WCCB, virtual channel 18 (UHF digital channel 27), is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. It serves as the flagship station of owner Bahakel Communications. WCCB's studios are located just outside Uptown Charlotte, off Independence Boulevard (across from Bojangles' Coliseum), and its transmitter is located in Newell, an unincorporated area of Mecklenburg County just northeast of the Charlotte city limits.
On cable, WCCB is carried in standard definition on Charter Spectrum channel 11 (channel 5 on legacy Charter systems), Comporium Communications channel 111 and AT&T U-verse channel 18, and in high definition on Spectrum digital channel 1212 (channel 705 on legacy Charter systems), Comporium channel 1111 and U-verse channel 1018.
WCCB traces its roots to WAYS-TV, a primary NBC and secondary ABC affiliate, which signed on the air on December 31, 1953. Broadcasting on UHF channel 36, it was North Carolina's second UHF station (after WNAO-TV in Raleigh), as well as the second television station in the Charlotte market. It was owned by George Dowdy and his company, Intercity Advertising, owners of WAYS radio (610 AM, now WFNZ). Hugh Deadwyler became co-owner of the station in 1954, and acquired the station outright after buying Intercity's interest in 1955. In January 1955, its call letters were changed to WQMC-TV.
Channel 36 had a very weak 100,000-watt signal which was spotty further than 10 miles (16 km) from the transmitter, making it virtually unviewable even in some parts of Mecklenburg County. Even then, like most UHF stations, it was only viewable on most sets with an expensive UHF converter. Television set manufacturers were not required to include UHF tuners at the time; this would not change until Congress passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1964. As a result, it made almost no headway against CBS affiliate WBTV (channel 3), which continued to cherry-pick certain NBC programs.
The station went dark on March 15, 1955, in what was intended to be a temporary hiatus while it underwent technical improvements, including the construction of a more powerful transmitter at a new location. However, the station went into receivership in 1956. After further delays, Deadwyler sold its construction permit in 1957 to Century Advertising, which planned to relaunch it as ABC affiliate WUTV, with a much more powerful signal than its predecessor. However, these plans were not successful, as Charlotte's second VHF station, WSOC-TV (channel 9), signed on the air that April; even with the stronger signal, WUTV would have still been all but unviewable in most of the market. In addition, most of the market (particularly the western portion) got a fairly decent signal from WLOS-TV out of Asheville; which was included in the Charlotte television listings for many years and even ran ads for its programs in Charlotte area newspapers. Also, the eastern portion of the Charlotte TV market (areas and cities such as Albemarle, Kannapolis, and Salisbury) could get a decent signal from WGHP-TV in High Point.
In August 1964, Charlotte businessman Cy Bahakel bought the dormant channel 36 license. He returned the station to air on November 1 of that year as WCCB-TV (for "Charlotte Cy Bahakel"), operating from its current studios off Independence Boulevard. Logically, it should have resumed operations as a full-time ABC affiliate. However, WCCB's signal was scarcely stronger than that of its predecessor, at 200,000 watts, essentially limiting its coverage area to Charlotte proper and its inner suburbs. The FCC also began requiring television sets to have all-channel tuning only a few months before, and most Charlotte households did not yet have UHF-capable sets. Even though Charlotte had been large enough to support three full-time major network affiliates since the early 1950s, ABC decided to retain its secondary affiliation agreements with WBTV and WSOC. WCCB was forced to settle for a secondary affiliation with all three networks, airing most of the network shows that WBTV and WSOC chose to turn down. For the next three years, it split both NBC and ABC's programming roughly equally with WSOC; a few ABC shows also continued to air on WBTV, and WCCB aired some CBS programs in turn.
On November 1, 1966, WCCB moved from channel 36 to UHF channel 18, broadcasting from a new tower located on Newell Hickory Grove Road in northeast Charlotte. The new tower was capable of 1.35 million watts of power, giving WCCB a coverage area comparable to those of WBTV and WSOC-TV. The station's former tower was located adjacent to the studio in the parking lot of the old Charlotte Coliseum. This facility was originally planned to be used by WUTV in 1957. In 1967, shortly after WCCB activated its stronger tower, WSOC-TV dropped all ABC programming and became a full-time NBC affiliate. More or less by default, WCCB exclusively aligned with ABC. Ironically, the state's largest market got a full-fledged ABC affiliate after the state's two smallest markets, Greenville/New Bern/Washington and Wilmington, received ABC affiliates of their own (WCTI-TV and WWAY respectively). However, despite the stronger signal, it remained a distant third in the ratings.
By 1978, ABC had become the nation's most-watched network and wanted a stronger affiliate in Charlotte. ABC moved its programming to WSOC. Ted Turner, then-owner of WRET (now WCNC-TV)—which had been on the verge of ceasing operations earlier in the decade—acquired the NBC affiliation for channel 36, leaving WCCB as an independent station. Turner won the affiliation on the basis of a commitment to invest significant resources in upgrading WRET's signal and forming a substantially larger local news department than that of WCCB.
With WCCB left to fend for itself as an independent station, it bought a large chunk of syndicated programming from WRET, including cartoons and older sitcoms. For a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after-school cartoons ("Afternoon Express") were hosted by the costumed Sonic Man space alien character, played by Larry Sprinkle, who has been a staple in Charlotte radio and television, including serving as a weather anchor for channel 36 since the 1980s. WCCB carried on for almost a decade as a typical UHF general entertainment independent station.
