While working as the technical director of WHEN-TV in Syracuse, New York, Frank K. Spain envisioned a television station for his boyhood hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. An electrical engineer, Spain had been a member of the engineering and development team for NBC in New York and Washington.
Upon petitioning the Federal Communications Commission for assignment of Channel 9 to Tupelo, the formidable task of making his dream reality began in 1953.
At this early stage in television, the best commercial television equipment was extremely expensive and constructing your own television station was unheard of. But Spain faced this formidable task with determination and dedication. Throughout the construction period, his garage, backyard, and home basement in Syracuse literally became an electronics assembly facility. The antenna, transmitter and cameras were designed and built from scratch.
In December 1956, the Federal Communications Commission officially approved and assigned Channel 9 to Tupelo, Mississippi, followed by the grant of a construction permit for the then-named WTWV. All the equipment constructed over the previous three years was gathered and shipped to Tupelo and the job of assembling and building a workable television station began. The equipment's new home was an abandoned school located just north of Tupelo, which remains the station's operations headquarters to this day.
On March 18, 1957, WTWV radiated its first live pictures to viewers in Northern Mississippi.
WTWV produced numerous firsts. WTWV was the first commercial television station in the state to devote its entire daily morning schedule to "educational programming" coordinated with the area's public school system. WTWV was the first television station in Mississippi to broadcast a live basketball game and it was the first station to broadcast a live telethon for an entire broadcasting day—raising money for cerebral palsy.
As the industry progressed and improved, so did WTWV. The change from black and white to color television was easily accomplished due to Spain's involvement with the development of color television for NBC several years earlier.
Along with an expanding and successful business came the public demand for an expanded coverage area. A new site was chosen for the transmitter and tower which not only put Columbus, Mississippi, within the city grade coverage but also resulted in one of the largest geographic coverage areas in the country.
A new 1590 foot tower and a new transmitter building were constructed near Woodland, Mississippi, some 40 miles away from the studio.
Having established this large regional influence and because Tupelo was the first city to purchase power from Tennessee Valley Authority, WTWV requested and was granted the new call letters of WTVA.
In 2009, WTVA became the smallest market in the United States to offer high-definition (HD) programming and was the first station in Mississippi to offer both local news coverage and commercial production in HD. WTVA continues to lead the way in bringing you the highest quality entertainment.
Today, WTVA has an operation undreamed of in the 1950s with an expanded news department featuring some of the finest journalists in the nation and electronic newsgathering for a multi-platform world.
It's a tradition of excellence that will continue year-after-year.
WLOV began its life as WVSB, an ABC affiliate. Owned by Venture Systems, Inc., the station first began broadcasting on Sunday, May 29, 1983. The station had been scheduled to begin on the first of May, but delays in the delivery of studio equipment pushed the date back. Wet weather prevented workers from completing work on the studio towers in West Point and Woodland, pushing the date back even further. On that first evening, President/General Manager David Hopper welcomed northeast Mississippi to the station's viewing audience in a special message aired before the start of prime-time programming. In the welcome, Hopper said the station looked forward to "long and prosperous affiliation with the northeast Mississippi people" and promised that the station was "here to serve you with something good every day."
As Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) channel 27, viewers were required to use the U channel on their televisions and use that not-so-familiar second knob to access the UHF channels. The station ran advertisements in local newspapers instructing viewers how to connect UHF antennas and tune in. In 1991, Love Communications took an interest in the fledgling station and purchased it. As part of the purchase agreement, the station name was changed to WLOV, a play on the Love Communications’ name.
As the only UHF station in the market, WLOV suffered early financial difficulties. Most viewers weren't familiar with UHF stations and finding them on their televisions, despite the station's early efforts at educating people. While the station was steadily gaining viewers, competition from the NBC and CBS affiliates on "regular" channels was fierce.
It was clear that the station needed help. In May 1992, WLOV entered into a Program Service Agreement with Tupelo's WTVA. On Nov. 25 of that year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized the station to move to Tupelo. At first, WLOV moved into offices in the Tupelo Community Antenna building (now Comcast Cable) but then moved into the WTVA building.
The move was wise, and reduced costs for rent, utilities, taxes and fees, maintenance of studio equipment, programming and staffing. Employees were given the opportunity to move with the station to Tupelo and many did. Of those employees, many are still employed by the station. In February 1994, new general manager Jennifer Dennington was brought on board. New changes came fast. Lingard Broadcasting bought the station in August 1994 after seeing the potential for WLOV to become a market leader.
Around this time, WLOV also began to include programming from a new network that was making waves in the entertainment industry. News Corporation's new "mini-network" was still young, but it was picking up viewers at an astonishing rate. WLOV embraced the new network early on, and for a while operated as a dual-affiliate station. But the new network was clearly going places, and WLOV decided it wanted to become a part of its success. So in November 1995, WLOV ceased being an ABC affiliate. Instead, WLOV now proudly became FOX 27, the area's premiere FOX affiliate.
With the popular FOX network now drawing in record viewers and the station now available on easier-to-find cable channels, WLOV began to grow rapidly. "West Point of View," the station's community issues program, began airing in January 1995. In March 2000, "WLOV News At Nine" hit the air and began a streak of Associated Press award wins.
"First Down on FOX," a locally-produced sports show, was even more successful after its launch, becoming WLOV's first program to earn an Emmy® nomination from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2005. And another first for WLOV was providing digital broadcasting on Aug. 22, 2004. The new high-definition digital channel, DT16, upgraded to full-power digital in April 2007, bringing high-definition television to viewers all over north Mississippi.
In 2009, WLOV discontinued its analog service in accordance with FCC regulations and switched to full digital service. Viewers who received WLOV by cable, dish, or satellite were still able to enjoy the benefits of HD, with new entertainment features of digital still to come.
One of the benefits of digital service has already reached viewers. WLOV began airing "This West Point" on its secondary digital stream on April 1, 2009. "This West Point" is a 24-hour digital network. At the heart of its programming are blockbuster and Academy Award® winning movies from the MGM film libraries.
On Sept. 1, 2012, Me-TV West Point was added to a third digital stream. Me-TV West Point's library includes nearly 100 classic and much-loved television series.
And WLOV News At Nine began airing in high definition on June 22, 2009, bringing better quality to the local newscast.
WLOV was purchased by Tupelo Broadcasting, Inc. in September 2013. But our most recent highlight is our acquisition by Coastal Television Broadcasting Company LLC in February 2015. We're excited about the possibilities this new ownership creates, and look forward to remaining your favorite television station in northeast Mississippi and northwestern Alabama.
WLOV continues to work hard to bring viewers the newest and best in entertainment, and we're very excited about what the future will bring.