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WTOG, virtual and UHF digital channel 44, is a CW owned-and-operated television station licensed to St. Petersburg, Florida, United States and also serving Tampa. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation. WTOG's studios are located on Northeast 105th Terrace in St. Petersburg, near the west end of the Gandy Bridge; its transmitter is located in Riverview, Florida.

WTOG's signal is relayed through two translators: W23CN-D (channel 23) in Sebring and W26DP-D (channel 26) in Inverness. On cable, WTOG is available on Charter Spectrum and Verizon FiOS channel 4 throughout the Tampa Bay area, and on Comcast Xfinity channel 9 in Sarasota and Venice.

HistoryEdit

Early yearsEdit

WTOG first signed on the air on November 4, 1968, operating as an independent station. The station was founded by St. Paul, Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting, who also owned radio station WGTO (540 AM, now WFLF) in nearby Cypress Gardens; Hubbard originally wanted to name the station WGTO-TV, but the request was denied by the Federal Communications Commission, which led to Hubbard using a slightly modified form of the callsign. The station began with a limited test schedule airing two hours per day, but expanded to broadcasting eight hours per day on January 27, 1969, initially airing from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Initially, WTOG ran a lineup of older movies, some low-budget syndicated programs, a few off-network westerns and sitcoms, and some cartoons. In the station's early days, its slogan was "WTOG... As Far as the Eye Can See", which was made famous by its mid-1970s station identification package. WTOG caught on with viewers immediately; so much so, in fact, that it forced competitor WSUN-TV (channel 38, frequency now occupied by WTTA) off the air in 1970. For the rest of the 1970s into the early 1980s, WTOG was the only independent station in the Tampa Bay area. During the 1970s, WTOG gradually expanded its programming hours: by 1972, the station signed on at 10:30 a.m. on weekdays and around 1 p.m. on weekends. By 1976, WTOG signed on the air daily by 7 a.m. Gradually, WTOG added better sitcoms, more cartoons, off-network dramas, and better movies. While the station was profitable all along, its programming improved significantly in the late 1970s.

Becoming a superstationEdit

Channel 44 finally gained competition in 1981, when Family Group Broadcasting signed on WFTS-TV (channel 28) as a family-oriented independent station. However, WTOG remained the clear leader in the market for the next two decades. During the 1970s and 1980s, the station was carried on many cable providers in central and southwestern Florida. In the 1980s, WTOG also maintained a network of low-powered repeaters, located in Sebring, Inverness, Arcadia (in the Fort Myers market; that translator has since shut down), Ocala (part of the Orlando market; that translator, W29AB, has since become a translator for Orlando's WKMG-TV) and Okeechobee (part of the West Palm Beach market). It billed itself as "Florida's Super Station", which "Covered Florida Like The Sun".

There was also some consideration to put WTOG on cable in Tallahassee, but that never came to fruition. WTOG was one of the most profitable independent stations in the country. In fact, during the late 1970s, Ted Turner called the station to ask how WTOG made itself so profitable.

From Fox to UPNEdit

On October 6, 1986, WTOG became a charter affiliate of the fledgling Fox network. The station, however, was still effectively programmed as an independent during its time as a Fox affiliate as the network's programming only comprised two hours of its primetime lineup on Saturday and Sunday evenings early on (they would not expand their programming to seven days a week until 1993). However, over time, channel 44 became one of several Fox affiliates nationwide that were disappointed with the network's weak programming offerings, particularly on Saturday nights, which were bogging down WTOG's otherwise successful lineup. WTOG dropped its Fox affiliation in 1988, sending it to WFTS (which was acquired by the E. W. Scripps Company in 1986). Through the early 1990s, WTOG was still running mostly cartoons (both classic and recent), classic and recent sitcoms, drama series and older movies. As part of deal with United Television, WTOG was an affiliate of the Prime Time Entertainment Network syndication programming service from 1993 to 1995.

