WDTN, virtual channel 2, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Dayton, Ohio, USA. WDTN is owned by Media General, and also operates CW affiliate WBDT (owned by Vaughan Media LLC) through a local marketing agreement. The two stations share studios located on South Dixie Drive in Moraine, Ohio (though with a Dayton mailing address), and WDTN's transmitter, on digital channel 50, is located in the Frytown section of Dayton. However, master control and some internal operations of WDTN are based within centralcasting facilities at sister station WISH-TV in Indianapolis.
The construction permit for what is now WDTN was awarded to the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation of Cincinnati on April 4, 1947. It was the first broadcast television license granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to Dayton. However, due to several delays, the station did not actually go on the air until March 15, 1949, twenty days after CBS affiliate WHIO-TV began broadcasting. Originally called WLWD and broadcasting on channel 5, the station operated from an office and studio facility established in a former skating rink on Dixie Drive in Moraine.
WLWD was the third link of a group of inter-connected stations which made up the "WLW Television Network", and was named for Crosley's flagship Cincinnati radio station WLW (World's Largest Wireless) + Dayton. The other stations were WLWT in Cincinnati and WLWC (now WCMH-TV) in Columbus, both also owned by Crosley. The three outlets shared common local programming, most of which was produced in Cincinnati and sent by way of microwave link to Dayton and Columbus. All three stations were also NBC affiliates, and had secondary relationships with the DuMont Television Network; WLWD also carried ABC programs. The first program shown on WLWD was NBC's Texaco Star Theater, with Milton Berle. To reflect their connection to each other, the WLW Television stations hyphenated their call signs on air; the Dayton outlet was known as WLW-D. The Crosley television group would later expand to include WLWA (now WXIA-TV) in Atlanta, WLWI (now WTHR) in Indianapolis, and WOAI-TV in San Antonio.
The release of the FCC's Sixth Report and Order in 1952 resulted in shifts of VHF channel assignments in the Midwest region. In Ohio, WLWD's channel 5 allocation was moved to Cincinnati and given to sister station WLWT, with the Dayton station reassigned to transmit over channel 2. WLWD's channel change took place on April 27, 1953. WHIO-TV, Dayton's only other station at the time, also shifted channels (from 13 to 7) as a result of the same ordinance. The channel shift also greatly increased WLWD's penetration into the nearby Cincinnati and Columbus markets; the analog channel 2 signal travelled long distances under normal conditions.
WLWD lost DuMont in 1955, a few months before the network shut down. It lost ABC in 1965 (though it cleared some ABC daytime programming until 1971 as a secondary affiliate) when then-independent WONE-TV (channel 22, now WKEF) picked up ABC's prime time programming.
Phil Donahue (former news anchor and radio talk show host at WHIO radio) began hosting a talk show on WLWD in 1967, called The Phil Donahue Show, that was more issue oriented (greatly reducing the station's program budget). Donahue's show went national in 1970. Since most programs on the WLW television regional network originated from WLWT in Cincinnati, it was the first time WLWD was the originator of a program.
Aside from Paul Dixon's weekday morning show, other Cincinnati-based programming that aired on WLWD included: The 50-50 Club, hosted by Ruth Lyons (succeeded by Bob Braun after Lyons' 1967 retirement), and the Saturday evening country music program Midwestern Hayride.
Due to WLWD's heavy local and regional programming schedule, many network programs from NBC and ABC were recorded on film as a kinescope for later airing. On rare occasions when a program was unavailable (sometimes due to network technical difficulties or if fill time was available before or after a network sportscast), a half-hour series entitled Star Performance, consisting mostly of drama pilots from the 1950s, would air. Fifteen-minute mini-documentaries or newsreels would also air as a time filler under the title Miniature Theater.
In 1968 the Crosley group took on the name of its parent company and became known as Avco Broadcasting, a subsidiary of the Aviation Corporation (later known as Avco). After the FCC restricted the common ownership of stations with overlapping signals in the late 1960s, it grandfathered Avco's common ownership of WLWD, WLWT, WLWC and of WLW radio in Cincinnati, whose 50 kilowatt signal covered nearly all of Ohio and overlapped with all three television stations.
In 1975, Avco decided to exit broadcasting. As a result, WLWD lost its grandfathered protection, and had to be sold off separately from WLWT and WLWC. WLWD ended up being the last of Avco's television stations to be sold off, going to Grinnell College in Iowa for $13 million in June 1975. The school changed the call letters to WDTN shortly after the sale closed in spring 1976.
