WZDX
The Fox network logo in black, next to a strip fitting into the right-side notch of the X with the numeral 54, the 5 slightly overlapping the 4 with a border.
CityHuntsville, Alabama
Channels
BrandingFox 54
Programming
Affiliations
Ownership
Owner
History
First air date
April 14, 1985
(39 years ago)
 (1985-04-14)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog: 54 (UHF, 1984–2009)
  • Digital: 41 (UHF, 2002–2020)
Technical information[1]
Licensing authority
FCC
Facility ID28119
ERP522 kW
HAAT525.3 m (1,723 ft)
Transmitter coordinates34°44′12.8″N 86°31′58.9″W / 34.736889°N 86.533028°W / 34.736889; -86.533028
Links
Public license information
Websitewww.rocketcitynow.com

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.

WZDX began broadcasting in April 1985 as the first independent station for the Huntsville area; it became a Fox affiliate in November 1987. Its original owner, Media Central, filed for bankruptcy that year and eventually sold the station in 1990 to a consortium of Citicorp and Milton Grant, marking the latter's return to TV station ownership after a prior bankruptcy. The station started a cable channel that served as the local affiliate of The WB—predecessor to its MyNetworkTV subchannel—in 2001. A local newscast, produced at first out-of-state and then by local ABC affiliate WAAY-TV, began to air in 2008.

The Grant stations were acquired by Nexstar Broadcasting Group in 2013; Nexstar brought local news production in-house by establishing its own newsroom in 2016, and it formed a duopoly in the market by acquiring The CW affiliate WHDF two years later. When Nexstar acquired Tribune Media, owner of Huntsville CBS affiliate WHNT-TV, in 2019, it retained that station and WHDF and spun out WZDX along with other stations to Tegna.

History

Establishment and construction

In 1975, Thomas Barr and James Cleary under the name Pioneer Communications petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to add another television channel to the Huntsville area for the purpose of building an independent station. At the time, only four channels were assigned to Huntsville: 19, 25, 31, and 48. The FCC proposed adding channel 54, but two Huntsville stations, WAAY-TV and WYUR-TV, opposed the proposal. In 1977, the FCC suggested inserting channel 54 at Decatur, Alabama, which already had channel 23. However, unlike channel 54, channel 23 could not be used at Monte Sano—the main television transmission site in the region, resulting in low interest.[2]

Channel 54 was ultimately added to Huntsville, but there were no applications on file until C. Michael Norton, an attorney from Nashville, Tennessee, applied for it in September 1981 after seeing it on a list of unused TV allocations.[3][4] Norton was soon joined by other applicants, with the FCC selecting Community Service Broadcasting, a company owned by John Pauza of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Joel Katz of Atlanta. Pauza owned Media Central, which specialized in the construction of new independent stations in medium markets.[5]

For two years, Media Central missed a series of deadlines. In February 1983, after being selected for the construction permit, Media Central announced it intended to begin broadcasting that fall.[5] By that fall, the target date had shifted to spring 1984.[6] Issues with locating the station's tower impeded a launch at that time,[7] but in late 1984, channel 54 began to take shape. A tower site was purchased in August, the call letters WZDX were assigned in September,[8] and construction began in November.[9] Even then, the station did not start broadcasting in 1984; the antenna was not hoisted onto the station's new tower on Green Mountain until March 1985.[10]

From studios on Mastin Lake Road in northeast Huntsville, WZDX first signed on April 14, 1985, as Northern Alabama's first independent station and the area's first new outlet to launch in 22 years.[11][12] Programming consisted of syndicated reruns, movies, and short local newsbreaks.[11] The station cost the owners between $5 million and $6 million to put on the air.[12]

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". Program director David Godbout felt that his weekend shows were already attracting ratings and that he would have to charge too much for advertising within Fox programming for it to work economically.[13] This was a posture shared by the entire Media Central chain at the network's launch.[14] However, after Godbout left in late 1987, WZDX joined Fox in December of that year,[15] becoming the fifth Media Central outlet to join the network in 1987.[16]

The late 1980s were times of uncertainty for Media Central. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in July 1987,[17] and Act III Broadcasting submitted a bid to buy WZDX and WDBD in Jackson, Mississippi, the next year;[18] both were among Media Central's most desirable properties. Act III's bid was rejected, as were proposals from Media Central itself and Maryland investment firm Donatelli & Klein, which did come away with WDBD and WDSI-TV in Chattanooga.[19]

Grant Broadcasting ownership

The bankruptcy court approved the acquisition of the station by a consortium of Citicorp and Milton Grant in August 1989;[20][21] the $6.1 million transaction was approved in January 1990.[22] While WZDX represented Citicorp's first venture into broadcasting,[20] WZDX became the first outlet in Grant's return to station ownership.[21] Grant Communications was the successor to the original Grant Broadcasting System, a three-station chain of independent outlets that filed for bankruptcy protection in 1986 and was ultimately sold to its bondholders.[23]

