WMUR-TV, virtual channel and VHF digital channel 9, is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Manchester, New Hampshire, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation. WMUR maintains studio facilities located on South Commercial Street in downtown Manchester, and its transmitter is located on the south peak of Mount Uncanoonuc in Goffstown.
Manchester is considered to be part of the larger Boston television market; that city's ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV, is also owned by Hearst. As a result, WMUR is the only New Hampshire-based television station with a news operation. In addition to WCVB-TV, WMUR-TV shares common coverage areas with two sister stations, WMTW-TV in Portland, Maine; and NBC affiliate WNNE in Hartford, Vermont, the latter a semi-satellite of Plattsburgh, New York-based WPTZ.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|9.1||1080i||16:9||WMUR||Main WMUR-TV programming / ABC|
Since August 22, 1994, WMUR has operated three repeaters in northern New Hampshire. Until December 19, 2001, two of the stations were primarily affiliated with Fox but simulcast channel 9's newscasts (the third repeater carried all WMUR programming, including ABC network programs). The two Fox stations started simulcasting WMUR when WMTW (at that time separately owned) relocated its transmitter away from Mount Washington. Since all three stations are low-powered, they were exempt from the transition to digital-only broadcasting on June 12, 2009.
|Callsign||Channel||City of license||Notes|
|W27BL||27||Berlin||*part of Portland market|
*first on-air on August 22, 1994
|WMUR-LP||29||Littleton||*part of Burlington / Plattsburgh market|
*tower shared with W38CB on Cannon Mountain
*formerly W16BC and (briefly) W29CM
*first on-air on June 5, 1995
|W38CB||38||*tower shared with WMUR-LP on Cannon Mountain|
*always aired ABC programming
*first on-air in May 1995
Early brief years
The station first signed on the air on March 28, 1954, as the first television station in New Hampshire; it was founded by former governor Francis P. Murphy, owner of WMUR radio (610 AM; now WGIR) through a company known as the Radio Voice of New Hampshire, Inc. Murphy beat out several challengers, including William Loeb III, publisher of the Manchester Union-Leader. It broadcast from a Victorian-style house on Elm Street in Manchester, alongside its radio sister. In addition to carrying ABC programming (the station having been affiliated with the network since its sign-on), WMUR aired daily newscasts, local game shows and movies.
In 1955, channel 9 significantly boosted its signal, providing a strong signal well into the Boston area. Murphy was well aware of this, and began airing programming that had previously not been available in Boston. The following year, however, Murphy decided to retire. While a buyer was immediately found for the AM station, there were few takers for channel 9. Finally, in early 1957, he agreed in principle to sell WMUR-TV to Storer Broadcasting. However, Storer came under fire when it announced plans to move the station's transmitter to just outside Haverhill, Massachusetts – only 20 miles north of Boston. It soon became apparent that Storer intended to move all of channel 9's operations across the border to Massachusetts and reorient it as the Boston market's third VHF station. The outcry led regulators to reject Storer's request to build a new tower near Haverhill, and Storer backed out of the deal. The station remained in Murphy's hands until his death in December 1958; his estate finally sold the station a few months later, to Richard Eaton's United Broadcasting. Storer eventually fulfilled their Boston ambitions in 1966 with the purchase of the channel 38 license as WSBK-TV.
Soon after taking over, United laid off all but nine of WMUR's employees and reduced local programming to its two daily newscasts. For the next 22 years, United ran channel 9 on a shoestring budget, devoting most of its efforts to managing Manchester's cable franchise. It paid almost no attention to the station even as equipment broke down. The studio's upkeep also suffered; the floor was so slanted that cameras rolled on their own. WMUR continued to broadcast in black-and-white up until 1973, long after the Boston stations all upgraded to color capability. Two of the few things the station had going for it during this time were The Uncle Gus Show, hosted by Gus Bernier for more than 20 years, and an increasingly active news department led by Tom Bonnar and Fred Kocher.
Eaton tried to bribe ABC for more favorable terms for three of his other stations in the 1970s. When the Federal Communications Commission got word of this, it nearly revoked all of United's licenses, even though WMUR was not directly involved in the bribery. As a result, the station continued to be run very cheaply.
1980s and 1990s
In July 1981, following Richard Eaton's death, WMUR was sold to Columbus, Mississippi businessman Birney Imes Jr. and his company, Imes Communications, who also owned that city's WCBI-TV, as well as WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Years later, several veterans, including Bonnar, said they only stayed at the station in hopes a wealthier owner would see its potential. Imes made WMUR a major influence in New Hampshire by giving it a badly-needed technical overhaul, as well as upgrading its news department.
In September 1987, the station moved from its original Elm Street studios to facilities in the historic Millyard area of the city.
