1551 Briarcliff Road NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30306
Telephone: (404) 875-5555
Fax: (404) 898-0100
Web site: http://www.myfoxatlanta.com
Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc.
Founded: 1949 as WAGA-TV
NAICS: 515120 Television Broadcasting
New World Communications of Atlanta, Inc., is a subsidiary of Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc., and the operator of the WAGA channel 5 television station based in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as a website that offers local news, sports, and weather. WAGA is an affiliate of the Fox television network and also broadcasts more than 60 hours of locally produced newscasts weekly. This includes 10.5 hours every weekday, starting with Good Day Atlanta, which airs from 4:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., followed later in the day by hour-long Fox 5 News programs at noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m., and 11 p.m. The station also provides 5.5 hours of newscasts on Saturdays and 5 hours on Sunday. Besides its main channel carrying Fox network and locally produced programming, WAGA broadcasts on three digital subchannels. They are affiliates of the multicast networks Movies!, offering feature films; Buzzr, a classic-game-show network; and Light TV, offering family-oriented, faith-based entertainment.
WAGA was founded by George B. Storer, a Toledo, Ohio, businessman who had originally been in the steel industry, having succeeded his father as president of the Standard Steel and Tube Company. Storer then became involved in the gas station business through Fort Industry Oil Company, a company he founded that cleverly located its stations next to railroad sidings as a way to reduce transportation costs and undercut the competition on price. Storer became familiar with radio through advertising his gas stations, and in 1927 he paid $3,500 to acquire the Toledo radio station WTOL. He formed Fort Industry Broadcasting (renamed Storer Broadcasting in the 1950s) and began building and acquiring radio stations across the country, including the WAGA-AM radio station in Atlanta. After World War II he also became involved in television, launching WSPD-TV in Toledo and WSJB-TV in Detroit in 1948 and WAGA-TV in 1949.
Initially WAGA was an affiliate of the CBS network. Rival WSB-TV had joined the NBC television network, its sister radio station having been long affiliated with the NBC radio network. Because of the FCC freeze, the two new Atlanta television stations were also able to pick and choose from the programs offered by the ABC network until a third station entered the market, and WAGA also carried a secondary affiliation with the DuMont Television Network. (The latter relationship would end in 1956 with the demise of that network.) When Atlanta ABC affiliate WLWA-TV finally reached the air in 1953, WAGA became a dedicated CBS station.
WAGA supplemented CBS fare with locally produced programs. One week after the station launch, WAGA introduced a 30-minute variety show, The Jon Farmer Show, hosted by area radio personality Jon Farmer. In 1950 the station added a locally produced game show, Blockbuster Quiz, in which contestants vied for the latest home appliances. That year WAGA also launched a sportsman show, Inside Outdoors, which ran for the next decade; Frigidaire Fun Club, featuring stunts and prizes; and The Freddi DeLand Trio, an afternoon musical entertainment program. It was also in 1950 that coaxial cable reached Atlanta from New York, finally making it possible for WAGA to finally carry CBS programming live, rather than on a delayed basis using film or kinescope.
WAGA erected a transmitter at a new location in 1955. Two years later the station upgraded its operations with the purchase of a pair of videotape recorders, becoming the first area station with the new equipment. For the time being, however, the station's reporters continued to record their stories on film. In 1960 WAGA branded its locally produced newscasts as Panorama News, a name that the station would use until the end of the decade. Also during this period, the station aired its first live color program, the children's show Mr. Pix. In 1966 WAGA moved into a new home that resembled an antebellum Southern mansion. It was an architecture style used by other Storer stations, but only in Atlanta was it considered an appropriate fit. In 1968 WAGA made television history with the premiere of The Xernona Clayton Show, the first program in the South to be hosted by an African American.
In the early 1970s WAGA began using the 5 News Scene brand for its local newscasts. In 1972 the station launched an early-morning weekday talk show, Atlanta A.M. The show was somewhat ahead of its time, however, and went off the air in 1974. WAGA added to its newsgathering capabilities in 1975 with the purchase of a state-of-the-industry mobile broadcast unit, dubbed the “Live-Eye” truck. It would find further use in 1978 with the introduction of PM Magazine, a weekday evening news show that was later renamed PM Atlanta. Also of note in the 1970s, a recent University of Georgia graduate, Deborah Norville, joined the news team as a reporter in 1979. She would later become a co-anchor of NBC's The Today Show.
During the following decade, 5 News Scene gave way to the Eyewitness News brand and format. WAGA also continued to expand its local news franchise. In 1982 it introduced Sunday Evening, an hour-long weekly news show. To differentiate it from the weekday Eyewitness News broadcasts, Sunday Evening had its own set and music and was broadcast from a different studio.
