WLUK-TV, virtual channel 11 (VHF digital channel 12), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with Suring-licensed CW affiliate WCWF (channel 14). The two stations share studios on Lombardi Avenue (US 41) on the line between Green Bay and Ashwaubenon, next to the Resch Center; WLUK's transmitter is located on Scray Hill in Ledgeview. On cable, WLUK is available on Charter Spectrum channel 12.
Until July 11, 2018, the station's signal was relayed in Upper Michigan on digital translator W40AN-D (channel 40), licensed to Escanaba, Michigan and transmitting from a tower in Wells Township.
Early years with NBC and ABC
WMBV-TV, licensed to Marinette, Wisconsin (the callsign stood for "Marinette/Bay/Valley") was approved for VHF channel 11 on November 18, 1953. M & M Broadcasting Company, owned by William Walker, announced the license grant after settling with a competing company for the rights to the license. An affiliation with NBC was confirmed on March 9, 1954. WMBV-TV signed on the air on September 11, 1954. Walker sold the station to Morgan Murphy Stations in 1958.
1959 saw several changes for the station. On February 1, WMBV swapped affiliations with WFRV-TV (channel 5), becoming an ABC affiliate. The station changed its city of license to Green Bay and on August 22, 1959 changed its call sign to the current WLUK-TV (in reference to its then on-air slogan "Lucky 11"), when it began broadcasting at full power from a new tower near Green Bay. WLUK first broadcast network programs in color in 1959 and local programs began to be broadcast in color starting in 1965. Morgan Murphy then sold WLUK to Post Corporation (a small media chain not affiliated with The Washington Post Company or its Post-Newsweek Stations division), whose properties included the Post-Crescent newspaper in nearby Appleton and a sister station in Marquette, Michigan, WLUC-TV. in 1965. In 1966, WLUK built a new studio and office building on Highland Avenue, which would eventually become Lombardi Avenue in 1968 after Vince Lombardi resigned his head coaching duties with the Green Bay Packers. It aired some local entertainment programs, including a Saturday night polka show and a daily children's cartoon show using the franchised Bozo the Clown character.
On April 18, 1983, WLUK reclaimed the market's NBC affiliation, when WFRV switched to ABC. In 1984, Racine native George N. Gillett's Gillett Broadcasting purchased Post Corporation. Gillett in turn sold the station to Burnham Broadcasting later that year, in order to purchase the KKR stations (which included future fellow Fox station WITI in Milwaukee; WLUK was indeed sold due to adjacent market ownership regulations at the time by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)). For most of its second stint with NBC, WLUK largely downplayed its affiliation, even during the network's powerhouse days of the 1980s; it used the NBC Peacock only sparingly in the station's advertisements.
As a Fox affiliate
On July 29, 1994, Burnham Broadcasting sold WLUK-TV to SF Broadcasting – a joint venture of Savoy Communications and the Fox Broadcasting Company, then a division of News Corporation – for $38 million; the company later sold three of its other four stations (KHON-TV in Honolulu, WVUE in New Orleans and WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama) for $229 million on August 25 (a fifth Burnham station, KBAK-TV in Bakersfield, California, was excluded from the deal and was instead spun off to Westwind Communications, a new company that was formed by several former Burnham executives). As a result of the deal, SF Broadcasting announced that the four stations would become Fox affiliates; both Savoy and Fox shared ownership with Fox originally choosing to hold voting stock, ultimately opting not to retain it prior to the closure of the sale of the stations. The purchase was challenged by NBC, which filed a petition with the FCC on September 23, 1994, alleging that News Corporation had improperly set up a shell corporation to circumvent FCC limits on the amount of monetary capital that a foreign company is allowed to invest in an American television station in order to gain control of WLUK. NBC later withdrew its petition against the acquisition on February 17, 1995. The FCC approved the WLUK purchase on April 27, 1995.
WLUK became a Fox affiliate on August 28, 1995, swapping affiliations with WGBA-TV (channel 26), which had acquired the Fox affiliation three years earlier after WXGZ-TV (channel 32, now WACY-TV) shut down due to financial issues. Like most former "Big Three" network affiliates that switched to Fox during that time, WLUK picked up almost no syndicated programming from WGBA, though it was unnecessary because of WGBA's local marketing agreement with WACY-TV (channel 32); WGBA's programming largely moved to that station instead. The final NBC program to air on WLUK was a repeat of the NBC Sunday Night at the Movies feature Wayne's World at 8:00 p.m. on August 27, 1995.
Because of Fox's 1994 acquisition of television rights to the NFL's National Football Conference, the switch made WLUK the unofficial "home" station of the Green Bay Packers after years on WBAY (and two years on WFRV), which became a major ratings draw (during the 1994 season, WGBA was the station of record for the Packers). Unlike the New World Communications stations that converted to Fox affiliates, WLUK carried Fox Kids programming, running it one hour earlier on weekday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The station ran Fox Kids until the weekday block ended in December 2001 (when it had been pushed back to as early as 10:00 a.m.), and its successor Saturday morning children's blocks known as Fox Box and later 4KidsTV until the latter block ended nationally in December 2008, when 4Kids Entertainment and Fox parted ways due to a contract dispute. By the time 4Kids TV ended its run, Fox permanently discontinued providing network-supplied children's programming, replacing it with the infomercial block Weekend Marketplace.
