WCOV-TV Article

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Montgomery, Alabama
United States
BrandingFox 20 (general)
Channels Digital: 20 ( UHF)
(to move to 22 (UHF))
Virtual: 20 ( PSIP)
Subchannels20.1 Fox
20.2 Antenna TV
20.3 This TV
OwnerWoods Communications Corporation
First air dateApril 17, 1953 (65 years ago) (1953-04-17)
Call letters' meaningWill COVington
Sister station(s) WALE-LD
Former channel number(s)Analog:
20 (UHF, 1953–2009)
16 (UHF, 1997–2009)
Former affiliationsPrimary:
CBS (1953–1986)
Independent (January–October 1986)
NBC (1953–1954)
ABC (1953–1960)
DuMont (1953–1956)
NTA (1956–1961)
Transmitter power460 kW
505 kW ( CP)
Height518 m (1,699 ft)
527.6 m (1,731 ft) (CP)
Facility ID73642
Transmitter coordinates 31°58′28″N 86°9′44″W / 31.97444°N 86.16222°W / 31.97444; -86.16222
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.wcov.com www.studio20mgm.com

WCOV-TV is a Fox- affiliated television station licensed to Montgomery, Alabama, United States, serving the Black Belt and River Region of central Alabama. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and UHF channel 20 from a transmitter southeast of Grady along the MontgomeryCrenshaw county line. The station is owned by David Woods and his Woods Communications Corporation as part of a duopoly with Troy-licensed Cozi TV affiliate WIYC (channel 48). WCOV's studios are located on WCOV Avenue in the Normandale section of Montgomery.


WCOV-TV was the first television station in Montgomery, making its first broadcast on April 17, 1953. It was a primary CBS station but carried affiliations with all networks that were airing at the time ( NBC, ABC, and DuMont). During the late-1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. [1] It was originally supposed to broadcast on VHF channel 12 (now occupied by WSFA), but RCA could not deliver a VHF transmitter in time for the launch. However, RCA could deliver a UHF transmitter. This historical accident would come back to haunt WCOV three decades later.

The station was owned by Oscar Covington and his family along with WCOV radio (now WGMP) and two other radio stations in Alabama. Oscar's brother, George William "Will" Covington, who had founded WCOV radio in 1939, had applied for a television license in 1949 and was on a trip to Chicago to buy equipment at the time of his death later that year. It lost NBC when WSFA launched in 1954 and ABC when WSLA-TV in Selma started up in 1960. DuMont programming went away in 1956 after that network shut down. The Covington family sold the station to Gay-Bell Corporation in 1964.

From 1960 to 1984, WCOV blocked several requests by WSLA (by then a CBS affiliate) to increase its power in order for that station to better cover Montgomery, claiming that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would not be fostering the growth of UHF stations if it allowed WSLA to build a stronger tower. In truth, WCOV feared losing its CBS affiliation if WSLA were allowed to move into Montgomery.

Finally in 1984, WSLA was indeed granted a construction permit for a taller tower that would cover Montgomery and changed its call letters to WAKA. Channel 8 brought its new, taller tower online in April 1985. By then, Gay-Bell had seen the writing on the wall. It faced the prospect of having to operate WCOV as an independent—and with it, the added expense of buying an additional 18 hours per day of programming. With this in mind, Gay-Bell put WCOV on the market. In December 1985, Gay-Bell sold WCOV to a group of investors led by David Woods, son of veteran Alabama broadcaster Charles Woods. Years later, Woods bought out the investors and became the sole owner.

Just days after Woods closed on his purchase, CBS indeed pulled its affiliation from WCOV on New Year's Day 1986. For the first half of 1986, WCOV carried on as Montgomery's first general-entertainment independent station, with a schedule heavy on network reruns. However, at the same time, Woods signed an affiliation deal with the upstart Fox network, which was due to launch in October. WCOV was one of the first longstanding Big Three affiliates to join Fox. For all intents and purposes, however, WCOV continued to be programmed as an independent for most of Fox's early years, as was the case with most Fox affiliates; the network wouldn't air a full week's worth of programming until 1993.

