Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Millions of Spanish-speaking viewers and listeners tune in to Univision’s TV and radio stations in the New York market every day – and yet almost none of them, I’d bet, have any idea where those stations are coming from.
When we went to pay a call on Univision’s radio stations last fall on the way into New York City for the AES and NAB New York shows, we had to consult a map, too. “500 Frank W. Burr Boulevard” is one of a group of decidedly anonymous office-park boxes in Teaneck, New Jersey, off I-95 near its split to I-80 a couple of miles west of the George Washington Bridge. There’s no signage anywhere on the building indicating that it’s home to one of the market’s top-rated TV stations – and when you head inside, the atrium could easily be a Marriott somewhere in anonymous suburbia.
And yet for 20 years or so now, this building has been home to Univision’s WXTV (Channel 41), which moved here from a similarly anonymous building on Meadowlands Parkway in Secaucus (just down the road from WWOR-TV and, for a time, Z100) in the late 1990s. (Before that? WXTV’s original home was on Main Street in its city of license, Paterson, and its original transmitter location was the Cities Service Building at 70 Pine Street in lower Manhattan!)
As Univision has dealt with financial crises in the last few years, it’s moved most of its radio stations in with their sister TV outlets to save on lease expenses. For the New York stations, it meant leaving 485 Madison Avenue in Manhattan a few years ago, vacating historic space that started out as CBS radio headquarters in the 1930s and was later used by Bonneville’s WRFM. Over here on the Jersey side, Univision carved out space for radio wherever it could, including the lobby. Where a receptionist once greeted visitors, there’s now a video phone – and the reception desk part of the lobby has been glassed in and turned into a showcase studio for the radio cluster.
This is one of several radio studios here equipped for video as well, with a control room that can produce content for both radio and TV – and a vintage 1940s console radio in the back of the studio, just because.
Moving down the hall past the lobby, there’s a spacious rack room looking out into the atrium from Univision’s sixth-floor space. It’s mostly for TV (including master control space for WXTV and its sister UniMas stations, WFUT 68 Newark and satellite WFTY 67 Smithtown, Long Island), but radio gets a row of rack space here as well.
(WXTV, incidentally, left the airwaves a few months after our visit, at least as a separate chunk of spectrum; Univision sold WXTV’s RF channel 40 and is now channel-sharing WXTV with WFUT on RF 30 from the Empire State Building, soon to move to 26 in the repack.)
Continuing down the hall, there’s a surprisingly compact studio here for WXTV’s top-rated local newscasts, with a morning talk set at one end and a news desk at the other. The backdrop of the news set opens into what had at one time been the WXTV newsroom, and while the space still looks newsroom-ish, the actual news operation has moved to another part of the building and this is now general office space.
The control room for the local newscasts sits just across the hall from the studio, and it’s the last bit of TV that we see here as we round the corner to the rest of the radio studio space.
The oldest Spanish-language station in the market, WADO (1280 New York), has a studio/control room pair here, again outfitted with cameras for streaming and TV simulcasts, though most of what airs on WADO these days is network programming.
At the end of a hallway are studios for the two FMs in the cluster: WQBU (92.7 Garden City) is the regional Mexican outlet here, “Que Buena 92.7,” with a main transmitter out on the Queens/Nassau line (where this signal began, years ago, as the original WLIR) and several on-channel boosters in the city. And in a nice corner space with a view out to the woods behind the building is WXNY (96.3 New York), “X 96.3,” with a Spanish hits format.
Thanks to Richard Ross and Nomar Vizcarrondo for the tours!
The Fybush Media podcast is back!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of Tri-state IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: NYC, 2017