WDHN is the ABC-affiliated television station for Southeastern Alabama's Wiregrass Region. Owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group and licensed to Dothan, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 21 (or virtual channel 18.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter at its studios on AL 52 in Webb. The station can also be seen on Comcast, Bright House Networks, and Time Warner channel 8 with high definition available on Bright House Networks digital channel 241 and Comcast digital channel 431. Syndicated programming on WDHN includes Entertainment Tonight, Dr. Phil, The Doctors, Hot Bench, The Insider, The 700 Club, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
WDHN-TV launched August 7, 1970 as the area's second television station and aired an analog signal on UHF channel 18. It was owned by Dothan businessman Betts Slingluff, Jr. and a partnership of other local investors. Although conventional wisdom then suggested that it should have opted for an NBC affiliation, it has been an ABC affiliate for its entire existence. This seemed to be an unusual move for a two-station market, especially one (then as now) as small as Dothan. ABC was the smallest and weakest network, and would not be anywhere near par with CBS and NBC in terms of ratings until later in the decade. However, geography played a decisive part in channel 18 going with ABC. The Alabama side of the market received a fairly strong signal from WSFA-TV in Montgomery. Further, at the time the station signed on, no ABC affiliate provided even a grade B signal to the Wiregrass. The only nearby ABC programs were on WJHG-TV in Panama City, Florida on a part-time basis. Slinguff thus figured that WDHN wouldn't face much local competition if it took an affiliation with ABC.
In 1979, reflecting an era when small, locally owned stations were losing profitability, Slingluff's group sold WDHN to Hi Ho Television, which also owned WVGA in Valdosta, Georgia. In 1986, Hi Ho sold WDHN and WVGA to Morris Multimedia. It dropped the -TV suffix in 1998. In 2003, Nexstar purchased WDHN along with KARK-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas from Morris.
In 2009, WDHN turned off its analog transmitter and began broadcasting exclusively in digital.
For its first four decades on the air, the station operated from a tiny 500-foot tower behind its studios. Its analog signal only operated at 1.07 million watts, one of the weakest signals in the country for a full-powered network affiliate. As a result, WDHN's coverage area was only half that of CBS affiliate WTVY, which operates from a tower more than four times as tall, at over 2,000 feet. Recently, WDHN replaced its old tower with a new 600-foot tower, still fairly tiny by modern television standards. As a result, while channel 18's digital signal operates at a full million watts (equivalent to five million watts in analog), its digital coverage area is not much larger than its analog coverage area. By comparison, WTVY's digital signal covers parts of three states.
On January 27, 2016, it was announced that Nexstar would buy Media General for $4.6 billion. WDHN, along with recently acquired Fox affiliate WZDX in Huntsville, 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.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|18.1||720p||16:9||WDHN-DT||Main WDHN programming / ABC|
|18.2||480i||4:3||Escape (Launch date TBD)|
|18.3||Laff (Launch date TBD)|
On June 15, 2016, Nexstar announced that it has entered into an affiliation agreement with Katz Broadcasting for the Escape, Laff, Grit, and Bounce TV networks (the last one of which is owned by Bounce Media LLC, whose COO Jonathan Katz is president/CEO of Katz Broadcasting), bringing one or more of the four networks to 81 stations owned and/or operated by Nexstar, including WDHN (Bounce TV and Grit are already available in the area on digital subchannels of WDFX-TV).
WDHN broadcasts three newscasts weekdays at 5:00 PM, 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM. "Top of the Morning" with Charlie Platt can be seen each morning at 5:30 AM.
Historically, WDHN has been well behind WTVY in the ratings. This is partly because WDHN has a coverage area only half the size of WTVY due to its short transmitter tower. It also had to deal with competition from WSFA, which was available on Wiregrass cable systems for decades. Unlike most ABC outlets and other big three network-affiliated stations, it does not offer local news on weekends. Despite broadcasting its signal digitally, as of December 2015 the network still does not broadcast its news in widescreen nor high definition.