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WWTI ABC50 first signed onto the air as WFYF in December 1987. Until then, most North Country viewers relied on the over-the-air signal from WUTR in Utica for their ABC programming.
Putting WFYF on the air was a multi-million dollar investment for several partners, including David James Alteri, who served as General Manager, Steven Fox and Richard Kimball. The station turned out to be under-capitalized for the extended period necessary before advertising revenue could support its operations. The original ownership team dissolved and new station General Manager Shelly Markoff took control. Under Markoff, the station changed its call letters to WWTI. In the face of a national recession, however, it was still tough going for the fledgling station. In early 1991 the station dropped its local newscasts.
Greyhound Financial Services, an original investor in the station assumed control operating WWTI with ABC and syndicated programming for the next five years. In 1996 the station was purchased by Robert Smith who also owned television stations in Utica and Elmira, New York as well as in California and Alaska. Then the growth began!
In September of 1998 an agreement between WWTI , Warner Brothers and Time Warner Cable allowed WWTI to launch a cable-only Warner Brothers affiliate station, WBWT 31. Warner Brothers later merged with CBS to form the CW Network. The North Country CW as it is now known, is a full power over the air local CW affiliate.
The industry trend continued of larger broadcast ownership groups, and in March 2000, Mr. Smith sold the station to Ackerley Communications, which owned a chain of television and radio stations, extensive outdoor advertising, as well as the The Seattle Supersonics of the NBA and the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. David Males, then General Sales Manager, was promoted to General Manager.
Becoming a part of The Ackerley Group put WWTI on the cutting edge of technology and digital broadcast. The implementation of Digital Central Casting, controlling commercial and programming playback for many stations from one central location, began by placing a fiber connection between the 7 Ackerley owned TV stations, and WIXT in Syracuse as the central station. This system was later copied and implemented by a number of other broadcast groups as they attempted to steam-line operations and create greater efficiencies and synergies among its holdings.
In 2002 Ackerley sold its holding to an even larger company, media giant Clear Channel Communications. In 2009 Newport Television, purchased the television assets of Clear Channel Communications. After becoming a digital-exclusive station, Newport announced on July 19, 2012 that it would sell twelve of its stations, including WWTI, to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. Mr. Males continues as General Manager today.
WWTI ABC50 and The North Country CW continue to bring cutting edge digital broadcast and interactive technology to Northern New York and Southern Eastern Ontario. The stations continue to be immersed into the local communities forming partnerships with The American Cancer Society, The Watertown Teen Center, The American Red Cross, The Fort Drum Chapter of the Association of United States Army,
The Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce and scores of other local Chambers of Commerce.