In 1994, WMUR became both a primary and secondary affiliate of Fox in which they also launched 3 low-powered repeaters in the Northern portion of New Hampshire, one of them (W38CB in Littleton) carried WMUR's full ABC schedule, while the other two (W27BL in Berlin & WMUR-LP in Littleton) were full-time primary affiliates of Fox, all of them including its main channel carried WMUR's newscasts as well as FOX Sports telecasts. While WMUR and W38CB managed to retain its full-time ABC schedule, W27BL & WMUR-LP offered a different lineup than that of WMUR's actual lineup, even though W27BL & WMUR-LP retained WMUR's newscasts and syndicated fare, the ABC programs were replaced with more syndicated programming, including programs from Fox itself including FOX Sports telecasts, FOX News shows, the Fox Kids children's block, and of course the network's full primetime lineup. However on December 19, 2001, WMUR dropped its primary/secondary affiliation with Fox after the Hearst acquisition (Hearst has never affiliated any of their stations with Fox, a rarity in American broadcasting), and has since replaced the full Fox lineup on W27BL & WMUR-LP with a full-time simulcast of WMUR's ABC programming itself.
Then in 1995, WMUR purchased land and a building at its current location. This building was rebuilt as an 80,000 square feet (7,400 m2) state-of-the-art broadcast center; it moved to this new location in January 1996.
WMUR was the first television station in the country to develop a significant Internet presence beginning in 1996. It was the first television station to hire a full-time employee dedicated to streaming its newscast live and archived online for later viewing. It was also the first television station to use the Internet to supplement its broadcast news by posting additional information online like the Megan's Law list. After posting a 3D virtual tour of its TV studio facilities online it briefly became the most visited attraction online in the world. Beginning in 1998 the station made significant financial, technical and staff investments into its internet strategy. This included 24-hour original news segments, weather coverage from a professional meteorologist and Sales Executive dedicated to TV and online advertising. In 2000 WMUR, CNN and WMUR.COM simulcasted their New Hampshire Primary Debates held at the TV station. This was the first widely promoted and executed worldwide live streaming video event.
In September 2000, Imes Communications reached a deal to sell the station to Emmis Communications, who then traded WMUR to Hearst-Argyle Television, now Hearst Television, in exchange for that company's three radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona: KTAR, KMVP, and KKLT. In 2004, WMUR-TV celebrated fifty years of broadcasting.
On September 24, 2005, WMUR became available on satellite via DirecTV in Coos, Carroll, Grafton, and Sullivan counties in northern and west-central New Hampshire. Coos and Carroll counties are part of the Portland, Maine market and thus had WMTW as their ABC affiliate, while Grafton and Sullivan counties are part of the Burlington, Vermont/Plattsburgh, New York market and hence received ABC programming from WVNY; these areas had no source of in-state news until WMUR's uplinking.
The station was featured in a fictional manner in the sixth season of The West Wing, congressman Matt Santos running in the Democratic Party Presidential Primary went to the WMUR studios to run a live ad for his campaign.
In February 2010, WMUR introduced a new slogan, "It's how you know." This slogan often promoted its local news, weather, its photo sharing site, "uLocal," and other ideas of interest that would lead to its website. WMUR's Hearst-owned sister stations KCRA and KSBW also used this slogan, which was seen at the beginning of each video segment on YouTube.
In December 2015, the Democratic National Committee announced that WMUR would not be included as a co-sponsor of the Democratic debate due to a labor dispute between that station and its unionized employees.
New Hampshire network affiliates
Manchester is about 45 miles (72 km) north from Boston while Concord is about 60 miles (97 km). Boston's VHF stations have Grade A signals in Manchester and Grade B signals in Concord, while the UHF stations have Grade B signals in Manchester but spotty signals in Concord. On paper, southern New Hampshire is large enough to be a market in its own right. If it were ever to break off from Boston, it would rank in the top 100 of all U.S. media markets. However, CBS' ownership of WBZ-TV (channel 4) makes this unlikely as it would result in the dilution of that station's advertising revenue, along with viewer upheaval at the loss of newscasts from the Boston area as has been seen as Providence's stations in the southern portion of the Boston market that have attempted to claim market exclusivity to some complaint from area cable customers. In the early 1990s, that station operated a news bureau in Manchester which was re-established on Elm Street in November 2006.
Prior to 1988, the sub-market was served by WMUR and PBS member station WENH-TV (which was part of the New Hampshire Public Television member network). On February 1, 1988, WNHT, an independent station based in Concord, became southern New Hampshire's first CBS affiliate and began to produce local newscasts. WNHT lost the affiliation and ceased operations on March 31, 1989 due to insufficient viewership. There has not been an affiliate of the network based in the state since then. The situation with WMUR and sister station WCVB is not unlike that of WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, Maryland, which operated as an NBC affiliate until 2016 even though it is part of the Washington, D.C. market and competed with that city's NBC owned-and-operated station, WRC-TV.
When WNHT shut down, WMUR and WENH remained the only full-power stations licensed in the state until MyNetworkTV launched on September 5, 2006. On that date, WZMY-TV (channel 50, now WBIN-TV), an independent station based in Derry, became the southern New Hampshire and Boston affiliate of the network; it remained affiliated with MyNetworkTV (which has since transitioned into a programming service rather than a network) until September 2011, when the service moved to Boston-based WSBK-TV.
