WLWC, virtual channel 28 (UHF digital channel 17), is an Ion Life owned-and-operated television station serving Providence, Rhode Island, United States that is licensed to New Bedford, Massachusetts. The station is owned by Ion Media Networks as part of a duopoly with Newport, Rhode Island-licensed Ion Television owned-and-operated station WPXQ-TV (channel 69). The two stations share transmitter facilities on Champlin Hill in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. WLWC is one of two major stations (along with ABC affiliate WLNE-TV, channel 6) that serve Providence despite being licensed to the Massachusetts side of the market.
WLWC began broadcasting April 14, 1997 as an affiliate of The WB. It was owned by Fant Broadcasting and operated by NBC-owned WJAR (channel 10) under a local marketing agreement (LMA). For the first two years of The WB's existence, Boston's WLVI-TV, which had been carried on cable in Rhode Island for decades, doubled as the WB affiliate for Providence–New Bedford as well. The station launched with various syndicated shows as well as a WJAR-produced 10 p.m. newscast, known as TV 28 News at 10, which began airing a few months after the WPRI-TV (channel 12)-produced effort on Fox affiliate WNAC-TV (channel 64).
Fant had signed an LMA with WJAR's previous owner, Outlet Communications, on December 14, 1994, prior to Outlet's 1996 merger with NBC. Earlier in 1994, on March 18, Fant's station in Columbus, Ohio, WWHO, became the junior partner in an LMA with Outlet-owned NBC affiliate WCMH-TV. The LMA arrangement allowed channel 28 to come to the air; the station's original construction permit was granted to Metrovision Inc., a company controlled by Franklin D. Graham, on November 8, 1982, but financial problems and difficulties in securing a transmitter location prevented channel 28 (which was assigned the call letters WFDG, referring to Graham, on December 22, 1982; it became WLWC on August 1, 1995) from signing on. After several ownership changes, Fant purchased the permit on January 3, 1995.
Although both of Fant's LMAs with Outlet were intended to expire after ten years, by the time channel 28 signed on, NBC had let it be known that it did not want to run stations outside its core owned-and-operated (O&O) outlets, and pushed Fant to sell WLWC and WWHO. On July 31, 1997, NBC announced a three-way swap in which Fant exchanged WLWC and WWHO to Viacom's Paramount Stations Group subsidiary, while Paramount/Viacom-owned NBC affiliate WVIT in Hartford, Connecticut became an NBC O&O.
With the ownership change, WLWC added a secondary affiliation with UPN, and became a sister station to Boston's UPN affiliate, WSBK-TV, which until then had doubled as the UPN affiliate for Providence/New Bedford and (as with WLVI) had long been carried on Rhode Island cable systems. WLWC's master control and some internal operations were thus relocated from WJAR's studios in Cranston to WSBK's studios in Boston, with sales and public affairs offices remaining in Providence. In addition, TV 28 News at 10 was canceled by September 1997. Channel 28 became more or less a UPN O&O in May 2000, as UPN became its primary affiliation; in addition, the station signed a deal with The WB to retain its programming on a secondary basis through what a Paramount Stations Group executive described as a "program license agreement."
For most of the television era, the FCC had not allowed common ownership of stations with overlapping city-grade signals. Just months earlier, WNAC-TV had to be sold because its previous owner, Argyle Television, had merged with Hearst Broadcasting, owner of Boston's WCVB-TV—the second time in three years that a Rhode Island station had to be sold after its owner merged with the owner of a Boston station. Due to these rules, WLWC's license was thus acquired by Straightline Communications, with WSBK operating the station through an LMA (earlier in 1997, Straightline acquired WTVX in West Palm Beach, Florida on behalf of Paramount/Viacom's Miami–Fort Lauderdale station WBFS-TV; the company later purchased and operated WVNY in Burlington, Vermont separately from Viacom); in 2001, Viacom bought WLWC outright.
After Viacom and CBS merged in 2000, the operations of WLWC and WSBK were integrated with those of WBZ-TV at WBZ's facility on Soldiers Field Road in the Brighton section of Boston. When Viacom split into two companies in 2005, WLWC, along with the rest of Viacom's television stations, became part of CBS Corporation. On January 24, 2006, Time Warner announced that the company would merge The WB with CBS Corporation's UPN (which CBS took ownership of after the Viacom split in December 2005) to form The CW Television Network. At the same time, the new network signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with 11 of CBS' UPN stations, including WLWC. However, it was a near-certainty that WLWC would become an affiliate of The CW in any event, given that it was a dual UPN/WB affiliate.
