WPWR-TV, virtual channel 50 (UHF digital channel 31), is a primary MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated television station serving Chicago, Illinois, United States that is licensed to Gary, Indiana. It is one of two commercial television stations in Chicago that are licensed on the Indiana side of the market (the other being independent station WJYS, channel 62, in Hammond). WPWR is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of Fox Corporation, as part of a duopoly with Fox owned-and-operated station WFLD (channel 32). The two stations share studios at Michigan Plaza on North Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Loop, and transmitter facilities atop the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive in the Loop business district. On cable, WPWR is available on Comcast Xfinity on channel 8 (SD)/184 (HD), AT&T U-verse on channel 8 SD/1008 HD, and WOW! on channel 8 SD/204 HD.
WPWR-TV sold its spectrum space in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s incentive auction, and began channel-sharing with WFLD on June 11, 2018. Due to its secondary status as an O&O of MyNetworkTV, WPWR is the only Fox-owned station carrying The CW.
History[edit | edit source]
As an independent station (1982–1995)[edit | edit source]
Early years with WBBS-TV[edit | edit source]
The station first signed on the air on April 4, 1982 as a shared station operation broadcasting on UHF channel 60, split between English-language WPWR-TV and Spanish-language WBBS-TV. The Federal Communications Commission awarded the license to two locally based station owners who had competed heavily for the construction permit, and were the top contenders among a half-dozen applicants for the channel 60 license. Metrowest Corporation—owned by Fred Eychaner, which would later become Newsweb Corporation—was the original applicant for the UHF channel 60 license in 1978, and was the original owner of WPWR. Chicago resident Marcelino Miyares—who owned WBBS—assisted Eychaner in completing the construction of channel 60, and was actually the one that was granted the license. Under the arrangement, the combined station operated as an independent.
A large percentage of WPWR's programming schedule was occupied by Sportsvision, a new pay television service which Eychaner had developed through a deal with Chicago White Sox co-owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. To receive the service, viewers had to rent a set-top converter and pay a monthly fee in order to view Sportsvision's event telecasts, involving the Chicago sports teams. However, Sportsvision was not a success and transitioned into a cable channel in January 1983, eventually evolving into SportsChannel Chicago.
With Sportsvision removed from its schedule, Eychaner began acquiring public domain movies to air on weekends and a few shows that were still owned by fellow independent station WSNS-TV (channel 44, now a Telemundo owned-and-operated station), which began carrying the ONTV subscription entertainment service on a full-time basis in the fall of 1982. These programs ran weekdays from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. and from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., as well as from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends; public domain movies also ran during the overnight hours when WBBS signed off for the night. WPWR also chose to compete with rival independent WCIU-TV (channel 26)'s locally produced business news service, Stock Market Observer, by running national business programming from the Financial News Network each weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The FNN simulcast was dropped in January 1984, at which time the station added several classic sitcoms from the early to mid-1950s and older cartoons to its schedule. In 1984, more recognizable classic sitcoms and newer barter cartoons were mixed into the schedule.
While Miyares won the license, he was only able to acquire enough programming to run about eight hours per day. WBBS' schedule featured an array of Spanish-language programs—including telenovelas and movies, as well as locally produced shows, such as the popular music video program Imagen, hosted by local Spanish-language television personality (and now media executive) Rey Mena and Vivianne Plazas. One of the notable events for WBBS occurred in 1983, when the station introduced the Latin teen pop group Menudo (which included a young Ricky Martin), to Chicago's Latino community. WBBS programmed channel 60 daily from 7:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., with Eychaner's WPWR purchasing the rest of the time. Another twist in this arrangement was that although the two stations broadcast from the same transmitter, as per the FCC's channel assignment table, WBBS was actually licensed to West Chicago while WPWR was licensed to Aurora.
In the spring of 1985, WSNS-TV announced that station would become an affiliate of the Spanish International Network (the forerunner to the present-day Univision). Miyares subsequently realized that he could not hope to compete with SIN, and reduced the programming on WBBS' schedule to just Spanish-language movies that aired only on weekend evenings. He sold the rest of the weekday time periods that his station had occupied to Eychaner, allowing WPWR to broadcast full-time on channel 60, at least on weekdays.
Meanwhile, Eychaner acquired the construction permit for WGMI, a proposed station that would be licensed to Gary and broadcast on UHF channel 56, for $1.5 million. The permit had been held by a group of Indiana businessmen since 1976, but the station was never built and effectively, never signed on. Eychaner planned to move the WPWR intellectual unit and call letters to channel 56, while broadcasting its transmitter from a tower in downtown Chicago. However, he was unable to have the channel 56 transmitter relocated because of the presence of channel 60 there; FCC regulations in effect to prevent signal interference between analog UHF stations effectively required television stations broadcasting from nearby transmitter sites to be spaced at least six channels apart. However, Eychaner had a backup plan. Soon after acquiring the construction permit for channel 56, he also acquired the license for WCAE, a non-commercial station on UHF channel 50 in St. John, Indiana. He successfully petitioned the FCC to move the non-commercial allocation from 50 to 56, which would eventually become WYIN (now licensed to Gary) when that station signed on in November 1987. Eychaner then relocated the channel 50 transmitter to downtown Chicago, and moved WPWR's programming to that allocation.
