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WATM-TV
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Altoona / Johnstown /
State College, Pennsylvania
City of license Altoona
Branding ABC 23
FOX 8 (on DT3)
Slogan Start Here
Channels Digital: 24 (UHF) &
WWCP-DT 8.2 (VHF)
Subchannels 23.1 ABC HD
23.2 ABC SD
23.3 Fox
Owner Palm Television, L.P.
(operated through LMA by Peak Media, LLC)
First air date November 28, 1974
Call letters’ meaning Altoona Television Market
Sister station(s) WWCP-TV
Former callsigns WOPC (1974-early 1980s)
WWPC-TV (1986-1988)
Former channel number(s) 38 (UHF analog, 1974-early 1980s)
23 (UHF analog, 1986-2009)
Former affiliations Fox (1987-1988, as satellite of WWCP)
Transmitter Power 1,000 kW
9.3 kW (WWCP-DT2)
Height 311 m
368 m (WWCP-DT2)
Facility ID 20287
20295 (WWCP-DT2)
Transmitter Coordinates 40°34′6.5″N 78°26′36.5″W / 40.568472°N 78.443472°W / 40.568472; -78.443472
40°10′53″N 79°9′5″W / 40.18139°N 79.15139°W / 40.18139; -79.15139 (WWCP-DT2)
Website abc23.com

WATM-TV is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Allegheny area of Pennsylvania that is licensed to Altoona. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 24 from a transmitter north of the city in Blair County. Owned by Palm Television, the station is operated by Peak Media through a local marketing agreement a.k.a. LMA. This makes it a sister to Fox affiliate WWCP-TV. The two share studios on Scalp Avenue (a.k.a. PA 56) in Johnstown. Syndicated programming on WATM includes: Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, The Insider, and The Doctors. The station can also be seen on a second digital subchannel of WWCP. This airs from a transmitter northwest of Laurel Mountain Village along the Westmoreland and Somerset County line.

Contents

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Digital programming

The station's signal is multiplexed.

Virtual Channel Digital Channel Programming
23.1 24.1 main WATM programming / ABC HD
23.2 24.2 WATM programming / ABC SD
23.3 24.3 WWCP-TV "FOX 8" SD

History

This station originally signed-on November 28, 1974 as Altoona's ABC affiliate WOPC-TV broadcasting on channel 38. At the time, Altoona / State College and Johnstown were separate markets. The station was unable to afford a network feed and for most of its history engineers simply switched to and from the signal of WTPA-TV (now WHTM-TV) in Harrisburg. It did not help matters that Scranton's WNEP-TV had operated two outlying translators (one presently) in State College the second-biggest city in the area. Already struggling for viewership, WOPC was dealt a fatal blow in 1982 when Johnstown and Altoona / State College were collapsed into a single market. The station's signal was all but un-viewable in the western portion of the enlarged market. It went dark shortly afterward. For the next few years, WHTM was the de-facto ABC affiliate for the eastern side of the market while WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh served the western portion with WNEP continuing to serve the State College area through its translators. In 1986, the area's soon-to-be Fox affiliate WWCP-TV, faced a problem.

It had originally been slated to be a Pittsburgh station but its owners petitioned the FCC to move the license to Johnstown. In their petition, WWCP's owners cited lower programming costs in the Johnstown / Altoona / State College market. They also cited possible interference with WJW in Cleveland. The FCC granted the request on condition that WWCP build its transmitter in a location that would allow Pittsburgh to get a Grade B signal from the station. However, this meant that channel 8 would be virtually un-viewable in the eastern portion of the area. That station's owners solved this problem by buying the dormant channel 38 license and moved it to channel 23. As a result, the old WOPC returned to the air on October 13 as WWPC-TV, a satellite of WWCP. At the time, WHTM and WTAE both pre-empted moderate amounts of ABC programming and it soon became obvious that Johnstown / Altoona / State College needed its own affiliate. As a result, WWPC split from WWCP and became an ABC affiliate on August 27, 1988 under new calls, WATM-TV.

The station was later sold to Palm Television in order to comply with FCC ownership regulations regarding network affiliates. However, WATM is still managed by WWCP under a local marketing agreement as Peak Media feared that if allowed to operate separately both stations would be put in jeopardy of going dark. On February 17, 2009 the original date for the analog television shutdown and digital conversion [1], WATM remained on its current pre-transition channel number 24.[2] The station shut off its analog transmitter and began broadcasting exclusively in digital. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display their virtual channel as 23. The digital conversion significantly improved WATM's coverage in the market. Previously, it had been plagued for most of its history by its weak 708,000 watt analog signal. The station's signal was marginal at best even in Altoona five miles from the transmitter. It only provided Grade B coverage of Johnstown and State College and most viewers in this vast market could only watch it on cable. However, the station's digital transmitter is licensed for a full 1 million watts comparable to 5 million watts for an analog UHF transmitter. This gave WATM a coverage area comparable to the other major stations in the market.

