WKYC, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 17), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. The station is owned by Tegna, Inc. WKYC maintains studio facilities located on Tom Beres Way (a section of Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland named after the station's longtime political reporter who retired in 2016), and its transmitter is located in suburban Parma.
The station first signed on the air on October 31, 1948 as WNBK, broadcasting on VHF channel 4. It was the second television station in Cleveland to debut, ten months after WEWS-TV (channel 5), and was the fourth of NBC's five original owned-and-operated stations to sign on, three weeks after WNBQ (now WMAQ-TV) in Chicago. WNBK was a sister station to WTAM radio (1100 AM), which was owned by NBC since 1930. Although there was no coaxial cable connection to New York City, AT&T had just installed a cable connection between WNBK, WNBQ, WSPD-TV (now WTVG) in Toledo, KSTP-TV in St. Paul, Minnesota and KSD-TV (now KSDK) in St. Louis, creating NBC's Midwest Network. WNBK became one of the originators of programming for the regional network, along with WNBQ. Two days after signing on, on November 2, WNBK transmitted its coverage of the Truman/Dewey election results to the NBC Midwest Network. On January 11, 1949, WNBK began carrying NBC's New York-originated programming live via a cable connection to Philadelphia.
As a result of frequency reallocations resulting from the Federal Communications Commission's 1952 Sixth Report and Order, WNBK was moved to channel 3, swapping frequencies with fellow NBC affiliate WLWC (now WCMH-TV) in Columbus in order to alleviate same-channel interference with another NBC station, WWJ-TV (now WDIV-TV) across Lake Erie in Detroit. After construction was completed on the station's new transmitter in Parma, the channel switch took place on April 25, 1954.
In May 1955, NBC agreed to trade WNBK and WTAM-AM-FM to Westinghouse Electric Corporation in return for KYW radio and WPTZ television in Philadelphia. Although Cleveland was a top-10 television and radio market at the time, NBC had long wanted to "trade up" its holdings to a larger market. Also, Philadelphia was the largest market in which it did not own a station. The swap became official on January 22, 1956, as NBC moved its operations (including much of its Cleveland staff) to Philadelphia, with WPTZ becoming WRCV-TV. Westinghouse took over the WNBK/WTAM operation and changed its call letters to KYW-AM-FM-TV on February 13, 1956.
Under Westinghouse ownership, KYW-TV launched Barnaby, a children's program which starred Linn Sheldon as the title character. The show premiered in 1956 and was an immediate hit, running on weekday afternoons for ten years. In 1961, channel 3 originated a local 90-minute weekday daytime variety talk show with former band singer Mike Douglas, which went up against WEWS's One O'Clock Club. Quickly eclipsing the competition, The Mike Douglas Show became so popular that Westinghouse decided to carry the program on its other stations in 1963, and eventually to syndicate the program nationwide.
Two NBC programs were notably excluded from KYW-TV's schedule: The Tonight Show, which was reformatted after original host Steve Allen's departure as the short-lived Tonight! America After Dark, was dropped by channel 3 in June 1957 and replaced with a late-night movie following the 11:00 p.m. newscast. NBC revived Tonight with Jack Paar as host in July of that year, but KYW-TV continued with its own programming, which also included the Westinghouse-produced-and-syndicated (new) Steve Allen, Regis Philbin, and Merv Griffin programs. The Paar-hosted Tonight Show would not be seen in Cleveland until October 1957, when NBC agreed to terms with WEWS to carry the program. KYW-TV also did not carry NBC's early-evening newscast, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, for exactly one year comprising the 1959-1960 television season. Like with the Tonight Show, WEWS also ran this program. Also during this period, WFMJ-TV out of Youngstown Ohio was the nearest full-time NBC station to Cleveland. Many were able to receive WFMJ with a good antenna and UHF converter at that time.
Despite its success in Cleveland, Westinghouse was not happy with how the 1956 trade with NBC played out. Almost as soon as the ink dried on the trade, the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation, claiming NBC extorted and coerced them into agreeing to the deal. The investigators discovered that Group W had only agreed to the deal after NBC threatened to remove its affiliation from WPTZ (the present-day KYW-TV) and Westinghouse's other NBC affiliate, WBZ-TV in Boston, and to withhold a primary affiliation with newly purchased KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. In 1964, after an investigation that lasted eight years, the FCC ordered the swap to be reversed.
NBC re-assumed control of the Cleveland stations on June 19, 1965. Instead of restoring the previous WNBK and WTAM identities, the stations' new call letters became WKYC-AM-FM-TV, mostly as a nod to Westinghouse's stewardship of the stations. The AM station, for instance, had become a top 40 powerhouse under the moniker "KY11." WKYC-TV was separated from its sister stations in 1972, when NBC sold the WKYC radio stations to Ohio Communications. The AM station changed its calls to WWWE before restoring its historic WTAM calls in 1996, while the FM station became WWWM and then, in 1982, WMJI.
