WPNT, virtual channel 22 (UHF digital channel 42), is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station licensed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with Fox affiliate WPGH-TV (channel 53). The two stations share studios and transmitter facilities on Ivory Avenue in the city's Summer Hill section. WPNT carries programming from the Stadium syndication package and Ring of Honor Wrestling, both owned by Sinclair.
On cable, WPNT is carried on Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS channel 10 (Xfinity channel 13 in Bethel Park).
Early history of channel 22Edit
The channel 22 allocation dates back to the 1950s, and was initially acquired by public interest groups as a "backup" plan if the groups were not able to acquire the channel 13 allocation for public television. The groups were in a battle with locally-based Westinghouse Electric Corporation (owners of KDKA radio), who wanted the channel 13 allocation for the proposed KDKA-TV. However, as Westinghouse later gave the groups their blessing to use channel 13 for what would become WQED (Westinghouse bought WDTV from struggling DuMont and transformed that station into KDKA-TV instead), WQED was now stuck with two TV licenses but found use in possibly using channel 22 for educational programs it didn't have time to air.
WQED planned to use its proposed WQEX on channel 22, but as fate would have it WENS-TV (channel 16) lost its tower in Reserve Township in a storm on March 11, 1955, leading to a channel sharing agreement with WQED until the tower could be fixed. As WENS-TV was already in a battle for survival competing for the channel 11 license that it would ultimately lose, WQED was able to acquire WENS-TV's assets after that station signed off in 1957 and use its construction permit for channel 22 to relaunch WENS-TV as WQEX on channel 16 instead. (That station is now WINP-TV.) Its channel 22 license and some intellectual property from WENS-TV would eventually be sold to the Commercial Radio Institute (which later became Sinclair Broadcast Group) for the current channel 22.
Rising out of the ashes of WENS-TV, channel 22 finally signed on the air on September 26, 1978, as WPTT-TV (which stood for Pittsburgh Twenty Two, in reference the UHF channel on which it broadcast), the market's second commercial independent station and its fourth UHF station (after WPGH-TV). It started out running a number of popular off-network sitcoms from the 1950s and 1960s, off-network dramas and westerns, very old movies and network programming pre-empted by WTAE-TV (channel 4), KDKA-TV (channel 2) and WIIC (channel 11, now WPXI-TV). For a time, WPTT-TV aired the children's television program Captain Pitt, which featured older cartoon shorts.
WPTT-TV also originated more of its own local programming with Prize Bowling, which originally began as Bowling for Dollars on ABC network competitor WTAE-TV for many years until host Nick Perry was jailed for a lottery broadcast scam. The succeeding host was not received well by viewers, and the show ended up being canceled. WPTT-TV took the opportunity to fill the void in the market with Prize Bowling, first hosted by Pittsburgh radio legend Roger Willoughby-Ray and then by Pittsburgh Steelers announcer Jack Fleming. The show's success was modest at best, and was canceled after two years. Other programs of varying degrees of success were The Ghost Host, Eddie's Digest and Studio Wrestling.
The station also aired a newscast in the early 1980s, a rarity at this time for stations not affiliated with the then-major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). This newscast was called WPTT News, and in the opening segment, the letters "news" were formed from a compass indicating the four cardinal directions. This opening segment, featuring then-anchorman Kevin Evans, appeared briefly (and was audible) in the movie Flashdance during a scene where Jennifer Beals' character returns home and turns on the television. The presentation was relatively low-budget, with the anchor simply reading copy, with no field video shots other than the weather read over a stock video shot denoting the conditions outside.
The 1980s and early 1990sEdit
WPGH-TV, which had hitherto been a rather low-budget operation, was purchased by the Meredith Corporation in 1978, and became more aggressive with its programming strategy. Despite having a highly powerful signal that offered double the coverage of WPGH-TV's (5 million watts visual, compared to WPGH-TV's 2.345 million), WPTT-TV became unable to acquire newer shows, and ended up with programming that no other stations wanted. Still, the shows run on WPTT-TV were not exactly low-budget. The station also ran business news programming from the Financial News Network. The station's ratings were very low, and it was considered as an "also-ran" in the market. For many years, WPTT-TV languished as just another local independent station, airing reruns of television shows, many of which were past their prime. In 1986, Sinclair made an offer to buy WPGH-TV and sell WPTT-TV to the Home Shopping Network, but were outbid by Lorimar-Telepictures. After that, WPTT-TV added some more recent shows, cartoons, and movies. By the late 1980s, both WPGH-TV, which was again sold, and WPTT-TV were losing money. WPTT-TV began running Home Shopping Network programming nightly between 1 and 6 a.m.
