WJW, virtual and VHF digital channel 8, is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, United States. Its second digital subchannel serves as an owned-and-operated station of the classic TV network Antenna TV. The station is owned by the Nexstar Media Group subsidiary of the Nexstar Broadcasting Inc.. WJW's studios are located on Dick Goddard Way (named for the station's longtime weatherman—previously known as South Marginal Road) just northeast of downtown Cleveland near the shore of Lake Erie, and its transmitter is located in the Cleveland suburb of Parma, Ohio.
The television station first signed on the air on December 19, 1949 as WXEL, originally broadcasting on VHF channel 9. It was founded by the Empire Coil Company, a wartime manufacturer of radio coils and transformers. In its early years, WXEL was a primary DuMont affiliate, and later became a secondary provider of ABC programs, sharing that affiliation with WEWS (channel 5). WXEL also carried a number of CBS programs that WEWS declined to air. Some of the daytime shows originated at Cinecraft Productions on Franklin Boulevard in Ohio City. WXEL also carried an affiliation with the short-lived Paramount Television Network, and in fact was one of that network's strongest affiliates. The station aired such Paramount Network programs as Hollywood Wrestling, Bandstand Revue, and Time for Beany. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
Following the 1952 release of the Federal Communications Commission' s Sixth Report and Order, a realignment of VHF channels in the Midwest forced WXEL to move to channel 8 on December 10, 1953. Its former channel 9 allocation was moved to Steubenville and given to a new station, WSTV-TV (now WTOV); the switch took place only two weeks before WSTV-TV went on the air.
In 1954, Empire Coil sold two of its television interests—WXEL and KPTV in Portland, Oregon, the United States' first UHF station—to Storer Broadcasting. George B. Storer, the company's founder and president, was a member of the board of directors of CBS, and used his influence to take the CBS television affiliation from WEWS in March 1955. WEWS went full-time with the ABC affiliation, while the DuMont network shut down operations in 1955.
As WJW-TV (1956–1977)
Storer changed channel 8's call letters to WJW-TV on April 15, 1956, to complement Cleveland sister stations WJW (850 AM) and WJW-FM (104.1 FM)—now radio stations WKNR and WQAL, respectively. All three stations later moved to the former Esquire Theater building at 1630 Euclid Avenue, near Playhouse Square.
On November 16, 1963, approximately 30 WJW radio and television personalities went on strike, forcing both stations to use supervisory and production personnel in those roles, many from parent company Storer Broadcasting stations in Atlanta and Miami. The main bargaining point was Storer's attempt to institute a new, drastically reduced fee schedule for performers. On November 20, WJW-TV broadcast a taped panel segment that offered the striking performers the opportunity to state its case, since management had presented its side two nights earlier. After nearly reaching agreement on November 23 before talks collapsed, the two sides finally came to an agreement on November 27.
As WJKW-TV, then back to WJW
The station moved to its present studios at 5800 South Marginal Road on November 2, 1975. While WJW-FM (104.1 FM, now WQAL) was sold in the late 1960s, Storer kept WJW (850 AM, now WKNR) until late 1976, when the group sold the radio station to Lake Erie Broadcasting. The AM station's new owners were allowed to keep the WJW call letters, forcing channel 8 to change theirs, per a since-repealed FCC rule that prohibited radio and television stations in the same city, but with different owners from sharing the same base call letters. As a result, channel 8 changed its callsign to WJKW-TV on April 22, 1977. (The added "K" did not stand for anything.)
On September 16, 1985, the station reacquired the WJW-TV callsign (eventually shortened to simply WJW), as WJW (AM) had changed its callsign following the radio station's own transfer of ownership to Booth American Broadcasting (the aforementioned call letter rule was still in effect then). After Storer Broadcasting was bought out by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in 1985, the station underwent a series of ownership changes. KKR sold the stations to Gillett Communications in 1987; shortly thereafter, SCI Television was spun off from Gillett to take over the stations after Gillett's bankruptcy.
On February 17, 1993, one day after SCI purchased WTVT in Tampa from Gillett Holdings in a separate agreement for $163 million, New World Pictures purchased a 51% ownership stake in SCI Television from Gillett for $100 million and $63 million in newly issued debt; the film and television production company folded WJW and its six sister stations—fellow CBS affiliates WTVT, WAGA-TV in Atlanta, WJBK-TV in Detroit and WITI-TV in Milwaukee, NBC affiliate KNSD in San Diego and independent station WSBK-TV in Boston—into a new broadcasting subsidiary, New World Communications.
