WEWS-TV is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is one of two flagship television properties of the Cincinnati-based E. W. Scripps Company (the other being fellow ABC affiliate WCPO-TV in Cincinnati), which has owned the station since its inception. WEWS-TV broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 15 (or virtual channel 5 via PSIP) from a transmitter in suburban Parma, Ohio. The station maintains studio facilities located on Euclid Avenue (near I-90) in Downtown Cleveland.
The station first signed on the air on December 17, 1947, as the first commercially licensed television station in Ohio, and the 16th overall in the United States. The call letters denote the initials of the parent company's founder, Edward Willis Scripps. The station is the oldest in Cleveland to maintain the same channel position (as an analog broadcaster), ownership and call letters since its sign-on. A few weeks before WEWS-TV's sign-on, Scripps launched WEWS-FM 102.1 (the frequency is now occupied by WDOK) as an outlet for WEWS-TV personalities to gain on-air experience before the launch of the television station. Channel 5's first broadcast was of a Christmas pageant run by the station's corporate cousin, The Cleveland Press. Its staff included capable producers Jim Breslin and Betty Cope, who would later become president of WVIZ (channel 25).
WEWS has aired two MLB World Series during the station's existence: it broadcast Cleveland's home games in the 1948 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Braves; as well as the 1995 World Series games in Cleveland between the Indians and the Atlanta Braves. The telecasts were fed to stations throughout the Midwest. During the 1995 World Series, the local broadcast was split with WKYC-TV (channel 3) due to the ABC/NBC shared Baseball Network.
WEWS originally operated as a CBS affiliate, with secondary ABC and DuMont affiliations; it lost the CBS affiliation to WJW-TV (channel 8) in 1955 after that station's then-owner, Storer Broadcasting, used its influence with CBS to land the affiliation. The station later lost the DuMont affiliation when that network ceased operations in 1956. WEWS was also an affiliate of the short-lived Paramount Television Network; the station was one of the network's strongest affiliates, airing such Paramount programs as Time For Beany, Hollywood Reel, and Frosty Frolics. WEWS also aired two NBC programs, both of which had been preempted by Westinghouse-owned NBC affiliate KYW-TV (now WKYC): the network's evening newscast The Huntley-Brinkley Report, during the 1959–1960 season; and The Tonight Show, with hosts Jack Paar and later Johnny Carson, from October 1957 to February 1966.
In 1977, WEWS-TV went before the U.S. Supreme Court for recording and broadcasting the entire human cannonball act of Hugo Zacchini. He performed his circus routine at the Geauga County Fair in Burton, Ohio and the station did not compensate him, as was required by Ohio law. In Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did not shield WEWS from liability from common law copyright claims.
On May 23, 1994, as part of an overall deal in which network parent News Corporation also purchased a 20% equity interest in the group, New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation agreement with Fox to switch thirteen television stations—five that New World had already owned and eight that the company was in the process of acquiring through separate deals with Great American and Argyle Television Holdings (which New World purchased one week later in a purchase option-structured deal for $717 million), including WJW-TV—to the network. The stations involved in the agreement—all of which were affiliated with one of the three major broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC)—would become Fox affiliates once individual affiliation contracts with each of the stations' existing network partners had expired. The deal was motivated by the National Football League (NFL)'s awarding of the rights to the National Football Conference (NFC) television package to Fox on December 18, 1993, in which the conference's broadcast television rights moved to the network effective with the 1994 NFL season, ending a 38-year relationship with CBS.
New World's affiliation agreement with Fox prompted CBS—then in a distant third place among the major broadcast networks, with a programming lineup that skewed towards an older audience not typically sought by advertisers—to attempt to lure WEWS to replace channel 8 as the network's Cleveland outlet (CBS also sought to replace fellow New World station WJBK-TV in Detroit with WEWS sister station WXYZ-TV, which spurred ABC to buy WTVG in Toledo and WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan from SJL Broadcast Management [later Montecito Broadcast Group, now SJL Broadcasting and once again controlled by the principals of Lilly Broadcasting] as a contingency plan in case CBS was successful in convincing Scripps to switch the network affiliation of WXYZ). On June 16, 1994, ABC and Scripps-Howard Broadcasting signed a long-term deal with ABC that would keep WEWS and WXYZ as the network's Cleveland and Detroit outlets through at least 2005. As a condition of that agreement, four other Scripps-owned television stations—WFTS-TV in Tampa-St. Petersburg, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, KNXV-TV in Phoenix and WMAR-TV in Baltimore—also agreed to switch their affiliations to ABC. In Cleveland, CBS would reach an agreement with Malrite Communications to move its programming to Fox charter affiliate WOIO (channel 19), which joined the network on September 3, 1994, when WJW concurrently switched to Fox.
