WSB-TV, virtual channel 2 (UHF digital channel 39), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station maintains studios and offices at the WSB Television and Radio Group building on West Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta; its transmission tower is located on the border of the city's Poncey-Highland and Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods.
WSB-TV is the flagship television property of the Cox Media Group subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, which has owned the station since its inception in 1948. Cox also publishes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and owns sister radio stations WSB (750 AM), WSB-FM (98.5 FM), WSBB-FM (95.5 FM), WSRV (97.1 FM) and WALR-FM (104.1 FM)—all of which are based out of WSB-TV's studio facilities.
WSB-TV first began broadcasting on September 29, 1948, originally broadcasting on channel 8. It is the second-oldest station south of Washington, D.C.; only Richmond, Virginia's WTVR-TV (channel 6) is older. The station was founded by James M. Cox, publisher of The Atlanta Journal, and who also owned WSB radio (AM 750 and 104.5 FM, now on 98.5 FM). Cox owned WSB AM-FM-TV under the banner of Miami Valley Broadcasting Inc., which later changed its name to the current Cox Enterprises. The station was originally a primary NBC affiliate, owing to its radio sister's longtime affiliation with NBC Radio. It also carried some ABC programming (from 1949, shared with WAGA-TV, channel 5) until WLWA-TV (channel 8; now WXIA-TV, channel 11) signed on in 1951.
At that time, its present channel 2 allocation was licensed to the Journal's rival newspaper The Atlanta Constitution, who had a construction permit for WCON-TV there. In 1950, the two newspapers merged. At the time, the Federal Communications Commission did not allow one entity to own two television stations in the same market. As a result, WSB-TV and WCON-TV merged. The merged station operated under WSB-TV's license but used the stronger channel 2. This proved to be a fortunate decision, as the FCC later collapsed a large and mostly mountainous swath of northern Georgia into the Atlanta market. The channel 8 allocation was eventually given to WLWA as an ABC affiliate. When that station moved to channel 11 in 1953, channel 8 was reserved as a non-commercial educational allocation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and is now WGTV, the flagship television station of Georgia Public Broadcasting.
In 1956, the WSB stations moved into the noted "White Columns" building, designed and built according to the Colonial Revival style, a defining characteristic of Atlanta architecture. They would remain there for 43 years, until a much more modernist concrete and glass facility was built adjacent to it (on the same property) in 1998. The new building, which has been dubbed "Digital White Columns" by some, is located just off Atlanta's famed Peachtree Street, on the dead-end northern portion of West Peachtree Street which is actually east of Peachtree Street. This is near the Brookwood Hills area, and just east of the "Brookwood split", a highway interchange where the Downtown Connector splits into Interstates 75 and 85 on the north end. The older building was razed shortly after the new building was occupied. The original columns that stood on the front portico of the old building were placed in a garden area alongside the new building. Brand new white columns have been placed inside the glass-enclosed lobby of the newer building. WSB-TV is located less than one block south of the building formerly utilized by WXIA when that station moved its operations to WATL's studios in 2008.
The station was the original local television broadcaster of the relocated Atlanta Braves baseball team, carrying the games from 1966 to 1972, until the Braves telecasts moved to WTCG (now WPCH-TV) in 1973. Its sister AM station was the longtime radio flagship of the Braves, carrying the broadcasts for 38 out of the 46 years that the franchise has been in Atlanta, dating back to 1966. Ernie Johnson, Sr., a former Braves pitcher and father of his namesake Turner Sports broadcaster, with future Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton (who simultaneously pulled double-duty anchoring Channel 2's sportscasts during this time) were the main announcers for what was then the largest television network in baseball.
In 1972, the station aired the name of a murdered rape victim in violation of Georgia's shield law. The station successfully overturned the law before the U.S. Supreme Court in Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn.
ABC was the highest-rated network for most of the late 1970s and, at that time, was looking for stronger affiliates across the country, including Atlanta. ABC's longtime Atlanta outlet, WXIA, frequently traded second place with WAGA. However, WSB-TV was the far-and-away market leader despite being affiliated with last-place NBC. During the summer of 1980, both stations conducted an experiment unusual for a large market: WXIA aired NBC daytime shows in the morning and ABC daytime shows in the afternoon, while WSB aired ABC shows in the morning and NBC shows in the afternoon. By the time the experiment ended on September 1, 1980, WSB-TV officially swapped affiliations with WXIA, and joined ABC. In January 1986, the station debuted the current number "2" logo it continues to use to this day.
The station has carried games featuring the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football since 2006 when it moved from ABC to ESPN under a syndication arrangement, to provide a local broadcast outlet for those games.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|2.1||2.4||2.7||720p||16:9||WSB-HD||Main WSB-TV programming / ABC|
WSB-DT went on the air on April 17, 1998, making it one of the first regular-service digital television stations in the country (the -DT suffix is not mandated by the FCC, thus it is WSB-TV even for digital). The over-the-air digital subchannel 2.2 started carrying the Retro Television Network on January 28, 2008. Prior to this, the channel was blank, or later with a small station ID in the lower corner. RTV programming was replaced with MeTV on June 1, 2011.
WSB-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, on June 12, 2009, at 12:30 p.m., during a live broadcast from the station's transmitter room on the noon newscast, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The switchover was led by Don McClellan, who was celebrating his 50th year at the station. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 39, using PSIP to display WSB-TV's virtual channel as 2 on digital television receivers. As a result of the spectrum incentive auction and the plan to end the digital spectrum at channel 36, WSB will move its digital transmissions to channel 32 in the near future.