News operation

WATM began airing local newscasts in 1992 branded as ABC 23 News. It had only one broadcast airing nightly at 11. Going against the established news broadcasts from WTAJ and WJAC-TV, WATM's news barely registered a rating. Their newscast was based out of the station's State College newsroom but its separate news department was shut down in December 2002 due to poor quality. After that, it merged back in with WWCP's news department in Johnstown. On November 28, 2007, The Tribune Democrat reported that the shared news department of WWCP and WATM was going to shut down.[3] Under that operation, WWCP had produced an hour-long 10 P.M. newscast starting in 1992. However according to a written statement, the two stations had been operating at a loss for years and the move was needed. The closure resulted in all reporters being released from their contracts. WJAC had on-air positions open but no personalities from those two stations were hired.

Effective January 14, 2008, WJAC assumed production responsibility of the 10 o'clock broadcast (still known as FOX 8 News at 10) which was reduced to 35 minutes on weeknights and 30 minutes on weekends. The WJAC-produced news uses the same music package and some voice-overs seen during segment opens as the former operation did. A new graphics package slightly different from WJAC and new logos similar to the WWCP promo logo introduced in 2007 were created specifically for the prime time broadcast. Because WJAC has prior commitments with news and weather cut-ins during Today, WATM still produces its own Good Morning America news and weather cut-ins that are seen Tuesday through Saturday mornings. Former WWCP co-anchor Sherry Stalley, who was still under contract when the news department shut down, hosts the updates. The cut-ins use news video from the previous day's WJAC-produced WWCP broadcast and the same graphics package. On Mondays, the cut-ins are filled by WATM promos. WJAC's nightly 11 o'clock newscast is also simulcasted on WATM. In addition to their main studios, WATM and WWCP operate sales offices in State College (on West Beaver Avenue) and Altoona (on East Walton Avenue).

News team

WJAC-TV News at 11 (simulcasted from WJAC)
Weeknights 11 to 11:35

  • Anchors:
    • Marty Radovanic - Monday through Thursday
    • Katie Sabatino - Friday (Announced she was leaving WJAC on December 8, 2009)
  • Weather:
    • Tony Martin
  • Sports:
    • Tim Rigby

Weekends 11 to 11:30 P.M.

  • Anchors:
  • Weather:
    • Tim Tender
  • Sports:
    • Matt Maisel

Additional news personnel from WJAC are seen on this station. See that article for a complete listing.

Former personalities

These people were seen on-air when the WWCP and WATM news department closed.

  • Jim Penna - News Director and weeknight anchor
  • Sherry Stalley - weeknight anchor (retained)
  • Kate O'Donovan - weekend anchor and reporter
  • Travis Koshko - Chief Meteorologist seen weeknights (now at WCAV as Chief Meteorologist)
  • Will Driscoll - weekend meteorologist and reporter
  • Greg Whitmer - Sports Director seen weeknights
  • Matt Parsons - weekend sports (now at WCAV as weekend sports anchor)
  • Angie Boddorf - reporter (now at WPMT as reporter)
  • Jennifer Black - reporter (now at WCAV as reporter)
  • Amy Cutler - reporter
  • Sean Dreher - reporter (now at WTAJ as reporter)
  • Ian Holtzman - executive producer

These personnel were also seen on the two stations at one point in time.

  • Donya Archer - anchor (now at WTXF)
  • Paige Hopkins - anchor (now anchor at Fox News)
  • Rich (Knight) Apuzzo - meteorologist (formerly at WXIX-TV)
  • David Pingalore - Sports Director (now Sports Director at WKMG-TV)
  • Ryan Brant - sports anchor and reporter (now Sports Director at WKEF and WRGT-TV)
  • Melissa White - Blair County reporter
  • Josh Bandish - State College Bureau reporter and Executive Producer
  • Mindy Basara - reporter (now at WBAL-TV)
  • Scott Brooks - reporter and producer
  • Bob McCall - Senior Producer (now at WTTG)

News/Station Presentation

Newscast Titles

  • ABC 23 News (2002-2008)
  • WJAC-TV News (2008-present; used during simulcasts from WJAC)

Station Slogans

  • We're Here for You (2002-2008)
  • Start Here (2007-present; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
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References

External links


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