At one time, the Cleveland–Akron market was served by two ABC affiliates: in addition to WEWS, WAKR-TV (channel 23) served viewers in Akron and Canton who could not receive a clear signal from WEWS. WAKR signed on in 1953, six years after WEWS began operations, and was stuck with a less-desirable UHF signal instead of a VHF signal following the FCC's 1952 Sixth Report and Order, which resulted in a realignment of television allocations in the Midwest. WAKR-TV gained an ABC affiliation as the network could not clear its full schedule on its then-primary station in Cleveland, WXEL (now WJW), and retained it after ABC moved to WEWS full-time in 1955. As ABC soon garnered equal footing with CBS and NBC in the late 1960s, this caused cannibalization of ratings and angered WEWS station management as they did not want to compete with another station showing the same programming.
The feud ended in May 1996, when WAKC shut down its news department after being purchased by Paxson Communications (now Ion Media Networks) and dropped all ABC programming that December, adopting an infomercial and religious programming format as WVPX-TV. It would eventually settle in as the Cleveland–Akron market's outlet of the Pax TV network, which eventually became Ion Television. Despite this, WAKR/WAKC became a "farm station" of sorts for WEWS-TV; its most notable alumni were Ted Henry—who was a weather anchor at WAKR prior to his long association with WEWS, and longtime chief meteorologist Mark Johnson—a former WAKC weatherman who has been with WEWS since 1993.
On May 23, 2010, WEWS-TV's broadcast of the series finale of Lost was interrupted by a number of technical difficulties with the station's digital signal. The episode was almost completely interrupted and unwatchable. This caused numerous viewer complaints, leading the station to issue numerous apologies both on-air and on its website.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||720p||16:9||WEWS-HD||Main WEWS-TV programming / ABC|
On May 26, 2011, it was announced that WEWS (along with other Scripps stations around the country) had signed a deal to carry the Live Well Network on their digital subchannels. the network began to be carried on digital subchannel 5.2 on September 5, 2011. The subchannel is also currently available on select northeast Ohio cable providers.
Live Well Network announced they would be going off the air in April 2015, and as a result 5.2 switched to the classic TV network Cozi TV at 10:00 AM on April 8. The comedy network Laff debuted on the newly activated 5.3 subchannel a week later. 5.3 was activated on April 7 and ran continuous promos for the network's launch prior to the official premiere date. On April 14, 2017, WEWS discontinued COZI on 5.2 and replaced it with Grit.
WEWS-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, 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 continued to broadcasts on its pre-transition UHF channel 15. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
Syndicated and network
WEWS carried the 90-minute ABC premiere of The Edge of Night on December 1, 1975. On December 3. it started Edge at 10:00 a.m. on a one-day delay, and then later pushed up to 10:30 to make way for the national syndication of the talk show Donahue. Edge was dropped in April 1977 when ABC expanded All My Children to one hour and revised the daytime lineup.
In 2011, Oprah Winfrey ended her talk show after a successful 25-year run. In order to fill the void, WEWS put The Dr. Oz Show (an Oprah spin-off), which was airing at 10 a.m., in the 4 p.m. time slot. This left the 10 a.m. time slot open, which was eventually filled by the new Scripps-produced viral video program Right This Minute.
In September 2012, the station dropped both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! after airing both shows for almost three decades, replacing them with The List and Let's Ask America, two more internally produced shows from Scripps. The reason behind the removal of the two hit game shows was because Scripps was looking to stray away from shows that carried a high cost to air on their stations, and instead air shows where Scripps was able to control advertisement, and as a result, are much cheaper to air on their stations. Both game shows ended up moving to WOIO. The station also acquired Katie Couric's new talk show and placed it at 3 p.m. following General Hospital's shift to 2 p.m., a move that many other ABC affiliates also made.
There were hardly any changes to its schedule during the 2013–14 TV season (aside from a time swap between Right This Minute and The Dr. Oz Show), but the 2014–15 TV season would bring major changes to its schedule. WEWS would debut a new 4 p.m. newscast–The Now Cleveland–putting Right This Minute at 12:30 p.m., cutting WEWS' noon newscast down to 30 minutes from a full hour. The station also acquired local rights to Steve Harvey from WJW, and placed in the now cancelled Katie's 3 p.m. time slot. But in return WEWS gave Dr. Oz to WJW. This left the 10 a.m. time slot going to The Meredith Vieira Show for its debut season. No major changes were made to the station's schedule in the 2015–16 TV season, save for the now-cancelled Let's Ask America being replaced by the long running celebrity news program Access Hollywood. As of 2017, only Live with Kelly and Ryan continues to air on channel 5 from the original stable of hit syndicated shows.
