WSWB, virtual channel 38 (UHF digital channel 31), is a television station licensed to Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States, serving as the CW affiliate for the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre television market. The station is owned by MPS Media, LLC; New Age Media, which owns Hazleton-licensed Fox affiliate WOLF-TV (channel 56) and Williamsport-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WQMY (channel 53); operates WSWB under a local marketing agreement (LMA). All three stations are, in turn, operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group under a master service agreement. The stations share studios on PA 315 in the Fox Hill section of Plains Township; WSWB's transmitter is located on Bald Mountain, northwest of Scranton and I-476.
Although WSWB transmits a digital signal of its own, reception is spotty in much of the southern portion of the market since its transmitter is located further north than the market's other stations. Therefore, the station is simulcast in standard definition on WOLF-TV's second digital subchannel. This broadcasts on UHF channel 45.4 (or virtual channel 56.2 through PSIP) from a transmitter on Penobscot Knob near Mountain Top. NextEra Energy Resources operates a digital replacement translator on UHF channel 36 that is licensed to Waymart with a transmitter in Forest City. It exists because wind turbines run by NextEra at the Waymart Wind Farm interfere with the transmission of full-power television signals.
The station first signed-on June 3, 1985 with the calls WOLF-TV, locally owned by Scranton TV Partners. It was the first independent outlet in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the market's first new commercial station in 32 years. A few days later, it added WWLF-TV in Hazleton as a full-time satellite for the southern portion of the market. After a little more than a year as an Independent, WOLF-TV became a charter affiliate of Fox on October 6, 1986. Two years later, WILF-TV in Williamsport was launched as a second full-time satellite to improve coverage in the western and northern parts of the market.
In 1993, Scranton TV Partners merged with Pegasus Communications. The latter immediately sought permission to move either the analog UHF channel 38 or channel 56 transmitters to the Northeastern Pennsylvania tower farm on Penobscot Knob. Ultimately, Pegasus was allowed to move the WWLF transmitter. On November 1, 1998, Pegasus activated the new analog channel 56 transmitter and moved the WOLF-TV call letters there. Meanwhile, channel 38 became a WB affiliate under new calls WSWB. This call sign was chosen because they could have meant "Scranton's WB" for its affiliation, or the area it serves, Scranton–Wilkes-Barre. Originally, channel 38 was given the WSWB calls in 1981, but they were changed to WOLF-TV before the station went on-the-air in 1985. WILF in Williamsport remained as a full-time satellite.
At the time of the switch, WSWB also picked up a secondary affiliation with UPN. It showed select programming from the network on Saturday nights (since there were no shows from The WB) without the branding. At 8 p.m., the station would air America's Next Top Model, followed at 9 p.m. by WWE Friday Night SmackDown. Whenever Top Model was in repeats, WSWB would air Veronica Mars instead. All UPN programming in pattern was also available on cable in the area via WWOR-TV from New York City, WPSG from Philadelphia, and WLYH-TV from Harrisburg.
As a CW affiliate
On January 24, 2006, the respective parent companies of UPN and The WB, CBS Corporation and the Warner Bros. Entertainment division of Time Warner, announced that they would dissolve the two networks to create The CW Television Network, a joint venture between the two media companies that initially featured programs from its two predecessor networks as well as new series specifically produced for The CW. Subsequently, on February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of MyNetworkTV, a network operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television that was created to primarily to provide network programming to UPN and WB stations that The CW decided against affiliating based on their local viewership standing in comparison to the outlet that The CW ultimately chose as its charter outlets, giving these stations another option besides converting to a general entertainment independent format.
On May 1, 2006, in an announcement by the network, WSWB was named as The CW's Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate; it was the obvious choice since it already carried both WB and UPN programming. At the same time, it was announced that WILF would sever the electronic umbilical cord with WSWB and become the area's charter MyNetworkTV affiliate. Since WILF's signal was more or less unviewable in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, it was also announced that it would be added to a new third digital subchannel of WOLF-TV. WILF changed its call letters to the current WQMY on July 7 to reflect the upcoming affiliation change. WQMY became a charter affiliate of MyNetworkTV when that network launched on September 5, at which time, the station ceased operating as a full-time WSWB satellite and introduced a separate programming lineup and branding. WSWB became a CW charter affiliate when that network launched two weeks later on September 18.
On September 25, 2013, New Age Media announced that it would sell most of its stations, including WOLF-TV and WQMY, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Concurrently, MPS Media planned to sell WSWB to Cunningham Broadcasting; the station would continue to be operated by WOLF-TV. On October 31, 2014, MPS Media requested the dismissal of its application to sell WSWB; the next day, Sinclair purchased the non-license assets of the stations it planned to buy from New Age Media and began operating them through a master service agreement.
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair entered into an agreement to acquire Chicago-based Tribune Media – which, through a shared services agreement with owner Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, has operated WNEP-TV since December 2013 – for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. The complicated SSA relationships that Sinclair has in the Scranton–Wilkes–Barre market with WOLF, WSWB and WQMY – the former two of which are currently the only legal television duopoly in the market – created an ownership entanglement, as WNEP and WOLF rank among the market's four highest-rated stations, and the market has too few independently owned full-power stations to permit a second legal duopoly in any event. (Sinclair CEO Christopher Ripley cited Scranton–Wilkes–Barre as one of three markets, out of fourteen where ownership conflicts exist between the two groups, where the proposed acquisition would likely result in divestitures). To alleviate some of the regulatory issues that the deal incurred by selling certain stations to both independent and affiliated third-party companies, on April 24, 2018, Sinclair announced that it would sell the non-license assets of WOLF-TV, WQMY, and WSWB and the full assets of eight other stations – Sinclair-operated KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, WRLH-TV in Richmond, KDSM-TV in Des Moines and WXLV-TV in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, and Tribune-owned WPMT in Harrisburg and WXMI in Grand Rapids – to Standard Media Group (an independent broadcast holding company formed by private equity firm Standard General to assume ownership of and absolve ownership conflicts involving the aforementioned stations) for $441.1 million. Sinclair concurrently exercised its option to buy WOLF-TV and WQMY to allow Standard Media Group – the latter of which, for regulatory purposes, will continue to be licensed as a satellite of WOLF-TV – to acquire the stations outright; Standard will concurrently acquire the WOLF-TV license, which is permitted under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership regulations as WSWB is not ranked as one of the top-four stations in the market.
Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote 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 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. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Standard Media's purchases of WOLF/WQMY/WSWB and the other four Tribune- and Sinclair-operated stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
|TV stations in Northeastern Pennsylvania including Scranton, Wilkes Barre, and Hazelton|
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