The original tower in Montgomery was destroyed by a massive tornado on March 6, 1996. The station was able to restore service for cable customers later that afternoon with help from WSFA and AT&T Cable (later to become Charter). One month later, WCOV returned to the air on a temporary 350-foot (107 m) tower. The station applied to the FCC to resume full-power operations from a new 1,700-foot (518 m) tower in Grady, with a power increase to a full five megawatts. The FCC granted the request and issued a construction permit. In January 1997, the station activated its new tower.

WCOV started broadcasting a special "nightlight" service on its analog signal featuring digital conversion information following the discontinuance of its analog service. The station currently produces one local program, MPD: The Television Series, a reality show which features the work of the Montgomery Police Department. MPD has been in production since November 1991.

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming [2]
20.1 720p 16:9 WCOV-DT Main WCOV-TV programming / Fox
20.2 480i 4:3 ANTENNA Antenna TV
20.3 THIS-TV This TV

Analog-to-digital conversion

WCOV-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 20, on February 20, 2009. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 16 to channel 20. [3] At the same time, the station's transmitter was moved from Montgomery to Grady.


In addition to Fox network programs like The Simpsons, Empire, NASCAR and the NFL, WCOV carries syndicated programming including The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Big Bang Theory, The People's Court, Judge Mathis and The Andy Griffith Show.

News operation

News logo.

As a CBS affiliate, WCOV operated its own news department, known during its latter years as Eyewitness News. It spent most of its history as a distant runner-up to WSFA. The station shut down its news department after losing the CBS affiliation. Eventually, a two-hour simulcast of the four-hour-long Good Day Alabama was added from fellow Fox affiliate WBRC in Birmingham. This aired weekday mornings from 7 until 9 and originated from WBRC's studios. At some point in September 2010, the simulcast was dropped.

On January 7, 2008, Woods Communications contracted with NBC affiliate WSFA (owned by Raycom Media) to air a prime time broadcast in conjunction with another Fox affiliate and Raycom-owned station in Dothan, WDFX-TV. Originally airing for 35 minutes on weeknights, a weekend half-hour edition began in Summer 2008. On August 3, WSFA upgraded its newscasts to high definition level. The primary news set and graphics were redesigned in the transition.

Initially, the 9 p.m. shows were not included because they originated from an older secondary set at WSFA's studios on East Delano Avenue. However in Spring 2010, those broadcasts began airing in HD with updated graphics separate from programs seen on WSFA. Since WDFX and WCOV both aired Fox News at 9, there was regional coverage of the Montgomery and Dothan areas provided. Reporters based at WDFX's studios (referred to as the Wiregrass Newsroom) were also featured in the show.

After WCOV's outsourcing contract with WSFA expired at the end of 2010, it entered into a new agreement with CBS affiliate WAKA (owned by Bahakel Communications) to produce a nightly 35-minute prime time newscast at 9 covering Montgomery. As mentioned above, WAKA's move into Montgomery cost WCOV its CBS affiliation a quarter-century earlier. At that time, the new show, known as WCOV News at 9, reverted to pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition (since WAKA had yet to make any upgrades to newscasts) and originated from studios on Eastern Boulevard ( US 80/ US 231). In addition, WAKA operates bureaus in Selma (on Landline Road/ SR 22 Truck/ SR 219) known as the West Alabama Newsroom and in Troy as well as Greenville (both known as South Alabama Newsrooms). Despite merging with WNCF and WBMM on February 4, 2013, WAKA continues to produce WCOV News at 9 which now airs in high definition from an updated set at the shared WAKA/WNCF studios on Harrsion Road in Montgomery.


  1. ^ "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films", Boxoffice: 13, November 10, 1956
  2. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WCOV
  3. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.

External links