In a reverse of what took place in 1956, some radio and television staffers who worked for Westinghouse in Cleveland moved to Philadelphia along with the KYW call letters. This included news reporter Tom Snyder, news director Al Primo, and Mike Douglas. WKYC-TV continued to air The Mike Douglas Show for many years after both the host and the program moved to Philadelphia, where it remained until 1978. Westinghouse also took the Eyewitness News name and format with it from Cleveland to Philadelphia; it would later return to Cleveland, being used on WEWS from 1972 to 1990. Other Westinghouse employees – such Linn Sheldon, Clay Conroy (who played Barnaby's sidekick "Woodrow the Woodsman" before getting a spinoff show of his own), and staff announcer Jay Miltner (who had been with the station since its inception in 1948) – remained in Cleveland. To this day, the Philadelphia stations insist they "moved" to Cleveland in 1956 and "returned" to Philadelphia in 1965 after the trade was voided.
With the Cleveland Browns move to the newly-formed American Football Conference after the AFL-NFL merger of 1970, channel 3, by way of NBC's rights to carry the AFC games, became the station of record for the team. This partnership would continue through 1995. Today, Browns games are shown on channel 3 when the team plays on NBC's Sunday Night Football. NBC also relocated many of their top Philadelphia radio and television executives and some on-air personalities to Cleveland, such as meteorologist Wally Kinnan. Kinnan's arrival displaced Dick Goddard, who had been with channel 3 since 1961. Goddard moved to Philadelphia with Westinghouse but returned to Cleveland in early 1966 and joined WJW-TV (channel 8). Evening sports anchor Jim Graner, who had joined the station in 1957 while also serving as the color commentator for the Cleveland Browns radio network, remained through the transition; he stayed on until his death in 1976. One show that made the jump to Cleveland was the award-winning documentary series Montage, produced and directed by Dennis Goulden. This nationally acclaimed series of over 250 episodes investigated the issues and lifestyles of the Cleveland community during the 1960s and 1970s. The Tonight Show also returned to WKYC-TV's schedule in February 1966, after airing on WEWS during channel 3's Westinghouse years. At the same time, channel 3 enjoyed several technical advances with NBC's parent company, RCA (and after 1986, General Electric). It was Cleveland's first television station to broadcast full-time in color on September 13, 1965 (almost immediately after NBC regained channel 3 from Group W), the first to broadcast in stereo in 1985, and the first VHF station to closed-caption its local newscasts for the hearing-impaired in 1990.
After years of sagging ratings, NBC sold majority control of WKYC (51%) to Multimedia, Inc. in 1990. Due to its long ownership by NBC, to this day channel 3 is the only major station in Cleveland to have never changed its primary affiliation. At that time, Multimedia's entertainment division (now part of NBC's syndication arm) produced a number of syndicated daytime talk shows, and as a result Multimedia productions such as The Jerry Springer Show (who himself had come from then-sister station WLWT in Cincinnati), Sally Jessy Raphael and Donahue ended up on WKYC's daily schedule. In 1993, the NBC peacock was dropped from the primary station logo, which italicized the numeral 3, was put in a square, and took a red-white-blue color scheme, though WKYC was still (and continues to be to this day) identified as "Channel 3" (the previous logo was a plain Helvetica "3" [also used 1976-84], and was modified to become the logo today, after replacing the logo used 1984–91, an abstract, rectangular 3).
The Gannett Company purchased Multimedia in November 1995, and acquired the remaining 49% of the station from NBC in early 1999. WKYC accomplished another first in Cleveland television history by becoming the first station in Northeast Ohio to broadcast in high-definition in 1999. Soon after Gannett bought full control of the station, it moved from its longtime studios in the former East Ohio Gas building on East Sixth Street in downtown Cleveland to its state-of-the-art Lakeside Avenue studio on the shores of Lake Erie, which Channel 3 refers to as its "digital broadcast center".
On July 1, 2011, WKYC became Cleveland's television outlet for the Ohio Lottery's daily drawings, as well as its Saturday night game show Cash Explosion; the rights returned to the lottery's former longtime broadcaster WEWS-TV (which had carried the drawings from the early 1970s until WKYC assumed the rights) on July 1, 2013.
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 WKYC. Gannett threatened to pull WKYC from Dish in Cleveland 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.
In March 2013, the station made national headlines when it pre-empted NBC's Thursday night sitcom lineup for two weeks with Matlock telefilms. Coming so shortly after it was announced about NBC's sagging ratings, the decision was perceived to be a result of the lineup's poor performance. WKYC's manager revealed that the station has typically preempted the lineup for Matlock telefilms quite often for the past ten years and the move had nothing to do with ratings.
