WCSH is the NBC-affiliated television station for southern Maine as well as eastern and northern New Hampshire in the United States. Licensed to Portland, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 44 (or virtual channel 6 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Winn Mountain in Sebago. Owned by Tegna, WCSH has studios at Congress Square in Downtown Portland.
WCSH is the sister station to Maine's other NBC affiliate, WLBZ (channel 2) in Bangor. For all intents and purposes, WLBZ is a semi-satellite of WCSH. It simulcasts most of WCSH's newscasts and clears most of its syndicated programming (though in some cases at different times). There are also some programs that only air on WLBZ while some are only seen on WCSH. WLBZ also airs separate station identifications and commercials. Although WCSH and WLBZ are based in different locations and technically serve separate markets, the two essentially operate as one station. With their combined resources, the stations provide statewide coverage not offered by any other outlet in Maine.
WCSH-TV signed on December 20, 1953, from studios at the Congress Square Hotel in downtown Portland. The station was owned by the Rines family through their Maine Broadcasting System; the family had built the hotel in 1896, and established WCSH radio (970 AM, now WZAN) on the top floor in 1925. It has always been an NBC affiliate, although during the late-1950s, the station was also briefly associated with the NTA Film Network. In 1958, the Rines family acquired WTWO in Bangor from Murray Carpenter, and renamed it WLBZ-TV (after WLBZ radio, now WZON, which the family had owned since 1944). Although the two television stations were now sister stations, they remained completely separate entities. At various points, the Maine Broadcasting System also included WRDO radio in Augusta and KMEG in Sioux City, Iowa, with WCSH-AM-TV as its flagship.
In 1977, WCSH-TV moved to new facilities across the street from the hotel at One Congress Square, where it remains today. The radio stations were sold off in 1981; in 1997, the -TV suffix was dropped. In the mid-1990s, WCSH added a website providing 24-hour news and weather coverage outside newscasts.
In 1998, the Maine Broadcasting System (by this time controlled by the Rines-Thompson family) sold WCSH and WLBZ to the Gannett Company who put it into the Pacific and Southern, LLC part of the company. Since 2000, WLBZ has for all intents and purposes been a semi-satellite of WCSH; as early as 1989, WLBZ had been reducing its personnel and consolidating some internal operations with WCSH.
WCSH's digital signal on UHF channel 44 signed on in 2002, bringing high definition network television to the area. WCSH's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009 and began providing a "nightlight" service. Until that date, the station's analog audio signal transmitted on a frequency of 87.75 MHz (+10 kHz shift). As a result, it could be picked up on the lower end of the dial on most FM radios at 87.7 MHz. This was true of all other analog channel 6 stations in the United States. The station often promoted this additional way of coverage. After the transition, the station continued its digital broadcasts on channel 44.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for WCSH. Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations (such as WCSH) should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. WCSH and WLBZ were retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|6.1||1080i||16:9||WCSH-HD||Main WCSH programming / NBC|
WCSH airs two digital subchannels from its transmitter, the Justice Network on Channel 6.2, a network that specializes in crime and investigation reality shows and Antenna TV on Channel 6.3, a network that airs classic TV shows.
For most of its history, WCSH was a solid, if distant, runner-up in local Nielsen ratings behind long-dominant WGAN-TV/WGME-TV. However, in the late 1980s, WCSH-TV surged to the top of the ratings, a position it has retained for the most part ever since. This is in part due to continuity in the station's key on-air staff, much of which have been with the station for over ten years. Also, WCSH anchors have won many awards for excellent journalism. In addition, its resources include sister station WLBZ in Bangor, allowing statewide coverage not offered by any source in Maine.
Starting in 1989, channel 6 began simulcasting some of its newscasts on WLBZ-TV prepared with a statewide view. Originally, this was limited to morning, noon and weekend newscasts. However, in 2000, WLBZ cut its separate news production to two newscasts, weeknights at 5 and 6; all other newscasts on both stations originate from Portland. WLBZ will cease producing separate local newscasts altogether on October 8, 2015; at that point, all newscasts on both stations will come from the WCSH studios. As mentioned, these statewide programs tend to take on a regional feel with coverage from Portland, Bangor, or wherever news occurs around the state. WLBZ still produces its own weather segment from Bangor on weeknights with meteorologist Steve McKay. On August 9, 2010, there was an expansion of the statewide weekday morning show to 4:30 with the new segment being called News Center Early Morning Report. WCSH and WLBZ have branded their news operations as NEWS CENTER since the 1970s, even before consolidating. Additionally, both stations featured Frank Gari's "Good News" music package from 1986 until October 22, 2008, when it was dropped (except during winter weather "Storm Center" coverage, as well as some station promos) in favor of standardized music (composed by Rampage Music New York, Inc.) and graphics seen on other Gannett stations. Now, WCSH and WLBZ have both switched to Gari Media Group's "This is Home" music.
