WBRE-TV virtual channel 28 (VHF digital channel 11), is a television station licensed to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States, serving as the NBC affiliate for the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre television market. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also operates Scranton-licensed CBS affiliate WYOU (channel 22) under a shared services agreement with owner Mission Broadcasting. The two stations share studios on South Franklin Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre; WBRE's transmitter is located at the Penobscot Knob antenna farm near Mountain Top. On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity and Service Electric channel 3. There is a high definition feed offered on Xfinity digital channel 808 and Service Electric digital channel 503.
Eyewitness News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Everywhere You Are|
|Channels||Digital: 11 (UHF) Virtual: 28 (PSIP)|
|Translators||28 (UHF) Waymart|
|Owner||Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc.
(Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.)
|First air date||January 1, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||Baltimore Radio Exchange (for original owners but call sign was kept when radio sisters were sold) or Wilkes-BaRrE|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
28 (UHF, 1953–2009)
|Transmitter power||30 kW|
|Height||471 m (1,545 ft)|
WBRE signed on New Year's Day 1953 becoming the first television station in the market. It was owned by the Baltimore family along with WBRE radio (1340 AM now WYCK and 98.5 FM now WKRZ). Although it appears that the call letters stand for Wilkes-BaRrE, they actually refer to Baltimore Radio Exchange, the Baltimore family's company. The radio stations were sold off in 1980.
For much of its early history, channel 28 was unable to get a direct feed from NBC because AT&T microwave and wireline operations weren't available in northeast Pennsylvania. Station engineers were thus forced to switch to and from the signals of network flagship WNBT in New York City (now WNBC) and WPTZ in Philadelphia (now CBS owned-and-operated station KYW-TV) when NBC programming was airing. WPTZ was used as a backup. In efforts to improve the quality and reliability of the received signals, WBRE built its own relay site on Pimple Hill on the west side of Route 115, just south of Pocono Raceway. Reception of the New York stations is very clear and reliable from that site; indeed, it served as a microwave retransmission site for many of the area's cable systems well into the 1990s until fiber optics made microwave transmission obsolete.
In 1972, disaster struck at WBRE when its offices were flooded by Hurricane Agnes. Most of the station's equipment was moved above ground and survived but a film archive in the basement was destroyed. After 31 years of ownership, the Baltimore family sold WBRE to New York-based Northeastern Television Investors in 1984, which in turn sold it to Adams Communications in 1989. Current owner Nexstar Broadcasting Group acquired the station in 1997. Nexstar already owned WYOU but opted to keep WBRE and sold WYOU to Mission Broadcasting. However, Nexstar continues to control WYOU's operations through a joint sales agreement. On January 3, 2007, Nexstar named Louis J. Abitabilo as Vice President and General Manager for the two stations.
The station's news operation made a fictional appearance within the NBC comedy series The Office, set in Scranton, in the 6th season episodes The Chump and Whistleblower, interviewing Michael Scott about reports of malfunctioning printers.
In September 2011, the station was evacuated once again due to potential flooding by heavy rains from Tropical Storm Lee. For 48 hours, the station operated remotely out of the garage of the local Fox affiliate, WOLF-TV. They provided coverage for the entire duration of the evacuation period, nearly 63 hours. Luckily, the station and the majority of the city of Wilkes-Barre were protected by the levee system.
On January 19, 2012, Nexstar named Robert G. Bee as Vice President and General Manager of WBRE, with management responsibilities for WYOU. The station went full HD including news and production on April 2, 2012.
On December 3, 2018, Nexstar announced it would acquire the assets of Chicago-based Tribune Media—which has operated WNEP-TV through a shared services agreement with Dreamcatcher Broadcasting since December 2014—for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WNEP directly or indirectly, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of more than two stations in the same media market, or two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the market. (Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WNEP through local marketing or shared services agreements may be subject to regulatory hurdles that could delay completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, Nexstar will be required to sell either WNEP or both WBRE and WYOU (separately as it would break the grandfathered LMA) to separate, unrelated companies to address the ownership conflict. Should Nexstar choose to keep the WBRE/WYOU virtual duopoly, the transaction would make them sister stations to MyNetworkTV affiliate WPHL-TV in Philadelphia and CW affiliate WPIX in New York City.
WBRE led the ratings for most of the 1950s until ABC affiliate WNEP-TV jumped ahead in 1959. During the 1950s and 1960s, mirroring the century-long rivalry between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, WBRE ruled Wilkes-Barre while WDAU-TV (now WYOU) dominated Scranton. Channel 28 jumped back in the lead in the early-1960s and went back and forth for first place with WDAU until 1978 when WNEP took the lead. It fell to third for most of the 1980s, even with NBC's powerhouse primetime lineup. In the mid-1990s, the station briefly surpassed long-dominant WNEP, then fell again to second after the sale to Nexstar.
