WKBD-TV, virtual channel 50 (UHF digital channel 14), is a CW owned-and-operated television station licensed to Detroit, Michigan, United States and also serving Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of ViacomCBS, as part of a duopoly with CBS owned-and-operated station WWJ-TV (channel 62). The two stations share studios on West 11 Mile Road in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, where WKBD's transmitter is also located.
On cable, the station is available on channel 5 on most systems (except on Comcast Xfinity's Grosse Pointe system, where it is carried on channel 10, and on Charter Spectrum, where it is carried on channel 13), channel 50 on AT&T U-verse, and channel 60 on Cogeco's Windsor system.
Prior history of channel 50
In 1953, WBID-TV was granted a construction permit for Channel 62. Owned by Max Osnos' Woodward Broadcasting (Osnos also owned 9% of WITI in Milwaukee), WBID planned on broadcasting from the Cadillac Tower in downtown Detroit. The following year, the owners of WJLB radio were granted a permit for WJLB-TV on Channel 50; the station was never built, and WJLB-TV returned its allocation to the FCC by the end of 1954. Seeing an opportunity, WBID asked for and was granted Channel 50. But WBID never made it to the air – and neither did WTOH-TV (channel 79) in Toledo, Ohio, another proposed station owned by Woodward Broadcasting (both WBID and WTOH planned on taking at least some programming from the failing DuMont Television Network). It would be another decade before Detroiters would finally see programming on Channel 50.
As an independent station
WKBD first signed on the air on January 10, 1965, under the ownership of Kaiser Broadcasting, owned by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. It started with an all-sports format, predating ESPN by some 14 years; WKBD began broadcasting at 5 p.m. on that date, with its first program being a college basketball game between the University of Detroit and the University of Dayton, followed by an NHL game between the Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. It eventually became a typical UHF independent station running cartoons, sitcoms and older movies. WKBD has been broadcasting in color since it first went on the air in 1965. Some locally produced programs such as The Lou Gordon Program were broadcast in black and white until the station upgraded to color studio cameras in the late 1960s. WKBD briefly gained a network affiliation in the spring of 1967, when it became the Detroit affiliate of the short-lived United Network. For many years, it aired an afternoon movie hosted by Detroit legend Bill Kennedy. WKBD also produced a hard-hitting weekly talk show, The Lou Gordon Program, which aired from the late 1960s until 1977 and was seen on all Kaiser stations (and a few non-Kaiser outlets). However, sports remained a central part of WKBD's schedule, and it was the over-the-air home for Red Wings hockey and Pistons basketball for 30+ years, as well as Tigers baseball for a decade.
In 1972, the Kaiser Broadcasting Corporation partnered with Field Communications in Kaiser Broadcasting Co. which included WKBD-TV, four other Kaiser stations and Field's single station in Chicago, WFLD. In 1977, the bulk of Kaiser Broadcasting Corporation, including WKBD, was sold to Field.
In 1982, Field put all its stations up for sale; however, the company had a difficult time selling WKBD-TV for the amount of money it wanted, despite its success. As a result, Field was forced to hold onto channel 50 for almost two years. In late 1983, Cox Enterprises offered to buy the station, which the company finally did on January 30, 1984. Shortly thereafter, the station dropped the -TV suffix from its call letters, becoming simply WKBD once again. At the same time, the station dropped the Field Communications font in its on-air branding and replaced it with a new, lined "50" it used until joining UPN.
The programming remained the same as before, with one notable exception: in the late 1980s, WKBD began airing Late Night with David Letterman when NBC affiliate WDIV (channel 4) declined to clear it; this mirrored a similar situation in the mid-1970s, when WDIV (then known as WWJ-TV) declined to air Saturday Night Live—the first two seasons of the show originally aired in the Detroit market on WKBD. Coincidentally, one of the show's original cast members, Gilda Radner, was born in Detroit.
The Ghoul Show aired in Detroit on WKBD from 1971 to 1975; the show featured late-night horror movie host Ron Sweed in the title role and was produced by WKBD's Kaiser-owned Cleveland, Ohio sister station at the time, WKBF-TV. When Kaiser dropped the program, the show's production moved to Detroit where it was produced by and aired on WXON (channel 20, now WMYD). The show moved briefly to WGPR (channel 62, now WWJ-TV) and then back to WXON. Although never produced at WKBD itself, the program was very popular and was one of the few local programs that aired on WKBD that was not related to sports.
