MeTV Tennessee Valley (on DT3)
(sale to Standard General pending)
(Tegna Broadcast Holdings, LLC)
First air date
|April 14, 1985|
Former channel number(s)
54 (UHF, 1984–2009)
41 (UHF, 2002–2020)
The WB (via "WAMY", 2002−2006)
|HAAT||525.3 m (1,723 ft)|
Public license information
WZDX (channel 54) is a television station in Huntsville, Alabama, United States, affiliated with Fox and MyNetworkTV. Owned by Tegna Inc., the station maintains studios on North Memorial Parkway (US 72/231/431) in Huntsville, and its transmitter is located on Monte Sano Mountain in the Mountain Heights section of the city.
WZDX first signed on April 14, 1985, as Northern Alabama's first independent station and the area's first new outlet to launch in nearly twenty years. The station was originally owned by Community Service Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Chattanooga-based Media Central. The station cost the owners between $5 to 6 million to put on the air. The inaugural program shown was an airing of the 1968 film Charly. The station's transmitter was on Green Mountain in southeastern Huntsville while its studios were in the northwestern section of the city. During the first months after its beginning, WZDX used the slogan "We're Taking You to the Top!" and ran full-page ads in The Huntsville Times with this tagline and with still pictures of movies and syndicated shows that the station was planning to air.
When the Fox network began late night service on October 9, 1986, WZDX initially abstained from affiliating with the network unlike many other strong independent TV stations across the country that had signed on with them, despite the network wanting the station "badly", according to the station's then-general manager. However, by December 5, 1987, the station started showing Fox's prime time schedule at the time, but didn't refer to itself as a Fox affiliate for another few months. In 1988, while Media Central was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Act III Broadcasting tried to acquire WZDX and Jackson sister station WDBD, but the deal had fallen through. On March 29, 1990, WZDX became the first property owned by a new broadcasting group founded by Milton Grant.
In 2002, it launched Huntsville's second digital signal on UHF channel 41. A simulcast of cable-only WB affiliate "WAWB-TV" was then added to a second digital subchannel of WZDX. That offered non-cable viewers access to WB programming for the first time. In September 2003, the broadcast tower shared by WZDX and ABC affiliate WAAY-TV (channel 31) collapsed killing three men. Until it could be replaced, WZDX and WAAY temporarily aired from the nearby tower of CBS affiliate WHNT-TV (channel 19).
On November 6, 2013, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the Grant stations, including WZDX, for $87.5 million. The sale was completed on December 1, 2014. WZDX is Nexstar's second station in Alabama; it already owned WDHN, the ABC affiliate in Dothan. On January 27, 2016, it was announced that Nexstar would buy Media General for $4.6 billion. WZDX, along with WDHN, will become part of "Nexstar Media Group" and join a cluster of stations Nexstar would own in Alabama including WIAT in Birmingham and WKRG-TV in Mobile, as well as WRBL in Columbus, Georgia, which covers much of east Alabama including Opelika and Auburn. All three of these stations are CBS affiliates.
On July 15, 2018, Nexstar agreed to acquire WHDF from Lockwood Broadcast Group for $2.25 million; Nexstar concurrently took over WHDF's operations through a time brokerage agreement. The sale was completed on November 9, creating a duopoly with WZDX.
On December 3, 2018, Nexstar announced it would acquire the assets of Chicago-based Tribune Media—which has owned CBS affiliate WHNT-TV since December 2013—for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar was precluded from acquiring WHNT directly or indirectly while owning WZDX, 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 WHNT 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 WZDX to a separate, unrelated company to address the ownership conflict. WHDF does not rank among the top four in total-day viewership and therefore is not in conflict with existing FCC in-market ownership rules, thus, WHDF was retained by Nexstar and will merge their operations into WHNT's studios.
Ultimately, on March 20, 2019, Nexstar announced it would keep the higher-rated WHNT, and sell WZDX to Tysons, Virginia–based Tegna Inc. once its acquisition of Tribune was consummated. This was 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 WZDX the first television property in Alabama for Tegna and a sister station to NBC affiliate WBIR-TV in Knoxville and the duopoly of NBC affiliate WXIA-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WATL in Atlanta. WHDF was not included in the sale, with Nexstar intending to form a new duopoly involving WHNT. The sale was approved by the FCC on September 16 and was completed on September 19, 2019.
Syndicated programming on WZDX includes The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Phil, Mike & Molly, and Judge Mathis among others. Syndicated programming on WZDX-DT2 includes Seinfeld, Maury, The Jerry Springer Show, The Wendy Williams Show, and Monk, among others.
In January 2007, WZDX launched a 30-minute prime time newscast known as Fox 54 Nine O'Clock News. Airing every night except Saturday, it was produced by the Independent News Network (INN) through an outsourcing agreement with Grant Broadcasting. News anchors, meteorologists, and sports anchors were provided by INN and other personnel from the newscast production company would fill-in as needed. WZDX maintained two locally based news reporters which would contribute content to the show. It was taped in advance and then fed to the station through satellite.
The broadcasts originated from INN's facility on Tremont Avenue in Davenport, Iowa. In a report in the Macon, Georgia Telegraph, it was announced the Independent News Network filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the company would end all news productions (including those for WZDX) by January 9, 2009. However, all INN broadcasts would then be reinstated under ownership of Fusion Communications (also of Davenport) according to the newspaper. WZDX would not face local news competition until February 1, 2010, when WHNT added a nightly half-hour newscast at 9 to its Retro Television Network (RTV) subchannel (WHNT-DT2 dropped RTV for Antenna TV in 2011).
On September 20, WZDX terminated its outsourcing agreement with INN and entered into another news share arrangement with WAAY (owned by Calkins Media). This resulted in a local refocus of Fox 54 Nine O'Clock News which can now be seen every night from a secondary set at WAAY's studios on Monte Sano Boulevard Southeast. WZDX maintains separate news anchors and a meteorologist but they can report for and/or fill-in on WAAY. In addition to its main facility, the latter also operates bureaus in Decatur (on Lee Street Northeast) and The Shoals (in Florence on North Pine Street within the University of North Alabama campus). Although the previous INN newscasts were in high definition in later years, the newscasts on WZDX reverted to pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition when WAAY took over the production. WAAY upgraded to high definition newscasts on December 12, 2011, and the WZDX shows were included.
On December 4, 2015, Nexstar announced that WZDX would launch a standalone news operation on April 4, 2016. Concurrently, the station's newscast was extended to an hour.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|54.1||720p||16:9||WZDX-DT||Main WZDX programming / Fox|
|54.2||480i||WAMY-DT||WZDX-DT2 / MyNetworkTV|
On April 17, 2012, WZDX launched a third digital subchannel on 54.3, that carries MeTV.
On June 15, 2016, Nexstar announced that it would add Escape (now Ion Mystery) to a newly created fourth subchannel.
WZDX shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 54, 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 41, using PSIP to display WZDX's virtual channel as 54 on digital television receivers, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition. In order to adequately serve its area, its effective radiated power was increased to 700 kW on July 2.