|Florence-Myrtle Beach, South Carolina/|
Lumberton, North Carolina
|City||Florence, South Carolina|
|Channels||Digital: 27 (UHF)|
Virtual: 15 (PSIP)
|Branding||ABC 15 (general)|
ABC 15 News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Working for You|
15.2: 24/7 weather
15.3: Comet (O&O)
15.4: TBD (O&O)
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group |
(WPDE Licensee, LLC)
cable: Fox Sports Carolinas, Fox Sports Southeast
First air date
|November 22, 1980|
Former channel number(s)
15 (UHF, 1980-2009)
16 (UHF, until 2019)
Call sign meaning
|We're in the Big and Little Pee DEe Rivers|
|HAAT||600 m (1,969 ft)|
Public license information
WPDE-TV, virtual channel 15 (UHF digital channel 27), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Florence, South Carolina, United States, serving the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions of South Carolina. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also operates dual CW/CW+ affiliate WWMB (channel 21, also licensed to Florence) under a shared services agreement (SSA) with owner Howard Stirk Holdings. The two stations share studios on University Boulevard in Conway and transmitter facilities on Pee Dee Church Road in Floydale, South Carolina.
On cable, WPDE is available on channel 9 in most parts of the market.
The station signed on November 22, 1980 with an analog signal on UHF channel 15. Originally owned by Eastern Carolinas Broadcasting Company, Inc., a group of local investors, it was the area's second commercial outlet after CBS affiliate WBTW (channel 13). The call letters stand for the Big and Little Pee DEe Rivers. Unofficially, the calls also represent the station's commitment to viewers: "We're People Dedicated to Excellence."
It has always been an ABC affiliate. The station signed on just two years after ABC, which had long been the smallest and weakest of the three major networks, surged to #1 in the ratings for the first time ever. Before WPDE's arrival, ABC was relegated to secondary status on WBTW. Viewers in the Grand Strand could get the full ABC schedule via WWAY in Wilmington. However, it is likely that WPDE would have aligned with ABC in any event. The market was already very well served by NBC, with Florence and the Pee Dee covered by WIS-TV in Columbia and the Grand Strand by WECT in Wilmington. In contrast, at the time WPDE signed on, no ABC affiliate put even a grade B signal into the western portion of the market.
The former Florence Civic Auditorium building on South Cashua Drive was transformed into the station's first facilities. This location would serve WPDE for twenty-two years. Dedication of WPDE's first studio in Florence was conducted in early 1981 with remarks by then-Governor Richard Riley. Diversified Communications of Portland, Maine acquired the station in 1985. WPDE would eventually be purchased by Barrington Broadcasting in 2006. WPDE's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.
During the analog era, WPDE's over-the-air signal was spotty at best in much of the market, as was typical with most UHF stations at the time. At one point, the North Carolina side of the market obtained a weaker signal from WPDE compared with WWAY and/or WTVD from Durham. It survived mainly due to the very high penetration of cable in the region. As of the digital transition, this station can now be regularly picked up in North Carolina because its digital signal is much stronger. In addition, the southern areas of Greensboro got a better signal from WPDE than from their home affiliate WXLV-TV in Winston-Salem until that station moved their tower in 2009. WTVD has good reception in that area as well due to its powerful digital signal on VHF channel 9. This station's reception area includes eastern areas of the Charlotte and Columbia markets.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|15.1||ABC||720p||16:9||Main WPDE-TV programming / ABC|
Historically, WBTW has been the dominant station in Florence/Myrtle Beach according to local Nielsen ratings. This is in part because that station essentially had the area to itself for over a quarter-century with the only real competition being Grade B signals from WECT in Wilmington and Columbia's WIS (both affiliates of NBC). WPDE's launch offered a second option of newscasts from WBTW. In 1996, sister station WWMB began airing the market's first prime time news on weeknights. Produced by WPDE, the show aired for thirty minutes and was originally known as NewsChannel 15 at 10 on TV 21. It was initially anchored by Steve Hawley until late-1996 when he left the station.
The program was then alternately hosted by Dave Gilbert and Tiffany Cochran. After the latter personality departed WPDE and Gilbert died in 1997, the show was renamed UPN 21 News at 10 and anchored by Leo Stallworth (later Audra Grant) until its cancellation in 2000. In 2003, WPDE introduced another prime time newscast on WWMB under the title WPDE NewsChannel 15 at 10 on UPN. Now airing every night, it was anchored on weeknights by Jim Heath. This second generation of the show featured interactive segments such as "Say What?" and "Quick Hits" in a more fast-paced format.
WWMB began having competition to its broadcast in 2004 when Fox affiliate WFXB (channel 43) entered into a news share agreement with WBTW. This partnership resulted in the area's second prime time broadcast at 10 seen weeknights for a half-hour. On September 18, 2006 with the launch of The CW, WPDE's production on WWMB became known as NewsChannel 15 at 10 on CW 21 and featured an updated graphics theme. There was a further expansion of local newscasts in 2007 when WPDE added a third hour of its weekday Good Morning Carolinas broadcast to WWMB. This was seen from 7 until 8 and was the first local show to debut in the time slot and partially air against the national weekday morning show seen on the big three networks. For an unknown reason, the production was ultimately dropped.
On January 26, 2009 days after anchor Jim Heath left WPDE, WWMB's nightly 10 o'clock show was canceled. A repeat of NewsChannel 15 at 7 was subsequently added in its place on weeknights with live weather updates. Eventually, this program was dropped as well. WWMB airs a rebroadcast of WPDE's Carolina & Company Live in the weeknight 10:30 p.m. time slot. On August 19, 2013, WPDE revived a weeknight prime time newscast on WWMB with this incarnation of the program known as The CW21 News At 10. In March 2008, WBTW became the first station in the market to upgrade newscasts to 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen. Although not true high definition, broadcasts match the aspect ratio of HD television screens. Since its sign-on August 7, 2008, NBC affiliate WMBF-TV has been offering local news in full high definition. WPDE remained the last outlet with pillarboxed 4:3 standard definition news until October 26, 2010 when it upgraded to 16:9 enhanced definition widescreen. Corresponding with the change came a new set and updated graphics package.
On April 22, 2015, WPDE changed its longtime logo and branding from NewsChannel 15 to ABC 15, with its newscasts also being re-branded separately as ABC 15 News. To coincide with the re-branding, WPDE became the last major network station in the Florence/Myrtle Beach market to broadcast its local news in HD. The upgrade also came with a refresh to the studio.
Weekdays at noon, the station airs a lifestyle/entertainment show called Carolina & Company Live. Airing in a magazine-type format from a secondary set, the broadcast is hosted by Cecil Chandler (formerly at WBTW for 36 years), Amanda Sellers, and meteorologist Zack Covey. During the program, there are various interview segments and business spotlights. Until 2016, WPDE did not offered newscasts at 5 and/or 5:30. It maintains partnerships with local radio stations WTKN FM 94.5, WRNN-FM 99.5, WWRK AM 970, and WWHK AM 1450. In addition to its main studios, WPDE operates a bureau on South Floyd Drive in Florence nearby WMBF's bureau on South Cashua Drive.
The station's studios on most weeks originate the weekly national public affairs program The Right Side with Armstrong Williams, which is aired by most Sinclair stations; Williams, a political commentator, holds an interest in WPDE's parent Sinclair Broadcast Group, including purchasing several stations through them via his holding company Howard Stirk Holdings, which holds the license and transmitting facilities for WWMB.