|Channels||Digital: 28 (UHF)|
|Branding||WREG News Channel 3|
|Owner||Nexstar Media Group |
First air date
|January 1, 1956|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|Variation of original calls, which stood for the Wooten Radio and Electric Company|
|HAAT||313 m (1,027 ft)|
Public license information
WREG-TV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 28), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Memphis, Tennessee, United States. The station is owned by Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group. WREG-TV's studios are located on Channel 3 Drive near the Mississippi River on the west side of Memphis, and its transmitter is located near Bartlett, Tennessee. However, master control and some internal operations are based at the studios of Nexstar sister station and fellow CBS affiliate WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The station first signed on the air on January 1, 1956 as WREC-TV, and began regular broadcasts the following day on January 2. It was originally owned by electrical engineer and radio dealer Hoyt Wooten (who had applied for one of the first television licenses in the country in 1928), along with WREC radio (600 AM and 102.7 FM, now WEGR). The call letters stood for Wooten's radio store, the Wooten Radio-Electric Company, where he had founded WREC radio in 1922. It took the CBS affiliation from WHBQ-TV (channel 13, which had been a CBS affiliate since it started in September 1953), as WREC-AM had been a CBS Radio affiliate since 1929. WREC-TV's original studios were located inside the Peabody Hotel, a noted tourist attraction, in downtown Memphis.
For its first six years, WREC-TV was the only locally owned station in Memphis (WHBQ-TV was owned by General Tire and NBC affiliate WMC-TV was owned by Scripps-Howard). However, in 1963, Wooten sold WREC-AM-FM-TV to Cowles Communications, earning a handsome return on his original investment of 40 years earlier. In turn, Cowles sold WREC-TV to The New York Times Company in 1971. Cowles later sold the radio stations to other interests. Four years later, the Times Company built new studio facilities for WREC on one of the highest points on Chickasaw Bluff, overlooking the Mississippi River. The station had long since outgrown the Peabody Hotel, and management felt that building a new studio near the Mississippi would be appropriate since Memphis has long been identified with the river. On March 2, 1975, channel 3 signed off from the Peabody Hotel for the last time as WREC-TV, and returned to the air 45 minutes later, renamed WREG-TV, with its first transmission from the new studios on Channel 3 Drive. Years later, the station also maintained studio space in the Peabody Place shopping center, adjacent to the Peabody Hotel, marking a partial return of sorts to the WREC-TV years. However, the studio was shut down in 2011 when Peabody Place closed.
On September 12, 2006, The New York Times Company announced its intention to sell its nine television stations. On January 4, 2007, the company entered into an agreement with private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners to sell the stations to the Oak Hill-operated holding company Local TV, the sale was finalized on May 7. On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that it would sell its stations to Tribune Broadcasting (which formed a management company that operated both Tribune and Local TV's stations in 2008) for $2.75 billion. The sale was completed on December 27.
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Fox's purchases of KSTU and the other six Tribune stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned ABC affiliate WATN-TV (channel 24) and CW affiliate WLMT (channel 30) since December 2012—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar was precluded from acquiring WREG directly or indirectly while owning WATN/WLMT, 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. (Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WREG through local marketing or shared services agreements would have been subject to regulatory hurdles that could have delayed completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, Nexstar decided to sell WATN to a separate, unrelated company to address the ownership conflict. WLMT does not rank among the top four in total-day viewership and therefore is not in conflict with existing FCC in-market ownership rules; however, Nexstar opted to sell that station alongside WATN. On March 20, 2019, it was announced that Nexstar would sell the WATN/WLMT duopoly to McLean, Virginia-based Tegna Inc. and buy WREG-TV, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Tegna and the E. W. Scripps Company in separate deals worth $1.32 billion; this would make the WATN/WLMT duopoly sister stations to NBC affiliate WBIR-TV in Knoxville and CBS affiliate KTHV in Little Rock. The deal was approved by the FCC on September 16 and was completed on September 19, 2019.
Syndicated programs seen on WREG-TV include Inside Edition, Jeopardy!, and Entertainment Tonight. The syndicated version of Wheel of Fortune airs on WMC-TV (channel 5), making the Memphis area one of the few TV markets to air Wheel and Jeopardy! on separate stations.
