WNBF-TV: one channel, four networks

I seem to recall the ABC show Lawrence Welk on Saturday night at 6 or 6:30; it nationally aired at 9 pm that night.

When I went to college in New Paltz in 1971, most of my classmates were from New York City or Long Island. They were shocked that we in upstate Binghamton did not have the array of television stations they had.

In fact, when WNBF-TV, channel 12, signed-on December 1, 1949 it “carried programs from all four American television networks at the time -CBS, DuMont, NBC, and ABC.

DuMont collapsed in 1956. The first new UHF station arrived in Binghamton on November 1, 1957 with WINR-TV, channel 40, an NBC affiliate. So when I was a kid, Channel 12 had both CBS and ABC shows.

Here are TV listings from Wednesday, Nov. 11, 1959. Left-hand column is WNBF-TV 12, right-hand is WINR-TV 40. The listings start at 6:00 pm and every line usually represents 15 minutes.

WNBF WINR TV Listings

Bourbon Street Beat was an ABC show, airing most places on Monday, 8:30-9:30. GE Theater was a CBS show, airing in NYC Sunday a 9 pm. Tightrope was pegged by CBS for Tuesday at 9 pm. At least I’ve Got a Secret was a CBS show on at the right time.

Similar listings of the next day, Thursday, Nov. 12, 1959. (Ch. 12 on left, Ch. 40 on right).

WNBF WINR TV 1959

The Donna Reed Show, The Real McCoys, and Pat Boone were Thursday night ABC shows in 1959 at the same time slots as indicated; the Real McCoys became a CBS show near the end of its run. I wonder if The Betty Hutton Show, Johnny Ringo, and Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater showed up in another time slot.

While the Wikipedia said Channel 40 also carried ABC shows, these listings were consistent with the national NBC lineup. Except one: The Lawless Years was bumped for a syndicated show called Colonel Flack.

I seem to recall the ABC show Lawrence Welk on Saturday night at 6 or 6:30; it nationally aired at 9 pm that night. Did Channel 12 record to broadcast a week later? How did this work?

I remember that other ABC shows, Maverick, The Rifleman, Ozzie and Harriet, and 77 Sunset Strip were on when I was a kid. Did they preempt the CBS shows? Were they on in time slots before prime time, or on Saturday or Sunday afternoons? Sports didn’t dominate the schedule then. Or maybe even at 11:30 pm.

Here’s a video of the Thursday night lineup in the fall of 1959.

I realize this sounds pretty obsessive, and it is. Next time I’m in Binghamton, I want to look at some microfilm showing the rosters of shows on Channel 12 in September 1962, then in November 1962, when WBJA, Channel 34, became the official ABC affiliate. Not incidentally, all of the call letters have changed, some more than once.

I’d be just as curious about the same phenomenon in Albany/Schenectady if I had grown up there. In fact, one of the very first blog posts I wrote was about the Plattsburgh, NY/Burlington, VT television market in 2005.

I used for the season’s daily charts The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (2007).

Thanks to folks on a couple Facebook lists, especially Keith Nelson, who provided the graphics. I also greatly appreciated the kind words people said about McKinley Green, my grandfather, who was a custodian at WNBF for many years.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “WNBF-TV: one channel, four networks”

  1. Out here in Soonerland, we tend to forget the level of flux that existed with network affiliations; as far back as anyone can remember, Channel 4 was NBC (1949), 5 was ABC (1954) and 9 was CBS (1953). (By comparison, the UHF band was chaotic, but then the UHF band was chaotic everywhere.)

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