WCWN, virtual channel 45 (UHF digital channel 43), is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Schenectady, New York, United States and serving New York's Capital District (Albany–Schenectady–Troy) as well as Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WCWN is part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate WRGB (channel 6) and the two stations share studios on Balltown Road in Niskayuna, New York (with a Schenectady postal address). WCWN's transmitter is located on the Helderberg Escarpment west of New Salem, a hamlet of New Scotland. The station is available on Charter Spectrum channels 15 (hence the CW 15 branding) and 1212; the latter channel number requires the use of a digital cable set-top box.
WCWN originated as an independent station on December 3, 1984 under the call letters WUSV, after its owner, Union Street Video. However, it made little headway against the market's original independent, WXXA-TV (channel 23). As with most independent stations in mid-sized markets during that period, it had difficulties from the outset in terms of getting programming with only afternoon cartoons and some reruns getting respectable ratings. Most of the stronger programming went to WXXA, perhaps due in part to one of its founding partners, longtime movie director Arthur Penn, having ties to Hollywood. Also hurting WUSV was the presence of New York City's three independent stations–WNEW-TV (now WNYW), WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) and WPIX–and Boston's WSBK-TV on cable, which had been the case for more than a decade.
When WXXA joined Fox as a charter affiliate in 1986, WUSV had some difficulty filling the void. The Capital District was just barely large enough at the time to support what were essentially two independent stations (WXXA, like other early Fox affiliates, was still programmed as an independent at the time), and there simply wasn't enough programming to go around. Due to continuing financial difficulties, Union Street Video finally gave up in 1987 and sold the station in a fire sale to WMHT Educational Telecommunications. Under WMHT's ownership, channel 45 became a secondary PBS member station under the calls WMHX. It was still licensed as a commercial station, but operated as a noncommercial broadcaster—much like Buffalo's WNED-TV and New York City's WNYC-TV (now Ion Television owned-and-operated station WPXN-TV) operated for many years.
This arrangement lasted until 1991 when, due to financial difficulties, WMHX was taken off-the-air. Two years later, the station returned to the air as WMHQ, carrying a large amount of instructional programming alongside repeats and double runs from WMHT. Further financial difficulties at WMHT led to WMHQ being put up for sale in the late 1990s.
Despite WMHT's financial difficulties, WMHQ's commercial license was still very valuable. By this time, the Capital District had grown large enough that a second non-Big Three station was now viable. After a sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group, which intended to make the station a dual UPN/WB affiliate, fell through, Tribune Broadcasting, part-owner of The WB, bought the station in 1999 for $18.5 million. Channel 45's final day of programming as a PBS station was September 5, 1999; after its nightly midnight sign-off, it returned to the air at 6:00 a.m. the next morning as WB affiliate WEWB-TV, branded on-air as "WB 45". Prior to WEWB's relaunch, WPIX and WGN-TV's national feed had both served as the default WB affiliates for the Capital District. WPIX remained available to cable viewers in Albany until 2002, but was blacked out during WB programming as well as syndicated programming shown exclusively on Albany stations (due to syndication exclusivity law).
From the station's relaunch as WEWB until December 2006, its master control was located at sister station WB affiliate WLVI-TV in Boston. However, local offices were at Corporate Woods in Albany. WLVI's meteorologists maintained WCWN's weather page. In 2004, WEWB's digital signal signed on-the-air and began broadcasting on UHF channel 43. In 2005, the "WB 45" name was dropped in favor of "Capital Region's WB" at the tail end of a period in which most of Tribune's WB affiliates (minus its VHF and "heritage" stations) were re-branded in the same format.
Eleven years after the births of UPN and The WB on January 24, 2006, it was announced by CBS and Time Warner that The WB would merge with its rival network, UPN, to form The CW. As part of the deal, the newly formed network signed a 10-year affiliation deal with 16 of Tribune's WB stations, including WEWB. In preparation, the station's call letters changed to the current WCWN on May 10. In July 2006, commercials for The CW as well as syndicated fall programming had the station rebranding as "The Capital Region's CW" effective with the network's launch on September 18.
On June 19, 2006, Tribune announced it would sell WCWN to Freedom Communications, owner of CBS affiliate WRGB, for $17 million. The purchase faced review from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for much of 2006, since the Capital District has only seven full-power stations—not enough to legally permit a duopoly. However, the FCC granted Freedom a "failed station" waiver for the station's purchase on November 22, clearing the way for Freedom to close on the station on December 6. At that point, all of WCWN's operations were merged into WRGB's facilities in Niskayuna and Freedom began to maintain WCWN's website. The purchase gave the Capital District its first television duopoly. For a short period of time, this essentially gave WRGB control of three stations as it continued its pre-existing joint sales agreement (JSA) with MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYA until February 2007.
Freedom announced on November 2, 2011 that it would bow out of television and sell its stations, including WCWN, to Sinclair Broadcast Group, marking the company's second attempt at acquiring channel 45. Since Freedom had acquired WCWN through a "failed station" waiver, Sinclair requested a similar waiver for the purchase; this was granted on March 13, 2012, as part of the FCC's approval of the transaction. The group deal closed on April 2, 2012.
|TV stations in New York|
| WPIX, New York City|
|TV stations in the Capital District of New York and Berkshire County, Massachusetts, including Albany and Pittsfield|
| WYCX-CD 2 (H&I/MNTV) |
WRGB 6 (CBS)
WNCE-CD 8 (Youtoo)
WTEN 10 (ABC)
WNYT 13 (NBC)
WMHT 17 (PBS)
WXXA 23 (Fox)
WVER 28 (PBS)
WCWN 45 (CW)
WNYA 51 (MNTV)
WYPX 55 (Ion)