WWL-TV, virtual channel 4, is the CBS-affiliated television station serving New Orleans, Louisiana, southeast Louisiana and parts of southern and coastal Mississippi, and is the primary CBS station for South and Coastal Mississippi. It broadcasts on UHF digital channel 36. Its main studios and offices are located on Rampart Street in the historic French Quarter, with a North Shore bureau located on North Causeway Boulevard in suburban Mandeville. Its transmitter is located at 4 Cooper Road in Gretna, Louisiana. The station can also be seen on Cox Communications channel 3 in standard definition and digital channel 1003 in high definition.
The station's digital channel on UHF 36, is multiplexed:
Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display WWL-TV's virtual channel as "4".
Currently, the local newscasts are broadcast in 16:9 widescreen standard definition (SD) and is one of three major stations who presents local newscasts in this format (the others are WDSU and WGNO).
WWL-TV signed on the air on Saturday, September 7, 1957 as, oddly enough, the fourth television station in New Orleans, behind WDSU-TV, WJMR (now WVUE), and WYES. It was owned by Loyola University New Orleans along with WWL radio (AM 870 and FM 105.3). WWL-AM had been a CBS affiliate since 1935 so WWL-TV naturally joined CBS. It competed head to head with NBC affiliate WDSU in the 1960s and 70s. However, after WDSU was sold to out-of-town owners, it began deemphasizing local features in favor of its highly regarded news format. By comparison, WWL, as the only locally-owned station, heavily stressed its local roots. By the early 1980s, WWL had emerged as the market's ratings leader.
WWL-TV has been the strongest CBS affiliate in the country for more than 20 years, aided by a strong programming lineup (with popular syndicated shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune and Live with Regis and Kelly), and that has remained unaffected by the market's affiliation switch in the mid-1990s. When Viacom, which owned UPN affiliate WUPL, merged with CBS in 2000, CBS did not consider moving its affiliation from WWL to WUPL.
In 1988, WWL and Cox Communications, the cable company serving the Greater New Orleans area south of Lake Pontchartrain, began a joint venture called NewsWatch 15. It was one of the first regional cable news networks in the United States at the time. Viewed on cable channel 15, the network broadcasts recent editions of "Eyewitness News" around the clock as well as simulcasts live newscasts and breaking news.
In 1989, Loyola sold its media properties to different owners. WWL-TV's employees formed a group called Rampart Broadcasting (named after the station's studios on Rampart Street), led by general manager J. Michael Early and longtime news director and station editorialist Phil Johnson, and bought the station. It was the first (and thus far, only) time an employee-investor group acquired a local television station. Belo Corporation bought the station in 1994. To this day, WWL is a subsidiary of Belo, known as WWL TV, Inc.
WWL-TV preempted moderate amounts of CBS programming throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. These included, most notably, the 9-10 a.m. weekday timeslot, and, prior to the debut of Late Show with David Letterman in 1993, CBS' late-night lineup. Also, WWL-TV preempted the last hour of Saturday children's programming, between Noon and 1 p.m., during the 1970s. In the late 1980s, WWL-TV dropped the weekday morning CBS news show in favor of an additional hour of local news and Regis at 8 a.m. Eventually the local news was expanded into the 8 a.m. hour.
WWL Building on Rampart Street
In 1990, WWL began running one of the most successful station image campaigns in the United States with its "Spirit of Louisiana" promotions. The one minute spots feature the region's musical and cultural heritage as well as showcases life in southeastern Louisiana. Many of the ads feature well-known area musicians and singers. The campaigns continue today. http://www.wwltv.com/spirit/index.html
In 2005, Viacom/CBS, which owned WUPL at the time, made an offer to buy WWL-TV. After Belo rejected Viacom's offer, Viacom instead made a deal to sell WUPL to Belo. This would have created a duopoly with WWL and WUPL. However, due to uncertainty created by Hurricane Katrina concerning the New Orleans market, Belo delayed the deal to purchase WUPL. As a result, CBS filed a lawsuit against Belo in February 2006 for breach of contract. The litigation has apparently been settled as Belo agreed to complete the purchase of WUPL in late February 2007. The deal has already received regulatory approval, and closed on February 26, 2007. In April 2007, Belo moved WUPL's operations into the WWL facility. WWL-TV celebrated a half a century of broadcasting on September 7, 2007.
WWL began 24-hour continuous coverage on Saturday, August 27, from its New Orleans studio. At 10:45 p.m. CDT Sunday operations moved to the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. LSU students and staff helped produce the telecast with WWL-TV staff in a 'bare bones' fashion.