In 1990, WPTT-TV and Pittsburgh's News Corporation (not affiliated with the News Corporation that owned Fox until 2013) entered into an agreement to produce a 10:00 p.m. newscast to air on WPTT-TV which was to begin in the summer of 1991, and would feature news anchors from WTAE-TV. After going through three owners, WPGH-TV was put up for sale again; Sinclair placed a bid for the station in 1991 and won, however, the group struggled to obtain financing. As part of a deal, the group sold WPTT-TV to its operations manager Eddie Edwards (who had been with WPTT-TV since its launch in 1978, and had become best known as host of the station's locally produced public affairs program Eddie's Digest, targeted towards local African-Americans). Soon after, the planned newscast with WPTT-TV was put on hold with an option to either produce it for WPGH-TV, reinstate the plans with WPTT-TV, or cancel it; it was eventually canceled. WPTT-TV also made a deal to increase Home Shopping Network programming hours to at least 15 hours a day with the option of running the programming the entire day. Rumors abounded that WPTT-TV would be running HSN programming for most of, if not the entire day, once the sale was completed. It was already established that some of WPTT-TV's first-run syndicated shows would go to WPGH-TV.
The sales closed on August 29, 1991 with Sinclair acquiring WPGH-TV from Renaissance Broadcasting in the fall of that year. Rights to cash programming from WPTT-TV's schedule were moved to WPGH-TV, while barter shows were returned to syndication distributors (it was thought that WPTT-TV might wind up with some low-budget children's shows to run a couple hours a day). But Eddie Edwards acquired WPTT-TV without programming and began to run Home Shopping Network programming 24 hours a day on WPTT-TV in September, which led to the station being dropped from the market's cable systems. Staffs from both WPGH-TV and WPTT-TV experienced layoffs. Some of WPTT-TV's ex-employees went to WPGH-TV while others stayed at WPTT-TV, and many others were laid off. WPGH-TV kept a decent amount of their own employees, taking some from both stations. Edwards then made a deal with Sinclair to buy time on his station from 3 p.m. to midnight (effectively creating one of the first local marketing agreements, which Sinclair would use heavily in its later station acquisitions), and get area cable providers to reinstate WPTT-TV on their lineups.
The deal took effect on January 6, 1992 with WPTT-TV airing cartoons, sitcoms, movies and dramas that Sinclair had no room to air on WPGH-TV. Sinclair's air time on the station expanded in 1993 to begin at noon. In the fall of 1995, WPTT-TV began to run WPGH-TV programming from 6 a.m. to midnight and picked up The Disney Afternoon cartoon block, which had been dropped by KDKA-TV when that station began running CBS' entire lineup.
WPTT-TV affiliated with UPN when the network launched on January 16, 1995, and changed its on-air branding to "UPN 22". Sinclair's air time on the station increased later that year to begin at 6 a.m. as well; by 1997, WPTT-TV and WPGH-TV consolidated their operations into one building.
WPTT-TV dropped its UPN affiliation on January 15, 1998 (which moved to WNPA-TV, channel 19) and affiliated with The WB as part of a wide-ranging affiliation deal that saw Sinclair Broadcast Group's owned and managed UPN affiliates and independent stations switch to the network. The station also changed its call sign to WCWB (for "C, or See, the WB") on the 13th, two days before the switch, to reflect its new affiliation. The WCWB calls had previously been used by the NBC affiliate in Macon, Georgia (now WMGT-TV); the WPTT calls were later used by a radio station on 1360 AM in Pittsburgh, which later changed its callsign to WMNY in 2008.
Sinclair finally bought back WCWB from Eddie Edwards in 2000, after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed its media ownership rules to allow one company to own two television stations in the same market, provided the market has at least eight full-power stations and that neither of the two stations involved in the duopoly is among the four highest-rated. WPGH-TV is the senior partner in the duopoly because of its Fox affiliation and because of its longer establishment.
