WPXD-TV, virtual channel 31 (UHF digital channel 50), is an Ion Television owned-and-operated television station serving Detroit, Michigan, United States that is licensed to Ann Arbor. Owned by Ion Media Networks, WPXD maintains studios and transmitter facilities on West 11 Mile Road in Southfield.
On cable, the station is available in standard definition on Comcast Xfinity channel 16 in the city of Detroit, channel 11 in western Wayne County, Ann Arbor, Southfield, Birmingham and Roseville, channel 12 in south Oakland County, channel 18 in north Oakland County, south Macomb County and the Grosse Pointe area, channel 9 in the Downriver area, channel 13 on Charter Spectrum, and channel 19 in outlying areas, and in high definition on Xfinity channel 237. AT&T U-verse carries WPXD on channel 31 in SD and channel 1031 in HD.
In 1973, Ann Arbor resident Gershom Morningstar acquired a license from the FCC to operate a local station on UHF channel 31, but lack of funds meant that Morningstar was unable to construct the station. In January 1980, Morningstar sold the license to Satellite Syndicated Systems (SSS) of Oklahoma. SSS gave the station the call letters WRHT, with studios in Chelsea, Michigan.
WRHT signed on the air on January 13, 1981, originally operating as an independent station. The first program broadcast on the station was a college basketball game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Baylor Bears from the TVS Television Network, a nationally syndicated sports network. This was done largely to test the satellite equipment, which would be utilized further after the switch to In-Home Theater (see below). Most of channel 31's early programming, was either locally produced or outsourced by other production companies; it also carried business news programming from the Financial News Network (which later merged with CNBC in 1989), as well as some programs from the Satellite Program Network.
The station's original transmitter facilities were located on Highway M-52 in Lyndon Township, 7 miles (11 km) north of Chelsea and 55 miles (89 km) from downtown Detroit. The transmitter, which was 1,079 feet (329 m) tall, was located on the Washtenaw–Ingham county line, and was actually closer to Lansing and Jackson than it was to Detroit. It was located further west than the other Detroit stations in order to remain within 15 miles (24 km) of its city of license, Ann Arbor (as required by FCC rules). The channel 31 analog signal could be received as far away as St. Johns, Flint, and Owosso, with its fringe range reaching close to Battle Creek, Coldwater and Toledo.
The station's call letters were changed to WIHT on February 1, 1981, in reference to its affiliation with the over-the-air subscription television service In-Home Theater (also known as "IT"). WXON (channel 20, now WMYD) offered a similar service, ONTV, at that time – but unlike that service, which was generally broadcast during the evening hours on channel 20, WIHT ran In-Home Theater programming at least 14 hours a day, and had a wider selection of movies. However, while IT was available in Lansing, Jackson and Flint, it was not available in the eastern Detroit suburbs or Windsor, Ontario, due to the transmitter's location and signal power.
Non-subscribers that tuned into WIHT during In-Home Theater's airtime instead heard an audio feed of Onondaga-based NOAA Weather Radio station WXK-81. IT and ON-TV both faded away in 1983 as cable television became more prevalent in the Detroit area (allowing access to premium channels such as HBO and Showtime).
In 1989, the station was purchased by Blackstar Television; it then changed its call letters to WBSX on July 14 of that year. Locally produced and syndicated programming was phased out in favor of programming from the Home Shopping Network. On February 4, 1998, Paxson Communications (the forerunner of Ion Media Networks, whose founder Lowell "Bud" Paxson founded the Home Shopping Network) purchased WBSX. Paxson already owned WJUE (channel 43) in Battle Creek. However, WJUE's transmitter was located in western Eaton County, within the Lansing/Jackson market. The FCC told Paxson that it could not keep both WBSX and WJUE, as both stations provided city-grade coverage of Lansing and Jackson. At the time, the FCC normally did not allow common ownership of two stations with overlapping signals, and would not even consider granting a waiver for a city-grade overlap. Paxson opted to keep WBSX and sell WJUE to sister company DP Media, who changed the calls to WILV. However, Paxson continued to operate channel 43 under a local marketing agreement, effectively making it a sister station to WBSX.
Channel 31 subsequently changed its call letters to the current WPXD-TV, after Paxson changed the callsigns of most of its stations to include "PX" in them. WILV also changed its calls at this time, to WZPX-TV. Both stations joined Paxson's new family-oriented broadcast network Pax TV (renamed i: Independent Television on July 1, 2005 and to the current Ion Television on January 29, 2007) when it launched on August 31, 1998. The station moved its offices from its original facility in Ann Arbor, to a building in downtown Detroit, before later moving back to Ann Arbor. Despite the analog signal reaching close to those two cities, Comcast systems in Lansing and Jackson received Pax/i/Ion programming from WZPX, which Paxson bought outright in 2000.
|TV stations in Michigan|
| WPXD, Ann Arbor|
|TV stations in Southeast Michigan, including Detroit|
| WJBK 2 (Fox) |
WDIV 4 (NBC)
WXYZ 7 (ABC)
WHNE-LD 14 (LIGHT)
WDWO-CD 18 (AZA)
WUDL-LD 19 (Info)
WMYD 20 (MNTV)
WUDT-LD 23 (Daystar)
WPXD 31 (Ion)
WHPS-CD 33 (Ind)
WADL 38 (Ind)
WLPC-CD 40 (Impact)
WKBD 50 (CW)
WTVS 56 (PBS)
WWJ 62 (CBS)