The station briefly returned to its Rampart Street studios in New Orleans Monday, August 29, at 4 p.m. Flooding forced the station to again move operations back to LSU, as well as a makeshift studio at the transmitter site in Gretna. The station relayed its signal via fiber optics and the use of a satellite truck from sister station KHOU in Houston.
Beginning Thursday, September 1, 2005, the station again moved operations, this time to the studios of Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge. This provided WWL with a much larger facility and expanded their audience to include LPB's statewide network. This coverage was also aired by many PBS stations. WWL would finally return to New Orleans about six weeks later.
WWL's coverage of Hurricane Katrina earned the station its sixth Peabody Award in early April 2006. WWL's coverage of Katrina was featured on an episode The Weather Channel's Storm Stories.
After Hurricane Katrina, some of the station's most visible talent - including weekend anchor/reporter Josh McElveen and reporter Stephanie Riegel - left the station to pursue other opportunities. Fans were also shocked to hear that 10 p.m. anchor Karen Swensen was leaving the station to work at NECN in Boston. Meteorologists David Bernard and John Gumm also left (Bernard was already scheduled to leave before the storm.)
The station has also brought back an old WWL-TV tradition, the editorial. Modeled after the editorials of Phil Johnson, the station's long-time and very popular news director/station manager, today's editorials are in the form of WWLTV'S political analyst Clancy Dubos reading from a script, speaking about current political issues related to the post-Katrina redevelopment of New Orleans. This only happens on WWLTV's 6PM newscast on Tuesday nights.
The station and Belo announced plans to construct a new multi-million dollar broadcasting facility for WWL, WUPL and WWLTV.com at 700 Loyola Avenue in downtown New Orleans. It was originally scheduled to be completed in late 2007-early 2008 and is to be called the J. Michael Early Broadcast Center, after the former general manager. Its construction has been delayed, however. As a result, WWL-TV and WUPL will remain at their Rampart Street studio location for the foreseeable future.
The same agreement for the use of LPB studio facilities and the statewide LPB simulcast listed above was also utilized for coverage of Hurricane Gustav in early September 2008. WWL's coverage also aired on the digital subchannels of fellow Belo sister stations WFAA-TV 8.2 in Dallas and KHOU-TV 11.2 in Houston for the convenience of evacuees.
The station has used the Eyewitness News format since February 26, 1968 (having altered its title from "Evening News"), and according to local AC Nielsen ratings, has had the leading newscast in New Orleans for nearly 30 years. The November 2007 sweeps period the first major ratings period in New Orleans reported to Nielsen since Hurricane Katrina affirmed that WWL continued to lead its nearest competitors, WDSU and WVUE, by a wide margin.
In March 2006, WWL began "I-News", a 30-minute newscast featuring more in-depth reporting on topics important to viewers. The newscast also features live interviews with local, state and national officials. The newscast aired weekday evenings on the station's website after the 6 p.m. newscast and was rebroadcast on Channel 4; the webcast has since been canceled.
On June 4, 2007, WWL-TV began airing a 30-minute weeknight newscast called "Eyewitness News at 9" on WUPL-TV. It was anchored by "Eyewitness News Nightwatch" anchors Lucy Bustamante and Mike Hoss until Bustamante departed WWL-TV for Belo sister station WVEC-TV in Hampton, Virginia on October 1, 2010. Bustamante was replaced by the woman she replaced, Karen Swensen, on February 24, 2011 as anchor of the 10 p.m. and the WUPL 9 p.m. newscast; in the interim, Mike Hoss anchored the newscast on WUPL with rotating co-anchors.
Since the anchor changes, WWL-TV has lost significant ratings, according to Nielsen Media reports, but is still the top-rated station for news in New Orleans. Where it once doubled the ratings of each of its competitors in every time period, WWL-TV's lead declined to as little as one household rating point (at 6 p.m.) in the July 2011 Nielsen sweeps period, where WDSU placed second. At 5 p.m., WWL-TV led WDSU by 2 household ratings points; at 10 p.m., WWL-TV led WVUE by 1.9 household ratings points.
In April 2010, the station became the second in the market to install a new HD-based weather system.
On September 12, 2011, WWL-TV announced on its website that former WDSU weekday morning anchor Melanie Hebert would join WWL's on-air staff in July 2012, but due to a clause with WDSU, she has worked mainly in the WWL-TV newsroom since January 2012.
She and Mike Hoss will anchor the Early Edition of the morning news from 5-6am beginning in July, plus they will both anchor the new 4:30am newscast which was expanded in April 2012 to compete with WDSU after the dropping of CBS Morning News.
- "The South's Most Complete and Comprehensive Coverage of News, Sports and Weather" (1970 1976?)