In its early days as an ABC affiliate, the station produced its own shows in the afternoon, as ABC offered little daytime network programming. Among the local programs offered during the 1950s and 1960s included news analysis from Dorothy Fuldheim, children's programs featuring the "Uncle Jake" character played by Gene Carroll and the "Captain Penny" character played by Ron Penfound, and exercise programs with Paige Palmer. Alice Weston had one of the first live television cooking shows, and Barbara Plummer was "Miss Barbara" for a generation of young viewers on the local version of Romper Room. The most popular show was The Gene Carroll Show, a program that showcased Cleveland area talent which aired Sundays at noon beginning in 1948 and ran well into the 1970s. WEWS also offered a 90-minute afternoon variety show The One O'Clock Club weekdays hosted by Fuldheim and Bill Gordon. The program was so popular that competitor KYW-TV was prompted to organize a competing variety show which was the beginning of The Mike Douglas Show.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, WEWS produced several programs that eventually entered into national syndication. The first program was Upbeat. Considered by some to be one of the most significant early rock-and-roll variety television shows, Upbeat featured a live audience, a group of dancers and lip-synched (but occasionally live) performances by popular acts of the era. The program began locally as The Big 5 Show, and the name was changed to Upbeat when it went national, altogether running from 1964 to 1971. Among the program's hosts was Don Webster, who later doubled as the station's lead weather forecaster. At its peak, Upbeat was seen in over 100 television markets. Artists who appeared on Upbeat included Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, The Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder. In fact, Redding's final appearance ever came on the show's December 9, 1967 episode. The next afternoon, his twin-engine airplane crashed in the icy waters of Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, killing all but one of the eight passengers on board.
Another show seen throughout the country was Polka Varieties, an hour-long polka music program that ran locally on Sundays at 1 p.m. from 1956 into the early 1980s, and was syndicated during its later years to 30 television markets. The program featured various popular bands that played Slovenian-style polka, Polish, Italian and Bohemian-style music. "America's Polka King", Frank Yankovic, was the original band to perform on the show. Other bands included Richie Vadnal, George Staiduhar, Markic-Zagger, and Hank Haller. Original host Tom Fletcher was replaced by Paul Wilcox, whose presence became an indelible part of the show. Uttering the well-known show-opening phrase, "From America's Polka Capital of Cleveland, Ohio, this is Polka Varieties, now in its ___ year on the air!" were several famous voices associated with the station over the years, including Cort Stanton, Ralph Gunderman, and David Mark. Black on Black, which examined issues of importance to African American communities, was syndicated to several markets.
From the early 1970s until July 1, 2011, WEWS was Cleveland's television outlet for the Ohio Lottery. On June 2, 2011, NBC affiliate WKYC (channel 3) announced that the station had acquired the rights to air the lottery drawings, as well as its Saturday night game show Cash Explosion. After two years on channel 3, WEWS re-assumed the local television lottery rights on July 1, 2013.
The Morning Exchange
One program in particular, The Morning Exchange, which ran from 1972 to 1999, changed the face of morning television. It was the first morning show to utilize a "living room" set, and the first to establish the now familiar concept of news and weather updates at the top and bottom of the hour. During its peak in the 1970s, nearly 70% of all television households in Cleveland were tuned to the program. The format also served as a template for ABC's Good Morning America.
As of 2015, channel 5 is the local TV and digital outlet for the NFL's Cleveland Browns, airing all non-network preseason games as well as year-round team centered programming. The game day broadcast team features ESPN announcer Mike Patrick (play by play), former NFL player/current CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots (commentator), and WEWS sports director Andy Baskin (pregame/halftime host and sideline reporter).
Early news coverage
WEWS started covering news events soon after it went on air. The winter after it signed on, Cleveland experienced a blizzard, and for the first time WEWS had provided extended coverage for hours. During the early and mid-1950s, channel 5's first newscasts and weather reports were delivered by Tom Field. In 1959, Dorothy Fuldheim—who had been with the station before it even first signed on—began to formulate her own newscast. Fuldheim centered her newscast around her interviews, a general overview of the news, and her commentaries (the very opinionated Fuldheim frequently inserted her own opinions about the stories). Fuldheim was the first female in the United States to have her own television news analysis program.
27-year-old John Hambrick took over as lead anchor on WEWS' evening newscasts on Christmas Day in December 1967, with Fuldheim staying on as a commentator. Don Webster presented the weather and Gib Shanley was the sports anchor. In 1968, WEWS changed the format of its newscasts slightly to a version of Eyewitness News. In 1970, Dave Patterson joined Hambrick on the early newscast and then became co-anchor on the 11:00 p.m. newscast in 1971. Ted Henry, who joined WEWS in 1972 as a behind-the-scenes producer, got his start on the air later in 1975 as a weekend weatherman. In later years, Henry would admit that he, not knowing the slightest thing about forecasting, basically copied his forecasts from a Detroit radio station.
