WCCT-TV, virtual and UHF digital channel 20, branded on-air as CW 20, is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Waterbury, Connecticut, United States and serving the Hartford–New Haven television market. The station is owned by the Tegna Inc. subsidiary of the Gannett Company, as part of a duopoly with Hartford-licensed Fox affiliate WTIC-TV (channel 61). The two stations share facilities with the formerly co-owned Hartford Courant newspaper on Broad Street in Downtown Hartford; WCCT's transmitter is located on Rattlesnake Mountain in Farmington, Connecticut. On cable, the station is carried primarily on channel 11 throughout the Hartford–New Haven television market.
The station commenced operations on September 10, 1953 as WATR-TV on channel 53, the second UHF station in Connecticut. It was owned by the Thomas and Gilmore families, along with WATR radio (1320 AM). The station's studios and transmitter were located on West Peak in Meriden. At the time, the station's signal only covered Waterbury, New Haven and the southern portion of the state.
WATR-TV was originally a dual secondary affiliate of both DuMont and ABC, sharing them with New Haven-based WNHC-TV (channel 8, now WTNH). DuMont ceased operations in 1956, and shortly afterward, WNHC-TV became an exclusive ABC affiliate, as did WATR-TV. Both stations carried ABC programming through Connecticut.
In 1962, the station relocated to UHF channel 20 and moved to a new studio and transmitter site in Prospect, south of Waterbury. Channel 53 was later occupied by WEDN, Connecticut Public Television's outlet in Norwich.
NBC affiliate (1966–1982)
In August 1966, WATR-TV joined NBC. At the time, the network's primary affiliate in Connecticut, WHNB-TV (channel 30) in New Britain, was hampered by a weak signal in New Haven and the southwestern portions of the state. In the 1970s, the station offered limited local news and instead aired older syndicated programs and religious shows such as The PTL Club when NBC programs were not offered. A notable local production was Journeys to the Mind, a half-hour talk show with host Joel Dobbin, which approached topics of the occult with a serious and sober tone. Journeys ran from 1976 to 1981.
The original Viacom bought WHNB-TV in 1978 and changed its call letters to WVIT. Two years later, after WVIT more than doubled its transmission power to cover New Haven, it became clear that WATR-TV's NBC affiliation was now in jeopardy. In 1981, the Thomas/Gilmore family opted to sell channel 20 to a joint venture of Odyssey Television Partners (later to become Renaissance Broadcasting) and Oppenheimer and Company. The sale was announced in May 1981 and gained FCC approval that December.
WTXX: independent (1982–1995)
The new owners of channel 20 ultimately opted to drop NBC and convert the station into an independent outlet (though NBC was considering ending its affiliation in any event). On March 22, 1982—the same day the NBC affiliation ended—channel 20 changed its call letters to WTXX, and subsequently became Connecticut's first full-service independent station since Hartford's WHCT-TV (channel 18, now Univision affiliate WUVN) served as an independent from 1957 to 1975. Soon after taking over, Odyssey replaced channel 20's tiny 250-foot tower with a more powerful transmitter that more than doubled its signal and gave it a coverage area comparable with the major network stations in the state. Programming consisted of the typical independent fare of off-network series, movies, and cartoons presented by the local children's show Kidstime with T.X. Critter, a puppet created by and puppeteered by Paul Fusco who later created ALF. WTXX also carried some sports, most notably New York Mets telecasts from WOR-TV in New York City (now MyNetworkTV flagship WWOR-TV in Secaucus, New Jersey) and Boston Celtics telecasts from WLVI-TV in Boston. WTXX prospered in its new status, and continued to do so even after WTIC-TV signed on in 1984 and took on the Fox affiliation two years later.
In October 1992, Renaissance Broadcasting sold WTXX to Counterpoint Communications, a nonprofit media firm with close ties to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. Renaissance had recently acquired several stations, including WTIC-TV, from Chase Broadcasting, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations of the time did not allow common ownership of two stations in the same market. However, Renaissance retained the rights to all the programming it bought for WTXX. WTIC-TV wanted to establish a full-time local marketing agreement (LMA) with WTXX, which basically amounted to channel 20 being programmed by its main competitor. Counterpoint balked, wanting only a part-time agreement. Renaissance then moved some of WTXX's stronger shows to WTIC-TV, leaving the station with a considerably weakened schedule.
Duopolies and new networks (1995–2006)
Renaissance's sale of WTXX to Counterpoint, and Renaissance's subsequent acquisition of WTIC-TV, became official in March 1993. Under the terms of the sale to Counterpoint, WTXX retained few syndicated programs and some movies, and began airing programming from the Home Shopping Network for 15 hours a day (including daytime and prime time). In addition, channel 20 would air a daily Catholic Mass, along with other Catholic religious programs, for one hour per day. While trying to negotiate an LMA, WTXX continued to run some Renaissance-owned programming daily from 3 to 7 p.m. free of charge. These shows were the Disney Afternoon cartoon block, double runs of The Cosby Show and Growing Pains on weekdays, and some hour-long first-run syndicated dramas on weekends. Renaissance sold the ad time for the slot and WTXX paid nothing to run the programming during these hours. That July, after negotiations with WTIC collapsed, WTXX entered into a part-time LMA with WVIT. Its schedule now included cartoons and children's programs during the morning and afternoon hours, and syndicated shows whose local rights were owned by WVIT during the early evenings. Most of the cartoons were shows WTXX previously had on a barter basis that WTIC had no room for. The Disney Afternoon and other syndicated shows previously on WTXX moved to WTIC or stopped airing in the market. Home Shopping Network programming remained during middays, prime time, and the overnight hours.