- "The Best Things in Life Are Here on 4" (1978 1985)
- "Great Moments on Channel 4" (1982 1983, localized version of CBS ad campaign)
- "Louisiana's News Leader" (1984 present; news slogan)
- "The Spirit of Louisiana" (1990 present; general slogan)
- Melanie Hebert - weekday mornings Eyewitness News Early Edition/Eyewitness Morning News (4:30-9 a.m.; beginning July 2012)
- Angela Hill - weeknights at 5 and 6 p.m.
- Mike Hoss - weekday mornings Eyewitness News Early Edition (4:30-6 a.m.)
- Katie Moore - Saturdays at 5 and 6, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10 p.m.; also weeknight reporter
Eric Paulsen - weekday mornings Eyewitness Morning News (6-9 a.m.) and noon
Sally-Ann Roberts http://www.sallyannroberts.com - weekday mornings Eyewitness Morning News (6-9 a.m.) (sister of Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts)
- Karen Swensen - weeknights at 6, 9 (on WUPL) and 10 p.m.
- Dennis Woltering - weeknights at 5, 9 (on WUPL) and 10 p.m.; also host of Sunday Edition with Dennis Woltering
Eyewitness News Pinpoint Weather
- Carl Arredondo (AMS Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 6, 9 (on WUPL) and 10 p.m.
- Laura Buchtel - meteorologist; weekday mornings Eyewitness News Early Edition (4:30-6 a.m.) and Eyewitness Morning News (6-9 a.m.)
- Derek Kevra (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval) - meteorologist; Saturdays at 5 and 6, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10 p.m.
- Jonathan Myers (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and NWA Seals of Approval) - meteorologist; weekdays at noon and weeknights at 5 p.m.
- Bradley Handwerger - WWLTV.com sports writer
- Juan Kincaid - sports anchor and on-site reporter
- Doug Mouton - sports director weeknights 5, 6, and 10 p.m. [Link}
- Bryan Salmond - weekend sports anchor/reporter
Darren Sharper - Saints analyst, Former Saints and NFL free safety [Link}
- Bill Capo - consumer reporter ("Action Report")
- Tania Dall - general assignment reporter
- Frank Davis - semi-retired feature reporter ("In the Kitchen" Tuesday mornings, "Naturally N'Awlins" 6pm Wednesday mornings.)
- Don Dubuc - feature reporter ("The Fishing Game" Thursdays at 6pm.)
- Meg Farris - health reporter ("Medical Watch")
- Monica Hernandez - general assignment reporter
- Jill Hezeau - general assignment reporter
- Brooke Horton - general assignment reporter
- Paul Murphy - general assignment reporter
- Mike Perlstein - investigative reporter
- Maya Rodriguez - general assignment reporter
- Scott Satchfield - general assignment reporter
- Sheba Turk - morning traffic reporter
Notable former on-air staff
- Al Duckworth - meteorologist (1968-1984; died August 17, 2001 at age 71)
Jim Basquil - sports (now at ESPN)
- Susan Edwards - reporter (died on December 29, 2010 at age 34 of liver cancer)
Bill Elder - anchor/investigative reporter (1965 2000; nicknamed the "Mike Wallace of Louisiana"; died September 17, 2003 at age 65 of complications from brain cancer treatment)
Hap Glaudi - sports anchor (1961 1978; subsequently moved to WWL(AM); died December 29, 1989; longtime on-air rival of Buddy Diliberto, who succeeded him at WWL-AM)
Hoda Kotb - anchor/reporter (1992 1997; now with NBC News as co-host of The Today Show)
Jim Henderson - Long-time sports director from May 1, 1978 to January 31, 2012. Retired from television, but remains the radio voice of the New Orleans Saints
Larry Matson - sports anchor (1979? 1985?; now with the St. Charles Parish Recreation Department)
Jim Metcalf - anchor/reporter/host of A Sunday Journal (1966 1977; died March 8, 1977 at age 49, the Jim Metcalf Memorial Award is named in his honor)
Chris Myers - sports reporter/anchor (1982 1986; now with Fox Sports)
Susan E. Roberts - anchor/reporter (1995 1997; now with WPRI-TV)
Nash C. Roberts Jr. - meteorologist (1978 2001; died December 19, 2010 at age 92)
Garland Robinette - anchor/reporter (1970 1990; married to co-anchor Angela Hill from 1978 1987; now at WWL-AM/WWL-FM)
Norman Robinson - reporter (1978 1992; now at WDSU)
Charles Zewe - anchor/reporter (1971 1976; later at WDSU and CNN; now Vice President of Communications for the Louisiana State University System)