WICD, virtual channel 15 (UHF digital channel 32), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Champaign, Illinois, United States and also serving Urbana and Danville. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. WICD's studios are located on South Country Fair Drive in downtown Champaign, and its transmitter is located northeast of Homer, along the Vermilion–Champaign county line.
Although considered a separate station in its own right, WICD is a full-time satellite of WICS (channel 20) in Springfield/Decatur. WICD broadcasts the same schedule as its parent station but airs separate legal identifications and local commercial inserts. Although WICD maintains its own facilities, master control and most internal operations are based at WICS' studios on East Cook Street in Springfield's Eastside section. WICD serves the eastern half of the Central Illinois market while WICS serves the western portion. Nielsen Media Research treats WICD and WICS as one station in local ratings books, using the identifier name WICS+.
Through joint sales and shared services agreements, Sinclair also operates the area's Fox affiliate, Springfield-licensed WRSP-TV, channel 55 (and its semi-satellite, Urbana-licensed WCCU, channel 27) as well as Decatur-licensed CW outlet WBUI, channel 23 (all are owned by GOCOM Media, LLC). WRSP and WBUI share studios with WICS but WBUI also maintains an advertising sales office on South Main Street/US 51 in downtown Decatur. WCCU's advertising sales operation is based out of WICD's studios.
The station signed-on April 23, 1959 as WCHU-TV (for CHampaign/Urbana). It was an NBC affiliate and aired an analog signal on UHF channel 33. It was owned by Plains Television Partners and was a low-powered full-time satellite of Springfield's WICS. The WCHU signal traveled about 15 miles (24 km) from a transmitter at its studios atop the Inman Hotel in Downtown Champaign. However, getting a decent signal from Springfield (85 miles (137 km) west of Champaign) was usually hit-or-miss at best. Plains Television had to build a microwave tower in Northwestern Champaign to send the WICS signal to the WCHU studios. With a more reliable signal, the station began a more routine schedule on September 14. It began broadcasting in color the next year.
In July 1960, Plains Television Partners bought WDAN-TV in Danville. That station had debuted on December 19, 1953 as a low-powered ABC affiliate broadcasting on channel 24 with a signal radiating about 25 miles (40 km) from its transmitter. WDAN was owned by the Gannett Company along with the Danville Commercial-News newspaper and WDAN radio (1490 AM). After the sale, Plains Television changed WDAN-TV's call letters to WICD (for WICS Danville; Federal Communications Commission [FCC] regulations at the time required separately-owned stations to use different call signs, and the Commercial-News retained WDAN radio) and made it a full repeater of WCHU. From 1960 until 1967, WCHU/WICD aired some locally originated programs from the WCHU studios in Champaign. However, WICD's transmitter was not capable of broadcasting local programming in color.
In June 1966, Plains Television announced WCHU and WICD would merge into a single full-power station broadcasting on channel 15. It would operate under WCHU's license and studios at the Inman Hotel in Champaign, but use the WICD call letters—whose meaning was now altered to mean WICS Champaign/Danville. The new station would broadcast at a million watts from the tallest tower in Illinois, at 1,385 feet (422 m). The new station was to have gone on-air in January 1967, but an ice storm toppled the tower. It was eventually rebuilt and the new WICD went on-air in July. However, there are unconfirmed reports of a delay in the final paperwork for the revamped station. According to some reports, it may have still been using the WCHU call letters when it signed on at full power for the first time. The station moved from the Inman Hotel to its current studio facility on Country Fair Drive in 1978.
In 1986, Plains Television sold WICS to Guy Gannett Broadcasting (no relation to the much larger Gannett Company), but retained WICD. The two stations operated as a regional network simulcasting most network and syndicated programming. This arrangement nearly brought down WICD, even though it was a very prosperous period for NBC as a whole. For much of the 1980s it looked like channel 15 would revert to being a full-time satellite of WICS. In 1994, Plains Television sold WICD to Guy Gannett, who pumped significant resources into the station, particularly its news department.
Guy Gannett then sold most of its television properties, including WICD/WICS, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group in 1999. Soon after Sinclair took over, it turned around and announced it was selling WICS/WICD as well as KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Sunrise Television. However, the FCC did not allow Sunrise to buy WICD/WICS due to Sunrise's ownership structure. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst (HMTF), an investment firm controlled by then-Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks, owned a large block of Sunrise stock. HMTF is majority stockholder of the LIN TV Corporation, then-owner of WAND in Decatur. The FCC ruled HMTF held enough stock in Sunrise that an acquisition of WICD/WICS would result in a duopoly between two of the four highest-rated stations in the market, which is forbidden by FCC rules. Sinclair subsequently withdrew the offer to sell the three stations in 2000. The station's 46-year affiliation with NBC ended on September 5, 2005 when, as part of a larger national deal between LIN TV and NBC that also involved WDTN in Dayton, Ohio (who swapped affiliations with WICS/WICD's Dayton sister station WKEF the year before), WICD and WICS swapped affiliations with WAND and became ABC affiliates.
With this switch, WICD replaced WAND as the default ABC affiliate for the Illinois side of the Terre Haute, Indiana market, which had not had an ABC affiliate of its own since longtime affiliate WBAK-TV switched to Fox in 1995. The network swap actually improved reception for ABC programming on the Illinois side of the market. WICD's transmitter is not far from the Indiana line, while WAND's transmitter in Argenta is near the middle of the state. Due to contracts with satellite providers, for a long time WICS was the only ABC station in the market uplinked on the Champaign/Urbana/Springfield local feeds. However, Dish Network's Champaign/Urbana/Springfield feed began airing WICD on February 23, 2013 alongside WICS. For the same reason, when Dish dropped WRTV from Indianapolis as the local ABC affiliate for the Terre Haute feed, it uplinked WICS rather than WICD. This ended at the start of the 2011–12 television season, when WAWV-TV rejoined ABC.
In March 2011, WICD added music video channel TheCoolTV to its second digital subchannel and Comcast digital channel 807. On August 31, 2012, TheCoolTV was dropped from all Sinclair stations, including WICD. On December 31, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group closed on the purchase of the non-license assets of GOCOM's three television stations, WRSP/WCCU and sister station WBUI for approximately $25.6 million. Sinclair is providing sales and other non-programming services to the stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements. Both WRSP/WCCU and WBUI were initially operated from separate facilities from WICS/WICD. However, WCCU quickly moved its advertising sales operation from its location on South Neil Street/U.S. 45 in Champaign into WICD's studios. Eventually, WRSP and WBUI also moved from their offices on Old Rochester Road in Springfield and were consolidated into WICS' facility.
|TV stations in Illinois|
|TV stations in South Central Illinois (including Champaign–Urbana, Danville, Springfield and Decatur)|
|WCIA 3 (CBS) |
WILL 12 (PBS)
WSEC 14 (PBS)
WICD 15 (ABC)
WUSI 16 (PBS)
WAND 17 (NBC)
WICS 20 (ABC)
WBUI 23 (CW)
WCCU 27 (Fox)
WLCF-LD 45 (CTN)
WBXC-CD 46 (Buzzr)
WCIX 49 (MNTV)
WEIU 51 (PBS)
WRSP 55 (Fox)