Switch to ABC
By the mid to late-1970s, ABC was searching for stronger affiliates in order to cement its status as the leading network in the United States. Its existing Dayton affiliate, WKEF, was a distant third in the ratings, and only ran ABC's primetime and sports programming, plus whatever daytime programming was pre-empted by two Taft Broadcasting-owned ABC affiliates in adjacent markets, WKRC-TV in Cincinnati and WTVN-TV (now WSYX) in Columbus. WKEF also did not have a functioning news department until 1979. Meanwhile, WKRC-TV and WTVN-TV were not only pre-empting ABC's daytime programs, but also its late night shows and some of its Saturday morning cartoons. ABC also wanted a station in Dayton with both stronger ratings and signal, and one which could reach portions of the Cincinnati and Columbus markets. In summer 1979, ABC approached WDTN and reached an affiliation deal. Almost by default, NBC was then left to go with WKEF.
On January 1, 1980, WDTN and WKEF swapped network affiliations. Under the deal, WDTN was exempted from running ABC's soap operas after 2 p.m., since WKRC-TV's signal easily covered Dayton. In place of One Life to Live and General Hospital, WDTN ran cartoons and off-network sitcoms.
Five months after joining ABC, in May 1980 Grinnell College announced it would sell WDTN to the broadcasting division of the Hearst Corporation. The sale was finalized over a year later, in September 1981 for a price of over $47 million.
By the late 1980s, cartoons and sitcoms made way for first run talk shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show (at 4 p.m.), The Montel Williams Show, and The Jerry Springer Show. WDTN would begin its talk block at 2 p.m. during the week.
In August 1997, Hearst's television group merged with Argyle Television Holdings II to form what was then known as Hearst-Argyle Television. Argyle had purchased WDTN's former sister station, WLWT, that January. For the same reason that forced the breakup of Avco's television group 20 years earlier, Hearst-Argyle could not keep both stations (common ownership of stations with overlapping city-grade signals would not be allowed until 2000). It opted to keep the larger WLWT and trade WDTN, together with WNAC-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, to Sunrise Television for WPTZ in Plattsburgh, New York, WNNE in Hartford, Vermont, and KSBW in Salinas, California. The sale was finalized on July 2, 1998.
In 2000, Time Warner Cable (Dayton's largest cable system) dropped the Cincinnati network affiliates to make room for new cable channels. The Cincinnati stations had been available on cable in the Dayton area ever since cable arrived there in the mid-1960s. As a result, ABC soap viewers could no longer see One Life to Live or General Hospital, while over-the-air viewers could still pick them up on WCPO-TV (which had become Cincinnati's ABC affiliate in 1996). As a result, in the fall of 2000, General Hospital was added to WDTN's schedule.
In May 2002, Sunrise merged with LIN TV. After the LIN TV acquisition, One Life to Live was added to the station's schedule as well. From this point on, WDTN aired ABC's entire schedule until the station returned to NBC in 2004.
Return to NBC
On August 30, 2004, in a reversal of the 1980 switch, WDTN became an NBC affiliate for the second time to take advantage of the network's then stronger programming. In another reversal, ABC was left with WKEF by default. Ironically, several months after the affiliation shift, ABC's ratings overtook those of NBC and the network wouldn't rebound for nearly a decade. By 2014, NBC has since regained the lead over ABC.
On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives that could have resulted in the sale of the company. In early June, WDTN's website (along with those of several other LIN TV-owned stations not affiliated with Fox such as WNDY-TV, WWHO, WAND, WWLP, and WLFI-TV) underwent a redesign. The web addresses were then operated by the Local Media Network division of World Now for a little over a year until October, 2008, when LIN TV relaunched most of its station websites through Fox Interactive Media (later spun off as the independent company known today as EndPlay). Prior to the World Now contract, the web addresses were powered by Web Pros.
On October 3, 2008, LIN TV pulled WDTN (and its other stations) from Time Warner Cable, due to a dispute over "retransmission fees." Time Warner replaced WDTN with a free preview of HBO Family. On October 29, LIN TV and Time Warner Cable reached an agreement, restoring WDTN, as well as offering it in high definition on the cable system for the first time.
On June 4, 2010, it was announced LIN TV would begin operating CW affiliate WBDT (then owned by ACME Communications) through shared service and joint sales agreements. Three months later, LIN TV exercised an option to purchase that channel along with another LIN-operated ACME station, fellow CW affiliate WCWF in Green Bay, Wisconsin. LIN TV requested WBDT's license be assigned to a subsidiary of Vaughan Media (owner of Austin, Texas CW affiliate KNVA, which is also operated by LIN TV). The company holds a 4.5% equity stake in Vaughan Media, but controls most of that company's voting stock, effectively making it a shell corporation for LIN TV. WBDT was integrated into WDTN's facilities and the merger between the two stations occurred sometime around October, 2010. WBDT originally had studios at Corporate Place in Miamisburg, along Byers Road.
