WFXR, virtual channel 27 (UHF digital channel 17), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Roanoke, Virginia, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Media Group, as part of a duopoly with Lynchburg-licensed CW affiliate WWCW (channel 21). The two stations share studios at the Valleypointe office park on Valleypoint Parkway in Hollins (near Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport); WFXR's transmitter is located on Poor Mountain in unincorporated southwestern Roanoke County.
Even though WFXR maintains a digital signal of its own, the signal's full-powered broadcasting radius does not cover much of the eastern portion of the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. Therefore, the station is simulcast in high definition over WWCW's second digital subchannel in order to reach the entire market. This signal can be seen on UHF channel 20.4 (or virtual channel 21.2 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Thaxton Mountain in unincorporated Bedford County.
Early history of UHF channel 27 in Roanoke
The UHF channel 27 frequency in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market was originally occupied by WROV-TV, which operated for less than five months from February to July 1953. It was the first UHF television station in the United States to cease operation. Southwestern Virginia is very mountainous and the difficulties faced by UHF stations at the time due to the lack of television sets manufactured with built-in UHF tuners (which was not made a requirement until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961) were magnified by the area's rugged terrain. Its facilities were eventually sold to the Times-World Corporation to launch its new station, WDBJ-TV (channel 7), in October 1955.
Later occupying the channel 27 frequency was WRFT, which operated as the market's secondary ABC affiliate from 1966 to 1974. At the time, the area's primary ABC affiliate, WLVA-TV (channel 13, now WSET-TV) in Lynchburg, provided only marginal signal coverage in Roanoke.
WFXR station history
The current incarnation of channel 27 signed on the air on March 10, 1986 as WVFT, a Christian-oriented independent station that was originally owned by Roanoke Christian Television. Initially, the station ran only religious programming; soon after its sign-on, the station was sold to Family Group Television. Beginning that fall, the station began transitioning towards a general entertainment programming format; by 1987, WVFT had become a conventional independent station. The station originally operated from studio facilities located on Colonial Avenue Southwest (along I-581/U.S. 220) in Roanoke's Franklin-Colonial section.
Merger with WJPR/WWCW
When WVFT became a conventional independent, it seemingly filled a void left when WJPR (channel 21, now WWCW) joined Fox at its inception on October 6, 1986. However, the fledgling network would not air a full week's worth of programming until September 1993, so WVFT was still programmed as an independent. The Roanoke/Lynchburg market was not large enough at the time to support what were essentially two independent stations, and both channels 21 and 27 suffered from the tight competition between one another. However, by 1990, WVFT's financial problems were more pronounced; the station suffered from declining viewership and was unable to pay for the rights to acquire stronger syndicated programming.
In 1991, the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, then-owner of WJPR, proposed to merge WVFT's stronger programming inventory onto WJPR's schedule and turn WVFT into a full-time satellite station of WJPR. Family Group readily accepted the offer, and WJPR and WVFT began their joint simulcast later that year, at which time the stations began collectively branding as "Fox 21/27". The two stations provided a strong combined signal with 60% overlap, providing a clear picture for Fox programming throughout the market. Although channel 21 decently covers Roanoke, its analog signal left much to be desired in the New River Valley (despite having an effective radiated power of 4.1 million watts), where it provided Grade B coverage at best in parts of the region. Some areas of the New River Valley, along with other rural portions of the market, were among the few regions of the country where cable television service was still not readily available.
On September 15, 1993, WVFT and WJPR were purchased by the Grant Broadcasting System, owned by UHF television pioneer Milton Grant. The simulcast between the two stations continued, although WVFT began serving as the main station. In October 1993, WVFT had its call letters changed to WFXR-TV. It was also announced at that time that the simulcast between WFXR and WJPR would eventually end, with one station being converted into an independent station; however, this plan never materialized during the remainder of the history of the two stations' analog broadcasts.
