|City||Battle Creek, Michigan|
|Branding||ABC 4 West Michigan|
41.4: Storm Team 8 Live Doppler Network
First air date
|July 24, 1971|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
41 (UHF, 1971–2009)
20 (UHF, until 2019)
Call sign meaning
|variation of WOOD-TV|
|HAAT||327.8 m (1,075 ft)|
Public license information
WOTV (channel 41) is a television station licensed to Battle Creek, Michigan, United States, serving West Michigan as an affiliate of ABC. It is owned by Nexstar Media Group alongside Grand Rapids–licensed NBC affiliate WOOD-TV (channel 8) and Class A MyNetworkTV affiliate WXSP-CD (channel 15). The stations share studios on College Avenue Southeast in Grand Rapids, while WOTV's transmitter is located on South Norris Road in Orangeville Township.
WOTV brands itself as ABC 4 West Michigan based on its channel 4 position on most area cable systems, though it is on channel 41 on Dish Network, along with DirecTV and its IPTV service U-verse TV.
The Grand Rapids–Kalamazoo–Battle Creek market is one of five American television markets that are served by two separate affiliates of the same network. Locally, ABC programming is also seen on WZZM (channel 13, owned by Tegna Inc.), which is based out of Grand Rapids. Although WZZM clears all network programming and operates a full news department, its digital signal cannot reach Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and other areas within the southern portions of the market. This is because its transmitter is located northwest of Grand Rapids in Grant, farther north than the area's other network stations. While WOTV once focused primarily on the southern portion of the market in an area between the respective signals of WZZM and South Bend, Indiana's WBND-LD, in recent years it has billed itself as a full-market ABC affiliate, including Grand Rapids in its coverage area despite WZZM serving as the ABC station of record for that city. Four of the five markets that have such dual-affiliate arrangements involve ABC affiliates, which exist in Grand Rapids–Kalamazoo–Battle Creek, Boston–Manchester, New Hampshire (WCVB-TV and WMUR-TV, the only such arrangement involving stations owned by the same company), Tampa–St. Petersburg–Sarasota, Florida (WFTS-TV and WWSB), and Lincoln–Hastings–Kearney, Nebraska (KLKN and KHGI-TV). The fifth market, Spokane, Washington–Lewiston, Idaho, has two CBS affiliates, KREM and KLEW-TV.
The station signed on the air on July 24, 1971 as WUHQ-TV (standing for "UHF Headquarters"). It was owned by Channel 41, Inc. a group of 19 investors from Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. WUHQ signed on because the southern portion of the market did not receive an adequate signal from WZZM. WZZM was originally licensed on VHF channel 9, that station swapped channels with WWTV in Cadillac and moved to channel 13 just before signing on in 1962. As a result, its transmitter is farther north than the other West Michigan stations, a measure originally meant to protect WTVG in Toledo, Ohio. Before WUHQ signed on, viewers in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek watched ABC programming via either WSJV (now a Heroes & Icons affiliate) in Elkhart, Indiana, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, or during the summer months when tropospheric propagation across Lake Michigan was more susceptible to occur over West Michigan, WLS-TV in Chicago and the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee (WITI and later WISN-TV).
In its early days, the station could not get ABC to provide a direct network feed. This forced channel 41 to switch to and from WZZM's signal during the times when ABC network programming was being shown. This practice, however, was less than satisfactory as WZZM often preempted network shows in favor of locally originated or other programming (such as Billy Graham crusades). In cases where WUHQ had advance notice of such changes, the station was able to procure filmed copies of the preempted network programming for broadcast. However, WZZM sometimes preempted a program with no advance notice such as for breaking local news or severe weather coverage. When this happened, WUHQ simulcast WSJV, usually with less than satisfactory results. At times, atmospheric conditions were not suitable enough to simulcast WSJV, forcing WUHQ to substitute a film or other non-network programming.