Since channel 11 joined Fox, Packer football games have routinely drawn an 80% share of the viewing audience – far and away the highest-rated programs in the market, and through Fox's NFL rights deal, the station has broadcast two of the three Super Bowl games the Packers have appeared in, both victories, since 1994; Super Bowls XXXI and XLV, both by far the highest-rated programs in the Green Bay market's history.
On November 28, 1995, Silver King Communications (operated by former Fox executive Barry Diller) announced that it would acquire Savoy Pictures; at the time of the purchase, Silver King's existing stations had mainly been affiliates of the Home Shopping Network (both Silver King and HSN were later acquired by USA Networks). The sale of WVUE and the other SF stations was approved and finalized in March 1996, with its other assets being merged into the company that November. On April 1, 1997, Silver King subsequently sold the station, along with sisters WVUE, KHON and WALA to Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications for $307 million in cash and stock, as part of a sale of Silver King/USA's major network affiliates in order to concentrate on its formerly HSN-affiliated independent stations.
LIN Media ownership
On May 15, 2005, Emmis Communications announced that it would sell its 16 television stations, including WLUK-TV, in order to concentrate on its radio station properties. On August 22, LIN TV Corporation purchased WLUK in a $260 million deal that included WALA-TV and sister station WBPG in Mobile; WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana and KRQE-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the sale closed on December 1, 2005.
On June 4, 2010, LIN TV entered into shared services and local sales agreements to operate CW affiliate WIWB (channel 14, now WCWF) as part of a deal involving LIN and ACME Communications-owned stations in markets where both companies owned stations. WLUK began to provide technical, engineering, promotional, administrative and other operational support services for WIWB, with advertising sales services under a related but separate joint sales agreement. That station moved its operations into WLUK's studios that August. LIN would purchase WCWF outright in April 2011, under a failing station waiver (an indication that the station was in an economically non-viable position, which permitted a duopoly even though Green Bay has only seven full-power stations, one fewer than that required by FCC rules to legally permit a duopoly between WLUK and WCWF if both were economically viable), creating the Green Bay market's first legal television station duopoly.
Sinclair Broadcast Group ownership
On March 21, 2014, LIN Media entered into an agreement to merge with Media General in a $1.6 billion deal. Because, at the time, Media General owned ABC affiliate WBAY-TV (which Media General acquired in 2013 as part of its merger with Young Broadcasting), and since WBAY and WLUK rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Green Bay market in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell either WBAY or the WLUK/WCWF duopoly to another station owner in order to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as planned changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations which would prohibit sharing agreements. To settle the situation, Media General announced on August 20, 2014 that it would keep WBAY, choosing to sell WLUK and WCWF to the Sinclair Broadcast Group as part of a multi-market deal (Sinclair would also acquire WJAR in Providence and WTGS in Savannah, while Media General would acquire Sinclair's WTTA in Tampa and KXRM-TV/KXTU-LD in Colorado Springs).
Sinclair's acquisitions of WLUK and WCWF were completed on December 19, 2014, and expanded the company's presence in Wisconsin, as it already owned Fox affiliate WMSN-TV in Madison and the Milwaukee duopoly of CW affiliate WVTV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WVTV-DT2 (formerly WCGV-TV). The deal also placed WLUK back under common ownership with Marquette NBC affiliate WLUC-TV, which Sinclair acquired in 2013 (both WLUK and WLUC shared common ownership from 1963 to 1987 under Post and Gillett), though this reunion was a brief one, as on October 1, 2015, Sinclair struck a deal to sell WLUC to Gray Television in exchange for CBS affiliate WSBT in South Bend, Indiana as part of station divestitures that Gray instituted in order to receive regulatory approval of its acquisition of the television stations operated by the latter station's longtime owner, Schurz Communications. That deal closed on February 16, 2016, separating the two stations once again. WLUC then became a sister station to another Green Bay station, WBAY-TV in January 2017 as the result of another divestiture required by the FCC in the Nexstar/Media General merger which required the selling of WBAY-TV to Gray.
On July 6, 2016, Sinclair and WLUK announced they had placed the winning bid with ESPN for the local syndication of that cable network's Monday Night Football games with the Packers for multiple years; the agreement would have also included the 2016 preseason Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on August 7, a day after Brett Favre's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (this was due to regular rights carrier NBC passing the game to ESPN due to the 2016 Summer Olympics; the game was canceled an hour before kickoff due to poor field conditions). With Fox's acquisition of Thursday Night Football rights through the 2022 season, this assures that WLUK will carry a minimum of ten Packers games per season, barring any NBC or CBS cross-flexing.