WMLW-TV, virtual channel 49 (UHF digital channel 24), is an independent television station serving Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States that is licensed to Racine. The station is owned by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, as part of a duopoly with Milwaukee-licensed CBS affiliate WDJT-TV (channel 58), and is also a sister station to low-powered Telemundo affiliate WYTU-LD (channel 63, which is simulcast over WMLW's fourth digital subchannel) and Class A MeTV owned-and-operated station WBME-CD (channel 41, which WDJT simulcasts on its second digital subchannel). All four stations share studios on South 60th Street in Milwaukee (near West Allis); WMLW shares transmitter facilities with WBME-CD in Milwaukee's Lincoln Park.
Even though WMLW is licensed as a full-power station, its broadcasting radius does not reach all of southeastern Wisconsin. Therefore, the station can also be seen through a 16:9 widescreen standard definition simulcast on WDJT's third digital subchannel in order to reach the entire market. This relay signal can be seen on UHF channel 46.3 (or virtual channel 58.3 via PSIP) from the same Lincoln Park transmitter facility. On cable and satellite, WMLW is available on Charter Spectrum channel 7 (channel 8 on legacy Charter systems), AT&T U-verse channel 7, and channel 49 on DirecTV and Dish Network.
The station first signed on the air on January 27, 1990 as WJJA, operating as an affiliate of the Home Shopping Network. The station was founded by Joel Kinlow, a Milwaukee area minister, who also owns Elm Grove-based WGLB (1560 AM); the WJJA calls stood for Joe, Joel and Arvis, all members of the Kinlow family that owned and operated WJJA as one of the few minority-owned stations in the United States. By 1995, WJJA had dropped HSN programming for The Military Channel (a network unrelated to the Discovery Networks-owned cable and satellite known by that name from 2005 to 2014). Kinlow dropped that network the following year, and returned to HSN, eventually affiliating with Shop at Home in 2001.
When CBS-affiliated WITI (channel 6) switched to Fox in December 1994, Kinlow decided not to affiliate with CBS when approached by the network with an offer to become an affiliate. Kinlow claimed he wanted to maintain his staff while continuing to give broadcasting experience and training to many different people beyond those usually hired to operate a television station. He felt the station could accomplish this better without the responsibilities and obligations of serving as a major network affiliate. The CBS affiliation eventually wound up on WDJT.
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, WJJA continued to air Shop at Home programming, while also airing FCC-required educational programming, local church services, public domain sitcoms, and other programs relevant to local residents of Racine and Milwaukee, mostly during the morning hours. Its cable coverage at the time was usually limited to Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth and Waukesha counties under must-carry provisions, with the remainder of the market unable to watch it outside of over-the-air reception.
On May 16, 2006, Shop at Home parent E. W. Scripps Company announced that the network would suspend operations, effective June 22 of that year. However, the network's liquidation sale ended one day early on June 21, and WJJA switched to Jewelry Television in the meantime. Shop at Home resumed operations on June 23 after Jewelry Television purchased some assets relating to that network, and began to air a split schedule of programming, with JTV in the morning and afternoon hours, and Shop at Home during the evening hours. Shop at Home eventually shut down again in March 2008, and WJJA's last month under Kinlow ownership featured a 24-hour schedule of Jewelry Television programming.
On August 1, 2007, Weigel Broadcasting announced its intention to purchase WJJA. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted approval for the transfer in mid-September 2007, though the license and financial transfers between the two parties, along with the poor condition of the station's transmitter tower in the southeastern Milwaukee County suburb of Oak Creek took months longer to settle before Weigel could take full control of the station.
As WBME-TV (MeTV Milwaukee)
On April 21, 2008, Weigel assumed full control of the station, and at 12:30 p.m., Jewelry Television was replaced by a test card and color bars. Later that afternoon, it became the full-power Milwaukee home of MeTV (a format focused on classic television programs that was first introduced on one of Weigel's Chicago stations, WWME-CA, now an owned-and-operated station of the MeTV network, in 2005). Weigel immediately filed to change the station's call letters to WBME-TV; this became official on April 29, 2008.