In 1986, WCCB became the last station in a top-50 market to join Fox as one of the upstart network's charter affiliates, since it was doing so well in the ratings as an independent. WCCB affiliated with the network when it launched on October 6 of that year. For most of the next quarter-century, WCCB was one of the strongest Fox stations in the country – even claiming to be the highest-rated Fox affiliate in the nation during the 2008–09 television season. The station reaped a major windfall after the NFL moved its National Football Conference television package from CBS to Fox in 1994. By coincidence, this made WCCB the unofficial "home" station of the Carolina Panthers upon the team's 1995 inception. WCCB carried most Panthers regular season games during the team's first 18 seasons, and later acquired the local rights to the team's preseason games from WBTV. Panthers games had generally been the most-watched programs in the market during the NFL football season. After being known as "TV18" since sign-on, WCCB changed its branding to "Fox 18" in 1988 and then to "Fox Charlotte" in 2002.
Cy Bahakel was an original partner in the NBA's Charlotte Hornets, and WCCB served as the team's flagship station for the Hornets' first four seasons in Charlotte from 1988 to 1992. Bahakel owned WCCB until his death on April 20, 2006, with his family taking over the duties of running the station (and its parent company, Bahakel Communications) since that point. In 2007, WCCB's website switched to Fox Interactive Media's "MyFox" platform (which was originally intended for Fox's owned-and-operated stations), with the domain transitioning from foxcharlotte.tv to myfoxcharlotte.com; however, the station de-emphasized the "MyFox" corporate reference within a year, with the URL becoming known simply as foxcharlotte.com. The revamped page continued to use the "MyFox" webpage template (sans the "MyFox" branding) until 2010, when Broadcast Interactive Media became WCCB's site host.
End of Fox affiliation and switch to The CW
On January 28, 2013, Fox Television Stations announced the purchase of CW affiliate WJZY (channel 46) and MyNetworkTV affiliate WMYT-TV (channel 55) from Capitol Broadcasting Company for $18 million. While WCCB had been one of the network's strongest affiliates, Fox had been looking to buy a station in what had become the 25th-largest market. It also wanted to own as many stations in NFC markets as possible; at the time Charlotte was the only NFC market in the Eastern Time Zone where the Fox station was only an affiliate. Another likely factor in the purchase was an option by Fox to purchase the Raleigh–Durham CW/MyNetworkTV duopoly of WLFL and WRDC from Sinclair Broadcast Group, which would have resulted in WRAZ (a sister station to WJZY and WMYT at the time) losing its Fox affiliation.
Soon after the announcement of the WJZY/WMYT purchase, WCCB ceased promoting Fox shows outside network programming hours. It resumed promoting Fox shows again around March 11, but stopped carrying the promotions for good in April. In February, WCCB began phasing out Fox network references from on-air use during its newscasts. A play button briefly replaced the Fox logo in the on-air bug on the bottom right of the screen before the station's news branding was changed to WCCB News. However, most of the station's graphics continued to use Fox branding until late March 2013. At that time, the station changed its branding to "WCCB Charlotte", but was referred to verbally by its call letters.
On April 18, one day after Fox completed its purchase of WJZY and WMYT, WCCB announced that it would replace WJZY as Charlotte's CW affiliate on July 1. On May 6, WJZY began airing a promo announcing it would become a Fox owned-and-operated station on that date. On or about May 15, WCCB began airing a promo announcing that it would become a CW affiliate and officially rebrand as "WCCB, Charlotte's CW" upon the switch. Earlier, Bahakel had reserved the domain CharlottesCW.com for two years. Given the station's strong performance as a Fox affiliate and its half-century of service to the area (in its current incarnation), WCCB was expected to become one of the ten strongest CW affiliates in the nation when it formally joined that network. The old "Fox Charlotte" logo remained at the entrance to the station's studios until mid-May when it was replaced with signage bearing the "Charlotte CW" logo.
WCCB's relationship with Fox formally ended after 27 years on June 30, with American Dad! being the final Fox program to air on the station. With the loss of WCCB's Fox affiliation, Fox no longer has any charter affiliates remaining in North Carolina. WCCB formally rolled out its new on-air branding and logo the next afternoon, July 1, 2013, its first day as a CW affiliate. However, most verbal references to the station are to its call letters, with any CW references used obliquely (in the manner of "WCCB, Charlotte's CW"). It marked the first time in a quarter-century that the station has used its call letters on a permanent basis in its branding.
CW programming airs mostly in pattern on WCCB, with the exception of the network's offered episode of The Jerry Springer Show, which airs at 2 p.m. on WCCB instead of the network's 3 p.m. timeslot due to the station's syndicated commitments in that later timeslot (Springer also airs at 11 a.m. on the station from its syndicated run). It maintains its Fox-era newscasts (see below). It remained home to Panthers preseason football games until losing them to WSOC-TV for the 2019 season. It also began airing Charlotte 49ers college football games in September 2013, with WCCB carrying any 49er home games not carried by Conference USA's national and regional television partners.
|TV stations in North Carolina|
|TV stations in the Charlotte, North Carolina area|
|WBTV 3 (CBS) |
WSOC 9 (ABC)
WHKY 14 (Ind)
WCEE-LP 16 (ESTRELLA)
WUNE 17 (PBS)
WCCB 18 (CW)
W21CK-D 21 (3ABN)
WHWD-LD 21 (Daystar)
WDMC-LD 25 (Daystar)
WGTB-CD 28 (Ind)
WNSC 30 (PBS)
WCNC 36 (NBC)
WVEB-LD 40 (Cozi)
WHEH-LD 41 (AZA)
WTVI 42 (PBS)
WJZY 46 (Fox)
WMYT 55 (MNTV)
WUNG 58 (PBS)
WAXN 64 (Ind)