WZZM's owners, Northstar Television, planned to buy WUHQ in 1991 and turn it into a satellite. This would have created a strong combined signal with about 40% overlap. Northstar received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to do this, but the deal fell through when the company was unable to come up with the funds necessary to close the transaction. Instead, WUHQ's owner entered into a local marketing agreement (LMA) with LIN Broadcasting, owner of WOTV in Grand Rapids. The deal closed on November 11, 1991. Shortly after, on June 12, 1992, channel 8 regained its heritage WOOD-TV calls and moved the WOTV calls to channel 41. The previous WUHQ call letters are currently used on a low-power Daystar affiliate in Grand Rapids.
In 1996, WOTV boosted its transmitter power to five million watts, making it the most powerful television station in West Michigan. It now had at least Grade B coverage throughout the entire market. AT&T bought WOOD-TV and the LMA with WOTV in 1994, when LIN spun off its television division as LIN TV. However, LIN continued to operate both stations. LIN TV reacquired WOOD-TV from AT&T in 1999 and bought WOTV outright in 2002. By December 2006, all operations of the station were consolidated into WOOD-TV's facilities in Grand Rapids. Reporter Gerry Barnaby, who joined WOTV in 1993, left the station at end of the year. WOTV's studios on West Dickman Road (M-96) in Battle Creek were donated to a city entity, Battle Creek Unlimited, and were later demolished in February, 2014. The equipment went to the Calhoun County Vocational Educational Center.
Both WOTV and WZZM have had a unique history of having one ABC affiliate preempt network programming during Labor Day weekend for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon while another aired the preempted ABC programming. In recent years, WOTV has aired the MDA Telethon while WZZM has aired ABC programming preempted by the telethon. It was the other way around in previous years, however. Bill Steffen was also the only current news personality to appear on the telethon on both stations having been employed by WZZM and WOOD-TV. Starting in 2013, however, both WZZM and WOTV aired the MDA Show of Strength at the same time as the program switched from a syndication format to a network telecast on ABC.
On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives that could have resulted in the sale of the company.
Soon after rebranding as "WOTV 4" in 2007, the station adopted a modified version of the numeric "41" it had used since the 1990s, highlighting the "4" in positive space and displaying the "1" immediately adjacent in negative space (similar to the hidden numeral "11" in the former Big Ten Conference logo). In March 2012, WOTV launched a new logo, website, and daytime lineup under the brand "WOTV 4 Women". With the launch, the station began to shift its focus towards the female demographic—its website was redesigned to feature more lifestyle-oriented content, and its daytime lineup began featuring more female and lifestyle-oriented programming (such as Dr. Oz, Swift Justice with Jackie Glass, The Nate Berkus Show, Better, and The Wendy Williams Show); the format change was one of the first such instances in which a broadcast television station attempted to target a more specific demographic (in this case, based on gender). By the 2015–16 season, the branding had changed slightly to "My ABC, WOTV 4", though due more by the trends of syndication, as fewer talk shows exist in the market. On early weekend mornings, the station simulcasts WOOD-DT3, which is a feed of WOOD-TV's weather radar (known as the "Storm Team 8 Live Doppler Network") with audio from NOAA Weather Radio station KIG63. The radar feed is carried full-time on WOTV's fourth subchannel.
On March 21, 2014, it was announced that Media General would acquire LIN. The deal closed on December 19, making WOTV, along with WOOD and WXSP, siblings to CBS affiliate WLNS-TV and ABC affiliate WLAJ-TV in Lansing.
On January 27, 2016, Media General announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Nexstar Broadcasting Group. The combined company is known as "Nexstar Media Group" and owns 171 stations (including WOOD and WOTV), serving an estimated 39% of households. The sale was completed on January 17, 2017.
On December 3, 2018, Nexstar announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media (owners of Fox affiliate WXMI) for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WXMI directly or indirectly, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of more than two stations in the same media market, or two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the market. As such, Nexstar was required to sell either WXMI, WOOD and/or WOTV to separate, unrelated companies to address the ownership conflict. The WXSP network of stations would be retained in any situation, as its Class A low-power license is free of regulatory requirements.
