|Wheeling, West Virginia–|
|City||Wheeling, West Virginia|
|Channels||Digital: 7 (VHF)|
Virtual: 7 (PSIP)
|Slogan||Working For You|
|Owner||Nexstar Media Group |
|WOWK-TV, WVNS-TV, WBOY-TV, WCMH-TV|
First air date
|October 24, 1953|
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|Two Radio Frequencies|
(referring to former sister AM and FM stations with same calls)
|HAAT||293 m (961 ft)|
Public license information
WTRF-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 7, is a CBS/MyNetworkTV/ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Wheeling, West Virginia, United States and also serving Steubenville, Ohio. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group. WTRF's studios are located on 16th Street in downtown Wheeling, and its transmitter is located in Bridgeport, Ohio atop a 738-foot tall lattice tower.
The station signed on for the first time on October 24, 1953. It was co-owned with WTRF radio (1290 AM, now WLIE, and 100.5 FM, now WBGI-FM) which had signed on across the Ohio River in Bellaire, Ohio, in 1947. The call letters stood for Two Radio Frequencies, a nod to FM 100.5 being used to continue programming when AM 1290 signed off at sunset. The radio stations were sold off in the 1970s to help finance the television station.
WTRF was originally an NBC affiliate but also carried some programming from ABC, splitting that network's programming with then-CBS affiliate WSTV-TV (channel 9, now WTOV-TV). In 1979, WTRF became the area's first station to use videotape rather than film.
For its first quarter-century on the air, WTRF-TV was the undisputed leader in the Wheeling–Steubenville market despite being well within reach of the much larger Pittsburgh market. As of 2017, the Wheeling–Steubenville market remains separate from Pittsburgh despite the very close proximity between the two markets as well as significantly overlapping signals between the two markets.
On January 7, 1980, WTRF swapped network affiliations with WTOV and became a CBS affiliate. NBC had struggled in the ratings for a number of years at the time and WTRF wanted a stronger affiliation. It also dropped the remaining ABC programs from its schedule. This was not as serious a problem as it appeared, since Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV (channel 4) and Youngstown's WYTV (channel 33) were available in the area on cable, with channel 4's over-the-air signal covering most portions of the Wheeling–Steubenville market. However, the switch backfired disastrously. While as an NBC affiliate, channel 7 had to contend with Pittsburgh's WIIC-TV (channel 11, now WPXI), one of NBC's weakest affiliates, for network viewers, it now had to contend with KDKA-TV (channel 2), one of CBS' strongest affiliates, as it was (and remains today) widely viewable in the area both over-the-air and available on cable. This, combined with NBC's resurgence in the 1980s while CBS faltered at the same time, saw WTRF become a very distant second to WTOV in the local ratings. While CBS rebounded in the 1990s, WTRF has never really recovered, with some viewers even watching now-CBS O&O KDKA-TV for CBS programming over WTRF.
Another factor in channel 7's struggles was ownership instability. From the early 1980s through the mid 1990s, it went through three different owners. Adams Communications bought the station from Wesray Corporation in 1987 but ran into financial trouble and sold most of its stations, including WTRF, to Brisette Broadcasting in 1991. Brisette himself was nearly brought down by financial issues and merged his group with Benedek Broadcasting in 1996. West Virginia Media Holdings bought the station when Benedek declared bankruptcy in 2002.
In 2007, WTRF launched its second digital subchannel as a Fox and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate. Previously, the Wheeling–Steubenville market was served by WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh as the de facto Fox affiliate.
Along with sister station WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, WTRF launched its third digital subchannel as an ABC affiliate on August 1, 2008, bringing ABC programming back to the Wheeling–Steubenville market. Previously, both the Wheeling–Steubenville and Clarksburg–Weston–Fairmont markets were served by WTAE as the de facto ABC affiliate; WYTV served as the default ABC affiliate for the western portion of the Wheeling–Steubenville market.
WTRF has been digital-only since February 17, 2009.
On September 1, 2014, WTRF lost the Fox affiliation on 7.2 to WTOV. The subchannel's secondary affiliation with MyNetworkTV then became its primary, rebranding as "My Ohio Valley".
On November 17, 2015, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the West Virginia Media Holdings stations, including WTRF-TV, for $130 million. Under the terms of the deal, Nexstar assumed control of the stations through a time brokerage agreement in December 2015, with the sale of the license assets completed on January 31, 2017.
WTRF-DT2, branded on-air as My Ohio Valley, is the MyNetworkTV-affiliated second digital subchannel of WTRF-TV, broadcasting in 720p high definition on virtual and VHF channel 7.2. On cable, the subchannel is available on Xfinity channel 3.
WTRF-DT2 signed on in 2007 as a Fox and secondary MyNetworkTV affiliate. Previously, WPGH-TV out of nearby Pittsburgh served the market as the de facto affiliate. However, it is still widely available over-the-air and on cable in the area.