During late August and into September 2009, the station removed its analog transmitter from the top of the tower, and moved its side-mounted digital antenna up from its previous lower location on the tower.
|City of license||Callsign/channel||Transmitter power||Coordinates|
|Athens||WSB-TV 31||5,000 watts|
|Gainesville||WSB-TV 46||9,000 watts|
|Newnan||WSB-TV 17||10,000 watts (CP)||(CP)|
|Rome||WSB-TV 14||1,000 watts (application)||(application)|
In March 2009, the station filed applications for two digital fill-in translators (both of which also carry the WSB-TV callsign), due to expected loss of signal strength toward the east and northeast of Atlanta as a result of the shortcomings of the ATSC digital broadcast standard. The station's Gainesville-licensed translator broadcasts on UHF channel 46, and began operations on June 26. It is located on the same radio tower as Cox's WSRV FM and WSBB-FM, and reaches as far into Atlanta's north-northeastern suburbs as Lilburn. The Athens-licensed translator broadcasts on UHF channel 31, with its transmitter located southwest of Winder, and its signal also reaches as far west as Lilburn. WSB-TV requested special temporary authority to begin immediate operation of these stations, pending approval of its regular applications.
The signal coverage of both stations largely overlap with one another, and are almost entirely within the estimated coverage area of the main station, however distributed transmission (on-channel boosters) will not be used. The translators are intended to overcome the terrain obstructions caused by Stone Mountain to the east of the WSB transmitter, and were in operation by January 2011. The Athens station uses virtual channels 2.5 and 2.6 instead of 2.1 and 2.2, while the Gainesville station uses 2.7 and 2.8, allowing viewers to choose whichever station whose signal is better receivable at a given time (certain ATSC tuners may have trouble with two stations using the same virtual channel, and even if not, the user would have to enter the channel number and press "channel-up" or "channel-down" buttons to access the alternates, which would not be separately labeled or identified by the tuner).
In late June 2009, the station also applied for a translator on channel 14 just southwest of Rome. That translator would cover a significant portion of northwest Georgia from the same tower as WQTU (102.3 FM) and WSRM (93.5 FM), and the same site as WGPB (97.7 FM), W212AR (90.3 FM), and W215BA (90.9 FM). There is no STA request for this station however, and as of September 2011[update] it is still listed as only an application. In October 2010, WSB-TV applied for and later received a construction permit for another translator southwest of Atlanta in Newnan on channel 17. This translator will be co-located on the same tower as Cox-owned WALR-FM (104.1), and less than .25 miles (0.40 km) west of another tower holding WBZY (105.3 FM; which is not owned by Cox).
WSB carries most of the ABC lineup except for adjustments to the network's overnight programming in order to start their morning news at 4:30 a.m.; the station carries World News Now from approximately 3:07 a.m. until 4:30 a.m., while declining America This Morning. The Sunday morning talk show from ABC News, This Week airs delayed 90 minutes to accommodate the station's Sunday morning newscast.
Local news programming has had a strong presence on channel 2 since its debut, and it has led the news ratings in Atlanta for as long as records have been kept. WSB-TV is one of the few Big Three affiliates to carry a midday newscast on weekends.In addition, WSB-TV's weekend newscast output is larger than that of Fox owned-and-operated station WAGA (channel 5), which offers a larger overall weekly (and weekday) newscast output than WSB-TV.
WSB-TV became the second station in the Atlanta market (behind WXIA-TV) and the second Cox-owned station (behind Orlando's WFTV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. The first HD broadcast was on September 27, 2006; during its noon broadcast. With the switch came a new HD-ready set and a graphics package designed by Giant Octopus.
In mid-November 2009, reporter Tom Jones and a cameraman escaped serious injury when the telescoping radio mast of their electronic news-gathering van (holding a microwave antenna for the remote pickup unit used for outside broadcasting) contacted 115-kilovolt high-voltage powerlines while leaving the Fulton County Jail. Georgia Power staff were surprised that anyone survived, but the two were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation at Grady Memorial Hospital and released later in the day. The massive electric spark caused an explosion, left a crater underneath the van, arced to and broke a water main, and caused a brief power outage; the vehicle was a total loss.
In northwest Georgia, it was carried in some of the counties covered by the Chattanooga DMA: Catoosa, Dade, Murray, and Walker, but remains on line-ups in Whitfield County. WSB is carried in the far northeast Georgia counties in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville DMA in Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens counties.
In central Georgia, WSB-TV was available to subscribers of co-owned cable provider Cox Communications in the Macon area, although ABC programming was usually blacked out by another local ABC affiliate, WGXA-DT2. Given the long distance to Middle Georgia, it was likely that WSB-TV was uplinked to the AMC-10 TV satellite. WSB was also carried in Vidalia in the Savannah DMA.
In south Georgia (as far south as the Florida border), it was carried on Cox Communications, and virtually all TCI, later Mediacom systems, with the exception of the Columbus operation due to a historical lack of an ABC affiliate in the Albany media market covering southwest Georgia. Since the market's NBC affiliate WALB began carrying ABC on its 10.2 digital subchannel in 2010, it has been dropped by almost all systems. Given the long distance to South Georgia, it was likely that WSB-TV was uplinked to the AMC-10 TV satellite. Charter Communications also carried WSB for its subscribers in the town of Douglas in Coffee County.