After then-WB affiliate WPXT shut down its news department in fall 2002, WCSH and WLBZ entered into a news share agreement with that station, resulting in a nightly prime time newscast. Originally called News Center at 10 on Maine's WB 51, it was seen every night for thirty minutes. On weeknights, news and sports segments originated from WCSH's facilities while WLBZ produced the weather segment from its studios. Weekend broadcasts were aired entirely from Portland. News Center at 10 was formatted in a similar manner to the statewide newscasts, albeit with more of a Portland focus (as WPXT serves Portland but not Bangor). In September 2006, the production became known as News Center at 10 on The CW Portland after WPXT switched to The CW. WLBZ's role in the newscast was eliminated on November 6, 2008, when WCSH moved the prime time broadcast to its "News Center Weather Plus" feed and entirely reoriented the newscast to the Portland market (with WLBZ no longer doing the weather forecast). The "News Center Weather Plus" feed on WLBZ-DT2 and the live video on their websites was replaced with the national NBC Weather Plus service. News Center at 10 was eventually canceled by WCSH after a six-year run. The partnership with WPXT resumed on October 31, 2011, with the addition of a 7 a.m. hour of WCSH's morning newscast branded as News Center Morning Report Xtra. This ceased in Spring 2014.
An outdoors and human-interest program called Bill Green's Maine airs Saturday nights at 7 on WCSH and WLBZ. In 2003, the station launched 207 (a local lifestyle/entertainment magazine-type show which airs weeknights at 7.) The "207" name comes from Maine's telephone area code. Although the program was initially replayed at 4:30 in the morning Tuesday through Saturdays on WLBZ, the program is no longer seen at that time, but is now at 7 live.
On February 2, 2009, 870 WLVP, in the Portland area, and 1470 WLAM, Lewiston, began simulcasting WCSH's weekday morning and early evening weeknights newscasts. This was done in order to continue availability of the broadcasts on radio even after WCSH's 87.7 MHz audio was discontinued following the shutdown of analog television signals.
In October 2005, WCSH and WLBZ began offering NBC Weather Plus on new second digital subchannels. Known as "News Center Weather Plus", the service could also be seen on the websites of both stations through live streaming video and digital cable. In late-December 2008 as a result of Weather Plus closing on a national level, WCSH-DT2 and WLBZ-DT2 shifted to a format featuring a loop of local news headlines and weather forecasts. The service retained the "News Center Weather Plus" branding and digital cable carriage but the online live video was dropped. WLBZ weeknight meteorologist Steve McKay would sometimes be seen on "News Center Weather Plus" providing statewide weather forecasts. On January 20, 2015, WCSH replaced the news and weather loop with the Justice Network.
In addition to the main studios in Portland and Bangor, WCSH and WLBZ share two bureaus in the state. This includes the Midcoast Bureau (on Camden Street/US 1) in Rockport and the Lewiston/Auburn Bureau (on Main Street/ME 11/ME 100/US 202, across the street from WGME's bureau).
On August 26, 2011, WCSH began airing a promotional announcement (also published to its official YouTube channel) that the studio portion of its newscasts would soon be in high definition. The morning newscast on WPXT will be included in this upgrade, but will initially debut in standard definition. High definition newscasts commenced on October 23, 2011.
In late 2012 WCSH began airing reports from New England Cable News, a wholly owned subsidiary of NBC parent Comcast. Previously these reports aired on WMTW, which is owned by Hearst, a prior 50% owner of NECN before Comcast assumed full ownership. NECN's Portland bureau operates out of WCSH's Congress Square facility.
In March 2017 WCSH launched News Center Now, a half-hour issues-oriented program driven by social media; the new program replaced its traditional 5:00PM weekday newscast. The station publishes the ten most-recent shows on its official YouTube channel for viewing on demand. Sports Director Lee Goldberg was reassigned to co-anchor and contribute reports for the new program, which resulted in the station discontinuing its traditional sports segment on the flagship 6:00 p.m. newscast. The de-emphasis of traditional sports coverage mirrored actions taken by Tegna sister station KUSA-TV in Denver in January 2017.