WQCW, virtual channel 30 (UHF digital channel 17), branded on air as Tri-State's CW, is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Portsmouth, Ohio, United States and serving the Huntington–Charleston, West Virginia market. It is one of two commercial television stations in the market licensed outside West Virginia (the other being WTSF, channel 61, in Ashland, Kentucky). WQCW is owned by Gray Television as part of a duopoly with Huntington-licensed NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV (channel 3). The two stations share studios on 5th Avenue in Huntington; WQCW's transmitter is located in Milton, West Virginia on the tower of CBS affiliate WOWK-TV (channel 13).
Although a construction permit was issued for channel 30 in 1984 under the calls WUXA, no station signed on this channel until October 5, 1998, when WHCP signed on as an affiliate of The WB. It added UPN programming in 2000 after that network was dropped from Fox affiliate WVAH-TV, airing it off-pattern on weekends and after WB network time.
The station's analog transmitter, despite its over 2 million-watt ERP, was not strong enough to cover the entire Huntington–Charleston market, even though it identifies itself on-air as "Portsmouth/Charleston." The market, the largest geographic market east of the Mississippi River, covers 61 counties in central West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. Most of this territory is a very rugged dissected plateau, making UHF reception difficult. WVAH faced similar problems when it originally signed on in 1982 on channel 23, forcing it to move to channel 11 in 1988. WHCP did not have that recourse, and could not increase their analog station's power due to probable interference with digital television stations in Roanoke, Virginia and Knoxville, Tennessee. Shortly after going on the air, it signed on two low-power translators—WBWV-LP channel 69 in Huntington and WOWB-LP channel 53 in Charleston. The station effectively depended on cable and satellite for most of its viewership, which is all but essential for acceptable television in much of this vast market, even in today's digital era—especially in Eastern Kentucky. Dish Network had carried the station since it began offering a local Huntington–Charleston feed, with DirecTV following suit on January 25, 2006. The station began to be carried in high definition on DirecTV on November 9, 2010, with Dish following on March 7, 2012.
When UPN and The WB shut down and merged to form The CW in 2006, WHCP joined the new network more or less by default. On May 26, WOWB and WBWV became WOCW-LP channel 21 and WVCW-LP channel 45, respectively, in preparation for the new affiliation. WHCP followed suit on May 31, changing its calls to WQCW. It initially rebranded itself as "The Q," with a logo showing The CW's logo turning into a capital "Q", but eventually followed the network's generic regional branding style as "Tri-State's CW."
On January 20, 2007, longtime owner Commonwealth Broadcasting sold the station to Lockwood Broadcast Group. The deal closed on May 21, 2007. All of Lockwood's stations are either primary CW affiliates or have The CW on a digital subchannel.
The WVCW-LP license was surrendered to the FCC on June 1, 2012 as Lockwood did not intend to convert the station to digital. In the digital transition, the transmitter was moved to the WOWK tower near Huntington. At the same time, the station's power was boosted to a full million watts, equivalent to five million watts in analog. This gave the station a coverage area comparable to those of the other stations in the market.
On November 15, 2013, Lockwood announced that it would sell WQCW and WOCW-LP to Excalibur Broadcasting for $5.5 million. Had the purchase been approved by the FCC, WQCW would have entered into a shared services agreement with Gray Television, owner of NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV. Excalibur's president Don Ray was a former general manager at WSAZ. However, in February 2014, this deal was abandoned in favor of selling WQCW and WOCW to Gray outright for that same $5.5 million; Gray noted in the updated filing with the FCC that WQCW is not among the four highest-rated stations in the market and that there would still be eight unique station owners upon the completion of the WQCW purchase, and in a statement said that "it made more sense to own the stations outright." In the interim, Gray took over WQCW and WOCW through a local marketing agreement on February 1. The sale was completed on April 1.
On January 14, 2015, the low power repeater WOCW was sold to DTV America Corporation for a token payment of $100; WQCW's move to the WOWK tower made the repeater redundant.
|TV stations in Ohio|
| WUAB, Lorain|
|TV stations in Southeast Ohio, Western West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, including Huntington and Charleston|
| WSAZ 3 (NBC) |
WCHS 8 (ABC)
WVAH 11 (Fox)
WOWK 13 (CBS)
WKPI 22 (PBS)
WKAS 25 (PBS)
WHJC-LP 27 (RTV)
WLPX 29 (Ion)
W30DG-D 30 (HSN)
WQCW 30 (CW)
WVPB 33 (PBS)
WTSF 44 (Daystar)
WJOS-LD 45 (Walk)
WTZP-LP 50 (Cozi)