Except for WRLH out of Lebanon, which operated from 1966 to 1976, there has never been an NBC station based in the state. WRLH returned to the air in 1978 as WNNE, now based in White River Junction, Vermont. WNNE has broadcast NBC programming into parts of western New Hampshire since then. Much of this area is considered part of the Burlington, Vermont/Plattsburgh, New York market, although WMUR is still available. The rest of the state receives NBC from that network's affiliates in either Boston or Portland. On January 1, 2017, Merrimack-licensed WNEU began simulcasting NBC programming via its new Boston owned-and-operated station WBTS-LD on its second digital subchannel; however, the new station, known on-air as NBC Boston, is focused on Boston and eastern Massachusetts rather than New Hampshire. There were no WB or UPN affiliates in the state during the existence of those networks; likewise, The CW does not have any affiliates in New Hampshire, and the state receives Fox from the network's affiliates in Boston, Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, or Burlington, Vermont.
WMUR has always promoted the fact that it is the only local television news source in the state; the station's slogan since 2002 (No One Covers New Hampshire Like We Do) reflects this. However, WBIN-TV began offering daily newscasts covering New Hampshire in 2014. The newscasts were known as NH1 News and were based in Concord. NH1 News was an affiliate of CNN, while WBIN-TV was an independent station, and was not affiliated with a major network. Since WBIN went off the air as part of the FCC's spectrum auction in early 2017, WMUR is once again the only television news source in New Hampshire.
Syndicated programming seen on WMUR includes Live with Kelly and Ryan, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Inside Edition. Many of these programs are also seen on sister station WCVB-TV, and as a result the stations have similar weekday programming schedules.
WMUR was one of the longest-serving affiliates of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Love Network, having carried the MDA Show of Strength and its predecessors annually on Labor Day and/or the night before since the late 1960s. The MDA moved the telethon from syndication to ABC in 2013; as a result, WMUR continued to broadcast the program for two more years until the telethon ended in 2014.
During the 1960s and 1970s, one of the station's well-known local programs was a weekday children's program known as The Uncle Gus Show. Unlike Boston's astronaut "Major Mudd" or the widely franchised "Bozo", host "Uncle Gus" Bernier wore no costume except an angler's hat. For many years, WMUR's nighttime sign-off were accompanied by "New Hampshire Naturally" by The Shaw Brothers. The music was synchronized to bucolic scenes of a fly fisherman casting his line into a mountain stream, a covered bridge, the Old Man of the Mountain, flowers, fall foliage and other images. This theme was replaced at some point by "The Star Spangled Banner".
WMUR-TV broadcasts 30½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 4½ hours on weekdays and four hours on Saturdays and Sundays). In addition, WMUR produces New Hampshire Chronicle, a regional version of the Chronicle newsmagazine series that originated on Boston sister station WCVB-TV, which airs weeknights at 7:00 p.m.; and the political talk program Close Up, which airs on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m.
During election seasons, WMUR is well known for organizing and producing candidate debates for ABC News, as well as CNN, before the first United States presidential primary; the debates have been held at Saint Anselm College. In addition to its main studios, WMUR operates two news bureaus in New Hampshire. The station's Lakes Region Bureau is based at The Inn at Bay Point in Meredith, and the Seacoast Bureau is based at Harbor Place in Portsmouth. In addition, WMUR and WCVB share news footage for stories occurring within the other station's coverage area; WCVB also operates a live truck for newsgathering that is based at WMUR's studios in Manchester.
Audio simulcasts of WMUR's newscasts are broadcast on WTPL (107.7 FM) in Hillsborough and WTSL (1400 AM) in Hanover (weekdays from 5 to 6 a.m., 12 to 12:30 p.m. and 5 to 6:30 p.m.), WTSN (1270 AM) in Dover (from 5 to 6:30 p.m.), WASR (1420 AM) in Wolfeboro (5 to 6 p.m.) and WEEY (93.5 FM) in Keene (from 5-5:30 a.m. and 6-6:30 p.m.). In lieu of its own weather radar, WMUR uses live radar data from several regional sites operated by the National Weather Service. During weather segments, the radar system used by WMUR that utilizes this data is presented on-screen as "Storm Watch 9 Storm Tracker", which is provided through a graphics system by Weather Services International. A live video feed of this radar is offered on WMUR's website. During instances of severe weather year-round, the station may extend local newscasts to provide coverage; this coverage is sometimes streamed live on the website.
On August 2, 2011, WMUR began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, and introduced a new set and graphics package. WMUR began producing a half-hour weeknight 10 p.m. newscast for its MeTV subchannel on March 5, 2012, which competed with a 10 p.m. newscast on WBIN-TV until early 2017, when that station went off the air as a result of the FCC's spectrum auction.
Notable current on-air staff
- Erin Fehlau: anchor; also host of New Hampshire Chronicle
- Tom Griffith: anchor
- Josh Judge (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval): meteorologist