That same year, Bill Jacocks—said to be Cleveland's first full-time African-American anchorman—joined WEWS. Jacocks started as assistant public affairs director, and became weekend anchor in January 1975. For a solid decade (until 1985) Jacocks remained the one constant weekend anchor while many co-anchors came and went. Among those doing their first Cleveland co-anchor stints with Jacocks were Tim Taylor and Wilma Smith (both of whom, coincidentally, would later anchor together at rival WJW).
Hambrick and Patterson continued to anchor the newscasts together until Hambrick left for KABC-TV in Los Angeles in 1975. At that time, Ted Henry became the weekend anchor, and then a year later in 1976, co-anchor on the weekday evening newscasts with Patterson. Henry continued as the lead anchor until his retirement on May 20, 2009. This era marked the start of dominance for the WEWS news programs that lasted until well into the 1980s. In 1977, weekend co-anchor Tim Taylor left WEWS to become a weeknight anchor at WJW-TV. Fuldheim's role decreased as she only presented her interviews and commentaries, but still appeared on the air three times a day until retiring in July 1984 at the age of 91.
WEWS was the first Cleveland TV station to use a news helicopter, introducing "Chopper 5" in 1978. At the time, a cameraman sat partially outside the helicopter door in order to film the story being covered. TV 5 has used helicopters (on and off) ever since, including the current "Air Tracker 5" - which was introduced in 2016.
The WEWS news department underwent another major change in 1982. Previously, the 5–6 p.m. slot was occupied by The Afternoon Exchange, the afternoon companion to The Morning Exchange. That year, the program adopted a new format, and was renamed Live on Five. The broadcast was originally hosted by Wilma Smith and Don Webster, and retained many elements from The Afternoon Exchange, such as interviews, movie reviews, health reports, and some cooking segments. Added to the mix were news updates from Ted Henry.
In 1985, longtime sports director Gib Shanley—who attained national notoriety six years earlier when he burned an Iranian flag live on the air during a sportscast in the wake of the Iran hostage crisis—left the station, and was replaced by Nev Chandler, who became a noted sportscaster in his own right.
News Channel 5
In 1991, WEWS dropped the long-standing "Eyewitness News" branding, adopting "News Channel 5" as a universal branding for newscasts and station promotion. The new branding helped emphasize a format developed by the station the year prior, when WEWS positioned itself as "Cleveland's (Live) 24 Hour NewsSource." Providing news headlines to viewers at times when the station was not carrying regularly scheduled, long-form newscasts, the "24-Hour News Source" concept saw WEWS produce news updates running 30 seconds in length at or near the top of each hour and brief weather updates every half-hour during local commercial break inserts within syndicated and ABC network programs, in addition to the existing half-hourly updates it aired during Good Morning America. The concept would be adopted by network-affiliated television stations in other markets during the early 1990s, as a convenient means for stations to provide news coverage when syndicated or network programming aired. WEWS discontinued production of these hourly updates in 1998.
"On Your Side" era
In 1998 WEWS adopted "On Your Side" as its slogan (which it currently still uses). More noticeable, however, was the discontinuance of the station's longtime Circle 5 logo. That year, WEWS also became the first television station in Cleveland to launch a website—. In 1999, longtime station weather forecaster Don Webster retired from the station after 35 years. In 2000, longtime sports anchor/sports director Matt Underwood left to become an announcer for the Cleveland Indians.
On January 7, 2007, WEWS became the third Cleveland television station to begin broadcasting newscasts in high-definition. At present, all locally produced portions of the station's newscasts, including live remote field footage, are presented in HD. It was also around this time that channel 5 introduced the modified version of the classic "Circle 5" logo that was used until 2016. Sister station WPTV also uses the classic "Circle 5" logo. On May 21, 2009, Ted Henry retired as the primary news anchor at channel 5, after holding the post for 33 years. Henry is the longest serving news anchor in Cleveland television history.
In November 2010, WEWS became the first Cleveland television station to follow a growing national trend in starting its weekday morning newscasts at 4:30 a.m.
News 5 era
On September 26, 2016, the station retired the NewsChannel 5 name for its newscasts, becoming simply News 5.
In 2017 longtime WEWS anchors Leon Bibb and Lee Jordan both announced their retirements from the station. Bibb had served as an anchor/reporter at the station since 1995 (coming over from WKYC where he had spent 16 years previous), while Jordan started at WEWS in 1987 as a co-host of The Morning Exchange before becoming an evening news anchor in 1993. To honor their tenures at the station, WEWS renamed their newsroom the Leon Bibb Newsroom, and their main studio the Lee Jordan News Studio.
Notable current on-air staff
- Rob Powers – anchor