WHAS-TV, virtual and VHF channel 11, is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The station is owned by Tegna, Inc. WHAS-TV maintains studio facilities located on West Chestnut Street in Downtown Louisville, and its transmitter is located in rural northeastern Floyd County, Indiana (northeast of Floyds Knobs). On cable, WHAS-TV is available on Time Warner Cable channel 4 and in high definition on digital channel 908.
The station first signed on the air on March 27, 1950. Originally broadcasting on VHF channel 9; it was the second television station to sign on in the Louisville market and the state of Kentucky (after NBC affiliate WAVE-TV, which signed on in November 1948). WHAS-TV was founded by the Bingham family, publishers of morning newspaper The Courier-Journal, afternoon newspaper The Louisville Times and operator of WHAS (840 AM), Louisville's oldest radio station. It operated from brand-new studios in the Courier-Journal/Times Building at 6th & Broadway, in downtown Louisville-even though WHAS-TV's construction permit (1946) was issued before WAVE-TV's (1947), the Bingham family waited until the new TV facility was finished to begin telecasting, 16 months after WAVE, who adapted an existing building at Preston and Broadway. The station originally operated as a primary CBS affiliate, owing to its sister radio station's longtime affiliation with the CBS Radio Network, with a secondary affiliation with ABC. It moved to VHF channel 11 on February 7, 1953, one of several channel shifts resulting from the Federal Communications Commission's 1952 Sixth Report and Order. Under the same decree, WAVE-TV relocated from channel 5 to channel 3.
Following the move to channel 11, the station became to first to increase its effective radiated power to 316,000 watts, the maximum allowed for a high-band VHF station, resulting in a greatly increased signal coverage area. When the FCC gradually enforced print-broadcast cross-ownership restrictions in the early 1970s, the Commission granted the Binghams a grandfathered crossownership waiver to retain their Louisville holdings.
Barry Bingham, Sr., patriarch of the family media empire, handed over control to his son Barry, Jr. upon his retirement from active involvement in 1971. But following nearly fifteen years of family infighting, the senior Bingham decided to break up the family's media holdings in early 1986. The decision resulted in the sales of WHAS radio (and its sister FM station, WAMZ) to Clear Channel Communications; the Courier-Journal and the Times to the Gannett Company; and WHAS-TV to the Providence Journal Company. The Journal Company merged with the Belo Corporation in 1997.
WHAS-TV lost ABC programming when WLKY (channel 32) signed on September 16, 1961, with channel 11 becoming an exclusive CBS affiliate. Nearly three decades later in September 1990, channel 11 ended its long relationship with CBS and rejoined ABC, this time as an exclusive affiliate of the network. At the time of the switch, ABC was the most-watched network in the country, with CBS placing at a distant third during the midway-point of president Laurence Tisch's helming of the network. WLKY, which became the market's CBS affiliate, has since made strong strides in the market as cable penetration allowed WLKY's traditional disadvantage of being on the UHF band to fade, and other factors allowed the station to strengthen its news operation and adequately compete with WHAS-TV's newscasts. In addition, WLKY became the local home for the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, and owing to the region's status as a college basketball hotbed with local teams such as Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana being longtime fixtures in the tournament, NCAA tournament games on WLKY are consistently among the highest-rated programs in the market during the tournament's run. Channel 11 has seen some struggles over the years during television seasons when ABC suffers from a weaker-rated schedule, while WLKY's ties to CBS have boosted that station through most of the 2000s. With ABC's current schedule, both stations usually exchange the top rankings in the Louisville market's news ratings.
On June 13, 2013, Belo announced that it would be acquired by the Gannett Company. Due to Gannett's ownership of The Courier-Journal, the company chose to spin off WHAS-TV to Sander Media, LLC (a media company operated by former Belo executive Jack Sander), with Gannett operating the station through a shared services agreement. The sale was completed on December 23. The SSA marked a re-entry into Louisville television for Gannett, which owned WLKY from 1979 (after Combined Communications merged with Gannett) until it sold the station to Pulitzer, Inc. in 1983.
On June 29, 2015, Gannett split into two publicly traded companies. The print interests retained the Gannett name, while the broadcasting and digital media interests became Tegna, Inc. Shortly afterward, Sander Media filed with the FCC to transfer WHAS-TV's license to Tegna's Belo Kentucky, Inc.; the acquisition was completed on December 3, 2015.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|11.1||1080i||16:9||WHAS-HD||Main WHAS-TV programming / ABC|
|11.3||WHAS 11||Weather radar|
In October 2009, WHAS-TV began carrying the Wazoo Sports Network, a regional sports network devoted to high school and minor league athletics and sports from the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky, over digital subchannel 11.3; both WHAS-TV and Lexington NBC affiliate WLEX-TV served as Wazoo's charter affiliates. The network had previously operated as an online-only service before becoming a multicast service. Wazoo Sports was dropped by WHAS-TV on December 18, 2011 due to the network's parent failing to pay the station for services and a lack of confidence by station management in the network's business plan. Wazoo's parent company filed for bankruptcy on January 9, 2012. A still screen noting the Wazoo termination remained on 11.3 until November 21, when it was replaced by a live image of the station's Doppler radar system.
WHAS-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, 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 relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 55, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its analog-era VHF channel 11. Like most ABC stations that were formerly owned by Belo, WHAS-TV's main channel is transmitted in the 1080i high definition resolution format rather than ABC's default 720p format.
