WQAD-TV, virtual channel 8 (UHF digital channel 31), is a dual ABC/MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station licensed to Moline, Illinois, United States, serving the Quad Cities area of northwestern Illinois and southeastern Iowa. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. WQAD's studios are located on Park 16th Street in Moline, and its transmitter is located in Orion, Illinois. On cable, the station is available on Mediacom channel 8 in standard definition and digital channel 708 in high definition.
WQAD-TV signed on for the first time on August 1, 1963. It was owned by the Moline Television Corporation, a group of 24 local investors. They won the license in 1961, however, concerns about interference with WIRL-TV in Peoria (now Comet TV owned-and-operated station WHOI) delayed sign-on for two years. Before WQAD signed on, ABC programming had been split between NBC affiliate WOC-TV (channel 6, now KWQC-TV) and CBS affiliate WHBF-TV (channel 4). Viewers with a good antenna could watch the full ABC schedule on KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids.
From day one, WQAD aired ABC programming in color. Cowles Communications of Des Moines, Iowa purchased WQAD in 1978. In 1985, the Cowles family sold their various media interests, with WQAD going to The New York Times Company. WQAD was branded in the early-1980s as "Active 8, Your 24 hour News Source" or "The Best News Around" and did hourly news cut-ins even during the overnight hours. WQAD started the "Active 8" branding in 1978 and used this branding until the early 1990s. WQAD was the first television station in the Quad Cities to be on the air 24 hours a day in late 1980.
On January 4, 2007, The New York Times Company sold WQAD and its eight sister television stations to Local TV, a holding company operated by private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners, for $530 million; the sale was finalized on May 7. On July 1, 2013, the Tribune Company (which formed a management company that operated both its own television stations and those owned by Local TV in 2008) acquired the Local TV stations for $2.75 billion. When the transaction was completed on December 27, it resulted in WQAD becoming a sister station to the company's television flagship, WGN-TV in Chicago.
Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. Had the deal received regulatory approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, the transaction would have brought WQAD under common ownership with several stations owned and/or operated by Sinclair in adjacent markets, including: KGAN/KFXA-TV in Cedar Rapids, KHQA-TV in Quincy, WMSN-TV in Madison, WUCW in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, WVTV/WCGV-TV in Milwaukee (which would have become co-owned with Fox affiliate WITI through the deal as well), and fellow ABC affiliates KTVO in Kirksville–Ottumwa, KDNL-TV in St. Louis (barring a sale to alleviate conflicts with Tribune-owned Fox affiliate KTVI and CW affiliate KPLR-TV), WICS in Springfield (and its satellite station WICD in Champaign), as well as former fellow ABC affiliate WHOI in Peoria (which converted into a Comet O&O in a separate affiliation transaction involving Quincy Media in November 2016).
Less than one month after the FCC voted to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell.
Sale to Tegna
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned CBS affiliate WHBF-TV since March 2014, the CW affiliate KGCW (channel 26) since December 2014 and has operated Fox affiliate KLJB (channel 18) through a shared services agreement (SSA) with Marshall Broadcasting Group in concurrence with the completion of its acquisition of KGCW—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar was precluded from acquiring WQAD directly or indirectly, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of more than two stations in the same media market, or two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the market. (Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WQAD through local marketing or shared services agreements would have been subject to regulatory hurdles that could have delayed completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, Nexstar would be required to sell either WQAD or both WHBF and KLJB (separately as it would break the grandfathered LMA) to separate, unrelated companies to address the ownership conflict. KGCW could either be retained by Nexstar (tied with either WQAD or WHBF) or sold to the new buyer if WHBF is sold, as KGCW does not rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Quad Cities market.
On March 20, 2019, McLean, Virginia-based Tegna Inc. announced it would purchase WQAD-TV from Nexstar upon consummation of the merger, as part of the company's sale of nineteen Nexstar- and Tribune-operated stations to Tegna and the E. W. Scripps Company in separate deals worth $1.32 billion; this would make WQAD the first television property in Iowa for Tegna and its first television property in Illinois since the group (under its pre-2016-split structure as the broadcasting arm of the Gannett Company) sold WREX in Rockford, Illinois to the Gilmore Broadcasting Corporation in 1969. The sale of WQAD to Tegna was completed on September 19, 2019.