As a Fox affiliate
On October 9, 1986, channel 50 became a charter affiliate of the Fox network, yet it wasn't until 1990 that the station began identifying as "WKBD 50/Fox Detroit", which was soon dropped in favor of adopting "Fox 50" as its on-air branding. However, for much of its tenure with Fox, WKBD was still programmed essentially as a de facto independent station, as the network did not run a full week's worth of programming until 1993. Owing to its large cable footprint, the station served as the default Fox affiliate for the Traverse City/Cadillac/Sault Sainte Marie and Marquette markets as well (both markets are now served by Fox through in-market affiliates WFQX-TV and WLUC-DT2).
Channel 50 was later sold to the Paramount Stations Group in June 1993. Even though WKBD was one of Fox's strongest affiliates, Fox announced that it would move its Detroit affiliation to WJBK-TV (channel 2), Detroit's longtime CBS affiliate, by the end of 1994. This was a result of WJBK's then-owner, New World Communications, striking a group deal with Fox to switch the network affiliations of twelve of the company's stations to Fox (which then bought ten of the New World stations affected by the deal in 1996; New World had earlier sold two other stations it could not keep due to ownership conflicts to Fox outright). CBS then approached WKBD for an affiliation after being turned down by WXYZ-TV (channel 7) and WDIV, since it was the only non-Big Three station in Detroit that had a functioning news department. However, Viacom, which had just bought Paramount, turned the offer down because it was about to switch all of its non-Big Three stations to the upstart United Paramount Network, of which it was managing partner.
As a UPN station
WJBK became Detroit's Fox affiliate on December 11, 1994. As a result, WKBD briefly went independent again until UPN began operations on January 16, 1995. Channel 50's programming was unchanged from its days as a Fox affiliate, except for the prime time programming provided by UPN. Eventually, the older sitcoms were replaced with more first-run syndicated talk or reality shows. Fox Kids stayed on WKBD until 1998, when it moved to WADL (channel 38). WKBD continued to carry morning/afternoon cartoon blocks supplied by UPN (first with UPN Kids, and then Disney's One Too) until the network stopped running children's programs in August 2003. WKBD became a UPN O&O when Viacom purchased a 50% interest in the network in 1996; in effect, becoming the second network O&O in Detroit (and the third overall, factoring WXYZ-TV, which ABC had owned from 1948 until the station's sale to the E. W. Scripps Company in 1986), predating the completion of WJBK's sale to Fox in 1997.
In 2000, Viacom acquired CBS, a move that united channel 50 with WWJ-TV (channel 62), which CBS acquired in 1995 after losing its affiliation with WJBK. After the merger, WWJ-TV moved from its facilities in downtown Detroit to WKBD's Southfield studios. WKBD is the senior partner since it is the longer-established of the two stations, unlike the other duopolies involving CBS and UPN (and later CBS and CW) stations, where the CBS station is the senior partner.
The CW in Detroit
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation (which WKBD and WWJ-TV became part of as a result of the December 2005 split of the original Viacom, which became CBS Corporation, from CBS) and the Warner Bros. Television unit of Time Warner announced that the two companies would shut down UPN and The WB and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new network called The CW. That day, the new network signed a 10-year affiliation deal with 11 UPN stations owned by CBS, including WKBD. However, it is likely that WKBD would have been chosen over WB affiliate WDWB (now WMYD, which affiliated with MyNetworkTV, another upstart network that debuted two weeks before The CW's launch) in any event, as it was the higher-rated station.
WKBD continued to carry UPN programming until September 15, 2006, when that network ceased operations; The CW made its debut on September 18, 2006. Today, WKBD has a format primarily of first-run syndicated talk, courtroom and reality shows, and some recent off-network sitcoms, in addition to CW network programming. On July 9, 2009, the "-TV" suffix was added back to the station's legal call sign.
On July 11, 2018, WKBD-TV added two new subchannels from Sinclair Broadcast Group: Comet, specializing in sci-fi and superhero programming; and Charge!, specializing in action films, followed on December 22 of that year, by TBD, specializing in Internet-based series and KidsClick.
|TV stations in Michigan|
|TV stations in Southeast Michigan, including Detroit|
|WJBK 2 (Fox) |
WDIV 4 (NBC)
WXYZ 7 (ABC)
WHNE-LD 14 (LIGHT)
WDWO-CD 18 (AZA)
WUDL-LD 19 (Info)
WMYD 20 (Ind)
WUDT-LD 23 (Daystar)
WPXD 31 (Ion)
WHPS-CD 33 (Ind)
WADL 38 (MNTV)
WLPC-CD 40 (Impact)
WKBD 50 (CW)
WTVS 56 (PBS)
WWJ 62 (CBS)