WBMA-LD (using the on-air branding ABC 33/40) is an American local station in Birmingham, Alabama. ABC 33/40 was also the branding for a cluster of ABC stations in the Birmingham market. 33 is for WCFT/digital channel 33 (virtual 33) in Tuscaloosa, and 40 is for WJSU/digital channel 9 (virtual 40) in Anniston. The "ABC 33/40" name currently applies to just WBMA over-the air, while in Tuscaloosa and Anniston they are currently seen on cable at their normal spots. On DirecTV, it is on channel 67.
Prior to 1996, WCFT signed on in 1965 as an independent and ran NBC shows bumped by Birmingham NBC affiliate WAPI/channel 13 (now WVTM-TV). At that time, Tuscaloosa was a separate market (rank #170) from Birmingham. They switched to CBS in 1970. WJSU started in 1969 as a CBS affiliate (call WHMA) for eastern Alabama and carried NBC shows on secondary affiliation for a year. Anniston was ranked #192 as a TV market then.
In 1995, the Fox network was wrapping up its henhouse raid of VHF TV stations started in 1994. The network bought then-ABC affiliate WBRC, but the station's contract with ABC didn't expire until September of 1996. Allbritton Communications bought W58CK, a low-powered Birmingham station and beamed it as the new ABC outlet. For the station to reach western and eastern parts of north Alabama, an agreement was reached to make WCFT and WJSU satellites of W58CK, which had its call later changed to WBMA. It had first broadcast on digital channel 11 but was moved to digital 40 to prevent interference from PBS outlet WBIQ (channel 10). The Tuscaloosa and Anniston markets were absorbed into the Birmingham market, allowing the Nielsen rating service a wider area to survey.
In May, 2014, Sinclair announced it was divesting itself of three TV stations in order make My Network TV affiliate WABM/ch. 68 a full-power ABC affiliate. The change, to take effect later, would make WABM Birmingham's first full-power ABC station since it left WBRC. WBMA would be retained as a satellite for WABM. WBMA is being retransmitted on the subcarriers of WABM, Anniston's WJSU (main affiliated with Heartland) and Bessemer CW affiliate WDBB/channel 17, retaining the ABC 33/40 brand until a later date. At that point, ABC will move to WABM's primary channel spot. WCFT, now owned by Howard Stirk Holdings, was presumed to have shut down, but it now has affiliation with the Heartland network. Through all this, if and when Sinclair sells WABM, WUOA/channel 23 (Tuscaloosa city of license and full-power satellite of WVUA-CA/channel 7) has applied to assume ABC affiliation. WCFT has now changed their call to WSES, and WJSU is now WGWW.
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