WLNY's primary over-the-air signal serves most of Long Island, comprising Nassau and Suffolk counties, and is available widely on cable television in most of the New York City television market.
The origins of channel 55 date back to 1967, when WRIV radio in Riverhead applied for a construction permit for UHF channel 55. The proposed WRIV-TV likely would have gone to air as the NBC affiliate for eastern Long Island, presumably due to the presence of WRIV radio's part-owner at the time, NBC News anchor Chet Huntley. WRIV-TV would have filled a coverage hole for NBC in eastern Long Island, as there was limited reception from New York City's WNBC-TV (channel 4) and the UHF signal from WATR-TV (channel 20, now WCCT-TV) in Waterbury, Connecticut. In comparison, eastern Long Island was well served by the Connecticut-based VHF signals from CBS on WTIC-TV (channel 3, now WFSB) and ABC on WNHC-TV (channel 8, now WTNH). WRIV-TV was ready to go on the air by the early 1970s, but the combination of a tough economic environment and the widespread popularity of cable television - which enabled viewers on eastern Long Island to receive New York City television stations clearly - likely prevented WRIV-TV from making it on the air.
The channel 55 allocation remained dormant until the early 1980s, when a group of local investors led by local businessman Michael Pascucci won a new construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Channel 55 went on the air April 28, 1985 as WLIG, with the on-air branding TV-55. It was the first Long Island-based independent television station since the demise of WSNL-TV (channel 67, now WFTY-TV), which was merged with Newark, New Jersey-based independent WWHT-TV (channel 68, now WFUT-TV) several years earlier. The station's first studios were located on Crossways Park Drive in Woodbury. During its first year of operations, WLIG employed a number of gimmicks to attract viewers, such as a Watch and Win Sweepstakes in which viewers were shown a "code word" on-screen during a particular show and had to send in a postcard with that word for the chance to win a prize, and offering 100,000 free loop antennas to non-cable viewers who could not receive the station clearly. The efforts paid off, as WLIG gradually became a solid ratings player.
By June 1987, WLIG was estimated to reach 200,000 viewers, and was carried on eight of nine cable television providers on Long Island. The lone exception was Cablevision, the largest provider on Long Island, which claimed that WLIG added nothing to the service they already offered, and therefore, refused to carry it. A cable subscriber advocacy group, New Yorkers for Fair Cable, claimed that the real reason was that WLIG competed with services that Cablevision owned and offered, specifically News 12 Long Island. In October 1987, BQ Cable Company (now part of Time Warner Cable) began offering WLIG to subscribers in Brooklyn and Queens.
During its early years, WLIG relied heavily on old movies and reruns of classic television shows, and positioned itself as a station offering family-friendly entertainment consistent with the philosophy of its founder, a devout Roman Catholic. It featured a daily newscast at 10 p.m., and other local programming, such as a political talk show called Focus on Long Island. Sports programming and some first-run syndicated programming rounded out the broadcast day. By the late 1980s, WLIG had dropped its local news broadcasts, except for a five-minute newscast that continued to air until a new full-fledged, half-hour 10 p.m. newscast debuted in 1993. The station later relocated its main studios located on South Service Road in Melville. The station also aired several half-hour feeds of CNN Headline News until the mid 1990s, providing its only broadcast outlet for Long Island residents without cable. In the meantime, the station gradually began adding newer films and stronger syndicated programming to its lineup, eventually scoring a major victory in early 1991 when it landed Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and The Oprah Winfrey Show, which at that time were the top three syndicated programs on television. Notably, it also briefly aired reruns (specifically Series 5&6) of the British kids' game show, Knightmare.
WLNY's TV 10/55 logo from October 2007 to March 2012, prior to its sale to CBS. On September 1, 1996, WLIG changed its call letters to WLNY (for "We Love New York") and rebranded itself as "NY 55". Still, its location on the fringes of the New York City television market made cable television coverage of the station an ongoing concern. Although the FCC imposed "must carry" rules on cable companies in 1992, in 1997, they allowed some cable providers in New Jersey to exclude WLNY from carriage. WLNY, along with WRNN-TV (channel 48) and WPXN-TV (channel 31), appealed, but the courts upheld the FCC decision. Despite these difficulties, WLNY still receives cable coverage from Central New Jersey to Southern Connecticut, and on satellite television.
In 1997, WLNY was assigned UHF channel 57 for its digital television operations, making it one of 18 full-service television stations in the country to have neither analog nor digital assignments within the new core television station spectrum, channels 2 through 51. The station began broadcasting in digital in 2002, with a low-power signal under Special Temporary Authority, then made news in 2005 when it struck a deal with Qualcomm to surrender its analog license and build full digital television transmission facilities on channel 57, allowing Qualcomm to use the channel 55 frequency for its MediaFLO service. At the time, approximately 92% of Long Island's population received television service by cable or satellite, so the FCC approved the request, and on December 31, 2005, WLNY shut down its analog signal and became a digital-only station. The FCC later changed the station's callsign to WLNY-DT. The FCC later announced it would remove the -DT suffix from call signs after the analog shutoff unless a station applied to keep it; the station elected to change its callsign to WLNY-TV, adding the -TV suffix the station did not use prior to 2006, and the change took effect on June 19, 2009.
