TV Technical Profile: WAAY

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31.1 - ABC
31.2 - ION Television
31.3 - Dabl
31.4 - QVC
31.5 - Heroes and Icons (soon)
31.6 - This TV
Transmitter Location:
[map] [street view] Behind the studios on Monte Santo Blvd.
Power (ERP):
310 kW
Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT):
1,766 fee
Other Information:
41 dBu protected contour map, from the FCC. (OSM Link)
[WAAY-TV History] In-depth history of the station; much of the information here came from this page.
[WAAY Alumni Reunion]  Pictures, bios and more history from WAAY.
Owned by Allen Media Broadcasting, Evansville, Inc.
This station started broadcasting on August 1, 1959, using a 240 kW transmitter, broadcast from a 125 tower. The calls were WAFG and the station was ABC affiliated. The owners of this station (Rocket City Broadcasting P.T. Gunn, James R. Cleary, Thomas A. Barr, John A. Higdon, John S. Gregory Jr, Robert M. Darby, J. E. Beasley Jr. and Winston S. Garth Jr.)  decided to get out of television when faced with new competition in the form of channels 19 and 25, neither of which had been actually built at the time. In 1963, WAAY radio (owned by Smith Broadcasting) bought channel 31 and changed the calls to WAAY-TV.

The FCC approved the sale of channel 31 in November of 1963. Also in November, channel 19 comes on the air. WAAY becomes an ABC affiliate. During the first few years on air, WAAY-TV is supported by the WAAY radio station, which was doing quite well in the market.
In 1965 the station acquired an airplane for shooting footage. Later that month, they shoot tornado damage from the plane.

January 1968 sees WAAY changing to NBC affiliation after erecting a 400 foot tower and increasing power to 1.24 million watts. WAAY begins the first live microwave remotes in the TVA when it signs a contract with Jackson Way Baptist church in February. In April of this year, WAAY also becomes the first station in the valley to broadcast in color, with color video tape  (they bought their video processing chain from WTOP-TV in DC!) and color studio cameras.  At this time, WMSL from Decatur (now WAFF) was also airing some NBC programming, as was WOWL in the Florence area, which covered some of the Huntsville area.

By 1970 the station was broadcasting color film during their newscasts, using Kodak film.
February 1975 has WAAY getting the first color radar in the state of Alabama. During 1977, WAAY goes to ABC affiliation (Florence had it's own NBC station, cutting into the ratings of WAAY), and has just completed work on a 1,000 foot tower. 
The station gets its first helicopter for shooting news from above after going through several airplanes. This was in March of 1981.
An interesting milestone:
June 8 1992: Station begins closed captioning of all newscasts, the first in the valley to do so.

In 1999, Smith Broadcasting sold channel 31 to Grapevine Communications. Smith Broadcasting cited the expense of upgrading to HDTV as one of the reasons for selling the station. Around the time of the sale, the company renamed itself from Grapevine to GOCOM.  They eventually the station to a company called Calkins Media in 2006.  This was Calkins' first property outside Florida.  One decade later, in 2016, they announced their exit from the broadcast TV business.  Originally, the station was to be sold to Raycom Media's subsidiary American Spirit Media in April of 2016.  That deal would have seen WAAY run from the studios of cross-town rival WAFF, an actual Raycome station.  That deal fell through at the last minute, however, and the station went to Heartland TV instead.  Heartland (as USA TV) owns mostly small market stations, including nearby WTVA in Tupelo.

Channel 31's studios are still located at 1000 Monte Sano Boulevard, the site of the original WAFG station.
Returning to the modern ages, now, it is being reported that WAAY's normal analog broadcasts ceased on the original analog transition date of February 17th 2009.  Shortly before the date, the analog remained on, broadcasting a loop of information on getting digital signals and converter boxes hooked up.
The station added its first subchannel in September 2014, with the addition of WeatherNation to the .2 subchannel.  QVC Plus was added in September 2015 to the .3 subchannel.  In August 2017, WeatherNation was dropped for ION, and in the summer of 2019, Dabl replaced QVC.  QVC would show up again later on the .4 subchannel.

As part of the FCC repacking process, this station received a permit to relocate from RF channel 32 to 17 in late July 2017.  The station transitioned to RF channel 17 around 4 am on 12 April 2019.

In November 2019, Heartland TV sold several smaller-market stations, including WAAY and nearby WTVA in Tupelo, to Byron Allen's Allen Media Broadcasting for $290 million.  Allen owns numerous other media properties, including The Weather Channel.

The station added This TV to the .6 subchannel in May 2021, and will show Trash Pandas baseball games here as well.  There was no .5 subchannel until a blue screen showed up in late December 2021, with a message that Heroes and Icons would debut sometime in January.