The Boston TV Dial: WSBK-TV

Who, What, Where

Community: Boston
Analog channel: 38=
Digital channel: 39 (will keep)
PSIP: 38-1: main program
Ownership: CBS Corp. [NYSE: CBS]/Sumner Redstone
Studio: 1170 Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02134-1092
Analog transmitter: 142 Cabot St.
Needham, MA 02494-2802
Digital transmitter: 350 Cedar Street
Needham, MA 02192-1818
Phones:
Receptionist +1 617 787 7000
Viewer Services 787 7316
Network: Independent

Technical Parameters

WSBK-TV transmits on analog channel 38 from the UHF Candelabra in Needham, with 2340 kW peak visual ERP, from 354 meters (1161 ft) above average terrain. WSBK-TV transmits on digital channel 39 from the Viacom tower, also in Needham, with 135 kW average ERP from the upper UHF master antenna at 390 meters AAT.

Station History

Channel 38 went on the air October 12, 1964, as WIHS-TV, licensed to the Boston Catholic Television Center. WIHS-TV operated for two years as a religious broadcaster, transmitting from the new Prudential Tower in the Back Bay.

On July 27, 1966, Storer Broadcasting acquired WIHS for $2,276,513.16. The calls were soon changed to WSBK-TV, and the station became Boston's first true independent. WSBK bought the rights to Bruins and Red Sox games in the late sixties, and millions of New Englanders bought UHF antennas just to tune into Channel 38. That task became easier once WSBK moved from the Pru to the UHF candelabra in Needham in the early 1970s. WSBK's programming was so popular that it was (and still is) distributed by microwave to cable systems across New England, as well as by satellite to some Canadian cable systems.

SCI Television (Gillett Communications) bought WSBK in 1993, and that year the station introduced a new 10pm newscast, produced by WBZ-TV. SCI became part of the New World Communications group in 1994, and WSBK was spun off to Viacom a short time later. WSBK became a UPN affiliate, and by the summer of 1995 all on-air references were to “UPN-38”. In August of 1995, the WBZ-produced newscast was dropped; the following September, when WFXT 25 decided not to renew its contract with New England Cable News, WSBK announced that “UPN-38 Prime News” with Lila Orbach would make its début on October 2nd.

In early 1996, WSBK lost the local broadcast rights to the Boston Red Sox to WABU; but retained Celtics basketball and Bruins hockey. In the summer of 1998, the Boston Celtics moved their games to WABU; later that year, WSBK discontinued its nightly newscast, but retained NECN to produce news updates to be inserted during breaks in Bruins games.

Entering the 21st century, live sports play-by-play was increasingly seen as an anachronism on broadcast TV, and Viacom wanted to guarantee live Boston clearance to UPN programming, which would not be compatible with evening sports games. The schedule of broadcast sporting events was reduced in line with this goal.

When Viacom merged with CBS, channels 4 and 38 were brought under common ownership, and it was natural to consolidate facilities, so WSBK-TV left its long-time home at 83 Birmingham Parkway and moved a mile down the road to the WBZ facilities at 1170 Soldiers Field Road. (WODS would make the opposite move, after suitable renovation of the old channel 38 building.) Corporate synergies being all the rage, a new ten-o'clock newscast was added to the schedule, produced by the (now shared) WBZ-TV newsroom and branded as “CBS 4 News on UPN 38”. This newscast was re-eliminated in 2005 in favor of more syndicated programming.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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