Grant obtained rights to WB network programming in the Huntsville market in 1999, airing it in late night hours on WZDX; the move was a consequence of Superstation WGN ceasing carriage of WB programs.[24] The company then announced it would launch full-time WB channels in Huntsville and two other markets where it owned stations—the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois and Roanoke, Virginia—in December 2000.[25] "WAWB", known as "The Valley's WB", launched as a cable channel in October 2001.[26] When The WB and UPN merged into The CW in 2006, the merged network selected UPN affiliate WHDF (channel 15), and "WAWB" became "WAMY", broadcasting MyNetworkTV.[27][28]

WZDX began broadcasting a digital signal on June 1, 2002.[29] In 2004, the station moved its broadcasting equipment from Green Mountain to Monte Sano on the replacement tower for WAAY-TV, whose mast collapsed during repair work in September 2003, killing three.[30]

Nexstar ownership

On November 6, 2013, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the Grant stations, including WZDX, for $87.5 million.[31] The sale was completed on December 1, 2014.[32] Four years later, in July 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.[33] The sale was completed on November 9, creating a duopoly with WZDX.[34]

On December 3, 2018, less than a month after closing on its purchase of WHDF, Nexstar announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media—owner of CBS affiliate WHNT-TV since December 2013—for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. WHNT-TV and WZDX, as two of the four highest-rated stations in the market, could not be owned together, though Nexstar could own either station plus WHDF.[35][36][37] Nexstar decided to retain the higher-rated WHNT-TV along with WHDF and sell WZDX to Tegna Inc. after finalizing the Tribune sale; WZDX was one of 19 stations disposed by Nexstar to Tegna and the E. W. Scripps Company in separate deals worth $1.32 billion.[38][39] The sale of Tribune to Nexstar was approved by the FCC on September 16.[40]

News operation

Refer to caption
A WZDX anchor conducting an interview at the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship media day

In January 2008, WZDX launched a 30-minute prime time newscast known as Fox 54 Nine O'Clock News. It was produced by Independent News Network (INN) in Davenport, Iowa; two local reporters contributed local news stories to the news program, which was presented from Davenport. It was the second prime time newscast in the market, as WAAY had previously produced one for air on WHDF from 2000 to 2001.[41] The INN program continued to air for two and a half years and was replaced in September 2010 with a 9 p.m. newscast produced by WAAY; WAAY news personnel were joined by Ellis Eskew, a WZDX reporter.[42][43]

Nexstar announced in December 2015 that WZDX would launch a standalone news operation on April 4, 2016. Concurrently, the station's newscast was extended to an hour.[44]

Technical information

Subchannels

The station's signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WZDX[45]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
54.1 720p 16:9 WZDX-HD Fox
54.2 480i MyNet MyNetworkTV
54.3 MeTV MeTV
54.4 Mystery Ion Mystery
54.5 Crime True Crime Network
54.6 Quest Quest
54.7 NEST The Nest
54.9 COMET Comet


Analog-to-digital conversion

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 continued to broadcast on channel 41, using virtual channel 54.[46] It was then repacked to channel 18 in 2020.[45]

