
- Kim Dillon – manager of special events
- Bob Monek – digital executive producer
Notable former staff
- Roz Abrams
- Ernie Anastos (now with WNYW-TV)
- Tex Antoine
- Steve Bartelstein
- Bill Beutel
- Bill Bonds
- Jim Bouton
- Sam Champion (now with ABC's Good Morning America)
- Spencer Christian (now with KGO-TV)
- Bertha Coombs (now with CNBC)
- Victoria Corderi (now with NBC News)
- Howard Cosell (later with ABC Sports)
- Penny Crone
- Jay DeDapper
- Tom Dunn
- Storm Field
- Ira Joe Fisher
- Linda Gialanella
- Frank Gifford (later with ABC Sports)
- Carlos Granda (now with KABC-TV)
- Roger Grimsby
- Mark Haines (later with CNBC)
- Robb Hanrahan (now with WHP-TV)
- Steve Hartman (now with CBS News)
- Edye Hill (Tarbox) (later with Fox News Channel)
- Magee Hickey (now with WPIX)
- Carol Iovanna
- John Johnson
- Larry Kane (later with KYW-TV and KYW radio)
- Bob Lape
- Judy Licht
- Nancy Loo (Now at WGN-TV)
- Dorothy Lucey (now with KTTV)
- Felipe Luciano
- Joan Lunden (later with Good Morning America)
- Sal Marchiano
- Corey McPherrin (now with WFLD-TV)
- Larry Mendte (now with WPIX)
- George Michael (later with WRC-TV; former host of The George Michael Sports Machine)
- Mary Nissenson
- Gil Noble
- Mike Parker (now at WBBM-TV)
- Jim Paymar
- Charles Perez
- Tappy Phillips
- Richie Powers
- Geraldo Rivera (now with Fox News Channel)
- Susan Roesgen
- Jeff Rossen (now with NBC News)
- Samantha ("Sam") Ryan (now with MLB Network)
- Rose Ann Scamardella
- John Schubeck
- Marvell Scott
- Rosanna Scotto (now with WNYW)
- Joel Siegel (later with Good Morning America)
- Tom Snyder
- Lara Spencer (now with Good Morning America)
- Spencer Tillman (now with KTRK-TV)
- Melba Tolliver
- Kaity Tong (now at WPIX)
- John Bartholomew Tucker
- David Ushery (now with WNBC)
- Scott Vincent (staff announcer)
- Rolonda Watts (later with Inside Edition and talk show Rolonda)
- Joe Witte (now with WJLA-TV)
- Warner Wolf
- Jenna Wolfe (now with NBC's Today)
- If It's New York City, It Must Be Channel 7 (1992-1995; local version of "It Must Be ABC" campaign)
The original WABC-TV offices were located at 77 West 66th Street, with studios at 7 West 66th Street. An underground tunnel linked ABC studios at 7 West 66th Street to the lobby of the Hotel des Artistes, a block north on West 67th Street. Another studio inside the Hotel des Artistes was used for Eyewitness News Conference.
As part of ABC's expansion program, initiated in 1977, ABC built 7 Lincoln Square on the southeast corner of West 67th Street and Columbus Avenue, on a site of an abandoned moving and storage warehouse. At about the same time, construction was started at 30 West 67th Street, on the site of a former parking lot. Both buildings were completed in June 1979 and WABC-TV moved its offices from 77 West 66th Street to 7 Lincoln Square.
Live! with Kelly and Michael
WABC-TV also produces the nationally syndicated talk show Live with Kelly and Michael, broadcast live at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern time). The program originates in the same ground-floor studio at 7 Lincoln Square as Eyewitness News, thus creating a situation which forces local news updates broadcast during Good Morning America and Live to be produced from the WABC-TV newsroom, and the morning show's presence also limits the size of the Eyewitness News set.
The program's roots originated with A.M. New York, which debuted in 1970 as a local version of NBC's Today show; the program's first host was John Bartholomew Tucker who lasted until 1972, after which a succession of hosts came and went, the more successful of whom was Stanley Siegel who hosted from 1975 to 1978 (for a year beginning in 1977, the series was called The Stanley Siegel Show). After 1980, the show was retitled Good Morning New York, whose co-hosts in the last years of its run in that form included Spencer Christian, Andrea Kirby, Judy Licht, Dick Wolfsie, and longtime Eyewitness News reporter and anchor Doug Johnson. After years of a losing ratings battle against WNBC and Donahue, WABC cancelled Good Morning New York in early 1983. The current show began as the station's second attempt at a local morning show a month later, aptly titled The Morning Show (using the "Circle 7" logo in the actual text for one of the "o"s), and was originally hosted by Regis Philbin and Cyndy Garvey. In 1985, Kathie Lee Johnson (who would marry Frank Gifford a year later and become known professionally as Kathie Lee Gifford) became Philbin's co-host. Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television) began syndicating the show in 1988 as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Gifford left the show in 2000 and was eventually replaced by co-host Kelly Ripa. The franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008.
Other syndicated programming
In addition to Live with Kelly and Michael, the station's studios are home to several other syndicated programs.
Since 1985, WABC has been the New York area home of the long running game show Jeopardy!, having acquired rights to it partway through its first season from rival WNBC. Since 1990 Jeopardy! has been paired with its sister series Wheel of Fortune, which WABC acquired after WCBS dropped the series. WABC also airs Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, acquiring the syndicated series in 2003 after WCBS dropped it, and since 2011 is one of many stations that airs the "double run" package offered by the syndicator consisting of a new/current season episode in its normal timeslot and an episode from the previous season in a second timeslot.
Among the various other game shows that have aired on WABC are two syndicated versions of Hollywood Squares (the 1970s weekly series hosted by Peter Marshall and the first two seasons of the 1980s daily series hosted by John Davidson), Match Game PM, and several short lived syndicated series in the mid-1980s such as Sale of the Century and Card Sharks.
Besides its flagship morning show WABC was the longtime home of The Oprah Winfrey Show in New York, carrying the series from its 1985 debut until its 2011 ending. The series aired for 25 years as the lead-in to the station's 5 PM newscast and WABC often aired the program twice a day, once in its regular 4 PM slot and once in an early morning timeslot for viewers who may have missed it during the day.
WABC was also the New York base for The Rosie O'Donnell Show (which, incidentally, taped at NBC's Rockefeller Center studios) for its entire run, often airing the program live, and was also home to The Sally Jessy Raphael Show from 1986 until 1993. Other talk shows that aired on the station include The Wayne Brady Show and The Tony Danza Show, the latter of which originated from WABC's studios and was broadcast live on the East Coast.
Currently, WABC's only syndicated talk show offering is The Rachael Ray Show, which airs following Live with Kelly and has been on the station since its debut.
The station does not typically offer much in the way of reruns of syndicated comedy and drama series, typically offering other programming or filler from Byron Allen's production companies. The station currently airs Scrubs in an early morning timeslot daily as well as Brothers and Sisters and Grey's Anatomy on weekends.
- abc7ny.com - Official Website
- Classic and current WABC-TV station ID's, promos and clips
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