WTTO is The CW Television Network (CW) affiliate for the Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, Alabama market. It broadcasts its digital signal on UHF channel 28, however through the use of PSIP technology, digital television receivers display WTTO's virtual channel as 21. It is licensed to Homewood, a Birmingham suburb. Its transmitter is located on Red Mountain.

WTTO: Homewood/Birmingham, Alabama

WDBB: Bessemer/Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Branding CW 21
Channels Digital:

WTTO: 28 (PSIP 21.1) (UHF) WDBB: 18 (PSIP 17.1) (UHF)

Affiliations The CW

The CWSD (DT2)

Owner Sinclair Broadcast Group

(WTTO: WTTO Licensee, LLC) (WDBB: WDBB-TV, Inc.)

First air date

WTTO: April 21, 1982

WDBB: October 1984[1]

Call letters' meaning WTTO:

Television Twenty- One[2] WDBB: DuBose Broadcasting (original owners of WDBB)

Sister station(s) WABM
Former channel number(s) Analog:

WTTO: 21 (1982-2009) WDBB: 17 (1984-2009)

Former affiliations WTTO:

independent (1982-1991) Fox (1991-1996) WDBB: independent (1984-1986) Fox (1986-1996, simulcast with WTTO from 1991) Both stations: The WB (1996-2006)

Transmitter power WTTO: 765 kW

WDBB: 350 kW

Height WTTO: 427.3 m

WDBB: 675 m

Facility ID WTTO: 74138

WDBB: 71325

Transmitter coordinates

WTTO: 33°29′4.5″N 86°48′25.5″W / 33.484583°N 86.807083°W / 33.484583; -86.807083

WDBB: 33°28′51.3″N 87°24′2.9″W / 33.480917°N 87.400806°W / 33.480917; -87.400806 (WDBB)


The station operates a full-time satellite for the western part of the market, WDBB. It is licensed to Bessemer, another Birmingham suburb, but primarily serves the Tuscaloosa area. It broadcasts its digital signal on UHF channel 18, WDBB's virtual channel displays as 17. Its transmitter is located near Windham Springs. WDBB is only mentioned in WTTO's legal IDs.

Both stations are owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also owns sister station WABM, the local MyNetwork TV affiliate.

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[edit] History

In Central Alabama, channel 21 was originally allocated to Gadsden, and was home to WTVS. It was one of the earliest UHF television stations, but could not gain any foothold and soon went dark because UHF tuning was optional at the time.[3]

WTTO began originally on April 21, 1982 as Alabama's second independent station (and the Birmingham market's first), signing on a few months after WPMI-TV in Mobile. It was a typical UHF independent that aired numerous cartoons, movies, and sitcoms. The first program it broadcast was a rerun of the 1970s action series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It quickly became the strongest independent station in Alabama, and one of the strongest in the nation. The station was owned by Chapman Broadcasting. Arlington Broadcasting bought WTTO in 1983. It was sold to HR Broadcasting in 1987. Despite being one of the strongest independent stations in the country, WTTO turned down the Fox affiliation when that network started up. Even without Fox, the station continued to prosper. HR Broadcasting sold WTTO to Abry in 1989.

Meanwhile, WDBB had its start in October 1984 as an independent station licensed to Tuscaloosa, also serving Birmingham. In the fall of 1985, WDBB gained the broadcasting rights to the Alabama Crimson Tide's football and basketball coaches shows. The shows had aired on WBRC and then WAPI, later WVTM, and this was a major coup for the upstart station.

In 1986, the station moved its city of license to Bessemer and built a new tower there in an attempt to improve its coverage in the Birmingham area. It signed on WNAL-TV (channel 44) in Gadsden as a satellite to serve the northern part of the market. The Fox network launched soon afterward, and WDBB/WNAL became the Birmingham area's Fox affiliate. However, neither station decently covered Birmingham and couldn't get on a couple of large Birmingham-area cable systems. In January 1991, Fox moved its affiliation to WTTO after all efforts to get better cable coverage for WDBB/WNAL failed. Soon after, WDBB and WNAL began simulcasting WTTO for all but two hours of the broadcast day. By 1993, WNAL and WDBB became full-time satellites of WTTO, which nonetheless only called itself "Fox21". WDBB then moved back to its original transmitter near Tuscaloosa, but remained licensed in Bessemer. Within a few years, WTTO was one of the strongest Fox affiliates in the country.

