WDJT-TV, virtual channel 58 (UHF digital channel 46), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. Owned by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, it is a sister station to Class A MeTV owned-and-operated station WBME-CD (channel 41), Racine-licensed independent station WMLW-TV (channel 49, which shares spectrum with WBME-CD), and low-powered Telemundo affiliate WYTU-LD (channel 63), which WDJT simulcasts in 16:9 widescreen standard definition on its respective second, third and fourth digital subchannels to expand their reach across southeastern Wisconsin. All four stations share studios on South 60th Street in Milwaukee (near West Allis); WDJT's transmitter is located in Milwaukee's Lincoln Park (next to the transmitter belonging to ABC affiliate WISN-TV, channel 12).
On cable, WDJT-TV is carried on Charter Spectrum and AT&T U-verse channel 5 (channel 9 in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac, and on channel 8 on some systems), with the station's HD signal on Spectrum digital channel 1005 (channel 605 on legacy Charter systems), and on U-verse digital channel 1005.
Launch and early strugglesEdit
The station first signed on the air on November 10, 1988, operating as an independent station. Its call letters were selected in honor of its original owners, Debra Jackson and John Torres, the former of whom died before the station took to the air. With the banks skittish about the station's prospects due to Jackson's death, Torres sold controlling interest to Weigel Broadcasting in order to get more financing. Weigel bought out Torres' interest shortly before the station signed on. Originally branded as "Classic 58", its programming fare consisted of older sitcoms, lower-tier first-run syndicated shows, and a mix of public domain and lower-demand studio films. The locally based show The Bowling Game also moved to the station in 1989 after a two-year hiatus from WVTV (channel 18), airing intermittently until 1991. It operated from a bare-bones facility on the top floors of the Marc Plaza Hotel (now the Hilton Milwaukee City Center), using a transmitter atop the hotel that had once been used by WVTV and low-power WMKE-LP (then-channel 8, now channel 21).
As an independent, WDJT found the going difficult against WVTV and WCGV-TV (channel 24). Although Milwaukee was big enough on paper to support what were essentially three independent stations (Fox affiliate WCGV was essentially programmed as an independent, as the network would not air a full week's worth of programming until 1993), there simply was not enough programming to go around. Most of the stronger first-run and off-network syndicated programs had been picked clean not only by WVTV and WCGV, but also the market's three network affiliates. It was also hampered by a weak signal that effectively limited channel 58's coverage area to Milwaukee and its inner-ring suburbs such as Cudahy, Waukesha and West Allis. The few syndicators who otherwise would have been willing to air their programming on channel 58 largely shied away due to its weak signal. Additionally, it was near the top of the UHF dial; generally until the cable age, most southeastern Wisconsin households never tuned past WMVT, the area's secondary PBS member station on channel 36. The station also came to the air three years before must-carry rules were put into place.
In January and February 1992, WDJT carried full-day coverage of the criminal trial of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer fed and produced by WITI (channel 6). This allowed WITI to carry the CBS lineup without pre-emption, while giving Milwaukee an over-the-air venue for the trial.
Until 1993, many area cable systems chose not to carry it due to a lack of compelling programming, poor signal quality or inadequate viewership—most notably Marcus Cable (now part of Charter Communications), the largest cable provider in Milwaukee's outer suburbs. On the systems that did carry it, it was relegated to a lower-tier slot; it aired on channel 29 on Milwaukee's Time Warner Cable system, and on channel 48 in outlying areas.
In May 1994, New World Communications announced that most of its stations, including Milwaukee's WITI, would become Fox affiliates. CBS approached all four of Milwaukee's other major stations–WTMJ-TV (channel 4), WISN-TV (channel 12, which was affiliated with CBS from 1961 to 1977), WVTV, and WCGV (which to that point carried selected CBS programs that WITI chose not to carry). None of those stations were interested, although WVTV's then-owner, Gaylord Broadcasting (which had by that time had ceded operational control to WCGV), switched two of its other stations (KTVT in Fort Worth, Texas and KSTW in Tacoma, Washington) to CBS. This left CBS to negotiate with the city's lower-profile independents, WJJA (channel 49, now WMLW-TV) and WDJT, as well as religious station WVCY-TV (channel 30). After negotiations with both WJJA and WDJT fell through, CBS made an abortive attempt to buy WVCY before station owner Vic Eliason, in consultation with VCY America's board, decided not to sell.
With just days before WITI was to join Fox, CBS was faced with having to pipe in affiliate WISC-TV in Madison, or its two owned-and-operated stations in the region, WFRV-TV in Green Bay or WBBM-TV in Chicago, for cable subscribers while it found a new affiliate in Milwaukee. Out of desperation, CBS agreed to affiliate with WDJT, despite its subpar signal and the lack of a news department. CBS faced similar situations in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland and Detroit. In all these cases, the longtime CBS affiliates all switched to Fox. While CBS was able to land on higher-profile stations in Atlanta, Austin and Cleveland, it was unable to do so in Detroit or Milwaukee. This would be one of two 11th-hour affiliation deals Weigel landed with a Big Three network; a year later, its low-powered outlet in South Bend, Indiana; W58BT (now WBND), joined ABC after longtime affiliate WSJV switched to Fox.