On March 4, 2011, LIN TV's contract with DISH Network expired, and all TV stations owned or operated by LIN, including WDTN and WBDT, were pulled from DISH. On March 13, LIN and DISH entered into a retransmission consent agreement, and all affected channels were restored.
On March 21, 2014, Media General announced that it would buy LIN. The FCC approved the merger on December 12, 2014, but a condition of the deal requires Media General to end the JSA between WBDT and WDTN due to tighter scrutiny such deals are getting by the FCC. Media General received a two-year waiver to end the JSA between WDTN and WBDT. The merger was completed on December 19, reuniting WDTN with WCMH-TV (the former WLWC).
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|2.1||1080i||16:9||WDTN-HD||Main WDTN programming / NBC|
On January 1, 2016, WDTN added the Escape network to its lineup on its second digital subchannel, replacing a standard definition feed of the main WDTN programming previously airing on that subchannel. On January 31, 2016, the station added the Justice Network to its third digital subchannel.
WDTN shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 50. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 2.
In the 1970s and 1980s, WDTN used the Eyewitness News branding. For most of its history, its newscasts have been a runner-up to market leader WHIO-TV. On April 11, 2012, the station announced that it was in the process of reconstructing its studios in preparation for the production of high definition content. After June 8, 2012, newscasts were moved to the station's newsroom as the new news set was being built in the same location as the old one. The first high definition newscast was at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, 2012. WDTN was the second station in Dayton to have made the upgrade to HD newscasts; the shows on WBDT were included in the upgrade.
On August 18, 2007, the station began to produce a nightly prime time newscast for WBDT, known as 2 News at 10 on Dayton's CW. This show achieved higher ratings than WRGT-TV's nightly prime time news in Dayton's metered market households on the 26th day of its broadcast. That year, 2 News won the "Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence" for the second straight year.
In May 2011, the station changed the name of its weekday 5:00-7:00 a.m. newscast from 2 News Sunrise to 2 News Today. On November 14, 2011, the station moved 2 News Today's start time to 4:30 a.m., probably in response to WHIO-TV's similar lengthening of its morning news on August 15.
In August 2011, the station announced plans to replace its weekday hour-long newscast, 2 News at Noon, with a local lifestyle talk show called Living Dayton, starting in early January 2012. It was planned that anchor Marsha Bonhart, Holly Samuels and meteorologist Jamie Jarosik would deliver news and weather at the top of the broadcast, and that the show would cover any breaking news. Living Dayton premiered on February 6, 2012, with newly hired hosts Nathalie Basha and Zuri Hall. Later on February 6, it was announced that Jim Bucher would join the show as a contributor. The inclusion of news headlines and a weather forecast began on February 9; on the same day, Basha and Hall began providing a brief commentary-style discussion of topical issues, sometimes with a guest contributor, immediately following the news/weather segment.
On January 7, 2013, WBDT began to air a weekday news program from 7:00-9:00 a.m., called 2 News Today on Dayton's CW. The newscast is now live from 7:00-9:00 am.
WDTN includes segments from the syndicated consumer and personal finance series Money Talks with Stacy Johnson as part of its newscasts.
The station maintains news partnerships with several area newspapers. In addition to its main studios, WDTN operates bureaus in Springfield (on West Main Street) and in Xenia (in the Xenia Daily Gazette newsroom on South Detroit Street).
WDTN operates its own weather radar known on-air as "Live Doppler 2 HD" (formerly as "Live Doppler 2X"). The station's weather reports are branded as "Storm Team 2" and were sometimes branded as "Live Doppler 2X."
Notable former on-air staff
- Len Berman – news and sports reporter, now retired (formerly at NBC Sports and WNBC-TV)
- Julie Chen – reporter (now host of the U.S. version of Big Brother and co-host of The Talk, both on CBS)
- Jodine Costanzo – reporter (now at WPXI)
- Phil Donahue – host of The Phil Donahue Show, as described above
- Johnny Gilbert – local talk-variety show host in mid-1960s, as described above (now announcer on Jeopardy!)
- Kris Long – news anchor late 1970s-early 1980s (now at KPSP-CD)
- Jessica Moore – reporter (now at KSNV)
- Dan Patrick – sports anchor (now at NBC Sports)