WHAS-TV carries the entire ABC network schedule, including the ABC station-exclusive syndicated block Litton's Weekend Adventure (which the station splits over two days, with the first two hours airing after its Saturday morning newscast and the third hour airing on Sunday mornings). Syndicated programs broadcast by WHAS-TV (as of September 2015) include The Doctors, Celebrity Name Game, Inside Edition, Castle, Blue Bloods and Entertainment Tonight. The station produces the hour-long talk program Great Day Live!, which airs weekday mornings at 9:00 a.m. The program debuted in September 2011, replacing longtime 9:00 a.m. slotholder Live with Kelly, and is formatted as a mix of interviews and paid demonstration segments.
The station broadcasts the annual WHAS Crusade for Children, a highly successful local telethon benefiting children's charities throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana, with fundraisers leading up to the telethon broadcast on the first weekend of June. It also originated one of the nation's longest-running public service programs, Moral Side of the News, featuring a local interfaith clergy panel discussing the week's events in the light of faith. The panel also administers the annual grants from the Crusade for Children telethon.
WHAS-TV originated the first television broadcast of the Kentucky Derby locally in 1950 and 1951, and once network lines were extended to Louisville in 1952, the station originated a national telecast for CBS that year. Through CBS, WHAS-TV continued to carry the Derby through 1974. When the Derby's broadcast rights moved to ABC (which was affiliated with WLKY at the time) in 1975, Churchill Downs included a provision in the contract requiring ABC to allow channel 11 to produce its own local Derby coverage, including the race itself. The provision became moot when WHAS-TV joined ABC fifteen years later. However, after the Triple Crown races moved to NBC in 2001, WHAS-TV lost the Kentucky Derby rights to that network's Louisville affiliate, WAVE. Channel 11, through ABC, regained the rights to the Belmont Stakes in 2006, and the station also simulcast the 2006 Breeders' Cup from Churchill Downs that aired on ESPN. With the departure of the Belmont to NBC in 2011, WHAS-TV no longer broadcasts any Triple Crown horse races.
In May 2014, WHAS-TV and NBC affiliate WAVE were granted rights to Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball coverage provided by Raycom Sports-operated ACC Network. This is due in part of the University of Louisville joining the ACC in July of that year.
WHAS-TV presently broadcasts 39½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays). Not surprisingly for a station with roots in a newspaper, WHAS-TV has been an innovator in news coverage. It was the first television station in Kentucky to use newsreel film to gather footage for stories. From the late 1970s until 1991, as a CBS affiliate, the station's newscasts were titled Action 11 News. In 1991, its news branding was changed to Kentuckiana's News Channel, WHAS 11. In 1999, the station rebranded its newscasts as WHAS 11 News.
In the late 1970s, WHAS-TV displaced long-dominant WAVE-TV in the local news ratings and became the highest-rated news station in Louisville. It held the lead through the early 21st century, often by a wide margin. While it still leads WAVE and WLKY in most timeslots, its dominance is not nearly as absolute as it once was. In recent years, it has lost the lead in the 11:00 p.m. slot to WLKY. During the May 2006 ratings period, WHAS-TV placed fourth at 11 p.m. (behind syndicated reruns of Sex and the City on Fox affiliate WDRB (channel 41)); however by May 2007, it had regained the runner-up spot behind WLKY.
On January 2, 2006, WHAS-TV began producing a 10 p.m. newscast for then-WB affiliate WBKI-TV (channel 34, now a CW affiliate) through a news share agreement. On August 24, 2009, WHAS-TV became the second station in the Louisville market (after WAVE) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in a widescreen picture format. Unlike WAVE (and eventually WDRB), WHAS-TV produces its newscasts in 16:9 standard definition. The WBKI-TV broadcast was presented in 4:3 standard definition as that station did not have a modernized master control facility to allow the program to be transmitted in native widescreen. WHAS-TV's news share agreement with WBKI-TV (and effectively, the 10:00 p.m. newscast) ended on October 26, 2012, the result of a shared services agreement that was formed between Block Communications, which owns WDRB and MyNetworkTV affiliate WMYO (channel 58), and WBKI-TV owner LM Communications, LLC (the program was replaced by syndicated programming, with WDRB subsequently producing a half-hour 7:00 p.m. for WBKI-TV).
On July 2, 2014, WHAS-TV changed over to Gannett's USA Today-inspired standard graphics design, requiring local cable and pay-TV providers to display the station in widescreen full-time on standard definition sets with the AFD #10 code. It also discontinued use of the Frank Gari-composed "Newschannel" theme package, which the station had used in various forms since 1991, switching to Gannett's standard "This is Home" package, also produced by Gari.
Notable current on-air staff
- Terry Meiners – co-host of Great Day Live!
Notable former on-air staff
- Mort Crim – later became anchor for KYW-TV/Philadelphia and WDIV-TV/Detroit; now runs Mort Crim Communications
- David Dick – WHAS-TV anchorman, CBS News correspondent from 1966 to 1985
- Milton Metz – host of WHAS-TV's Omelet (1970-1979) and WHAS Radio's Metz Here (1960s-1980s)
- Hugh Smith – later anchor at WTVT/Tampa, Florida; deceased
- Stacy Smith – now at KDKA-TV/Pittsburgh
- Richard Threlkeld – American television news correspondent who spent twenty-five years with CBS News; deceased
WHAS-TV, along with WLKY and WAVE, is available on the Frankfort Plant Board's cable television system serving Kentucky's state capital.
In Barren County, Kentucky, which is in the Bowling Green media market, WHAS-TV and WHAS-DT2 (along with a few other Louisville stations) are also piped in by the cable system of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board, as well as the cable customers of the South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative. Mediacom's customers in Hart and Metcalfe Counties also have access to the main channel of WHAS-TV as a second choice for ABC programming as opposed to local ABC station WBKO.