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Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida
United States
City of license Tampa, Florida
Branding ABC Action News
Slogan Taking Action For You
Channels Digital: 29 (UHF)
Virtual: 28 (PSIP)
Subchannels 28.1 ABC
28.2 Laff
28.3 Grit
Affiliations ABC
Owner E. W. Scripps Company
(Scripps Media, Inc.)
First air date December 14, 1981 (1981-12-14)
Call letters' meaning Family (or Florida)
(referring to original owner, Family Group Broadcasting)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
28 (UHF, 1981–2009)
Former affiliations independent (1981–1988)
Fox (1988–1994)
Transmitter power 1,000 kW
Height 468 m
Facility ID 64588
Transmitter coordinates
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website .comabcactionnews

WFTS-TV, virtual channel 28 (UHF digital channel 29), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Tampa, Florida, United States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. The station's studios are located on North Himes Avenue on the city's northwest side (across the street from Raymond James Stadium), and its transmitter is located in Riverview, Florida.


  • History 1
    • As an independent station 1.1
    • As an ABC affiliate 1.2
  • Digital television 2
    • Digital channels 2.1
    • Analog-to-digital conversion 2.2
  • News operation 3
    • Notable former on-air staff 3.1
  • Broadcast, cable and satellite carriage 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The channel 28 allocation in Tampa Bay was to have been used by WTSS-TV, an affiliate of the DuMont Television Network in the 1950s.[1] It is very unlikely that WTSS ever made it to air.

As an independent station

WFTS first signed on the air on December 14, 1981, operating as an independent station. As the flagship of the locally-based Family Group Broadcasting, the station programmed a family-oriented general entertainment format with cartoons, off-network dramas, classic movies and religious programs. Its call letters originally stood for "Family Television Station". Family Group Broadcasting sold the station to Capital Cities Communications on April 22, 1984, becoming Capital Cities' first station in Florida, the group's first (and only) independent station, and the last station to be acquired by the group prior to its merger with ABC. Under Capital Cities, the station added more off-network sitcoms and reduced the number of religious programs and drama series on its schedule.

In 1986, Capital Cities stunned the broadcasting industry with its purchase of ABC – a network that was ten times bigger than Capital Cities was at the time. Capital Cities owned several ABC affiliates, and two CBS affiliates: KFSN-TV in Fresno and WTVD in Durham, North Carolina. The company's combined assets exceeded Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits of the time, so Capital Cities decided to keep its CBS affiliates and change their affiliations to ABC, along with longtime ABC affiliates WPVI-TV in Philadelphia and KTRK-TV in Houston, and sold WFTS and the ABC owned-and operated station in Detroit, WXYZ-TV, to the E. W. Scripps Company, while selling several other stations to minority-owned firms.

Scripps continued the general entertainment format on WFTS, running cartoons, sitcoms, movies and drama series. WFTS became the Tampa Bay market's Fox affiliate in 1988, after it was dropped by then-rival WTOG (channel 44); the station began to identify on air as "Fox 28", and soon after briefly identified its call letters as standing for "Fox Television Station". A 10 p.m. newscast was planned for the station, but ultimately did not come to fruition.

As an ABC affiliate

On May 22, 1994, New World Communications signed an affiliation agreement with Fox, that resulted in twelve of New World's stations, including Tampa Bay's longtime CBS affiliate WTVT (channel 13), being tapped to switch to the network. Among the stations making the switch were longtime CBS affiliates WJBK-TV in Detroit and WJW-TV in Cleveland.[2] Not wanting to be relegated to the UHF band, CBS heavily wooed Detroit's longtime ABC affiliate, WXYZ, as well as Cleveland's longtime ABC affiliate, WEWS-TV. Both were owned by Scripps, who told ABC that it would switch WXYZ and WEWS to CBS unless ABC affiliated with four of its stations: WFTS, KNXV-TV in Phoenix (which was also slated to lose its Fox affiliation to New World-owned CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV), WMAR-TV in Baltimore and WCPO-TV in Cincinnati – the latter had to wait for ABC's affiliation contract with WKRC-TV to expire in June 1996 in order to make the switch. Scripps insisted on including WFTS and KNXV in the deal even though neither station had a news department.