In 2002, WBRE and WYOU dropped their separate weekday morning and noon newscasts in favor of Pennsylvania Morning and Pennsylvania Midday which were jointly-produced and simulcasted on both stations. Since the two have both trailed WNEP in the news ratings by a wide margin for most of the last thirty years, a major shakeup in format occurred in fall 2006. While WYOU went with a talk/debate format for its weeknight shows, WBRE News became more of the traditional news program. This set a more clear competition against WNEP. At the beginning of 2008, WYOU dropped the weekday shared productions and started airing the first hour of the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz at 6 while debuting its own noon news.
On June 9, 2008, there were several more changes made on the two stations. WBRE re-launched its news operation as WBRE Eyewitness News. It had previously used the Eyewitness News moniker from the mid-1980s until 2001. This coincided with news set, music package, graphics, and weather system upgrades. There were also some on-air personnel changes. Anchor Andy Mehalshick became a weeknight field anchor. Candice Kelly, who had been anchoring on WYOU, moved to the weeknight newscasts on WBRE back in mid-May and was joined by newcomer Drew Speier. In addition, WBRE and WYOU’s midday shows switched anchors. Mark Hiller moved from WBRE to WYOU while Eva Mastromatteo switched over to this station. Hiller also debuted as anchor of WYOU News First at 4 on weeknights. That station became the first in the area to broadcast local news at that time. This was followed at 4:30 by The Insider which moved from its 7 o'clock slot. WYOU then dropped its 5 p.m. newscast and aired two episodes of Judge Judy. Finally weeknights at 6 o'clock, Lyndall Stout (who anchored on WBRE) joined Eric Scheiner for the half-hour WYOU Inter@ctive. That station also launched a new weeknight newscast, WYOU News at 7. WNEP already aired local news at that time on weeknights. All of the preceding changes were an attempt to better compete against WNEP and get more ratings.
On April 4, 2009, WYOU shut down its news operation resulting in the layoff of fourteen personnel while others were integrated with WBRE. Syndicated programming began airing in place of the newscasts. The station saved nearly $1 million a year as a result of closing down its news department.
Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (channel 56) dropped WNEP as their news supplier at the end of 2009. WOLF then went to WBRE to take over starting January 1, 2010. WBRE then took over production of nightly prime time broadcasts on WOLF-TV which expanded to an hour and were re-branded as Fox 56 News First at 10.
WBRE launched a new 4 p.m. show called PA Live in the fall of 2011. It focuses on lifestyles news covering the greater Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area. Along with its main studios, WBRE operates four news bureaus: Scranton (on Lackawanna Avenue), Stroudsburg (Main Street), Williamsport (on Pine Street), and Hazelton (East 10th Street).
On April 2, 2012, WBRE began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, with a new news set, HD cameras and forecasting equipment. With the upgrade, the station began producing half-hour newscasts at noon and 7 p.m. on sister station WYOU, the first such newscasts on that station since WYOU's in-house news department folded in 2009; those newscasts are also broadcast in high definition; in addition, simulcasts of WBRE's weekday morning, and nightly 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts are also carried on WYOU. This is a similar operation to existing joint news operations formed by Nexstar/Mission stations the year prior, between WUTR and WFXV in Utica, New York, and WTVW and WEHT in Evansville, Indiana.
- 28 Eyewitness News (?–2001)
- 28 News (2001–2004)
- WBRE News (2004–2008)
- WBRE Eyewitness News (2008–2012)
- Eyewitness News (2012–present)
- Keep Your Eye on Eyewitness News (early 1980s)
- 28, Let's All Be There (198?-198?; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Come Home to 28 (1986-1987; localized version of NBC ad campaign)
- Your Hometown Station (1990-mid 1990s)
- The Station That's Taking the Lead (mid 1990s–1998)
- On Your Side (2001–2008)
- Everywhere You Are (2011–present)
Current on-air staff
- Candice Kelly - weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m.
- Nick Toma - weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m.
- Chris Langlois - weekday mornings (4:30-7 a.m.) and 11 a.m.
- Kelly Byrne - weekday mornings (4:30-7 a.m.)
- Mark Hiller - weekends at 6 & 11 p.m.; also weekday reporter
Eyewitness Weather Team
- Josh Hodell (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m.
- Stefano DiPietro - meteorologist; weekday mornings (4:30-7 a.m.) and 11 a.m.
- Kristina Shalhoup - meteorologist; weekends
- Kevin Dirk - meteorologist; weekend mornings (9-10 a.m.)
- Dave Kuharchik - fill-in meteorologist and host of PA Live
- A.J. Donatoni - sports director;
- Robin Deehan - sports anchor; weekends; also sports reporter
- Cody Butler -
- Brianna Strunk - Pocono Bureau reporter
- Andy Mehalshick - chief investigative reporter
- Haley Bianco - Schuylkill County Bureau reporter; also host of PA Live
- Eric Deabill - Scranton Bureau reporter
- Kelly Choate - general assignment reporter