WTRF-DT2 lost the Fox affiliation to a subchannel of WTOV-TV on September 1, 2014; in a statement, Fox said that it switched stations because WTOV has a stronger over-the-air signal than WTRF. WTRF-DT2's secondary affiliation with MyNetworkTV then became its primary affiliation.
WTRF-DT3, branded on-air as ABC Ohio Valley, is the ABC-affiliated third digital subchannel of WTRF-TV, broadcasting in 720p high definition on virtual and VHF channel 7.3. On cable, the subchannel is available on Xfinity channel 4.
WTRF launched a new third digital subchannel with ABC programming on August 1, 2008, a year after it had launched Fox programming on WTRF-DT2. Previously, WTRF and WTOV aired ABC programming in off-hours, but began phasing out ABC in the 1970s. WTRF dropped it entirely in the early 1980s, but WTOV continued to air a few ABC programs until 2000. However, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh provided grade B coverage to most of the Wheeling–Steubenville market and was available in most area cable systems, while the far western part of the market could also get WSYX-TV in Columbus and WYTV in Youngstown. The launch of WTRF-DT3 allowed the tiny Wheeling–Steubenville market to finally receive full-time affiliates of all four major networks. Despite the presence of WTRF-DT3, however, both WTAE and WYTV retain their analog cable carriage on local Xfinity systems, with ABC Ohio Valley airing only on Xfinity digital cable.
From 2013 through 2017, WVTX-CD was used to broadcast WTRF-TV's ABC and MyNetworkTV subchannels in 720p HD, which was not possible to do on WTRF-TV's main signal at the time due to equipment limitations. That station ceased operations on October 25, 2017, after selling its spectrum for $6,100,391 in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s incentive auction. Equipment upgrades allow CBS, MyNetworkTV and ABC to all broadcast in full HD on WTRF-TV's main signal.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|7.1||1080i||16:9||WTRFCBS||Main WTRF-TV programming / CBS|
|7.2||720p||WTRFMY||WTRF-DT2 / MyNetworkTV|
|7.3||WTRFABC||WTRF-DT3 / ABC|
|7.4||480i||4:3||Escape||Court TV Mystery|
WTRF-DT2 airs a nightly 10 o'clock broadcast known as 7 News at 10 (formerly known as Fox Ohio Valley News, until WTRF-DT2 lost the Fox affiliation to WTOV-DT2 on September 1, 2014), which competes with a similar newscast seen on WTOV-DT2 (until WTOV-DT2 joined Fox, the newscast was the only newscast offered at that time in the market, but the station was not the first to offer a 10 p.m. newscast); the first ran on WVTX-CD. The second hour of the main channel's weekday morning show is repeated at 7 on that subchannel. WTRF-DT3 simulcasts the weekday editions of 7 News at 6 a.m., noon, 6 and 11 p.m., with separate on-screen branding to denote "ABC Ohio Valley". Nexstar produces a half-hour evening newscast that airs at 5:30 p.m. The newscast, titled West Virginia Tonight, is broadcast live from WOWK's Charleston studios in high definition on all four of the company's stations in West Virginia along with sister station WDVM-TV, and is anchored by Dan Thorn.
In addition, there is a public affairs program called Decision Makers. Hosted by company president and CEO Bray Cary, it airs on Saturday mornings at 9 and Sunday mornings at 8 on all West Virginia Media Holdings stations. In another arrangement between all of the company channels, weekend weather forecasts originated from WOWK's new facilities on Quarrier Street in downtown Charleston. This was the case until Nexstar acquired the station.
On December 29, 2011, beginning with the noon newscast, WTRF launched the first true high definition newscast in the Wheeling–Steubenville market (competing station WTOV upgraded its newscasts to 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen in April 2009). This is also the first station owned by West Virginia Media Holdings to upgrade its local newscasts to high definition. With the upgrade came new graphics and a new music package ("Aerial" by Stephen Arnold); the news set remained the same, although with some minor changes. The weather graphics were still shown in the 4:3 picture format until February 2012.
Despite its coverage issues mentioned above, WTRF has coverage outside the market on cable. In the northeastern part of West Virginia, it is carried in Buckhannon in Upshur County, Beverley and Elkins in Randolph County and Flemington in Taylor County.
As of June 3, 2010, WTRF and its two digital subchannels are available on Dish Network. WTRF, including its MNTV and ABC subchannels, and WTOV are available on DirecTV as of November 23, 2010. Before then, Wheeling–Steubenville had been one of the few markets that did not get local stations on satellite. Residents living in the West Virginia side of the market, as well as Jefferson, Harrison and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio, got Pittsburgh stations on those systems.
While Belmont and Monroe counties in Ohio qualified to get the New York City and Los Angeles stations, West Virginia Media Holdings had long balked at signing waivers allowing viewers in those two counties to receive WCBS-TV and KCBS-TV from their respective markets. This rankled viewers in those areas because satellite service is all but essential for acceptable television in this area. Belmont and Monroe counties are located in a very rugged dissected plateau. Over-the-air signals are practically unviewable in this area, and cable service is inconsistent outside the larger cities.