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 home video media. WKYC was retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WKYC-HD||Main WKYC programming / NBC|
|3.3||COZI TV||Cozi TV|
WKYC shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 17. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers continues to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.1.
The "-TV" suffix was removed from the WKYC call sign on June 16, 2009. As part of the SAFER Act, WKYC kept its analog signal on the air until July 12 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
WKYC-TV has been the over-the-air home of Cleveland Indians baseball since the 2006 season. WKYC also provided studio operations for regional sports network SportsTime Ohio – owned by the team itself until 2013 – which airs the remainder of Indians games on cable and satellite, and simulcasts the games broadcast by Channel 3. During baseball season, Channel 3 airs a weekly half-hour Indians-themed program, Indians Tonight, on Sundays at 11:35 p.m. Matt Underwood and former Indians outfielder Rick Manning serve as the announcing team for the Indians telecasts. All Indians games and other related programs are broadcast in high definition.
On November 19, 2014, it was announced that the Cleveland Browns and WEWS had agreed to a long-term partnership to air the Browns' preseason games and other Browns-related programming. The deal went into effect in 2015, ending the Browns' longtime partnership with WKYC, which had been in place for all but one season since the team's return in 1999.
Under Westinghouse, the station debuted the country's first 90-minute local news block in 1959, called Eyewitness (a precursor to the Eyewitness News format). From 1973 to 1984, WKYC tried to use the Action News branding several times while also using the music and graphics associated with the other NBC-owned stations, which employed the NewsCenter name. On March 19, 1984, the station dropped the Action 3 News name and adopted its current newscast moniker, Channel 3 News. WKYC also adopted a new logo and a new slogan called "Turn to 3"; the accompanying jingle was composed by Frank Gari. The "Turn to 3" jingle and image campaign was borrowed by many TV broadcasters around the world – most notably Detroit's WXYZ-TV. Various anchors – such as Virgil Dominic, Doug Adair, Mike Landess, Dave Patterson, Mona Scott, Judd Hambrick, Leon Bibb and Dick Feagler – set designs, and imaging campaigns were tried out, usually with little to no success.
For much of the time between NBC's repurchase of the station and the dawn of the 21st century, WKYC-TV's news department was usually a very distant third in the ratings, well behind WJW-TV and WEWS. Part of the reason was that during most of its second stint as an NBC-owned station, it served mainly as a farm system for NBC with almost no local talent. Given Cleveland's status as a mid-major television market, most of the promising reporters or anchors that NBC employed at WKYC could end up being promoted to other higher-profile NBC-owned outlets, especially New York City flagship WNBC-TV or WMAQ-TV in nearby Chicago. Many WKYC alumni went on to long and successful careers with NBC; most notably, current Today weather anchor Al Roker served as WKYC's chief weatherman from 1978 to 1983. As a result of this practice, turnover at channel 3 was very high, and it was unable to establish any real talent continuity. It was by far NBC's weakest owned-and-operated station. Two of the few long-tenured personalities during this time included Joe Mosbrook and Del Donahoo. Both joined WKYC in 1967 (Donahoo from WOW in Omaha) and enjoyed long tenures at the station. Mosbrook retired in 2002, while Donahoo was co-host of Today in Cleveland with Tom Haley until 1997 and a feature reporter (under the "Del's Folks" banner) until 2006.
After NBC sold controlling interest in the station to Multimedia, the station tried to rebuild its news operation in the mid-1990s. They attempted this by putting more of an emphasis on local talent and continuity, using the tagline of "We're Building Our Station Around You" (complete with idents suggesting the slogan, by showing a physical logo for the station being sketched out, welded, painted and having the call-letters applied). Channel 3 even set up a telephone feedback hotline - dubbed "Talkback 3" - which was intended to field suggestions and comments from viewers about what they would like to see in the newscasts. Despite the more interactive approach, WKYC did not immediately reap any benefits coming from longtime CBS affiliate WJW's switch to (and eventual purchase by) Fox in 1994. However, ratings for WKYC's newscasts gradually began to improve towards the end of the decade. The station started to finish in first place in assorted time slots and posted some of the highest ratings books in the station's history.
In what was a somewhat controversial move, in September 1999, WKYC expanded its 6 p.m. newscast to one hour. This aggravated viewers because NBC Nightly News was pushed back from its long standing start time of 6:30 p.m., down to 7:00 p.m. This practice would be modified in July 2000 when NBC Nightly News was moved back to its traditional 6:30 p.m. slot, and the second half-hour was used to start a 7 p.m. newscast, which continues to air.