On December 11, 1994, WDJT became the sixth station in Milwaukee to carry CBS. The network first aligned with WTMJ from 1947 to 1953, followed by now-defunct WCAN-TV (channel 25) from 1953 to 1955, WVTV (then known as WXIX) from 1955 to 1959, WITI from 1959 to 1961, WISN-TV from 1961 to 1977, and WITI again from 1977 to 1994. The first CBS program to air on channel 58 that day was CBS News Sunday Morning. Some existing syndicated programming on WDJT's schedule which would otherwise air in CBS-designated timeslots was either moved to overnight slots on the station or turned over to sister station W65BT (now WBME-CD, channel 41) to fulfill contracts.
Not even Weigel had expected WDJT to replace WITI as Milwaukee's CBS affiliate. For the next year and a half, channel 58 was thus forced to make do with a hastily made logo of WDJT's italic Times New Roman '58' of the time in red (and later yellow) superimposed on the CBS Eye, and a bare-bones image campaign using default CBS graphics. Meanwhile, the station began searching for a new studio befitting its new status, as well as building a news department. Until the 2009 digital television transition, WDJT was the only CBS affiliate in Wisconsin that broadcast on the UHF band, but retains the highest PSIP channel number out of the state's CBS affiliates post-transition.
WDJT's CBS affiliation sent the area's cable systems scrambling to add the station or give it a higher profile slot. It took until March 1995 for some portions of Marcus Cable's service area to pick up the station, though outer portions of the market had access to WISC, WFRV or WBBM as a second CBS signal depending on their location. Viewers in these areas who did not have set-top antennas thus missed several major events to which CBS held the rights, including the PGA Tour, the Grammy Awards, the Daytona 500, Big Ten Conference basketball, and the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.
Despite these issues, the affiliation move to WDJT immediately resolved several scheduling issues CBS had while with WITI. The Young and the Restless, which had aired on a one-day delay at 9 a.m. weekdays since the early 1980s on WITI, began airing in the network-mandated timeslot for the Central Time Zone of 11:00 a.m. on WDJT, without a delay. The station also cleared CBS This Morning for its full two hours; WITI had preempted the first hour. WDJT also picked up the Late Show with David Letterman, which had aired on WCGV after WITI passed on it (one of the few CBS affiliates to do so).
Donahue moved to the station in September 1995 for its last season from WITI as WDJT's first true high-profile syndication acquisition. However, outside of network hours, the station's schedule resembled that of a minor-network affiliate or a lower-tier independent; it consisted mostly of low-profile sitcoms, first-run syndicated programs turned down by the other Milwaukee stations, and second-run syndicated fare.
WDJT eventually acquired a near-universal channel 5 cable slot on most area systems, but several complications (including systems which didn't carry it on cable channel 5) disallowed WDJT from utilizing an alternate "CBS 5" branding, including likely confusion with then-CBS O&O WFRV-TV in Green Bay, which broadcast on (and continues to use as its virtual channel) channel 5.
In early 1996, WDJT moved to a new studio in a converted commercial building which was part of the former Allis-Chalmers manufacturing complex on South 60th Street, right on the line between Milwaukee and West Allis. It also launched a news department, along with one of the first news websites in the state; the station was among the first in the nation to be a digital-only news operation on-air, mainly running on AVID systems.
That year, WDJT also began to carry freshman series Judge Judy, which gave the station its first ratings traction outside of network hours, though it moved to WITI by September 2000 as that station decided to move away from an afternoon schedule dependent on "tabloid" talk shows. Three years later in 1999, the station's current Lincoln Park transmitter was put into service, giving the station an over-the-air signal comparable to Milwaukee's other major commercial stations. Weigel would use this tower to bring WDJT's two low-powered sister stations on an even footing in the market with all the market's main stations transmitting from the same area.
The station scored a major coup in early 2004 just before Ken Jennings started his record Jeopardy! winning streak, when the perceived costs and demographics of syndication of that show, along with Sony Pictures Television/King World companion show Wheel of Fortune, led to WTMJ-TV deciding not to renew rights to either series. Channel 4 had aired the syndication version of Wheel of Fortune since its premiere in 1983, and had aired Jeopardy! since its 1984 premiere. WDJT snapped up the rights for both game shows beginning in September 2005, and decided to schedule them in their traditional block scheduling setup between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m before primetime; the station had dropped its 6 p.m. newscast several years before to carry the first two seasons of The Ellen DeGeneres Show at 6 p.m., which later moved to WISN-TV. Jeopardy! then gained ratings being led in by the CBS Evening News rather than low-tier programming such as American Journal in its former 3:30 p.m. berth on WTMJ. With both programs united in the pre-primetime slot, they have continued to do well on WDJT, easily outrating their competition of 6 p.m. local news on the other three Milwaukee stations, along with entertainment newsmagazine programming at 6:30 p.m. WTMJ has since struggled with either lower-tier entertainment newsmagazines or local newscasts in the 6:30 p.m. timeslot.
