WDCW, virtual channel 50 (UHF digital channel 15), is the CW-affiliated television station licensed to the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. Owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company, WDCW maintains studios on Wisconsin Avenue in the Glover Park section of Washington, and it shares transmitter facilities with Arlington, Virginia-licensed Univision-owned station WFDC-DT (channel 14) in the Tenleytown section of Washington's northwest quadrant.
On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 23 in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland, Xfinity channel 11 in Reston, Virginia, and channel 3 on most other systems in the market.
WDCW is carried on satellite provider DirecTV (as standard definition only "CW-E") to serve the few areas of the eastern United States where a CW affiliate is not receivable over-the-air or through cable, and on JetBlue's LiveTV in-flight entertainment system via DirecTV (the other network stations featured on JetBlue are predominantly from New York City).
The Channel 50 license was first assigned to WGSP. That station ran test patterns in early 1972, but never signed on. On April 6, 1981, Channel 50 finally signed on under the callsign WCQR. Beginning on November 1, WCQR aired the subscription television service SuperTV at night and live pictures of Washington, D.C. from above its broadcast tower during the daytime. Early in the day, WCQR also ran some basic computer still images with music called "Morning Muse". The live pictures were soon replaced with programming from the Financial News Network. Hill Broadcasting purchased both Channel 50 and WHLL-TV (now Univision affiliate WUNI) in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1985. On July 1, the call letters were changed to WFTY, in reference to its channel FifTY allocation. It then became a full-time independent station in early 1986. Initially, the station ran a lineup of classic off-network sitcoms, dramas, cartoons, movies and some religious programs. WFTY also picked up the ABC soap opera Ryan's Hope after WJLA-TV (Channel 7) dropped it in 1986, with Channel 50 running the final years of the program.
The station was airing mostly religious programs, infomercials, low-budget (but copyrighted) movies, and a few off-network dramas by 1988. Ratings were very low, in addition to the programming costs. WFTY did pick up a few cartoons for the weekday 7 to 9 a.m. slot in June 1990 when Fox owned-and-operated station WTTG (channel 5) dropped its children's block in favor of launching a weekday morning newscast. In 1993, WFTY (along with WHLL) were purchased by the Jasas Corporation. In the fall of that year, WFTY added more cartoons, barter sitcoms, some low-priced syndicated shows, and cut back on paid programming.
As a WB affiliate
WFTY joined The WB on February 20, 1995, six weeks after the network started. WJAL (channel 68) in Hagerstown, Maryland was the WB's charter affiliate in the Washington market, and both stations aired its programming. As the network provided only a single block on Wednesdays from 8 to 10 p.m. at the time, WFTY ran WB programs on six weeknights in order to catch up and begin airing the schedule in pattern on March 1. On September 6, the station's call letters were changed to WBDC-TV to reflect its network status, with the callsign being a portmanteau of WB and Washington DC. In 1996, the Tribune Company (which had a minority ownership interest in The WB) began managing the station and purchased the station outright from the Jasas Corporation in 1999.
As a CW affiliate
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that The WB and UPN would shut down that September and be replaced by a new network that would include some of the two networks' higher-rated programs called The CW. WBDC was named as the D.C. area's CW affiliate as Tribune signed a 10-year affiliation agreement for 16 of the company's 19 WB stations. On May 1, WBDC's call letters were changed to the current WDCW to reflect the pending switch. On July 20, 2006, the station began to run on-air promotions that featured a new logo and branding as "The CW Washington". WDCW joined The CW when the network launched nationwide on September 18, 2006.
In August 2008, WDCW began to be branded on-air as "DC50" reducing the promotion of The CW to just the tagline; this was followed on August 14 with the introduction of a new logo; this branding change came as Tribune's CW-affiliated stations began to de-emphasize references to the network in their branding. On-air, the station used "DC 50" as their branding and at some points "Home of The CW" as their slogan while "The CW Washington" branding continued to be used on the station's website. In press releases seen online, WDCW was also using the "Home of The CW" slogan. The slogan began being used on-air and online on August 22, 2008. The CW logo returned to the station's branding in 2010, changing it to "DC50 The CW." In July 2014, the station was rebranded as "DCW Television," and introduced a new logo.
Aborted sale to Sinclair; pending sale to Nexstar and possible resale
On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into an agreement to 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. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Fox's purchases of KSTU and the other six Tribune stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned Hagerstown, Maryland-based independent station and part-time Heroes & Icons affiliate WDVM-TV (channel 25) since December 2003—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar included the overlap between WDCW and WDVM among the television stations in thirteen markets where Nexstar may consider making divestitures to address national ownership cap issues related to the transaction and/or to comply with FCC local ownership rules limiting it from owning two or more stations in the same market. However, as neither WDVM nor WDCW ranks among the four highest-rated stations in the Washington, D.C.–Hagerstown market in total day viewership and enough full-power commercial television stations exist to allow a third duopoly within the market, neither station is technically in conflict with existing FCC in-market ownership rules and could both be retained by Nexstar in any event.
|TV stations in Commonwealth of Virginia|
|WGNT, Hampton Roads/Norfolk|
|TV stations in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.|
|WRC 4 (NBC) |
WTTG 5 (Fox)
WJLA 7 (ABC)
WUSA 9 (CBS)
WDCO-CD 10 (JTV)
WFDC 14 (UNI)
WDCA 20 (MNTV)
WMPT 22 (PBS)
WDDN-LD 23 (Daystar)
WDVM 25 (Ind)
WETA 26 (PBS)
WRZB-LD 31 (Escape)
WWPB 31 (PBS)
WHUT 32 (PBS)
WZDC-CD 44 (TLM)
WMDO-CD 47 (UMas)
WWTD-LD 49 (MBCA)
WDCW 50 (CW)
WWPX 60 (Ion)
WFPT 62 (PBS)
WPXW 66 (Ion)
WJAL 68 (SBN)