WTXX became Connecticut's UPN affiliate on April 3, 1995; for the 2½ months prior to that, Hartford viewers who wanted to watch UPN programming had to view it on cable, by way of WSBK-TV from Boston; viewers in Fairfield County were able to watch UPN programming over-the-air and on cable via WWOR-TV. Initially, it continued to run Home Shopping Network in prime time on nights without UPN programming. By spring 1996, the station expanded its LMA with WVIT to cover the entire day, except for overnights and the hours when the Catholic Mass aired. By this point, WTXX upgraded its syndicated programming, and HSN was relegated to overnights before being dropped completely.
In 1998, WVIT was sold to NBC and WTIC (now owned by Tribune Broadcasting) replaced WVIT as WTXX's LMA partner. As part of the deal, some of the shows previously owned by WVIT were kept by WTXX and WTIC. The LMA change caused no impact on WTXX's daily broadcasts of the Catholic Mass, which continues to the present day. Around this time, the station changed its on-air name from "UPN 20" to "Connecticut's 20". It also picked up Boston Red Sox baseball games; the station's feed (with the "Connecticut's 20" bug) was carried during Red Sox highlights airing on ESPN for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1999, WTXX and WTIC consolidated their operations in a new facility at One Corporate Center on Church Street in Downtown Hartford.
On January 1, 2001, WTXX and WBNE (channel 59, now WCTX) swapped affiliations, with WTXX joining The WB and rebranding as "Connecticut's WB". Later that year, Tribune purchased WTXX outright, creating a duopoly with WTIC. Tribune, having already received a temporary waiver from FCC rules barring common ownership of a newspaper and a television station in the same area when it purchased the Hartford Courant a year earlier, received an additional waiver for its purchase of WTXX. Tribune had been seeking a waiver in anticipation of the FCC relaxing its rules to allow such media combinations to exist with the agency's blessing, which would include television duopolies. In March 2005, the FCC requested that Tribune sell WTXX to a new owner, which they never did. In late 2007, the FCC loosened its restrictions on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership perhaps creating an opening for Tribune (which was purchased by investor Sam Zell in December 2007) to retain WTXX without a waiver.
CW affiliate (2006–present)
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner announced that the company would merge the operations of The WB with CBS Corporation's UPN (which CBS acquired one month earlier in December 2005 following its split from Viacom), to form a 50/50 joint venture called The CW Television Network. The network signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Tribune Broadcasting for 16 of the 19 WB affiliates that the company owned at the time, including WTXX.
In August 2008, the station changed its branding from "CW 20" to "txx" in a corporate effort by Tribune to strengthen its CW affiliates' local identities and reduce the dependence on the use of network branding. In June 2009, after 56 years of transmitting from various locations in New Haven County, WTXX shut down its transmitter in Prospect and moved to space on WTIC-TV's tower in Farmington.
In July 2010, the station changed its branding again to "The CT" with "The CT is the place 2B" slogan; to go along with this branding, the station changed its call letters to WCCT-TV on June 18. In March 2012, the station changed its logo and began to use its calls, WCCT-TV, as its branding, though the station remains a CW affiliate. In August 2018, WCCT-TV returned to the "CW 20" branding, marking the first time in 10 years that the station has identified itself with its channel number.
On July 10, 2013, Tribune announced plans to spin off its publishing division into a separate company, with the split finalized in 2014. WTIC-TV and WCCT-TV remained with the Tribune Company (which also retained all non-publishing assets, including the broadcasting, digital media and Media Services units), while its newspapers (including the Hartford Courant) became part of the similarly named Tribune Publishing Company.
Aborted sale to Sinclair; pending sale to Nexstar and resale to Tegna
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell.
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned ABC affiliate WTNH and MyNetworkTV affiliate WCTX (channel 59) since January 2017—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WTIC and WCCT 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 WTIC and WCCT 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 two of the stations (including one ranking among the top four in total-day viewership) to a separate, unrelated company to address the ownership conflict, potentially creating two new duopolies. On March 20, 2019, McLean, Virginia-based Tegna Inc. announced it would purchase WTIC and WCCT from Nexstar upon consummation of the merger, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Tegna and the E. W. Scripps Company in separate deals worth $1.32 billion; this would make the WTIC/WCCT duopoly the first television properties in Connecticut for Tegna.
|TV stations in New England|
|TV stations in Hartford/New Haven|
|WFSB 3 (CBS) |
WTNH 8 (ABC)
WUVN 18 (UNI)
WRDM-CD 19 (TLM)
WCCT 20 (CW)
WEDH 24 (PBS)
WHPX 26 (Ion)
WVIT 30 (NBC)
WTXX-LD 34 (AZA)
WHCT-LD 38 (AZA)
WUTH-CD 47 (UMas)
WRNT-LP 48 (RTV)
WEDN 53 (PBS)
WCTX 59 (MNTV)
WTIC 61 (Fox)
WEDY 65 (PBS)