In 2007, WDJT gained national attention after its live news truck broke through ice on Big Muskego Lake in Muskego while covering a story on ice safety. The estimated cost of repair was $250,000. A week later, the station began airing a public service announcement on ice safety which premiered during CBS' Super Bowl XLI coverage, making light of the situation by referring to their news department as providing "the most in-depth coverage in Milwaukee."
The station asked CBS to allow it to carry as many New York Jets games as were available for the 2008 season, since that team acquired former Packer quarterback Brett Favre on August 7, 2008, and expected high viewer interest from Milwaukee viewers for Jets games. Since CBS holds the rights to the AFC contract, the majority of Jets games are carried on that network. Station general manager Jim Hall asserted that the Jets were the station's "adopted team" for that season (the Jets traded Favre to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 off-season).
On August 29, 2008, WDJT became the first commercial television station in Milwaukee to produce a local program in high definition without the assistance of Milwaukee Public Television or other stations in the Hearst Television chain, as WISN had done in the past—when it aired the hour-long special 105 Years in the Making, which was produced in conjunction with Harley-Davidson's 105th Anniversary celebration that weekend. In late May 2010, the station became the fourth commercial station in the market begin airing its syndicated programming in high definition, a process which was completed in the fall of 2014 with an all-HD schedule of local and syndicated programming (outside of paid programming). The station began to air internal promos in HD at the start of the 2011–12 television season, and outside advertising in the format in January 2012 in concert with the station's conversion to HD news. In 2010, one of WDJT's live trucks drove away from a scene with its telescoping mast raised and into high voltage electrical transmission lines. The two occupants of the vehicle were able to escape unharmed. Another WDJT truck had previously hit electrical wires in nearby Waukesha in April 2005, causing the top of the mast to snap off.
On July 22, 2010, the Milwaukee area experienced a major flash flooding event which caused major damage in several parts of Milwaukee County. Although Weigel's West Allis studios did not suffer any damage, the Lincoln Park transmitter, located only a few hundred feet from Lincoln Creek suffered flooding damage within the transmission shed, forcing the station off the air for the majority of three days while the equipment was dried out and repaired. WMLW-CA's analog transmitter was used to relay WDJT's signal in some form to viewers; WTMJ offered the use of its 4.3 subchannel to transmit WDJT's programming to a majority of the Milwaukee market as gratitude for a 2009 incident in which WTMJ was taken off-the-air due to a lightning strike and Weigel offered the station the use of a WBME subchannel temporarily. This TV and Shorewest TV were also off-the air until July 25, when WDJT resumed full operations over the Weigel transmitter.
For many years, WDJT had been one of CBS' weaker affiliates. However, the station's syndicated schedule, including the Sony game show block, has placed WDJT in a better ratings position than CBS-affiliated UHF stations in Detroit and Atlanta, and the station is well competitive in primetime and late night due to the network's high ratings. The station also has retained the same "CBS 58" branding since December 1994, compared to Detroit and Atlanta, where the branding and newscast direction (in the case of Detroit, lack of newscasts) has shifted for each station multiple times. As such, it has fared relatively well compared to most of the other former independent stations and Fox affiliates that affiliated with CBS or another "Big Three" network during the 1994–96 affiliation switches. As of August 26, 2014, WDJT became the longest-tenured CBS affiliate in the Milwaukee market, passing WITI's 19 years and 8½ months of service over two separate stints.
On October 30, 2014, the station debuted its first major imaging change to its logo since 2001, retiring its Eurostile numerical logo which had been revised once in September 2011 in favor of a news graphics and openings package used by CBS owned-and-operated stations of CBS Television Stations. The new logo's silver CBS Eyemark and gold channel numbers in bold Helvetica resemble those of CBS's Los Angeles flagship KCBS-TV. The new imaging also saw the end of the all-day use of the Ten at 10:00 format with weather closing out the starting 'A block' outside of the morning newscast with an 'on the 1's' format with traffic reports. The station's weather reports now are part of the traditional midpoint 'B block' of each newscast. The station unveiled a new set on October 12, 2015, after a two-month process where the separated newsroom (which was used as a combined set from the news department's launch until 2011) and news studio space introduced in 2011 were combined together during a large-scale remodeling. A new secondary set space with exposed brick walls and wood columns from its Allen-Bradley days is used for other purposes, including food drive programming, musical and arts performances, an intimate space for interviews, and the station's local version of Sunday Morning.
|TV stations in Wisconsin|
| WDJT, Milwaukee|
|TV stations in Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha|
| WTMJ 4 (NBC) |
WITI 6 (Fox)
WMVS 10 (PBS)
WISN 12 (ABC)
WVTV 18 (CW)
WMKE-CD 21 (Quest)
WVTV-DT2 24 (MNTV)
WVCY 30 (Rel)
WMVT 36 (PBS)
WTSJ-LP 38 (AZA)
WBME-CD 41 (MeTV)
WMLW 49 (Ind.)
WWRS 52 (TBN)
WPXE 55 (Ion)
WDJT 58 (CBS)
WYTU-LD 63 (TLM)
WIWN 68 (COZI)