WUCW is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States and serving the Twin Cities television market. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 22 (or virtual channel 23 via PSIP) from a transmitter at the Telefarm site in Shoreview. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WUCW maintains studios in the Pence Building on 8th Street and Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. The station is perhaps best known for originating the cult cable television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, which began as a locally produced program when channel 23 was an independent station.
As an independent station
Channel 23 signed on the air on September 22, 1982, under the callsign KTMA (the call sign standing for "Twin Metro Area"), as the Twin Cities affiliate of the Spectrum over-the-air subscription television service. In addition to mainstream and softcore pornographic films, and animated fare such as Grendizer from Spectrum, the station also broadcast home games of Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins and the NHL's Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars). The Spectrum programming lasted on the station for just two years, before the station was sold to the United Cable TV Corporation, who in turn began asking for bids one year later in 1985. The owners of radio station KTWN (now KQQL) made a bid to purchase channel 23 and took some operational control of the station for a while, broadcasting music videos. However, the station was eventually sold to the KTMA-TV Acquisition Corp. in 1986 for $7 million. The station's new general manager Donald W. O'Connor soon changed KTMA to a more traditional general entertainment station, acquiring a number of older syndicated programs such as The Andy Griffith Show and Laurel and Hardy.
Despite a major marketing campaign in 1987, after the station was acquired, the station was only moderately successful at attracting viewers and revenue from commercial advertising. In 1988, attempts were made at creating locally produced shows. To fill a hole in the Saturday night line-up, the station created Saturday Night at Ringside, a multi-hour block of professional wrestling programming hosted by Mick Karch which began in March 1988 and lasted until 1992.
As production manager Jim Mallon sought to fill a gap in the Sunday night line-up, he talked to his contacts in the local comedy community and ended up meeting Joel Hodgson. After a successful lunch meeting with Mallon to produce a new locally produced program for KTMA, Hodgson created Mystery Science Theater 3000 (also known under the abbreviated title MST3K), which began in November 1988.
In December that year, KTMA attempted to create a new regional television network called the Minnesota Independent Network, in conjunction with a media group based in Fargo, North Dakota (KVRR channel 15), KXLI (channel 41) in St. Cloud and KXLT-TV (channel 47) in Rochester. Despite good intentions, the network never started. KVRR, the Fargo area's Fox affiliate, continued its normal operations, while KXLI was eventually forced to go off the air for two years. KTMA was also hit hard, leading O'Connor to file for bankruptcy reorganization in July 1989. Hodgson and Mallon sold Mystery Science Theater 3000 to the nascent cable network, The Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) that year; the program ran on the network for seven years, before moving to the Sci Fi Channel for its final three seasons in 1997, ending in 1999. In 1989, a small start-up home shopping network called Valuevision (now Evine Live) rented space at the channel 23 studios and made its initial launch on two area low-power stations broadcasting on VHF channel 7 and UHF channel 62.
Through the bankruptcy, the station maintained its general entertainment programming format, partially supported with infomercials, brokered religious shows, daytime shows from the major broadcast networks that KARE, KSTP-TV and WCCO-TV did not clear for broadcast (mostly game shows from NBC, ABC and CBS, respectively) and home shopping programming. In December 1989, KTMA moved into a studio facility near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Saint Paul that was formerly occupied by the PBS member station KTCA (that station had already moved into a newly constructed studio building in downtown Saint Paul). After nearly two more years of bankruptcy proceedings, O'Connor was fired as general manager by the court-appointed trustee. In November 1991, the station was purchased by the Christian broadcaster Lakeland Group Television.
Under Lakeland Group ownership, channel 23 adopted a family-oriented programming format, and changed the station's callsign to KLGT (standing for either "light" or "Lakeland Group Television") on March 2, 1992, using the on-air branding "Sonlight 23". Programming during this period consisted of a few hours of religious programming a day, with family-oriented off-network sitcoms, cartoons and classic movies. The new format was not very popular, but the station held its own. Lakeland Group brought sports programming back to the station in 1994, this time in the form of the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team, basketball games from the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, and games from the Minnesota Moose minor league hockey team. Around this time, KLGT began an association with CBS O&O WCCO-TV, with that station providing local news updates during KLGT's prime time programming.
Joining The WB
In January 1995, KLGT became the Twin Cities' charter affiliate of the fledgling WB Television Network. KLGT did not air a news program of its own until WCCO purchased airtime on the station to air an experimental newscast known as News of Your Choice in 1995, in which two different newscasts (each one covering different stories) were produced simultaneously at the WCCO studios. At regular intervals, the news presenters mentioned the stories being covered on either station, allowing viewers to decide which one they were more interested in and to tune in to the appropriate station. Due to declining ratings at WCCO at the time, the project was canceled in January 1996 after one year.
Following the sale of the station in 1998 to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, its callsign was again changed to KMWB (standing for "Minnesota's WB") on November 13. The station was hit by the 2004 controversy surrounding the decision by Sinclair to broadcast the documentary Stolen Honor, which was critical of U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry's service record in the Vietnam War.
From The WB to The CW
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner decided to merge UPN and The WB to form a new network called The CW Television Network. Therefore, in September that year, The WB launched The Night of Favorites and Farewells, which made way for The CW. On February 22, News Corporation announced a new competing network, MyNetworkTV. On May 2, 2006, Sinclair Broadcast Group signed an affiliation agreement with The CW for the company's eight WB affiliates to join the network; as a result, KMWB was confirmed as the new network's Twin Cities affiliate. UPN affiliate WFTC would automatically affiliate with MyNetworkTV, due to the station being owned by that network's owner, the News Corporation subsidiary Fox Television Stations.
In preparation for the affiliation switch, KMWB changed its call sign to WUCW (in reference to The CW and predecessors The WB and UPN; the station was allowed to use a "W" as its first call letter instead of a "K" because its transmitter and studios are located on the eastern side of the Mississippi River, like WFTC) on June 19, 2006, to reflect its forthcoming CW affiliation. Ironically, despite three call letter changes, WUCW's licensee is still listed as "KLGT Licensee." On August 16, 2006, WUCW changed its on-air branding from "WB23" to "The CW Twin Cities" and then in 2013 to "CW23" and back to "The CW Twin Cities" in 2016. In the past, the station used to carry Minnesota Timberwolves basketball games. WUCW has a history of supporting homegrown comedy, showing the first Transylvania Television special on October 12, 2007, and the new one-hour TVTV Halloween Special on October 22, 2010. In 2014, this station revived a cult favorite from the 1980s, the "Melon Drop" New Year's Eve TV special in 2014, and followed it up in 2015.
In the summer of 2016, Sinclair's Comet network, which has been carried on WUCW-DT2 since it began on October 31, 2015, acquired repeat rights to Mystery Science Theater 3000, returning the show in some form on its originating station for the first time in 27 years in a weekly Sunday night double-run.
In January 2018, WUCW moved out of its longtime Como Avenue studios and moved to the 7th floor of the Pence Building at 800 Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.
|TV stations in Minnesota|
|TV stations in Central Minnesota including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Brainierd|
|KTCA 2 (PBS)|
WCCO 4 (CBS)