As a result, on December 12, 1994, WFTS assumed the market's ABC affiliation from longtime affiliate WTSP (channel 10), which took over the CBS affiliation from WTVT. Most of WFTS's syndicated programs were then acquired by WTTA (channel 38), WTOG and/or WTMV (channel 32, now WMOR-TV), which would also air Fox Kids. In November 2004, WFTS became one of three Florida television stations, and one of the many Scripps-owned ABC affiliates that preempted Saving Private Ryan.[3] At one time WFTS was the local non-cable broadcast partner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club. It first aired four Lightning games during the 2002–03 season.[4]

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota is the fourth largest market with a major network affiliate broadcasting on the UHF band (14–51); although most digital television stations broadcast on a UHF frequency, most also identify through the use of a PSIP virtual channel as being on the VHF band, corresponding with the stations' former analog channel numbers. Because WFTS was formerly on UHF analog channel 28, it continues to identify as channel 28 through the use of PSIP. The larger markets with a major network in the UHF channel range are Phoenix (ABC-affiliated KNXV-TV, virtual channel 15), Atlanta (CBS-affiliated WGCL-TV, virtual channel 46) and Detroit (CBS owned-and-operated station WWJ-TV, virtual channel 62). WFTS is also the second-largest Big 3 affiliate to not use its channel number as part of its branding, behind NBC O&O KNTV in San Jose, California.

Digital television

Digital channels

Channel Video Aspect PSIP short name Programming[5]
28.1 720p 16:9 WFTS-HD Main WFTS-TV programming / ABC
28.2 480i WFTS-SD Laff
28.3 Grit

Analog-to-digital conversion

WFTS-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 28, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television.[6] The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 29,[7] using PSIP to display WFTS-TV's virtual channel as 28 on digital television receivers.

News operation

ABC Action News open.
Screencap of "StormWatch in High Definition".

WFTS-TV presently broadcasts 32 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays). WFTS currently uses Weather Services International's Titan HD weather system for its forecasts. WFTS is one of ten television stations that airs consumer reports from John Matarese of ABC-affiliated sister station WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. The station also serves as the graphics development hub for the Scripps stations; the 2009 and 2012 Scripps generic looks were developed at the station (rival WTVT serves a similar purpose for the Fox Television Stations group).

During its days as an independent station and then as a Fox affiliate, WFTS presented hourly news and weather updates, featuring a person reading the day's headlines or the current forecast. During the station's first few months on the air, the newsbreaks were provided by WNSI-AM (1380, now WWMI) in an audio-only format, over a News Check slide. Later on, news updates began to feature on-camera newsreaders at WFTS's studios. By the late 1980s, the news and weather updates were titled 28 Newsbreak or 28 Weatherbreak. These news updates were discontinued in December 1994 upon the station's switch to ABC.

WFTS launched a full-scale news department and began airing regular long-form newscasts on December 12, 1994, branded as 28 Tampa Bay News. The newscasts initially originated from Telemation studios in Clearwater, since WFTS's studios on Tampa's east side (at the corner of I-4 and Columbus Drive) were not large enough to house a full-sized newsroom or a news set. The station's news department then moved to its new studio facilities on Himes Avenue, across from Raymond James Stadium, in 1996. The station, which initially aired half-hour newscasts at 6 and 11 p.m. nightly when the news department began operations, gradually added a two-hour morning newscast from 5–7 a.m., a half-hour noon newscast, and an hour-long 5 p.m. newscast (the latter of which created 90-minute block of news from 5–6:30 p.m.). Given the fact that many former Fox stations had switched to ABC, NBC or CBS at the time as a result of Fox's affiliation deal with New World Communications, WFTS did not falter and manages to compete with rival stations in the Tampa market even as many stations in such a situation that launched newscasts had no success at competing with long-standing (mostly VHF) news stations (some stations shut down their news departments as a result). As of June 2015, only two members of WFTS's current on-air news staff has remained with the station since the news department's launch: anchor Brendan McLaughlin and meteorologist Denis Phillips.