WLNY-DT requested channel 47 as its final, in-core broadcast channel after the end of the 2009 DTV conversion, but the FCC initially ruled the election in conflict with another station -- WNJU (channel 47), a Spanish-language station licensed to Linden, New Jersey which broadcast its analog signal on channel 47. Eventually the issues were worked through and WLNY gained FCC approval for its move to digital channel 47, which it began broadcasting from on June 13, 2009.
At some point since 1996, WLNY dropped its "NY 55" branding in favor of the old "TV-55", but on October 22, 2007, WLNY once again changed its branding, this time from TV-55 to TV 10/55 (pronounced "teevee ten and fifty five") to reflect its most common cable and satellite assignments. The station also debuted a new set and graphics for their 11 p.m. newscast, replacing the set that dated back to the early 1990s.
Sale to CBS Corporation
On December 12, 2011, CBS Television Stations announced its intent to purchase WLNY-TV, creating a duopoly with the CBS network's flagship station WCBS-TV; terms of the purchase were originally not made public, though an FCC application for the purchase later revealed that CBS had purchased WLNY for $55 million. The company announced that it would add additional on-air staff and expand WLNY's local news programming outside the 11 p.m. newscast that the station had at the time. The Federal Communications Commission approved the sale on January 31, 2012, and CBS took control of the station on March 30, 2012, giving the company its tenth television station duopoly – as well as its largest duopoly by market size.
Tribune Broadcasting-owned WPIX (channel 11) is already in an existing affiliation agreement with The CW (owned in a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Time Warner), which does not expire until 2016. As such, WLNY-TV will continue to operate as an independent station, one of three in CBS's portfolio alongside KCAL-TV in Los Angeles and KTXA in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The sale to CBS did not include repeaters WLNY-CD (channel 45) in Mineola, New York, WLIG-LD (channel 17) in Morristown, New Jersey, and W27CD in Stamford, Connecticut, which were sold separately to Local Media TV Holdings, LLC. On March 12, 2012, WLNY-CD changed its call letters to WMUN-CD and WLIG-LD changed its call letters to WNMF-LD; the WLIG-LP call letters then moved to W17CR, a station in Plainview, New York that WLNY acquired on November 28, 2011 in a deal originally reached in 2005 and is not involved in the sale of either WLNY-TV or the other repeaters. On March 29, 2012, the day before the completion of WLNY-TV's sale to CBS, WMUN-CD, WNMF-LD, and W27CD signed off temporarily due to the end of the feed from WLNY's Melville studios, in advance of the completion of their sale to Local Media TV Holdings on April 3.
On April 9, 2012, WLNY started broadcasting local programming in high definition for the first time.
As an independently-owned station, WLIG/WLNY produced a local news program, originally at 10 p.m. on weeknights. Prior to the station's sale to CBS, WLNY's newscast ran for 35 minutes at 11 p.m. Monday through Fridays and was rebroadcast Tuesday through Saturday mornings at 5 a.m. WLNY also produced a weekly public affairs show, tv10/55 Focus. The news and public affairs shows focused mostly on Long Island issues, aside from weather and sports coverage, which served most of the New York City market.
On March 15, 2012, it was announced that the station would be suspending its news operations at the end of the month; the last 11 p.m. newscast on the station aired on March 29, 2012 and was subsequently replaced with Entertainment Tonight. The first locally-produced program on WLNY under CBS ownership debuted in mid-April 2012: a revamped public affairs show, Exit 10/55, which airs in the same timeslot as tv10/55 Focus.
WLNY resumed regular newscasts on July 2, 2012 with a two-hour morning program, Live From the Couch (which competes against the longer-established morning newscasts on WPIX and Fox-owned WNYW (channel 5); and an hour-long newscast at 9 p.m. Both programs are based out of WCBS-TV's West 57th Street studios in Manhattan. In July 2014, WLNY made the decision to expand its hour long 9 p.m. newscast to weekends, with WCBS' weekend evening staff (Cindy Hsu, Elise Finch, and Steve Overmeyer). The first weekend 9 p.m. newscast aired on July 12th, 2014. Additional newscasts are likely to be added in the future. WLNY has received some criticism from the Long Island Fair Media Council accusing the station of abandoning its focus on Long Island. CBS management blamed the lack of coverage on work being done on WLNY's former full-time facility in Melville. The facility, which was converted into a news bureau set up to cover Long Island news stories, was completed in July 2012. On Friday, May 23rd, 2014, WLNY made the decision to cancel its morning news program, Live From The Couch. Although ratings for the newscast are not available, poor ratings was the likely cause for the cancellation.