WNAC-TV, channel 64, is the primary Fox and secondary MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station for the state of Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts that is licensed to Providence. Its transmitter is located in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Owned by Super Towers Inc., the station is operated by LIN TV through a local marketing agreement (LMA). This makes it a sister station to LIN TV flagship and CBS affiliate WPRI-TV. The two stations share studios on Catamore Boulevard in East Providence. Syndicated programming on the station includes: Seinfeld, Family Guy, Scrubs, and Family Feud.
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However, WPRO-TV (now WPRI) had won a construction permit just before WNET got its permit and had already been promised the CBS affiliation due to WPRO-AM's long affiliation with CBS Radio. WPRO-TV was originally supposed to sign on in the spring of 1953, but had to push it back to 1954 when a legal dispute with Rehoboth town officials forced it to move its transmitter site to Johnston, Rhode Island. CBS refused to let WNET carry CBS programming in the meantime because its signal was too weak, preferring to keep its secondary affiliation with WJAR-TV. This didn't change even after Hurricane Carol destroyed WPRO-TV's transmitter just before it was due to sign on.
WNET struggled against dominant WJAR-TV because television manufacturers did not have to include UHF tuning capability. To watch WNET, viewers had to buy an expensive converter, but even then picture quality was marginal at best. It did not help matters that Boston's WBZ-TV and WNAC-TV both decently covered the Providence area. When WPRO-TV finally signed on in 1955 from a transmitter in Rehoboth, ABC allowed it to cherry-pick some of ABC's most popular programming despite the fact that WNET was the ABC affiliate of record in the market. This move by ABC proved fatal to WNET, which had been badly undercapitalized from the start and needed the stronger ABC shows to sustain it.
With DuMont in its death throes and few choices for alternative programming available, WNET went off the air almost unnoticed in 1956. The channel 16 license remained active for 25 years, largely because the FCC was wary of deleting silent UHF stations. In the 1960s, the FCC reassigned channels 14-20 for two-way radio use, and the license was moved to channel 64. However, the licensee remained "Channel 16 of Providence" for many years. The WNET calls were picked up by a PBS member station in New York City in 1970. At some point between then and 1980, the dormant channel 64 changed its calls to WSTG-TV.
Under Sudbrink, WNAC ran a lot of cartoons as well as some more recent sitcoms, movies, and a lot of drama shows. It became one of the charter affiliates for the Fox network in 1987. That year the station was sold to Price Communications. It was then sold to Northstar Television in 1989. In the 1990s, WNAC began to add more talk and reality shows to its lineup. Northstar sold all three of its stations — WNAC, plus WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan and WAPT (TV) in Jackson, Mississippi — to Argyle Television in 1995. In 1996, Argyle entered into a local marketing agreement with WPRI (then owned by Clear Channel Communications). In another irony, WPRI's sign-on had sealed WNET's fate 40 years earlier. WPRI took over the station's operations, and WNAC moved into WPRI's East Providence facility.
In 1998, after Argyle merged with Hearst Corporation's broadcasting unit (creating Hearst-Argyle Television), it swapped WNAC along with WDTN in Dayton, Ohio to Sunrise Television in exchange for WPTZ in Plattsburgh, New York, WNNE in Hartford, Vermont and KSBW in Salinas, California. This was due to a significant signal overlap with WCVB-TV, Boston's ABC affiliate. WCVB's city-grade signal reaches Providence, as is the case with most of Boston's major stations. FCC regulations at the time did not allow common ownership of two stations with overlapping city-grade signals. Sunrise bought WPRI from Clear Channel in 2000. It sold WNAC to LIN TV in early 2001, since FCC regulations do not allow common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in the same market.
However, LIN TV was forced to put WNAC back on the market almost as soon as it closed on the station's purchase due to the ownership structures of Sunrise and LIN TV. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst (now HM Capital), a private-equity firm co-founded by Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks, was (and still is) majority owner of LIN TV. At the same time, HMTF also controlled a large block of Sunrise stock. The FCC ruled that HMTF's stake in Sunrise was large enough that it could not own a station in markets where LIN owned a station as well. However, it took LIN TV nearly a year to find a suitable buyer for channel 64.