WKYC finally became a factor in the Cleveland television news race in 2003, after it had picked up the then brand new Dr. Phil program and placed it in the 5 p.m. time slot. This move proved to be very successful since all of the other local major network affiliates were broadcasting news at 5:00 p.m. and this gave viewers an alternative; it also allowed WKYC to be able to get many viewers to change channels at the end of WEWS's 4:00 p.m. broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show so as to watch Dr. Phil (which was a spinoff of Oprah) at 5 p.m. (the syndication contracts for both shows disallowed them from airing against each other). During the broadcast of Dr. Phil, WKYC heavily promoted its 6:00 p.m. newscast, which began to experience sharp ratings increases, which then trickled down to the 7 p.m. newscast.
In early 2004, viewers began turning away from WJW and WEWS's hard-hitting newscasts to the more traditional WKYC. This helped channel 3 rise to first place in the news ratings for the first time in decades; all of its newscasts won their timeslots. WKYC even managed to push WJW's popular morning newscast into second place. This continued until May 2005, when WKYC made two major changes in their newscasts: the station had its reporters extend the length of their stories, hoping to provide more detail; in attempt to combat the common viewer complaint that "all news is bad", WKYC also started inserting more "positive" stories into their newscasts. The combination of the two resulted in less "hard" news, and resulted in a drop in viewership. Over the summer of 2005, while Dr. Phil was in repeats, WKYC lost the top spot at 6 p.m. to WEWS.
However, channel 3 retook the top spot in that slot during the November 2005 sweeps period. Additionally, despite fears due to a weakened NBC primetime schedule, WKYC retained its top spot at 11 p.m. which it has held for 17 straight ratings periods. In the February 2006 ratings period, WKYC will continue its first place streak by placing first at 6 and 11 p.m. Its morning newscast was second only to WJW's. On May 22, 2006, WKYC-TV will triumph to be the second television station in the Cleveland market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high-definition. In the November 2006 ratings period, WKYC's airing of Dr. Phil continues to lead at 5 p.m., and its 11 p.m. newscast held on to first place (though by a very slim margin over WOIO), although it slipped from first to third at 6 p.m. It came in last place at noon (it was the only "Big Four" affiliate in Cleveland not to air a newscast at that time slot). Channel 3's late-afternoon and early-evening slump continued from then on, reaching its nadir in the February 2008 ratings period, when both Dr. Phil and the 6 p.m. newscast finished third behind WJW's and WEWS's newscasts.
Another reason for the sustained success was that channel 3 had a measure of stability at the anchor desk for the first time in decades. From 2000 to 2007, its weeknight news team consisted of Tim White and Romona Robinson, chief meteorologist Mark Nolan and sports director Jim Donovan. The long-standing team was broken up in 2007 when Nolan was reassigned to anchor the morning newscast, and weekend meteorologist Betsy Kling was promoted to weeknights. In December 2008, White's contract was allowed to lapse and Robinson anchored the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts alone until her departure at the end of 2011.
On January 3, 2011, WKYC expanded its weekday morning newscast by a half-hour, to 4:30 a.m. (WJW expanded its morning newscast into that timeslot on that same day). On January 16, 2012, former CBS News reporter/anchor Russ Mitchell became the new primary weeknight anchor and managing editor. On April 2, 2012, Kris Pickel became the new weeknight co-anchor with Mitchell at 6 and 11 p.m., marking a return of the traditional two-person anchor team at WKYC after three-plus years of solo anchors. In 2015, Pickel left WKYC and was replaced by Sara Shookman, who was previously a reporter/weekend morning anchor for channel 3.
On January 22, 2013, WKYC began using the AFD #10 broadcast flag to present its newscasts and other station programming in letterboxed widescreen for viewers watching on cable television through 4:3 television sets; this change accompanied the switch to Gannett's new standardized station graphics package.
In 2016, after 37 years of serving as the station's political reporter, longtime channel 3 newsman Tom Beres announced his retirement after covering the election. The city of Cleveland then honored Beres by naming the section of Lakeside Avenue in front of the WKYC building "Tom Beres Way".
When atmospheric conditions permit, WKYC's signal can be received as far away as Detroit and into Canada in Windsor and London, Ontario. WKYC was also carried on cable channel 3 in London prior to 1974, but was bumped to make room for Paris, Ontario's CKGN-TV, also on channel 3 at the time, and the flagship for the newly-launched Global network of stations across Ontario. The station is readily available over-the-air to Kingsville, Leamington and Pelee Island, and was once one of the three Cleveland area stations carried on local cable providers in those three locations; WEWS and WJW were also available until 2000, when Cogeco displaced Shaw Cable as the cable provider for Essex County.
On October 16, 2009, the Windsor Star had notified readers that digital subchannels of the Detroit and Toledo stations would be added, while the Cleveland stations (such as WKYC) and some Toledo stations would have to be dropped from the listings to make room for them, starting with the next issue of the TV Times, released the next day. The only Cleveland local station remaining in the Windsor-area TV Times is WUAB.