Switch to Fox
On May 23, 1994, as part of an overall deal in which network parent News Corporation also purchased a 20% equity interest in the group, New World signed a long-term affiliation agreement with Fox to switch thirteen television stations—five that New World had already owned and eight that the company was in the process of acquiring through separate deals with Great American Communications and Argyle Television Holdings (which New World purchased one week later in a purchase option-structured deal for $717 million), including WJW-TV—to the network. The stations involved in the agreement—all of which were affiliated with one of the three major broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC)—would become Fox affiliates once individual affiliation contracts with each of the stations' existing network partners had expired. The deal was motivated by the National Football League (NFL)'s awarding of the rights to the National Football Conference (NFC) television package to Fox on December 18, 1993, in which the conference's broadcast television rights moved to the network effective with the 1994 NFL season, ending a 38-year relationship with CBS.
At the time the agreement was signed, the affiliation contracts of WJW-TV and a then-recently acquired New World property, NBC affiliate WDAF-TV in Kansas City, were up for renewal as they were set to expire on or shortly after September 1, 1994. The timing of New World's purchase of channel 8 and the signing of its affiliation deal with Fox automatically gave CBS only a five-month span until the conclusion of its contract with the station to find another outlet to replace WJW-TV as its Cleveland affiliate (by comparison, depending on the station, the existing affiliation contracts of most of the other New World stations that were slated to join Fox were not due to expire until as early as December 1994 to as late as September 1996, giving NBC, ABC and CBS more time to find a replacement affiliate). The agreement with New World concerned CBS executives, as New World planned to switch several of the network's stronger-performing affiliates in other markets to Fox, a move that often forced CBS to affiliate with either a former Fox affiliate or a lower-profile independent station, as many of the Big Three stations and—with the exception of those in Dallas–Fort Worth and Phoenix—some higher-rated independents it approached rejected offers to join CBS due to its faltering ratings and the older-skewing programming slate it had at the time. To prevent such a situation from happening in Cleveland, CBS approached Scripps-Howard Broadcasting to lure WEWS to replace channel 8 as the network's Cleveland outlet, in addition to courting Detroit sister station WXYZ-TV to replace fellow outgoing CBS affiliate WJBK-TV (ABC subsequently bought WTVG in Toledo and WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan from SJL Broadcast Management later Montecito Broadcast Group, now SJL Broadcasting and once again controlled by the principals of Lilly Broadcasting as a contingency plan to serve as a default outlet for the Detroit area, in case it was unable to find a replacement local affiliate had CBS convinced Scripps to switch WXYZ's affiliation; both stations are no longer owned by ABC).
On June 16, 1994, ABC and Scripps-Howard signed a long-term deal with ABC that would keep WEWS and WXYZ as the network's Cleveland and Detroit outlets through at least 2005. As a condition of that agreement, three other Scripps-owned television stations—WFTS-TV in Tampa–St. Petersburg, KNXV-TV in Phoenix and WMAR-TV in Baltimore—also agreed to switch their affiliations to ABC. In Cleveland, CBS would reach an agreement with Malrite Communications to move its programming to Fox charter affiliate WOIO (channel 19). WJW switched to Fox on September 3, 1994, becoming the first New World station to switch to the network under the agreement (WDAF-TV was the only other station in the group that switched to the network before December of that year, as it switched to Fox on September 12); WOIO concurrently switched to CBS.
Channel 8 was one of two stations involved in the deal between Fox and New World which was located in a market served by an NFL franchise that is not a member of the National Football Conference (NFC); the Cleveland Browns—whose games had occasionally aired on the station dating back to its tenure with CBS—are part of the American Football Conference (AFC), which at the time of the switch, had most of their over-the-air game telecasts carried on WKYC-TV (channel 3) by way of NBC's broadcast rights to the AFC (WDAF-TV, located in the home market of the AFC's Kansas City Chiefs, was the only other New World station in a non-NFC professional football market that switched to Fox). Since 1970 (with exception of the team's three-year operational hiatus that began in 1996), channel 8 has carried at least two Browns games per year, usually consisting of interconference games in which the team plays host to an NFC team at FirstEnergy Stadium; in addition, with the institution of the league's "cross-flex" broadcast rules in 2014, any games that are arbitrarily moved from WOIO will be shown on WJW if Fox acquires the regional telecasting rights.
