TV Technical Profile: WSES

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33.1 - Heroes and Icons
33.2 - Catchy Comedy
33.3 - Start
ATSC 3.0 Programming:
33.1 - WSES (Heroes and Icons)
17.1 - WDBB (CW)
17.2 - WDBB (ABC 33/40)
Transmitter Location:
[map] [bird's eye] Approx 3 miles east of Alabama 69, off CR-38 (Blue Creek Road) in Tuscaloosa County. Near the Tuscaloosa tall tower.
Power (ERP):
800 kW
Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT):
2,162 feet
Nondirectional (CP)
Other Information:
41 dBu protected contour map, from the FCC. (FCCdata Link)
[Picture] Legal ID snapshot showing the current ident under Howard Stirk Holdings, October 2015.
Owned by HSH Birmingham (WCFT) Licensee, LLC
Station History:
WCFT began broadcasting on October 27, 1965. Originally, Tuscaloosa was part of the Birmingham market and WCFT was the first from Tuscaloosa to broadcast. The station began with no affiliation, but after years of little return for their investment, the station was sold to Service Broadcasters of Hattisburg in 1967. After the purchase WCFT was granted permission to air CBS programming even though Birmingham's channel 42 was the DMA affiliate. In 1970, the station became a full network affiliate. In the early 80's the station began doing better in the news area and by 1987 Arbitron made Tuscaloosa it's own market. WCFT was sold to Albritton Communications in 1995 to become part of Birmingham's unique new ABC affiliate.  WBMA, a low power station is official Birmingham's ABC affiliate. WCFT, along with Anniston station WJSU served as "satellites" to rebroadcast ABC all over central Alabama. WBMA began digital broadcasts in the winter or spring of 2011. 

In the summer of 2014 the FCC approved the merger of Allbritton with Sinclair Television Group, who were originally to shut the station down as part of a merger agreement with the FCC.  The station was supposed to shut down, according to FCC documentation, on 30 September 2014 but it remained on the air past that date by at least a day; later it was reported on air but with no picture on any of the subchannels.  Various media publications soon reported a last minute deal between Sinclair and minority-backed Howard Stirk Holdings to buy WCFT for just $50,000.  The license transfer was completed in late November or early December 2014, and the station began relaying the Heartland TV network, same as WJSU, which Stirk also bought.
For a long time after the station "moved" to Birmingham, the original WCFT tower continued to stand just off I-20/59 near the Skyland Blvd. exit, and was used for ABC 33/40's Tuscaloosa tower camera until the tower was sold off for scrap in late 2012 or early 2013.
WCFT elected to keep analog broadcasts on until the new June 12th deadline.  Due to reception issues in the Birmingham area, the station moved back to RF channel 33 in late October, 2009.  At the start of November 2012 the station began carrying the new Nashville Network on their .3 digital subchannel.  On March 11, 2015, the station changed from its original call sign of WCFT to WSES.  Although it didn't debut on 1 October as promised, the station did eventually drop Heartland for Heroes and Icons in early October 2015.  In January 2016 it was discovered that the TV network known as Decades was planning to be added to the -.2 subchannel at some unknown point in the future, and it showed up on the Decades TV website early in 2016.  Decades disappeared before the end of the year, leaving on Heroes and Icons available in December 2016.
As part of the FCC spectrum repacking processing, this station received a permit in mid-July to relocate from RF channel 33 to 36, with no other real technical changes aside from a small bump in power.

The station added Start TV to the .3 subchannel in the winter of 2019.  In the late summer of 2019, the station began operating under a Special Temporary Authority on RF channel 36, with lower power and a directional antenna, as part of the TV repacking process.  The license to cover for the full power authorization on RF channel 36 was filed in October 2020.

In late May 2022, the station filed to commence broadcasting in the ATSC 3.0 format.  WDBB will be hosting the station's current channel lineup in ATSC 1.0 format to maintain compatibility with existing television sets.  The swapover date was listed as 24 June 2022, then later changed to 14 July 2022.  This station will broadcast their own Heroes & Icons network, along with CW and ABC 33/40 feeds from WDBB. 
In July, it was announced that the stations' ATSC 3.0 rollout was delayed until October, for unspecified reasons.  It was later reportedly delayed again, this time to early December.  As of 5 December, WSES-DT was running a promotion saying that viewers should rescan their televisions on that day in preparation for ATSC 3.0.  That same day, they switched over to ATSC 3.0 along with WTTO in Birmingham.

In March 2023, Weigel Broadcasting renamed the Decades channel to Catchy Comedy.