MeTV was originally launched in Milwaukee on WDJT digital subchannel 58.3 on March 1, 2008 at 5 a.m., with an episode of Route 66. MeTV had full cable coverage throughout the market on Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, requiring a digital cable receiver in order to watch the station as it launched on channel 201 of both cable providers. This simulcast continued while technical issues were worked out as WBME transitioned to Weigel's West Allis studios, and Weigel eventually received carriage on both DirecTV and Dish Network on the basic tier of all of those services, as it is allowed to assert must-carry status with those providers. The station had asserted must-carry status with Time Warner Cable years earlier under Kinlow's ownership and is carried on that system on channel 19, while Weigel and Charter came to an agreement to launch the station on its basic tier in late August 2008; the station airs on that provider on channel 20, or a different position depending on market (such as channel 19 in Sheboygan).
The station activated a new digital transmitter on the Weigel tower in Milwaukee's Lincoln Park on October 20, 2008 to better serve the entire market, while the analog signal continued to transmit from Oak Creek until the end of analog television service on June 12, 2009. On October 30, the simulcast on WDJT-DT3 ended to make way for This TV, a new network from Weigel and MGM Television focusing on movies and classic television series, leaving MeTV to broadcast exclusively on WBME, confining the signal to within the inner ring of the Milwaukee metro area. MeTV has been successful in Milwaukee on WBME, outrating daytime programs seen on the Sinclair Broadcast Group duopoly of WVTV (channel 18) and WCGV-TV (channel 24) as of September 2011.
On November 22, 2010, Weigel announced that they would take the MeTV concept national and compete fully with the Retro Television Network and Antenna TV, while complementing its successful sister network This TV (Weigel would transfer the ownership stake it held in that network to Tribune Broadcasting in November 2013, eight weeks before that company assumed ownership of WITI). As of December 15, 2010, WBME-TV carries most of the national feed of MeTV. However the station since coming under Weigel ownership also carries a public affairs program called Racine & Me, which airs weekend mornings on WMLW and WBME, and deals with topics and community calendar events relevant to the station's city of license. The station also carries some different educational and informational programming such as Green Screen Adventures (which is broadcast on the national MeTV network) to meet the FCC's mandated E/I thresholds. A locally programmed MeToo subchannel was originally expected to be added as a subchannel, but was later set aside for Weigel's other national subchannel concepts.
Channel 49 becomes WMLW-TV
On August 7, 2012, WMLW and WBME swapped channel allocations. The WMLW callsign (whose "-CA" suffix was changed to a "-TV" suffix with the swap) and its syndicated and brokered programming inventory moved from low-power channel 41 to full-power channel 49, while the WBME calls and MeTV programming moved to low-power channel 41 as WBME-CA. The switch to the full-power channel 49 signal allowed WMLW to begin broadcasting its programming in high definition for the first time. The swap also resulted in WBME taking over the 58.2 subchannel that WDJT-TV previously utilized to relay WMLW's signal as a low-power station. WMLW retained Racine & Me on the channel 49 schedule under the same title, with a move to Saturday mornings and upgrade to HD telecasts.
In September 2013, WMLW's main channel and subchannel feeds moved exclusively to Time Warner Cable's digital tier as that provider begins the transition to an all-digital system by 2015, requiring a QAM-compatible television or a DTA set-top box to view the station.
On September 15, 2014, WMLW changed its on-air brand to "The M" (" ... and The M means Milwaukee."), in imitation of Chicago sister station WCIU-TV, "The U".
|TV stations in Wisconsin|
|W23BW-D, Madison||KQEG-CD, La Crosse||WTSJ-LP, Milwaukee||WZCK-LD, Madison-Middleton||WMWD, Madison||WIFS, Janesville||WBME-CD, Milwaukee||WMKE-CD, Milwaukee||WWRS, Mayville||WYTU-LD, Milwaukee||WVCY, Milwaukee|
|W30BU, Green Bay||WIWN, Fond du Lac||WGBD-LD, Green Bay||WMLW, Racine|
|TV stations in Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha|
|WTMJ 4 (NBC) |
WITI 6 (Fox)
WMVS 10 (PBS)
WISN 12 (ABC)
WVTV 18 (CW)
WMKE-CD 21 (Quest)
WVTV-DT2 24 (MNTV)
WVCY 30 (Rel)
WMVT 36 (PBS)
WTSJ-LP 38 (AZA)
WBME-CD 41 (MeTV)
WMLW 49 (Ind.)
WWRS 52 (TBN)
WPXE 55 (Ion)
WDJT 58 (CBS)
WYTU-LD 63 (TLM)
WIWN 68 (COZI)