In January 1995, WFXR/WJPR acquired a secondary affiliation with the newly launched United Paramount Network (UPN), running the network's programs on weekends and in some late-night time periods on weeknights. In the spring of 1997, the market's UPN affiliation moved to Danville-based WDRG-TV (channel 24, now MyNetworkTV affiliate WZBJ), at which time WFXR/WJPR picked up a secondary affiliation with The WB. This paved the way for WFXR and WJPR to start the area's cable-only WB affiliate on September 21, 1998, as a member of The WeB (subsequently renamed The WB 100+ Station Group) known by the fictional calls "WBVA-TV" and branded on-air as "WB 5", in reference to its cable position on Cox Communications channel 5.
Plans were still underway by this time to separate WFXR and WJPR's programming schedules, with the intent to move the "WB 5" intellectual unit and WBVA-TV call letters to WJPR in October 2001, leaving WFXR as a sole Fox affiliate. The two stations would have still shared some syndicated programming. However, the separation plan was aborted due to concerns about reception issues in areas totaling about 40% of the market that were only received over-the-air reception of only one of the two stations. Many of these areas still did not have access to cable, and neither DirecTV nor Dish Network had much subscriber penetration in the market at the time.
When WJPR signed on its digital signal in April 2002, that station only carried programming from "WBVA" on its sole main channel. Fox programming was added to the digital signal in January 2003, with "WBVA" being relegated to a new secondary digital subchannel on virtual channel 21.3 (the WB affiliate was also available locally on DirecTV and Dish Network). When WFXR began transmitting its own digital signal began in December of that same year, it carried Fox network and syndicated programming seen on the station's analog signal as well as "WBVA"'s programming in the same arrangement as WJPR.
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. Entertainment unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. On March 28, 2006, it was announced that WBVA would become the market's CW affiliate. To reflect this, the fictional WBVA calls were changed to "WCW5-TV" in June 2006. The CW began broadcasting on September 18, 2006; the cable-only station concurrently changed its on-air branding to "CW 5".
On June 30, 2006, WJPR changed its call letters to WWCW, to reflect that station's pending affiliation with The CW, which was carried on the second digital subchannels of both stations. This immediately led to speculation that channel 21 would split off from WFXR and become the area's CW affiliate; however, Fox programming continued to air on the analog and digital signals of both WFXR and WWCW until the analog signals ceased operations upon the digital television transition in June 2009. At that point, the two stations were effectively (though not entirely) separated, with WWCW's primary digital channel now airing CW programming in high definition, with Fox programming airing in HD on WWCW's 21.2 subchannel. Conversely, WFXR carries Fox programming in HD on its primary signal, with CW programming airing in HD on WFXR's subchannel on 27.2. This is common practice for many duopolies in which the signal of one of the two stations is weaker in some portions of their home market. Even while transmitting in digital, WWCW's signal is still marginal in some portions of the western part of the market.
Acquisition by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group
On November 6, 2013, the Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the Grant stations, including WFXR and WWCW, for $87.5 million. The sale was approved by the FCC on November 3, 2014, and was finalized one month later on December 1.
In March 2015, Joseph McNamara—who was appointed as vice president for the stations three months earlier in December 2014—announced that Nexstar planned to move WFXR/WWCW's operations and staff into a new, larger 14,830-square-foot (1,000 m2) studio facility at the Valleypointe office park in northeastern Roanoke County, near Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport. WFXR and WWCW migrated their operations into the new facility—which cost $3 million to build—during the week of September 14, 2015.
|TV stations in Commonwealth of Virginia|
|WVBT, Hampton Roads/Norfolk|
|TV stations in Commonwealth of Virginia|
|WGNT, Hampton Roads/Norfolk|
|TV stations in Roanoke/Lynchburg, including the New River Valley, Southside, and surrounding areas|
| WDBJ 7 (CBS)|
WSLS 10 (NBC)
WSET 13 (ABC)
WBRA 15 (PBS)
WWCW 21 (CW)
WZBJ 24 (MNTV)
WFXR 27 (FOX)
WPXR 38 (Ion)
WMDV-LD 44 (IND)