On February 7, 2007, CBS announced it was selling WLWC and seven other stations in Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, and West Palm Beach, Florida to Cerberus Capital Management for $185 million. Cerberus then formed a new holding company for the stations, Four Points Media Group, who took over the operation of the stations through local marketing agreements in late-June 2007. On November 26, master control of WLWC moved from WBZ-TV to KUTV's studios on Main Street in Downtown Salt Lake City. The entire group deal officially closed on January 10, 2008. Nexstar Broadcasting Group took over the operations of all of the Four Points stations in March 2009. At one point, the station had studios on State Street in Downtown Providence.
On June 30, 2010, WLWC invoked the FCC's network non-duplication rule. This resulted in Comcast blacking out primetime CW programming on WLVI-TV in Fall River, Massachusetts. This did not impact the rest of the communities in Bristol County, due to the fact that WLVI-TV still has "significantly viewed" status across Bristol County. However, WLWC filed a request with the FCC to exempt Fall River from significantly viewed status. On August 2, 2010, the station added LATV on a new second digital subchannel. This is also seen on Comcast digital channels 299 and 702, Verizon FiOS digital channel 469, and Cox digital channel 809.
On September 8, 2011, Four Points Media announced the sale of its television group, including WLWC, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair was expected to begin operating the stations via a local marketing agreement following antitrust approval and prior to the closing expected in the first quarter of 2012. At the time of the sale, Sinclair owned only one other television station in New England: Portland, Maine's CBS affiliate WGME-TV. However, Sinclair was also a former owner of Springfield, Massachusetts' ABC affiliate WGGB-TV. The deal was completed on January 3, 2012. However, just over a year later on January 11, 2013, Sinclair announced that it would sell WLWC to Fairfax, Virginia-based OTA Broadcasting, LLC (a company controlled by Michael Dell's MSD Capital), for $13.75 Million. This was Sinclair's second divestiture after the announcement of the sale of WLAJ in Lansing, Michigan in October 2012. The FCC granted its approval of the sale on March 19. The deal was completed on April 2. Sinclair would later re-enter the Providence market with its purchase of WJAR on August 24, 2014, as part of the merger of Media General (WJAR's owner) and LIN Media (WPRI's owner), which required Media General to spin off either WJAR or WPRI (the latter included the LMA with WNAC).
Spectrum sale and channel sharing agreementEdit
In the FCC's incentive auction, WLWC sold its spectrum for $125,932,367 and indicated that it would enter into a post-auction channel sharing agreement. On August 7, 2017, Nexstar Media Group (which had re-entered the market earlier that year following its merger with Media General) announced that it would acquire WLWC's non-spectrum assets for $4.1 million; in a statement, Nexstar said that the station's CW affiliation would compliment its existing ownership and operation of WPRI-TV and WNAC-TV. WLWC entered into a channel sharing agreement with Ion Television owned-and-operated station WPXQ-TV on September 1, 2017; the station then announced that it would "cease broadcasting on October 2, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. and begin channel sharing operations with another station, but will still be found on virtual channel 28." Following the commencement of the channel sharing, channel 28.1 began carrying Ion Life, also dropping its other subchannels in the process; CW programming relocated to WNAC's second digital subchannel, sending MyNetworkTV to WPRI's second digital subchannel. On December 5, 2017, Ion exercised an option to buy the WLWC license for $150,000; the deal was made possible by a change in FCC ownership rules that eliminated the requirement that there be at least eight owners of television stations in a market following the formation of a duopoly. Ion also entered into a shared services agreement, retroactive to October 1, to operate WLWC. The sale closed in February 2018.
|TV stations in New England|
|Boston||Springfield, MA||New Hampshire||Rhode Island||Connecticut||Vermont||Maine|
|WUTF, Worcester||WWDP, Norwell||WYDN, Lowell||WHDT-LD, Boston||WDMR-LD, Springfield||WPXG, Concord||WLWC, New Bedford||WUVN, Hartford||WRNT-LD, Hartford||WYCX-CD, Manchester||WLLB-LD, Portland||WEXZ-LD, Bangor|
|WCEA-LD, Boston||WMFP, Foxborough||WHDH, Boston||WLEK-LD, Concord||WRIW-CD, Providence||WTXX-LD, New Haven||WZME, Bridgeport||WGBI-LP, Farmington||WFYW-LP, Waterville||WBGR-LD, Bangor|
|WUNI, Marlborough||WFXZ-CD, Boston||WNEU, Merrimack||WHCT-LD, Hartford||WCKD-LP, Bangor/Dedham|
|WDPX, Woburn||WYCU-LD, South Charlestown||WRDM-CD, Hartford|
|TV stations in Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts including Providence and New Bedford|
| WLNE 6 (ABC) |
WJAR 10 (NBC)
WPRI 12 (CBS)
WLWC 28 (Ion Life)
WSBE 36 (PBS)
WRIW-CD 51 (TLM)
WNAC 64 (Fox)
WPXQ 69 (Ion)