On July 17, 1996, News Corporation announced that it would acquire New World in an all-stock transaction worth $2.48 billion, with the latter company's ten Fox affiliates being folded into the former's Fox Television Stations subsidiary, making them all owned-and-operated stations of the network (the New World Communications name continued as a licensing purpose corporation for WJW-TV and its sister stations until 2007 under Fox, and from 2009 to 2011 under Local TV ownership); Under Fox ownership, WJW added stronger first-run syndicated shows as well as stronger off-network sitcoms to the programming mix. It was the only (fully) network owned-and-operated station among the "Big Four" network outlets in the Cleveland area, and was the only Fox-owned station to carry a historic 1920s three-letter call sign. It remains the only Fox television affiliate in existence, as well as one of three current Tribune-owned television stations (alongside Tribune flagship and independent station WGN-TV in Chicago, and NBC station WHO-TV in Des Moines), to utilize a three-letter call sign.
On December 22, 2007, Fox sold WJW-TV and seven other owned-and-operated stations—WDAF-TV, WBRC in Birmingham, WGHP in High Point, North Carolina, KTVI in St. Louis, WITI in Milwaukee, KDVR in Denver and KSTU in Salt Lake City—to Local TV (a broadcast holding company operated by private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners that was formed on May 7 of that year to assume ownership of the broadcasting division of The New York Times Company) for $1.1 billion; the sale was finalized on July 14, 2008. On February 1, 2012, WJW redesigned its web site under the new WordPress-hosted design implemented months earlier by sister stations WDAF and WITI, replacing the site design previously used for the Local TV stations that was developed by Tribune Interactive (now Tribune Digital). On July 1, 2013, the Tribune Company (which in 2008, had formed a joint management agreement involving its Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary and Local TV to operate stations owned by both companies and provide web hosting, technical and engineering services to those run by the latter group) acquired the Local TV stations for $2.75 billion; the sale was completed on December 27.
Aborted sale to Sinclair; pending sale to Nexstar; possible resale to Fox
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Under its original structure, the deal – following regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division – would have given Sinclair ownership or operational management of television stations in six of Ohio's nine television markets, with Lima and Zanesville (both markets with only one news operation) and Youngstown (locked up by Nexstar Media Group and the locally based Maag family) becoming the only remaining markets in the state where it does not have a presence (Sinclair already owns ABC affiliates WSYX in Columbus and WKEF in Dayton, NBC affiliates WTOV-TV in Steubenville and WNWO-TV in Toledo, and the Cincinnati duopoly of CBS affiliate WKRC-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WSTR-TV; through shared services agreements, it also operates Fox affiliate WTTE and CW affiliate WWHO in Columbus, and Fox affiliate WRGT-TV in Dayton).
On April 24, 2018, Sinclair announced that WJW would be one of 23 stations sold to obtain approval for the merger, though it was one of seven stations for which a buyer was not disclosed. On May 9, 2018, it was officially announced that Fox Television Stations would buy back WJW, as part of a $910-million deal that also involved six other Tribune-owned stations (Fox affiliates KTXL/Sacramento, KSWB-TV/San Diego, KDVR/Denver, KSTU/Salt Lake City and KCPQ/Seattle, and CW affiliate WSFL-TV/Miami). With eight different owners since 1985, the deal would result in WJW having had the most successive owners of any television station in the Cleveland market.
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 WJW 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 announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. The deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected closure late in the third quarter of 2019—would put WJW under common ownership with Nexstar's existing properties elsewhere in Ohio (NBC affiliate WCMH-TV in Columbus, NBC affiliate WDTN and CW-affiliated SSA partner WBDT in Dayton and CBS affiliate WKBN-TV, Fox affiliate WYFX-LD and ABC-affiliated SSA partner WYTV in Youngstown). However, reports preceding the purchase announcement stated that, as it did during the group's failed purchase by Sinclair, Fox Television Stations may seek to acquire certain Fox-affiliated stations owned by Tribune—with WJW potentially being a candidate for resale—from the eventual buyer of that group.
|TV stations in Ohio|
|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 (Court TV)
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)