WSFX-TV is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Wilmington, North Carolina, United States and serving the Cape Fear region. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 30 (or virtual channel 26 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Town Creek Township. Owned by American Spirit Media, WSFX is operated through a shared services agreement (SSA) by Gray Television. This makes it a sister station to NBC affiliate WECT (channel 6) and the two outlets share studios on Shipyard Boulevard (US 117) in Wilmington. On cable, WSFX is carried on Charter Spectrum channel 9.
The station signed-on September 24, 1984 as WJKA, a CBS affiliate. It aired an analog signal on UHF channel 26 leasing space on the tower of ABC affiliate WWAY in unincorporated Brunswick County. The station was originally owned by Wilmington Telecasters, a company owned by Robinson and Katherine Everett of Durham. The station originally operated from studios located at 1926 Oleander Drive/US 76 in Wilmington.
Prior to WJKA's start-up, Wilmington was one of the few markets in the United States without its own CBS affiliate and one of the few in the Eastern Time Zone without full network service. Future sister station WECT had a secondary CBS affiliation until cable arrived in the area in the 1970s while Florence, South Carolina's WBTW covered most of the market with a Grade B signal. From the 1970s until WJKA's sign-on, local cable systems piped in either WTVD from Durham, WNCT-TV from Greenville, or WBTW.
Channel 26's tenure as a CBS affiliate was far from successful. The station operated on a shoestring budget. It mostly served as a "pass-through" for automated CBS programming, and produced almost no local content. The fact that WNCT and WBTW provided at least Grade B coverage to some parts of the market did not help matters either. Further complicating matters, Raleigh's WRAL-TV, which had been available on cable in Wilmington for decades, switched from ABC to CBS a year after WJKA's sign-on. This move forced the fledgling station to compete against three of the strongest CBS affiliates in the Southeastern United States. Under those circumstances, WJKA barely registered as a blip in the local Nielsen ratings against rivals WECT and WWAY.
In 1994, WJKA along with sister station KECY-TV in El Centro, California/Yuma, Arizona switched their affiliations to Fox; while this occurred shortly after CBS lost broadcasting rights of the NFL to Fox and during the inaugural season of the Carolina Panthers, the change followed several disputes between Robinson O. Everett and CBS (including one over a planned upgrade of KECY's translator in Palm Springs to a full-power station). That September, channel 26 changed its call letters to the current WSFX-TV.
Before the switch, Wilmington was the only portion of North Carolina (and one of the few in the Eastern Time Zone) without an over-the-air Fox affiliate of its own. Until this point in time, the area's cable systems piped in the national Foxnet service or WLFL in Raleigh. As a result of WSFX's affiliation switch, Wilmington did not have an over-the-air CBS affiliate until March 2000 when low-powered UPN affiliate WILM-LP switched its primary affiliation to CBS. During that time, cable systems supplemented the area with either WRAL, WNCT, or WBTW.
On paper, the loss of CBS should have put channel 26 in serious jeopardy. Fox had just begun airing a full week's worth of programming just a season earlier, but then as now, does not produce any daytime programming. WSFX thus now faced having to buy an additional 10 hours of programming per day. However, the move to Fox rejuvenated the station. Its main competition was now WLFL. Within a few years, it was one of the strongest small-market Fox affiliates in the country. Until 1996, WSFX also doubled as the Fox affiliate for the Florence/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina market which did not have its own affiliate. In fact, the current call letters stand for SuperFoX, referring to its on-air name at the time and relatively wide coverage area. Since the station's over-the-air signal does not reach Florence, the Pee Dee area had to rely on cable for Fox programming until WGSE-TV (now WFXB) in Myrtle Beach took the affiliation.
In 2003, Everett sold the station to Southeastern Media Holdings. Raycom Media then took over WSFX's operations through a shared service agreement with WECT. As part of the agreement, WSFX's operations were integrated into WECT's facility. In the late-1990s, Time Warner Cable in Lumberton began to drop Wilmington stations. This station was dropped from cable in Laurinburg in the early to mid-1990s when it was still a CBS affiliate. WFXB is currently the only Fox affiliate offered on cable in that area. On June 27, 2011, WSFX was re-branded as "Fox Wilmington" and introduced a new logo. Besides sharing the same call letters, this television station and non-commercial educational radio station WSFX-FM 89.1 in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania have no other relation to each other.
On May 8, 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced five stations in Wilmington (including WSFX) had agreed to voluntarily cease analog broadcasting on September 8. The Wilmington market was billed as the first in the nation to convert to all-digital transmissions due to its role as the FCC's digital transition test market. Hawaii shut down analog broadcasting in January 2009 followed by more but not all full-power television broadcasters on February 17, 2009.
|TV stations in North Carolina|
| WRAZ, Raleigh|
|TV stations in North Carolina|
| WRPX, Rocky Mount|
|TV stations in the Wilmington, North Carolina area|
| WWAY 3 (ABC) |
WECT 6 (NBC)
WILM-LD 10 (Ind)
WSFX 26 (Fox)
WUNJ 39 (PBS)
W47CK 47 (MNTV)