WUVP-DT, virtual channel 65 (UHF digital channel 17), is a Univision owned-and-operated television station serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States that is licensed to Vineland, New Jersey. The station is owned by the Univision Local Media subsidiary of Univision Communications, as part of a duopoly with Wildwood, New Jersey-licensed True Crime Network affiliate WMGM-TV, channel 40 (which simulcasts WUVP-DT on its third digital subchannel); it is also sister to Philadelphia-licensed low-powered, Class A UniMás owned-and-operated station WFPA-CD (channel 28). The three stations share studios on North Delsea Drive in Vineland while their news department is based in Center City, Philadelphia; WUVP-DT shares transmitter facilities with MyNetworkTV affiliate WPHL-TV (channel 17) in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia.
The station first signed on the air on June 22, 1981 as WRBV. The station was owned by a local group called Renaissance Broadcasting of Vineland (not to be confused with the Renaissance Broadcasting Company that was sold to the Tribune Company, which owned WPHL-TV from 1991 to 2019, in 1996). Renaissance had hoped to operate the station as the ABC affiliate for southern New Jersey; however, the network decided not to add the station to its lineup, and when WRBV began operation it was running syndicated shows during the day, a half-hour local newscast at 7 p.m., and subscription television programming from Wometco Home Theater during the evening and overnight hours.
The station's signal, broadcast from a transmission tower located in Waterford Township, New Jersey (25 miles (40 km) southeast of Philadelphia), put it at a disadvantage. It covered the city of Philadelphia, but only a few of the densely populated and affluent suburbs west of the city, leaving it with a smaller potential audience than its competitors. WRBV also ran into difficulty obtaining carriage by the cable television providers within its large coverage area. In defiance of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations of the time, NYT Cable, Sammons, Tri-County and other large systems refused to add the station to their channel lineups. As a result, the station ran into financial difficulties within months, unable to get a network affiliation, garner an audience, or sell advertising to support its acquired programming and its extensive evening newscast (which was discontinued when the owners declared bankruptcy the first week of December 1981).
In December 1981, Renaissance filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, forcing the bankruptcy trustee Richard Milstead to lay off the entire newsroom staff and all but a skeleton crew of managers and technicians, as well as drop all programming outside of the Wometco Home Theater schedule. However, the station continued to sell production services and operate in bankruptcy for more than three years, resuming broadcasting within nine months and running at an operating profit under an aggressive, young staff led by veteran station manager Carmen Colucci. The former schedule of syndicated shows was succeeded by Financial News Network, public domain movies, and new syndicated series in 1982, when WWSG (channel 57, now WPSG) dropped FNN to run subscription television programming 24/7. When FNN went cable-only in 1984, WRBV began carrying a music video channel called Odyssey during all but the prime access hours. By 1985, Odyssey was broadcast during prime time as well, when Wometco Home Theater abruptly ceased operations. Management of the station under Milstead persuaded TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer to begin carrying the station's schedule information in their listings. Then, assisted by Washington attorneys, the station won an order by the FCC to the region's cable television systems to begin carrying WRBV. Both actions were critical to making the station attractive to potential investors.
In June 1985, Press Broadcasting Company, a division of the Asbury Park Press, purchased the station for a mere $3.3 million and changed the call letters to WSJT (for "South Jersey Television"). Press Broadcasting executives planned to program the station with relatively recent reruns of syndicated programming, but found that the rights to virtually all current product were held by existing Philadelphia market stations, even though many were not then being broadcast. One of the stations, WWSG, which was purchased by Milton Grant a few months earlier, bought most of the stronger leftover product, as that station would change formats that coming fall and begin running those shows. Consequently, Press Broadcasting adopted a strategy of televising old black-and-white series from the 1950s and 1960s, along with B-movies. In a notable success, previous to the sale to Press Broadcasting, the station obtained the rights to the basketball games of the newly formed Big East Conference, as well as LSU Tigers football. When Villanova's men's basketball team reached the top 10 rankings in winter 1985 and the Big East conference tournament came around, WSJT was the only station in the Philadelphia region with rights to carry the games, and thousands of area residents learned about the station for the first time.
Some of WSJT's shows included The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Danny Thomas Show, My Little Margie, Our Miss Brooks, December Bride, The Donna Reed Show, The Patty Duke Show, Petticoat Junction, Bachelor Father, Love That Bob, Gunsmoke, Naked City, Ironside, The Ann Sothern Show and other vintage series not wanted by other Philadelphia area stations. The station also resumed broadcasting news in the form of five-minute newsbreaks at the top of prime time hours, anchored by Brian Eckert, producer of the station's first news program in 1981. Ratings were below expectations. Channel 57 had been renamed WGBS only a few months after Channel 65's format change and easily won the third place among independent stations. Soon after, the owners of the Asbury Park Press told Press Broadcasting's management that the station would have to significantly improve ratings "or else."
In 1986, Silver King Broadcasting, the Home Shopping Network's television station group, bought WSJT from Press Broadcasting for an astonishing $27 million. In announcing the sale to the station staff, Press Broadcasting executives said they expected to buy the defunct channel 48 license of the former WKBS, and that all of the now former WSJT staff would be rehired when that happened. However, the purchase never occurred. Meantime, WSJT changed its call letters to WHSP-TV (for "Home Shopping Philadelphia"), and began running HSN programming full-time starting on December 31 of that year and aired HSN for the next 16 years.
In 1998, after Barry Diller bought Universal's TV assets from Seagram, Silver King Broadcasting became USA Broadcasting and launched plans to convert its stable of stations to a new general entertainment Independent format known as "CityVision" featuring sitcom and drama reruns, movies, syndicated cartoons and live sports. Over the course of 1999 and 2000, USAB's stations in Miami (as "WAMI 69"), Boston (as WHUB "Hub 66"), Atlanta (as WHOT-TV "Hotlanta 34"), and Dallas–Fort Worth (as "K-Star 49") had already converted and plans were for WHSP to convert to this format as "Wacky 65" under calls similar to WACY [those couldn't be used as Green Bay's (at the time) UPN affiliate were already using them]. However, financial problems ultimately forced those plans to be scrapped AND USAB and its stations went up for sale.
The Walt Disney Company was very much in the running, which if successful would have created a duopoly with ABC O&O WPVI-TV), but Univision Communications ultimately wound up outbidding them in the end flipping the station to Spanish-language operations in January 2002. While most of USAB's stations became the nucleus of the new Telefutura (now known as UniMás) network, WHSP affiliated with Univision under new WUVP calls as it didn't to that point have a full powered station in the market. The network, prior, had been seen on a low-powered repeater of New York City flagship WXTV, under WXTV-LP calls. After WUVP's switch, that station flipped to the Telefuturanetwork with new WFPA-CA calls.