WDLI-TV, virtual channel 17 (UHF digital channel 23), is an Ion Life owned-and-operated television station serving Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, United States that is licensed to Canton. The station is owned by Ion Media Networks, as part of a duopoly with Akron-licensed Ion Television owned-and-operated station WVPX-TV (channel 23). The two stations share offices on King James Way in Akron and transmitter facilities on the west side of the city, just north of the former site of Rolling Acres Mall.
The station first signed on the air in January 1967 as WJAN, an independent station owned by Janson Industries; it offered a typical slate of locally produced and syndicated programming. In its early years, live studio broadcasts were in black-and-white only, as the station could not afford color studio cameras. Feature films and videotaped programming from outside sources were always reproduced on color-capable equipment. However, many of the movies broadcast in the early years were classics from a time when color films were the exception.
Sometime before 1970, the station obtained two IVC color studio cameras, which were replaced in 1971 with state of the art Norelco PC-70s. Almost from the start, WJAN broadcast religious programming. For example, live Sunday morning services from a Baptist church in Canton and other nationally syndicated material supplied on tape and film. A typical program schedule during the week would consist of a sign-on at 1:00 p.m. with syndicated programming, followed by children's cartoons, a children's live entertainment program, local live news, local live variety programs, then repeats of major network programs. Finally, a 10:00 p.m. live newscast followed by a classic film would finish the broadcast day.
Although serving Canton, WJAN was categorized as a Cleveland market station. This made it difficult to obtain desirable programming at a reasonable cost. The right to broadcast a program is usually made exclusive within a market, so WJAN was competing with more established Cleveland stations for the right to broadcast repeats of popular network programming.
Such was the curse of a typical independent UHF station in those times. The allure of taking paid religious programming was hard to resist. Beginning in 1974, WJAN added The PTL Club, a syndicated two-hour program originating (at the time) in Charlotte, North Carolina. ABC affiliate WAKR-TV (channel 23, now Ion Television O&O WVPX-TV) in Akron added The 700 Club to its daily schedule about the same time.
The relationship between the PTL organization and WJAN deepened. In August 1977, Janson sold WJAN to televangelist Jim Bakker, founder of the PTL Club. Under Bakker, WJAN adopted a near 24-hour-a-day Christian format (keeping local news programming), becoming the first commercial TV station in Ohio to adopt a 24-hour broadcast schedule. Programming was supplied from a wide variety of organizations, both local and national.
In 1981, a satellite receive station was built at the studio-transmitter site. The PTL Satellite Network had recently launched. Being wholly owned by PTL, WJAN soon transitioned to satellite delivery of the majority of all programming.
Bakker was forced to sell WJAN to the David Livingstone Missionary Foundation in December 1982; shortly afterward, its calls were changed to its current call letters, WDLI-TV. The station continued broadcasting the PTL Satellite Service full-time. Four years later, in March 1986, Livingstone sold WDLI to the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). At that point, PTL programs were dropped in favor of TBN programming. On January 1, 2009, WDLI began to be carried on most Cleveland area cable providers.
TBN entered into an option agreement with Ion Media Networks on November 14, 2017, which gave Ion the option to acquire the licenses of WDLI-TV and three other TBN stations that had sold their spectrum in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s spectrum auction; Ion exercised the option on May 24, 2018. The sale was completed on September 25, 2018, creating a duopoly with WVPX-TV. The next day, TBN programming was dropped for Ion Life, which was previously seen on WVPX's subchannel 23.3.
|TV stations in Ohio|
|Independent stations||Religious stations||Spanish-language stations||Misc.|
|WGCT-CD, Columbus||WDTJ-LP, Toledo||W23BZ-D2, Columbus||WCBZ-CD, Marion|
|WMFD, Mansfield||WOCB-CD 39/WXCB-CD, Marion/Delaware||WCPX-LP, Columbus||WFND-LD, Findlay|
|W23BZ-D, Columbus||WLMB, Toledo||WQHS, Cleveland||W16DO-D, Cleveland|
|WBQC-LD, Cincinnati||WTLW, Lima||WDEM-CD, Columbus||WDLI, Canton|
|WNHO-LP, Defiance||WJOS-LD, Pomeroy||WIVN-LD/WIVM-LD, Canton/Newcomerstown|
|WBNX, Akron||WRLM, Canton||WWRD-LP, Centerville|
|WCDN-LD, Cleveland||WTZP-LP, Portsmouth|
|TV stations in Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland, Akron, and Canton|
| WKYC 3 (NBC) |
WEWS 5 (ABC)
WJW 8 (Fox)
W16DO-D 16 (RTV)
WDLI 17 (Ion Life)
WOIO 19 (CBS)
WQDI-LD 20 (ESTRELLA)
WIVD-LD 22 (Ind)
WVPX 23 (Ion)
WVIZ 25 (PBS)
W27DG-D 27 (Ind)
WIVN-LD 29 (Ind)
WIVM-LD 39 (Ind)
WEKA-LD 41 (COZI)
WOHZ-CD 41 (Ind)
WUAB 43 (CW)
WRLM 47 (TCT)
WEAO 49 (PBS)
WIVX-LD 51 (Ind)
WGGN 52 (Rel)
WCDN-LD 53 (Daystar)
WBNX 55 (Ind)
WQHS 61 (UNI)
WMFD 68 (Ind)