References

  1. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WZDX". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  2. ^ "Plans for TV Channel Here Suffer Setback". The Huntsville Times. December 12, 1977. p. 22.
  3. ^ "TV Station Permit Sought". The Huntsville Times. September 29, 1981. p. C-2.
  4. ^ Kaylor, Mike (October 2, 1981). "Channel 54: Do Television Viewers in Huntsville Have a Void?". The Huntsville Times. p. D-15. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Kaylor, Mike (February 3, 1983). "Fun TV? FCC OKs License for New Station in Huntsville; Owners Plan to Put Emphasis on Entertainment". The Huntsville Times. p. D-3. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  6. ^ Kaylor, Mike (September 29, 1983). "New TV Station Owners Project Spring Launch". The Huntsville Times. p. D-3.
  7. ^ "Channel 54". The Huntsville Times. April 5, 1984. p. D-3. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  8. ^ "New Station to Have Call Letters of WZDX". The Huntsville Times. September 13, 1984. p. F-3. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  9. ^ Kaylor, Mike (November 21, 1984). "Construction Under Way On Channel 54 Facilities". The Huntsville Times. p. D-6. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  10. ^ "Channel 54 Update". The Huntsville Times. March 21, 1985. p. D-3. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Kaylor, Mike (April 11, 1985). "Independent Television Station Set to Sign On Sunday Morning; 'Dallas' Reruns, Movies Head WZDX Schedule". The Huntsville Times. p. D-3. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  12. ^ a b Kaylor, Mike (April 14, 1985). "54 to Begin Broadcasting Today". The Huntsville Times. p. A-7.
  13. ^ Kaylor, Mike (July 2, 1987). "Competition Heats Up as Local TV Ratings Arrive". The Huntsville Times. p. D-27. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  14. ^ Carter, Reon (August 15, 1986). "Some viewers will see Joan Rivers". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. p. B5. Archived from the original on November 30, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ Kaylor, Mike (October 31, 1987). "WZDK [sic] to join Fox network in December". The Huntsville Times. p. 2A. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  16. ^ "Briefly Noted". Electronic Media. December 7, 1987. p. 46.
  17. ^ "Media Central files for bankruptcy" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 13, 1987. pp. 26–27. ProQuest 1016931866. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 31, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  18. ^ "In Brief..." (PDF). Broadcasting. July 4, 1988. p. 72. ProQuest 1016920287. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 25, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  19. ^ Edwards, Jeff (March 17, 1989). "Channel 40's bankruptcy plan denied". Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, Mississippi. p. 1D. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  20. ^ a b "Citicorp to buy local TV station". The Huntsville Times. August 11, 1989. p. 1B. Archived from the original on February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  21. ^ a b Mermigas, Diane (August 14, 1989). "TV sales spur hopes for market". Electronic Media. pp. 3, 30.
  22. ^ "For the Record" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 22, 1990. p. 63. ProQuest 1014730643. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 31, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  23. ^ Gnoffo, Anthony Jr. (July 1, 1988). "WGBS emerges from bankruptcy, plans Flyers, Villanova broadcasts". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 10-C. Archived from the original on February 22, 2023. Retrieved February 21, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ Smallwood, Dean (September 12, 1999). "Fox's WZDX adding popular WB shows". The Huntsville Times. p. G5.
  25. ^ Graham, Chad (December 22, 2000). "Grant Comm. plans trio of WB affiliates". The Hollywood Reporter. p. 10. ProQuest 2467928070.
  26. ^ Welch, Chris (October 21, 2001). "Space Center hires ex-WAAY anchor". The Huntsville Times. p. G6.
  27. ^ Welch, Chris (April 23, 2006). "CW Network to take over programming in the fall". The Huntsville Times. p. 3G.
  28. ^ "Fox 54, WAMY owner Milton Grant dies at 84". The Huntsville Times. May 11, 2007. p. 3B.
  29. ^ "WZDX-DT" (PDF). Television Factbook. 2005. p. A-45. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 28, 2022. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  30. ^ Welch, Chris (July 25, 2004). "Injuries, illness befall TV news personalities". The Huntsville Times. p. 6G.
  31. ^ Malone, Michael (November 6, 2013). "Nexstar to Acquire Seven Grant Stations For $87.5 Million". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  32. ^ "Consummation Notice". Consolidated Database System. Federal Communications Commission. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  33. ^ "Application for Consent to Assignment of Broadcast Station Construction Permit or License". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Archived from the original on July 24, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  34. ^ "Consummation Notice". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  35. ^ Miller, Mark K. (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar Buying Tribune Media For $6.4 Billion". TVNewsCheck. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  36. ^ White, Peter; Hayes, Dade (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar Confirms $4.1B Tribune Media Acquisition To Become Leading Local TV Station Owner". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  37. ^ Jessell, Harry A.; Miller, Mark K. (December 3, 2018). "Nexstar To Spin Off $1B In Stations". TVNewsCheck. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  38. ^ "Nexstar Selling 19 TVs In 15 Markets For $1.32B". TVNewsCheck. March 20, 2019. Archived from the original on March 20, 2019. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  39. ^ Ahmed, Nabila; Sakoui, Anousha (March 20, 2019). "Nexstar to Sell Stations to Tegna, Scripps for $1.32 Billion". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  40. ^ Channick, Robert (September 16, 2019). "Tribune Media sale to Nexstar approved by FCC; WGN-Ch. 9 no longer Chicago's very own". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 17, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  41. ^ Welch, Chris (January 13, 2008). "Fox 54 moving into news with weekday shows". The Huntsville Times. p. 12F.
  42. ^ Welch, Chris (September 12, 2010). "WAAY to produce Fox 54 newscast". The Huntsville Times. p. 12F.
  43. ^ Welch, Chris (September 19, 2010). "News team announced for 31-54 partnership". The Huntsville Times. p. 6F.
  44. ^ Kuperberg, Jonathan (December 17, 2015). "Nexstar's WZDX Expanding News, Adding Staff, Remodeling Facilities". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  45. ^ a b "RabbitEars TV Query for WZDX". RabbitEars. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  46. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. May 23, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2021.