WTOG was largely unaffected by the affiliation swaps of 1994, which saw longtime CBS affiliate WTVT (channel 13) switch to Fox (as a result of the network's affiliation deal with then-owners, New World Communications); WFTS becoming an ABC affiliate; and longtime ABC outlet WTSP (channel 10) assuming the market's CBS affiliation. However, channel 44 did regain a network relationship when it became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN) at its launch on January 16, 1995. As with its days as a Fox affiliate, WTOG continued to program itself as an independent, programming a traditional general entertainment format during the day, with UPN programming being shown during the primetime hours.

Paramount Stations Group, a subsidiary of Viacom (which jointly owned the All News Channel cable network with Hubbard) purchased the station in the spring of 1996; at the time, Paramount Stations Group was in the process of selling stations it owned that were not UPN owned-and-operated stations, and traded NBC affiliates WNYT in Albany, New York and WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York to Hubbard. The purchase by Viacom made WTOG a UPN owned-and-operated station, becoming the first network-owned station in the Tampa Bay market. Soon after taking control, Paramount changed WTOG's on-air branding to "UPN44", which remained in use for the remainder of the network's run. By the late 1990s, older sitcoms (such as All in the Family) and older cartoons made way for talk shows, court shows and reality programs (such as People's Court and Judge Mills Lane) during the daytime. Recent cartoons (such as Pokémon, Sailor Moon, Garfield and Friends and Disney's Hercules) and recent sitcoms (such as Charles in Charge, Step by Step, Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Roseanne, The Simpsons, Seinfeld (now on WTTA) and Friends) continued to air but movies also were eliminated almost completely. Viacom purchased CBS in 2000 and merged that network's owned-and-operated stations into Paramount Stations Group.

For one day in May 1999, WTOG housed the operations for WFLA-TV (channel 8), after a power outage occurred at that station's main studios in Downtown Tampa.

Switch to The CWEdit

On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation (which split from Viacom, one month earlier) and the Warner Bros. Entertainment unit of Time Warner announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. The CW signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with 11 of CBS' UPN stations, including WTOG; channel 44 became a CW owned-and-operated station when the network launched on September 18, 2006. Under current ownership, WTOG is one of two network-owned stations in the Tampa Bay market, alongside Fox-owned WTVT. Gradually, cartoons would disappear from WTOG's schedule, as with every broadcast station in the early 2000s. More reality and court shows would begin airing in place of that programming, while sitcoms continue to run during the evening hours.

For years, WTOG had handled master control operations for its sister station, KEYE-TV in Austin, Texas. However, in November 2006, WTOG's master control facilities, along with that of Atlanta's WUPA, were moved to sister CW affiliate WGNT in Norfolk, Virginia; 20 WTOG employees were laid off, even though CBS had previously denied that such terminations would happen. KEYE was later sold to Cerberus Capital Management, through its Four Points Media Group (which in turn was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA). WGNT was sold to Local TV, the owner of that market's CBS affiliate WTKR, in August 2010 (which Local TV was merged with Tribune Broadcasting three years later, in August 2013). When CBS wound down operations at the Norfolk hub, WTOG and WUPA began handling their own master control operations once again.


TV stations in Florida
WSFL, Miami

WTOG, Tampa
WCJB-DT2, Gainesville
WCWJ, Jacksonville
WTLF, Tallahassee
WJHG-DT2, Panama City
WKCF, Orlando
WXCW, Fort Myers
WTVX, Fort Pierce

TV stations in the Tampa Bay Area
WEDU 3 (PBS)
WFLA 8 (NBC)
WTSP 10 (CBS)
WTVT 13 (Fox)
WPDS-LD 14 (ETV)
W15CM-D 15 (HSN)
WEDQ 16 (PBS)
WSVT-LD 18 (Daystar)
WARP-CD 20 (Info)
WCLF 22 (CTN)
WXAX-CD 26 (AZA)
WFTS 28 (ABC)
WTAM-LD 30 (MEGA)
WMOR 32 (Ind)
W40CU-D 33 (HSN)
WSPF-CD 35 (ATeVe)
WTTA 38 (MNTV)
WSNN-LD 39 (Ind)
WWSB 40 (ABC)
W16DQ-D 43 (SBN)
WTOG 44 (CW)
WZRA-CD 48 (ETH)
WRMD-CD 49 (TLM)
WVEA 50 (UNI)
WFTT 62 (UMas)
WXPX 66 (Ion)
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