Move to channel 50[edit | edit source]
WBBS shut down for good in early 1986. However, Miyares still owned the channel 60 license; he then sold WBBS' remaining airtime on the channel to Eychaner, turning WPWR into a 24-hour operation. Later that year, Eychaner purchased the channel 60 license for $11 million, formally ending the split-channel arrangement when WPWR took over the station full-time on August 22, 1986. The following year, Eychaner sold the channel 60 allocation to Home Shopping Network for $25 million, in order to move the WPWR intellectual unit to UHF channel 50. When the frequency swap occurred on January 18, 1987, WPWR moved to channel 50, with a rerun of the anthology series Night Gallery as the first program it aired on its new frequency; the now HSN-owned channel 60 simultaneously had its call letters changed to WEHS (now UniMás owned-and-operated station WXFT-DT).
As time went on, WPWR began acquiring many cartoons, more recent off-network sitcoms, drama series, movies and first-run syndicated shows (including Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987 and War of the Worlds in 1988; at least one Star Trek spinoff would air on WPWR from that time until June 2005, when UPN aired the last network episode of Star Trek: Enterprise). Within a year of starting full-time operation on channel 50, WPWR had firmly established itself as the third independent station in Chicago, behind WGN-TV (channel 9) and future sister station WFLD (channel 32). Although WFLD had become a charter owned-and-operated station of Fox in October 1986, that network would not air a full week's worth of programming until September 1993, so for all intents and purposes it was still programmed as an independent. In late August 1994, the station began carrying the Spelling Premiere Network syndication service, which featured a "Spelling Success" run of past series from the Spelling production portfolio.
UPN affiliation (1995–2006)[edit | edit source]
On November 10, 1993, WPWR-TV signed an affiliation agreement with Chris-Craft/United Television, to become a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN); WPWR competed with WGN-TV—which initially turned down an affiliation with The WB, a joint venture between Time Warner and WGN parent Tribune Broadcasting that debuted the week before UPN launched—for the affiliation. WGN, meanwhile, reversed course and signed an affiliation agreement with The WB one month later on December 3.
WPWR-TV formally affiliated with UPN when the network launched on January 16, 1995; the station continued to adding syndicated programs to its lineup during this time. As WPWR was never owned by either of UPN's parent companies, Chris-Craft Industries or Viacom (the latter—which maintained a program partnership with the network from its launch through Paramount Television—acquired 50% of UPN in 1996 and bought out Chris-Craft's stake in 2000), it was the largest UPN station that was not owned by the network.
On June 27, 2002, Newsweb Corporation sold WPWR to Fox Television Stations (at the time, a subsidiary of News Corporation, which in turn was the then-parent company of the Fox network) for $425 million—a handsome return on Eychaner's original investment from 20 years earlier. The sale closed on August 21, 2002. As a result of this transaction, Fox now owned UPN's three largest affiliates; it already owned WWOR-TV in New York City and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles as a result of its $5.5 billion purchase of most of Chris-Craft's television holdings the previous year. Although rumors abounded that UPN's future was in jeopardy due to its three largest stations being effectively owned by the corporate parent of another network, Fox renewed the network's affiliation agreements for WPWR and the group's eight other UPN-affiliated stations for three additional years from September 24, 2003 to September 15, 2006.
MyNetworkTV affiliation (2006–2016)[edit | edit source]
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. Entertainment unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down their respective networks, The WB and UPN, and combine their individual programs to create a new "fifth" television network called The CW. With the announcement, The CW signed a ten-year agreement with Tribune Broadcasting to affiliate 16 of the group's 19 WB affiliates—including Tribune flagship station WGN-TV—with the new network. In response to having its UPN affiliates be passed over for affiliations with The CW, Fox Television Stations stripped all network branding from and ceased promoting the network's programming on its UPN-affiliated stations. However, it is very unlikely that WPWR would have been selected as The CW's Chicago affiliate in any event. Representatives for The CW were on record as preferring to align with UPN and The WB's "strongest" affiliates; WGN-TV had been well ahead of WPWR in the ratings since the latter's sign-on.
One month later on February 22, 2006, Fox announced the launch of its own "sixth" network called MyNetworkTV, which would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its sibling subsidiary Twentieth Television, with WPWR and the other Fox-owned UPN affiliates serving as the nuclei for the new network. In the interim, the station changed its on-air branding to "Power 50" (as a play on its call letters), which remained in use for most of the summer of 2006. However, the station simultaneously began to use the "My 50" brand in some advertisements to promote the change, particularly at station-sponsored events held during that timeframe (such as the Taste of Chicago); this brand began to be used by the station officially in July 2006. WPWR became a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station when the network launched on September 5, 2006.