George Storer retired in 1973 and died two years later. Taking over Storer Broadcasting was his son Peter, who sold off the radio assets and shifted the company's focus to cable television. In 1983 Storer Broadcasting was renamed Storer Communications. It owned seven television stations, including WAGA, and cable television systems in more than 500 communities in 18 states, making it one of the largest cable operators in the country and a very attractive takeover target.
Gillett did not provide the most stable ownership. To finance the Storer transaction, it had relied on KKR junk bonds, but as the economy lapsed into recession, higher interest rates forced Gillett into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1992. Its media assets were reorganized as SCI Television, and the stations were put on the market. In 1993 New World Communications acquired WAGA and its sister stations. Because New World was based in Atlanta, WAGA became the group's de facto flagship station.
Despite the turmoil in its ownership ranks, WAGA had continued to make changes at the local level. In 1992 it dropped CBS This Morning in favor of its own locally produced morning news and lifestyle program, Good Day Atlanta. Soon the station would sever all ties to CBS. The move was part of a larger reshuffling of network affiliations across the country that resulted from the landmark rights deal the upstart Fox network signed with the National Football League (NFL), starting with the 1994 season. In May of that year, New World struck an agreement with Fox, and most of its stations became Fox affiliates. In Atlanta, Fox dropped its affiliation with WATL channel 36, and the more established WAGA became the city's Fox station. Unable to persuade other major Atlanta television stations to join a network that no longer had NFL games to offer, CBS appeared to be without a local outlet. At the eleventh hour, the network finally found an affiliate in WGNX channel 46 (later renamed WGCL-TV).
WAGA made the transition to its new network home in December 1994, bringing an end to the station's 45-year relationship with CBS. The switch to Fox was also important for WAGA because the Atlanta station had long billed itself as the home channel of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, having broadcast the games as a CBS affiliate since the team's launch in 1966. Unlike in other markets, Atlanta football fans did not have to search for a new channel to watch the games when Fox took over the NFL contract from CBS.
As a New World–owned Fox station, WAGA elected not to carry Fox Kids programming, which remained with WATL. Instead, WAGA devoted even more resources to its news department. Like many Fox stations across the country, WAGA moved its 11:00 evening newscast to 10:00. It also increased its output of local newscasts to 40 hours a week.
WAGA's ties to Fox grew tighter in 1997, when New World Communications merged with Fox's parent company, News Corporation, making WAGA a Foxowned station. In keeping with the network's branding guidelines, WAGA was rebranded as Fox 5 Atlanta. The operating company, however, remained New World Communications of Atlanta, Inc., which became a subsidiary of Fox Television Stations, which in turn was a subsidiary of News Corporation (now Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc.).
In the early years of the twenty-first century, WAGA focused on making the transition to digital technology and high-definition broadcasting. As mandated by the FCC, the station turned off its analog signal in June 2009. Meanwhile, the station continued to expand its news lineup. Fox 5 News at Noon was extended to an hour in 2006. Two years later the station launched a 11 p.m. newscast, branded as Fox 5 News Edge. In 2009 the weekday morning newscast was extended to five hours, airing from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. The following year WAGA became the first Atlanta station to begin its morning news show at 4:30 a.m. Also that year the entire morning news block adopted the Good Day Atlanta brand.
With digital technology came the opportunity for WAGA to add digital subchannels in addition to its main programming. Subchannel 5.2 became an affiliate of Movies!, a Fox joint venture, focusing on feature films, that was founded in 2013. Two years later WAGA subchannel 5.3 became an affiliate of Buzzr, a digital multicast network established in 2015 to air classic game shows. In 2017 WAGA added another affiliation, using subchannel 5.4 for Light TV, a family-friendly, faith-based network launched in late 2016. Although its lineup of digital subchannels might change, WAGA was likely to remain an owned-and-operated Fox Network affiliate well into the future.
Buzzr; Light TV; Movies!
Cox Media Group, Inc.; Meredith Corporation; Tegna, Inc.
Freeman, William M. “George B. Storer, Broadcaster, 75.” New York Times, November 6, 1975.
“Lorimar-Storer Deal Comes Undone.” Broadcasting, November 17, 1986, 40.
Malone, Michael. “Fox Stations Stay up Later.” Broadcasting & Cable, January 7, 2008, 24.
Stern, Chris, and David Tobenkin. “ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox? Stations Find Selling and Promoting Themselves Difficult When Their Affiliation Is Up in the Air.” Broadcasting & Cable, July 25, 1994, 6.
“With Strings, FCC OK's Gillett Buy of Storer TV's.” Broadcasting, November 2, 1987, 35.