WREG is the only CBS affiliate that preempts CBS Saturday Morning, airing a three-hour Saturday morning newscast in its place. The station also preempts the Sunday edition of the CBS Weekend News in order to air an hour-long 5 p.m. newscast. WREG is one of the few stations that preempts a big three network evening newscast (the hour-long early evening newscast inventories of Norfolk NBC affiliate WAVY-TV, Grand Rapids NBC affiliate WOOD-TV and Scranton ABC affiliate WNEP-TV are also limited in a similar fashion with the latter airing local programming in place of the network's evening newscast). Over the years, WREG has produced many local programs, such as News Channel 3 Knowledge Bowl and Mid-South Outdoors (later known as News Channel 3 Outdoors). The station also currently produces Live at 9, a weekday morning program that maintains a talk show-style format and the public affairs program Informed Sources, which airs on Saturday evenings and sometimes Sunday nights and discusses current local issues.
Throughout the early 1960s into the late 1980s, WREC/WREG claimed to possess the largest feature film library of any television station in the United States, which was evidenced in its daily (late afternoons and late nights) and weekend programming lineup at the time. The station used some of those features for theme weeks (such as "Godzilla Week" and "John Wayne Week"), which proved to be very popular with viewers. However, like most major network affiliates in the early 1980s, WREG-TV began cutting back on the large number of movies that occupied much of its off-network schedule, a move prompted by the presence of cable, VCRs, and the emergence of then-independent competitors WPTY (channel 24, now ABC affiliate WATN-TV) in 1978 and WMKW (channel 30, now CW affiliate WLMT) in 1983.
The station presently broadcasts 40½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, 4½ hours on Saturdays and 3½ hours on Sundays). For more than two decades, WREG has been in a Nielsen ratings war for first place with longtime powerhouse WMC-TV. WREG did not actually win a ratings period, however, until February 2006 after it paired former WHBQ anchor Claudia Barr and former WMC morning anchor Richard Ransom as its main evening anchors. Since that time, WREG has gradually built on its wins in the all-important 10 p.m. slot and now consistently dominates that time period. Since the February 2014 sweeps period, the station's newscasts have placed first in all time slots.
On June 13, 2011, beginning with the 10 p.m. newscast, WREG-TV became the third station in the Memphis market (behind WMC-TV and WHBQ-TV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. The switch came with a refresh of the newsroom set and new graphics, however major technical glitches occurred during the week following the conversion. In mid-2011, the WREG news studio received a major overhaul with the unveiling of a "newsplex" set (designed by FX Group) that occupies a large studio with loft areas and continues into a smaller newsroom area in the back and includes numerous live areas and a set for the Live at 9 program.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||WREG-DT||Main WREG-TV programming / CBS|
|3.2||480i||NC3A||News Channel 3 Anytime|
The station became a charter affiliate of Antenna TV upon its launch on January 1, 2011 and is carried on digital subchannel 3.3.
WREG-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, 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 28, using PSIP to display WREG-TV's virtual channel as 3 on digital television receivers.
WREG-TV, along with Little Rock's KTHV, previously served as the default CBS affiliates for the Jonesboro, Arkansas area. WREG's signal can reach at least the Jonesboro area, and it is available on Suddenlink cable, as well as the cable system of Paragould Light Water and Cable in the Paragould area. This ended on August 1, 2015, when Jonesboro-based Fox affiliate KJNB-LD signed on the Jonesboro market's first locally based CBS affiliate on its second digital subchannel. This has resulted in the displacement of KTHV from Suddenlink cable, and may also result in the removal of WREG-TV.
WREG-TV also previously served as the default CBS affiliate for the Jackson, Tennessee media market, along with Nashville's WTVF. This ended on January 1, 2012, when ABC affiliate WBBJ-TV converted its third subchannel into a primary CBS affiliate and secondary MeTV affiliate for that area. In spite of this, both WREG and WTVF remain on Jackson Energy Authority's E-Plus Broadband Cable system.
At one point in time during the 1980s and 1990s, WREG operated a translator based in Malden, Missouri, K62DA, which served some northern sections of the Memphis market, as well as the far southern parts of the Paducah, Kentucky–Cape Girardeau, Missouri market.