In April 2002, LIN TV sold WNAC to Super Towers, Inc., a broadcasting tower company owned by Timothy Sheehan, a brother-in-law of former LIN TV vice president Paul Karpowicz (now president of Meredith Corporation's broadcasting unit). This sale allowed Sunrise and LIN TV to complete their merger the following month. WNAC's LMA with WPRI continues to this day. On May 18, 2007, LIN TV announced that it was exploring strategic alternatives that could result in the sale of the company.
On October 12, WNAC invoked the FCC’s network non-duplication rule. This resulted in Comcast blacking out Fox primetime and sports programming from WFXT on its cable systems in Bristol County, Massachusetts. This change did not affect the airing of that station's syndicated lineup or newscasts. Back in 2002, WNAC's website was integrated with WPRI. However, WNAC maintained its own web address that went to a separate section of WPRI's website. That changed on May 25, 2007, when WNAC introduced a new web address for itself. It is separate from WPRI's website and is in the form of a Fox owned and operated station website even though WNAC is not owned by Fox. The websites of other LIN-owned Fox affiliates also underwent a redesign to the format used by Fox O&O affiliates.
On January 24, 2006, The WB and UPN announced that they would cease broadcasting and merge. The new combined network would be called The CW. The letters would represent the first initial of its corporate parents: CBS (the parent company of UPN) and the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner. On February 22, News Corporation announced that they would start up another new broadcast network called MyNetworkTV. This new network, which would be sister to Fox, would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division, Twentieth Television. MyNetworkTV was created in order to give UPN and WB stations, not mentioned as becoming CW affiliates, another option besides becoming independent.
It was also created to compete against The CW. It was a given that primary UPN and secondary WB affiliate WLWC would become an affiliate of The CW. This was based on its ownership by CBS. MyNetworkTV's website has noted WNAC as being an affiliate since August 11. On August 24, it was confirmed that WNAC would become the area's affiliate in a secondary nature. The network began broadcasting on September 5. During the week, WNAC delays the broadcast of MyNetworkTV primetime until 11:30 P.M. For Saturday prime time, it is delayed until early Sunday morning at 1:30 A.M. There is no mention of MyNetworkTV on WNAC's website except in the station's television listings. There is also no logo for the secondary affiliation. WLWC began broadcasting The CW on September 18.
In 1996, WPRI began to produce a 10 P.M. newscast on WNAC. It was the market's second 10 o'clock news after the WJAR-produced WLWC effort which had started nearly a year prior. At some point in time, an hour-long extension of WPRI's weekday morning news was added to WNAC. Although the morning newscast was eventually canceled, the 10 o'clock news remains to this day. It was not until October 1, 2007 that WNAC started having newscast competition. On that date, WJAR began producing a weeknight 10-minute newscast at 10 P.M. on its NBC Weather Plus digital subchannel. There is a 24-hour weather channel called Eyewitness News Pinpoint Weather Station on Cox digital cable channel 125. When the weather channel was first established, it was also carried on the second digital subchannels of WNAC and WPRI.
In 2007, new FCC regulations for educational programing forced the two stations to make the weather channel digital cable-only. Overnight on the weekends, when the main channels of WNAC and WPRI sign off, they simulcast the weather channel. There is no separate website for the weather channel. On weeknights, there is a 15-minute sports replay show called Eyewitness News Sports Wrap that airs from 10:45 until 11. The station introduced a new news set that included updated graphics on March 17, 2008. In January of 2009, WNAC will launch a weekday morning news, lifestyle, and entertainment program known as The Fox Rhode Show. Originally broadcasting for an hour at 8 A.M., it will eventually be expanded to two. It is unknown if the broadcast will also air in a newscast format. ()
Eyewitness News at 10 on Fox Providence
Weeknights (10 to 10:45 P.M.)
Weekends (10 to 10:30 P.M.)
WNAC uses additional news personnel from WPRI. See that article for a complete listing.