The newscast title was changed to 28 News briefly in 2002, before being changed again to ABC Action News later that year due to viewer confusion with the "ABC28" branding. The universal Action News branding for newscasts and general promotion is also shared with NBC-affiliated sister station KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Missouri. In the fall of 2005, the station expanded its weekday noon newscast to one hour, following the cancellation of the ABC soap opera Port Charles. On July 28, 2007 beginning with the 6 p.m. newscast, WFTS-TV became the first television station in the Tampa Bay market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition;[8] WFTS surprisingly beat out rivals WTVT and WTSP who were both rumored to be competing to launch the first high definition newscast in Tampa Bay. WFTS was the first Tampa Bay station to broadcast its weather segments in true high definition in October 2007, rival WFLA-TV (channel 8) soon followed.

Until December 2009, WFTS was one of two stations in the market to have two women regularly anchor an evening newscast: Wendy Ryan and Linda Hurtado anchored the station's 5 p.m. news broadcast; while Denise White and Kathy Fountain anchored the 5 p.m. newscast on WTVT (Fountain retired on December 30, 2009, leaving Ryan and Hurtado as the only all-female anchor team in Tampa Bay; this changed again in the summer of 2010 when Jamison Uhler joined WFTS from WCAU-TV in Philadelphia as 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. co-anchor). On April 25, 2012, WFTS launched ABC Action News Now, an exclusive newscast and weather station available mainly to smartphone and tablet users and designed with a program schedule designed with those devices in mind, rather than a traditional "news wheel" schedule seen on most news/weather-only subchannels. During severe weather and breaking news events, the channel is also carried on-air over 28.2 and local cable television providers in lieu of the Live Well Network.

In November 2012, WFTS overtook all other local stations in all evening and late news ratings in the demographic of Adults 25–54.[9] This marked the first time ever WFTS won at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. in the key demographic during one ratings period.

Although both stations producing a 4pm newscast are based in Tampa, WFTS' newest newscast, The Now St. Petersburg, which premiered in late August 2014, replacing Steve Harvey who is now seen on WTOG, is focused on the western half of the market, while WFLA-TV's 4pm newscast focuses on Tampa and the eastern half of the market.

Notable former on-air staff

Broadcast, cable and satellite carriage

In addition to its main signal coverage area, WFTS's signal can also be viewed in portions of Citrus, Sumter, Sarasota, DeSoto, Highlands, Orange, Osceola and Lake Counties.

The station is not available in Comcast's Venice service area (in southern Sarasota County) due to the presence of WWSB (channel 40), an ABC station formed as the signal of WTSP, the Tampa-St. Petersburg market's previous ABC affiliate, provided insufficient over-the-air coverage in the Sarasota area. As a result, WFTS is not available to over 91,000 cable subscribers.[12]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Fox Gains 12 Stations in New World Deal".  
  3. ^ Tampa, Fla., ABC affiliate among those pre-empting violent war movie broadcast, Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, November 12, 2004. Retrieved June 8, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
  4. ^
  5. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WFTS
  6. ^ List of Digital Full-Power Stations
  7. ^ CDBS Print
  8. ^ "WFTS-TV First in Tampa to broadcast news in High Definition". 
  9. ^ Deggans, Eric (November 28, 2012). "ABC Action News comes out on top in evening and late night November sweeps ratings".  
  10. ^ "Elaine Quijano Bio".  
  11. ^ "Steele Sage bio".  
  12. ^ [2]

External links

  • – Official website
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WFTS-TV
  • BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WFTS-TV
  • Program Information for WFTS at
  • 1990s DX screengrabs from Tallahassee – includes WFTS "Fox 28" screengrabs from 1992 and 1993
  • "Tampa Bay Live" website used from 1999–2000. Still works a bit.
  • WFTS billboard taken in 1985.
  • 28 News Documentary.
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