On March 20, 2019, it was announced Nexstar would retain the WOOD-TV/WOTV duopoly and WXSP station network as-is, selling WXMI to Cincinnati-based E. W. Scripps Company, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Scripps and Tegna Inc. in separate deals worth $1.32 billion.
Syndicated programs airing on WOTV include The Wendy Williams Show, The Goldbergs, Black-ish, Access Hollywood and Family Feud. WOTV is one of a few ABC affiliates to air paid programming on weekdays.
As of 2021, WOTV presently broadcasts 22 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with four hours each weekday, 1½ hours on Saturdays, and 30 minutes on Sundays).
Channel 41 opened a news department soon after signing on. However, the station had no luck whatsoever competing against WOOD-TV and WWMT (channel 3), since its viewer base was limited to the southern portion of the market. Even with Kalamazoo (the market's second largest city), there simply were not enough viewers in that area of the market for a separate news department to be viable. The station also had to contend with South Bend's WSJV, which decently covered most of this portion of the market over the air.
WUHQ shut down its separate news department in 1990. When WOOD-TV took over the station's operations a year later, it began simulcasting some of its newscasts on WOTV, as well as airing specially produced newscasts covering Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Since then, WOTV has essentially functioned as WOOD-TV's Kalamazoo/Battle Creek bureau.
On February 9, 1991, news anchor Diane Newton King was murdered in her home near Marshall. Her husband, Bradford King, was convicted of first-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence. The case received national attention in 2004 when it was aired on Court TV's Forensic Files. The case was also profiled on A&E's City Confidential in an episode titled "Bad News in Battle Creek". In 1992, WOTV brought back a full news department for a second time branded as 41 News. However, like its predecessor, it barely registered as a blip in the ratings. Even the resources of WOOD-TV, West Michigan's leading news station for the better part of the last three decades, were not enough to help the cause.
LIN finally decided to shut down WOTV's news operation for good in August 2003. Since then, the station has simulcast some of WOOD-TV's newscasts, but this time without any separate opens or segments. Currently, only the 6 a.m. hour of WOOD-TV's weekday morning newscast, the nightly 6 p.m. newscast (the first half-hour only on Sundays) and the nightly 11 p.m. newscast can be seen on WOTV. There are also brief prime time weather updates that air on weeknights featuring WOOD-TV chief meteorologist Bill Steffen. In instances of severe weather, WOTV simulcasts coverage from WOOD-TV.
After the news department was shut down, the on-air slogan "My ABC is WOTV 4" was adopted to promote ABC programming paired with WOOD-TV's market-leading newscasts. The "Phrase That Pays" is a regularly scheduled contest built around the slogan. On October 5, 2009, WOOD-TV became the second station in Southwestern Michigan to begin offering local newscasts in 16:9 widescreen enhanced definition. Although not truly high definition, the broadcast quality matches the ratio of HD television screens. The simulcasts on WOTV were included in the upgrade. Then on October 22, 2011, WOOD-TV became the third television station in southwestern Michigan to broadcast local newscasts in high definition. The simulcasts on WOTV were included in the upgrade as well.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|41.1||720p||16:9||WOTV||Main WOTV programming / ABC|
|41.4||16:9||RADAR||Storm Team 8 Live Doppler Network|
WOTV previously carried a simulcast of sister station WXSP-CD on digital subchannel 41.2; in late-October 2010 with LIN TV beginning to launch digital translators of WOOD-TV in the southwestern portion of the market and near-universal availability of WXSP on cable and satellite, WOTV discontinued its simulcast of WXSP on its second subchannel. It was replaced with 24-hour music video network TheCoolTV. WXSP-CD was also carried by WOOD-DT2 until July 1, 2013.
On July 15, 2013, carriage of TheCoolTV ended as LIN ended its agreement to carry the network, and the subchannel was replaced with the same Doppler radar loop seen on WOOD-DT3. Once Grit debuted on WOTV, the radar loop was moved to its fourth subchannel.
WOTV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 41, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 20, using PSIP to display WOTV's virtual channel as 41 on digital television receivers.