As a WB affiliate, WCWB aired off-network sitcoms, reality shows, court shows, talk shows and movies, in addition to WB primetime programming and cartoons from Kids' WB. After channel 22 affiliated with MyNetworkTV, WPMY kept the syndicated programs, but Kids' WB programming moved to WPCW as the block became part of The CW's lineup. WPNT now airs infomercials and syndicated children's programming in the timeslots formerly occupied by the Kids' WB Saturday morning lineup.
Also, the station was airing the Action Pack programming block in 2000.
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Time Warner announced that The WB and UPN would be shut down and replaced by The CW, a new network featuring programming from both networks. Through an affiliation agreement with 11 UPN affiliates owned by CBS (including the three were passed over for an affiliation deal from Tribune-owned former fellow WB affiliates), UPN owned-and-operated station WNPA was named the Pittsburgh affiliate of The CW, and later changed its call letters to WPCW.
WCWB, meanwhile, later decided to affiliate with MyNetworkTV, another new network owned by News Corporation's Fox Entertainment Group and 20th Television divisions. On April 17, WCWB changed its call letters to WPMY to reflect the new affiliation while keeping the "Pittsburgh's WB22" until the WB's end. On August 14, 2006, WPMY rebranded itself as MyPittsburghTV; the channel 22 reference was excluded from the new brand as cable providers in the market carry WPMY on different channels (the official brand name is "My Pittsburgh TV", although the logo has it appear to read as "My TV Pittsburgh"). The station withdrew from using their channel number in most promotional forms outside of sign-on/sign-off disclosures for FCC purposes, as the station instead used its Comcast channel 10 for advertising purposes with them and Armstrong Cable having the station in that slot; both systems cover the majority of the Pittsburgh market. Channel 22 officially joined MyNetworkTV when it launched on September 5, 2006. Unlike many other former WB affiliates switching to MyNetworkTV (and despite WNPA being CBS-owned), WPMY continued to air The WB's primetime schedule in the late night hours until September 18, 2006, when The CW launched.
On May 19, 2015, WPMY quietly changed its call letters to WPNT for the landmark "Point" confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in downtown Pittsburgh, which previously appeared in the market nearly three decades earlier on FM 92.9, now WLTJ. Coincidentally, WLTJ also shares its transmitter facilities with WPGH-TV and WPNT.
On September 1, 2015, WPNT changed its on-air branding to 22 The Point (to further the branding, the station's logo utilized an exclamation point). WPNT intends to focus more on local programming, particularly sports programming, including a weekly high school football package on Friday nights, while remaining a MyNetworkTV affiliate. Also no subchannels were planned at time. As part of the changes, WPNT hired sports personality Mark Madden for a two-hour sports talk show every weeknight and continued to air games from the Pittsburgh Penguins' minor league affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, while adding the featured Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Saturday game. Madden's program was cancelled on July 1, 2016.
On January 8, 2016, Sinclair announced that American Sports Network would launch as a dedicated, digital multicast network under the American Sports Network name with 10 stations including WPNT on January 11, 2016. However, the station continues to air Duquesne Dukes men's and women's basketball, Penn State Nittany Lions men's ice hockey, and the annual Arizona Bowl college football game on the main channel in addition to the ASN subfeed. ASN became Stadium in August 2017.
In August 2016, WPNT began to re-air sister WPGH newscasts produced by WPXI.
Near-sale to FoxEdit
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The deal is expected to receive FCC approval sometime in the first half of 2018.
On December 6, 2017, it was reported that Sinclair and Fox were working on a deal that would see its Fox affiliates renew their affiliation agreement in exchange for Sinclair selling some of its Fox affiliates directly to Fox Television Stations. The deal would see between six and ten Fox affiliates owned by Sinclair and Tribune (all in markets with an NFL team) become Fox owned-and-operated stations. Originally speculated that WPGH-TV may be sold to Fox while Sinclair retained WPNT, it was later reported that WPNT might be included in the deal as well in order to keep the two stations together, which would make WPNT a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station. On May 9, 2018, Sinclair announced that seven Fox affiliates would be sold to FTS, but WPGH-TV was not included and an affiliation renewal was announced for that station instead, keeping WPGH-TV and WPNT with Sinclair.
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