In September 2014, the New York Post reported that Fox Television Stations was considering trading WPWR to Tribune Broadcasting (which would have created a new duopoly with WGN-TV), in exchange for acquiring that company's Seattle Fox affiliate KCPQ, as part of the company's efforts at the time to seek station purchases in markets with teams in the National Football Conference (to which the Fox network holds primary broadcast rights). Should the proposal have been accepted, Tribune would legally have been able to create a duopoly in Chicago as a result of the then-recent spin-off of its publishing business (which resulted in the severance of WGN-TV's joint ownership with the Chicago Tribune after 66 years). On September 23, Tribune announced that it had been notified by Fox that its affiliation with KCPQ would be terminated effective January 17, 2015, but that discussions between the two companies were still ongoing; on October 7, The Wall Street Journal reported that WPWR was no longer included in the negotiations (Fox would subsequently back off its attempt to acquire KCPQ as well as a lame-duck purchase of KBCB in nearby Bellingham, Washington, opting to renew its affiliation agreement with the former on October 17).
CW affiliation (2016–present)[edit | edit source]
On May 23, 2016 (although first reported by Robert Feder on his website the day prior), Tribune Broadcasting and The CW reached a five-year affiliation agreement that renewed the network's affiliations with twelve of Tribune's CW-affiliated stations through the 2020–21 television season. However, in negotiating the terms of the deal, Tribune decided not to renew The CW's affiliation with WGN-TV after the expiration of their initial ten-year agreement on September 1, 2016. Tribune decided to run WGN-TV as an independent, allowing it to fully commit to its schedule of local sports without the requirements to move some broadcasts to WPWR-TV due to network limits on preemptions, and to rebroadcast preempted programming on The CW's off nights.
On the date the deal was announced, CBS Corporation and Fox Television Stations announced a long-term deal in which WPWR would become the CW affiliate for the Chicago market once WGN disaffiliated from the network. This marked the first time a station currently owned by Fox chose to affiliate with The CW.
At the time the announcement was made, there was no mention of MyNetworkTV's future relationship with WPWR, including if the programming service would move to another station. When WPWR took over as Chicago's CW affiliate on September 1, the station instead retained MyNetworkTV as a secondary affiliation, airing its programming between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. (later moved to between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m., immediately following The CW's prime time lineup). On July 11, 2016, WPWR-TV unveiled its CW-standardized logo with the launch of a "Make the CWitch" promotional video advertising the then-pending switch.
The affiliation transaction made Chicago the largest market where The CW and MyNetworkTV share a primary channel affiliation on a single station, and currently one of four stations with such a dual affiliation (the others being WKTC in Columbia, SC, WUAB in Cleveland, and KFMB-DT2 in San Diego). It is also the first time a network owned-and-operated station has opted to carry a network owned by its parent company as a secondary affiliation. In addition, WPWR is now the largest CW station that is not owned by either Tribune Media or CBS Corporation.
On April 18, 2019, Weigel Broadcasting signed an agreement with CBS Corporation through which WCIU-TV would take over as The CW's Chicago-area affiliate, while shifting syndicated programs that it either currently features on or has acquired with the intent of including in its prime time lineup as well as its nightly 7:00 p.m. newscasts to "The U Too" service carried on sister station WMEU-CD (channel 48) and simulcast on WCIU-DT2. WPWR-TV will continue to carry MyNetworkTV programming as part of its weeknight schedule; the loss of the CW affiliation could potentially result in channel 50 adopting a similar scheduling format to other Fox Television Stations properties that are not Fox network O&Os, in which MyNetworkTV programs are shown in late prime time or late access while the service's designated time period is filled by syndicated programs and/or local newscasts
Gallery[edit | edit source]
|TV stations in Indiana|
|TV stations in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana|
|WBBM 2 (CBS) |
WMAQ 5 (NBC)
WLS 7 (ABC)
WGN 9 (Ind)
WTTW 11 (PBS)
WOCK-CD 13 (Ind)
WYCC 20 (MHz)
WRJK-LP 22 (Diya TV)
WWME-CD 23 (MeTV)
WPVN-CD 24 (AZA)
W25DW-D 25 (HSN)
WCIU 26 (CW)
WLPD-CD 30 (Hillsong)
WFLD 32 (Fox)
WEDE-CD 34 (Ind)
WWTO 35 (TBN)
WCPX 38 (Ion)
WESV-LD 40 (ESTRELLA)
WSNS 44 (TLM)
WMEU-CD 48 (Ind)
WPWR 50 (MNTV)
WYIN 56 (PBS)
WDCI-LD 57 (Daystar)
WXFT 60 (UMas)
WCHU-LD 61 (JTV)
WJYS 62 (Ind)
WGBO 66 (UNI)