PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - The commercial television station, that is located closest to the city of Athens, Ohio, is now back on the on-campus cable system at Ohio University.
WTAP, the NBC affiliate that has been serving the Mid-Ohio Valley for more than 62 years, is now available in high definition on CATVision channel 15.1.
In addition, WTAP’s PinPoint Weather Channel, with local and regional weather 24 hours a day, is also now available on CATVision channel 15.4.
“We are thrilled to be back in the community of Athens,” said TheNewsCenter’s vice president and general manager, Roger Sheppard. TheNewsCenter operates NBC, CBS, FOX, MeTV/MyNetwork, and PinPoint Weather channels from its Parkersburg studios.
WTAP-NBC used to be carried on the cable system that served the entire city of Athens in the 1990s. But when Athens County began bouncing back and forth between the Huntington-Charleston market and the Columbus, OH, market in the Nielsen TV ratings, WTAP got squeezed out.
“Local cable systems are required to carry the network affiliates from the community that gets the most viewership in that county,” Sheppard said. “When most of that viewing is to the Huntington-Charleston stations, the cable system must carry the stations from those cities. When ratings show that more viewing is being done on the Columbus-area stations, the cable system must offer those stations. Cable systems don’t like to take away channels that viewers are used to seeing. So the Athens cable system at that time, decided to offer the NBC stations from both Huntington-Charleston and Columbus, so they’d be covered no matter which way the ratings went. That left WTAP out in the cold.”
Nielsen analyzes the ratings every year to see which counties will be in which Dominant Market Areas (DMAs). Right now, Athens County is in the Columbus DMA.
Due to the fact that WTAP was carried within the city limits of Athens during a specific time in the 1990s it is still permitted to have its NBC programming carried in the city of Athens.
“Eventually, we hope to have our WTAP-NBC and PinPoint Weather Channels available to all of the cable customers in the city of Athens,” Sheppard said. “But we are pleased that the leadership at Ohio University saw some value in going forward with carriage on CATVision at this time.
CATVision receives the two signals from WTAP via an antenna that WTAP installed on the OU campus. That signal travels about 30 miles from the main WTAP transmitter site in Washington County.
WTAP is already using a video camera, that is also used by WOUB-TV, to send live weather shots over the internet to WTAP. Those weather shots are a permanent part of TheNewsCenter.tv website and are also used frequently during the live, local newscasts on WTAP and its sister station, WOVA FOX Parkersburg.
“A lot of our weather in the Mid-Ohio Valley comes from the west, so it hits Athens first,” Sheppard explained. “By having this live weather camera availability, we can show viewers and web visitors in the Parkersburg-Marietta area what’s coming in a visual manner, and not just using radar images.”
WTAP is one of the smallest TV stations in America in terms of market size. But it has been a leader in technology, Sheppard says.
“We were the first television station in the state of West Virginia to shoot news footage in high definition and present its entire newscasts in HD,” he says. “For many years, we only operated one TV station – WTAP-NBC. But now with CBS, FOX and our other stations, as well as a very robust website, we have one of the most complex and technically sophisticated studios anywhere.”
WTAP’s PinPoint Weather Channel offers a mix of round-the-clock weather from AccuWeather and locally-produced weather reports from WTAP’s own meteorologists. The city of Athens is included in the continuous weather conditions and forecasts that run on the station day and night.
“We hope that this carriage will help bring the communities of Athens and the Mid-Ohio Valley closer together.” Sheppard said. “Thanks to major road projects in the past few years, it is easier than ever to drive between the two communities. Lots of Mid-Ohio Valley people go to Athens to see movies or attend Bobcat sporting events. And lots of people from Athens come to the Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna area to shop. We want to be a conduit to help increase attendance at events in both areas and to help businesses advertise their products and services to both areas, as well.”
Over the years, WTAP has been a place where graduates of Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism would get their first jobs in TV, because they could see WTAP. There were times, Sheppard says, where the WTAP newsroom had as many as four OU grads working there at one time. That has not been the case in recent years, and Sheppard believes it’s a case of being “out of sight, out of mind.”
“We hope that we will once again attract OU grads who are interested in starting their broadcast and internet journalism careers with TheNewsCenter,” Sheppard say. “And having our main news station once again accessible to the students and employees of Ohio University can only help.”
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