While WDBB broadcast much of the same programming as WTTO, the Tuscaloosa station operated its own local news department twice during its history. "WDBB 17 News" was in direct competition from then-CBS affiliate WCFT for West Alabama viewers. The newsroom and studio were housed at WDBB's Jug Factory Road facility on the southern edge of Tuscaloosa. Talent such as Dan Cates and Don Hartley, who were already known from previous stints on other TV and radio stations, were part of the news department.

For a time, it was believed that WDBB could at least share the ABC affiliation for the Birmingham market, and even veteran anchor Gene Lively, formerly of WVTM-TV, briefly anchored for WDBB. However, ABC would not come to the station, and the second run for local news on WDBB ended in late 1995. The newsroom and studio were vacant until late 1997, when upstart WJRD moved into WDBB's former facilities to re-launch local news for West Alabama. Some of WJRD's talent were former WDBB staffers who had been let go two years earlier. WJRD is now WVUA-CA.

Abry merged with Sinclair in 1994. A few months later, Sinclair began a Local marketing agreement with WABM, which joined UPN in 1995. Meanwhile, that same year, New World bought WBRC from Citicasters. At the same time, it bought WVTM-TV from Argyle. This posed a serious problem for New World. It not only owned two stations in the same market, but now owned more stations than the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed. A few months later, however, New World and Fox reached a deal in which New World would switch all its stations to Fox affiliates. This gave New World a chance to solve its Birmingham ownership problem by selling WBRC directly to Fox.

ABC originally wanted to affiliate with WTTO, which by this time had become the third-highest rated station in Birmingham. However, at the time Sinclair didn't budget for local newscasts on its stations (it would not own any Big Three stations for another year). Also, Sinclair was only interested in ABC's prime time shows, sports, and ABC News, not a full affiliation. ABC found this offer unattractive, and WTTO and WDBB continued as Fox stations until WBRC's affiliation deal with ABC ran out in September 1996. The two stations then became independents, though WTTO held onto Fox Kids after WBRC didn't pick it up. In the meantime, WNAL was sold to Fant Broadcasting and became the CBS affiliate for Gadsden and northeast Alabama. That station is now WPXH-TV, the Ion Television station for central Alabama.

In February 1997, WTTO and WDBB affiliated with the WB network. Before then, Birmingham had been one of the largest markets without a WB affiliate.

In the late 1990s, WTTO evolved gradually away from movies, classic sitcoms, and cartoons to more talk/reality shows, court shows, as well as recent sitcoms (which they ran all along). WTTO dropped Fox Kids programming in the Fall of 2000 and WBRC did not pick it up. That year Fox stopped requiring its own stations from carrying it whether or not another station could be found. The main reason for this change was because the stations were having a tougher time making a profit running such programming. This was due to new FCC regulations in terms of the amount of ads allowed during children's programming as well as the content of such advertising. This made advertisers for children rely more on cable and caused syndicators to move their programming to cable.

Still WTTO continued cartoons in the afternoons as they ran Kids' WB programming until that ended nationwide in January 2006. The CW4Kids still runs on Saturday Mornings. In September 2003, WTTO finally began to produce its own local newscast, titled "WB21 News at 9:00". However, in October 2005, the market's CBS-affiliate, WIAT, began producing the newscasts for WTTO. As of October 13, 2006, WTTO is no longer airing local newscasts.

The WB had shut down in September 2006, along with UPN, to form The CW, a network featuring programming from both networks. Sinclair announced on May 2, 2006 that WTTO would become the CW affiliate. As a CW affiliate, the station had been branded as "CW21". On February 17, 2009 at 11:59 PM, WTTO and WDBB ceased to transmit their signals in analog format on channels 21 and 17. The stations are now exclusively available in ATSC digital format.

[edit] Tower

The WTTO Tower is a 609.6 m (2000 ft) tall guyed mast structure used for communication purposes. It was finished in 1986 and is located in Windham Springs, Alabama, in the U.S. at 33°28′51″N 87°24′03″W / 33.48083°N 87.40083°W / 33.48083; -87.40083.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says WDBB signed on October 1, while the Television and Cable Factbook says it signed on October 8.
  2. ^ Nelson, Bob (2008-10-18). "Call Letter Origins". The Broadcast Archive. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  3. ^

[edit] External links

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