WWJ-TV, virtual channel 62 (UHF digital channel 44), is a CBS owned-and-operated television station licensed to Detroit, Michigan, United States. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation, as part of a duopoly with CW owned-and-operated station WKBD-TV (channel 50). The two stations share studio facilities in the Detroit suburb of Southfield; WWJ-TV's transmitter is located in Oak Park, Michigan.
The station is carried on several Canadian cable providers, predominantly in the province of Ontario, and is one of five local Detroit television stations seen in Canada on satellite provider Shaw Direct.
On cable, the station is available in standard definition on channel 15 on Comcast Xfinity's Detroit city and Wayne County systems and Cogeco's Windsor system, channel 9 on Xfinity's South Oakland County system, channel 14 on most cable systems in outlying areas (except for WOW!, where it is carried on channel 6), channel 62 on AT&T U-verse, and in high definition on Xfinity channel 233, Cogeco channel 713, and U-verse channel 1062.
WWJ was notable for its brief weather forecast at 11 p.m. tying in a pun referencing its succeeding show, which began with the meteorologist saying "Two and a Half Men starts in two and a half minutes." This timeslot was filled by The Big Bang Theory reruns until September 2017, when Two and a Half Men was brought back to the station's late night lineup. Though the forecast segment remains at two and a half minutes, at one point, viewers were invited to submit videos of themselves saying the mentioned phrase, which were then played in a montage before each forecast.
The station first signed on the air on September 29, 1975, as WGPR-TV. The station was originally owned by WGPR Incorporated, formed by the Detroit-based International Free and Accepted Modern Masons along with WGPR radio (107.5 FM). The call letters stood for Grosse Pointe Radio, a nod to the radio station's original studio in Grosse Pointe Woods, but were later interpreted to mean Where God's Presence Radiates.
WGPR was the first wholly African American-owned television station in the United States, and was marketed towards Detroit's urban audience. At the time, WGPR's emergence was hailed as an advance for African-American enterprise, with the "color line" having been broken by the station's establishment. Station president William V. Banks, together with Jim Panagos and George White, sales and programming managers respectively of co-owned WGPR radio (107.5 FM), were the management team at the station's outset. Prior to WGPR-TV's sign-on, the channel 62 frequency had been used by WXON (now WMYD channel 20), which had originally broadcast on that channel when it signed on in 1968 before moving to channel 20 in 1972.
Operating as an independent station, WGPR-TV aired network programs from NBC and CBS that were pre-empted by their local affiliates, WWJ-TV (channel 4, now WDIV-TV) and WJBK-TV (channel 2) respectively, as well as older cartoons, a number of religious shows, brokered programs, programs aimed at the black community, R&B music shows, and low-rated off-network dramas and barter syndicated programs.
Channel 62's most popular and most well-known show was a Middle Eastern variety show called Arab Voice of Detroit, which was broadcast late on Saturday nights. Another popular program was a nightly dance show titled The Scene (similar in content to the nationally syndicated Soul Train) that aired from October 13, 1975 to December 31, 1987. A similar lower-budget Friday evening dance show called Contempo was initially The Scene's replacement in 1988; it was hosted by several different personalities from WGPR radio, and featured local artists. However, lackluster ratings caused the show's cancellation in early 1990, and eventually it was replaced by The New Dance Show, which was hosted by R.J. Watkins and aired until 1996. The station was also home to horror show host Ron "The Ghoul" Sweed during the late 1970s, and was Detroit's affiliate for the 1970s version of the NHL Network.
The socially laudatory aims of the station did not immediately translate into good business. During its tenure as an independent station, WGPR-TV was easily the lowest-rated television station in Detroit, with only a niche viewership within its target audiences. On paper, Detroit should have been big enough to support three independent stations. However, Windsor-based CBC owned-and-operated station CBET (channel 9) owned the Detroit rights to many American syndicated programs that would have otherwise likely aired on WGPR-TV. Most of the top-tier syndicated programming was picked clean by WKBD-TV, WXON and CBET. It did not help that it was located near the top of the UHF dial; prior to the advent of cable television, most Detroit-area viewers never tuned past WTVS, the local PBS station on channel 56. This left WGPR-TV to contend with several already marginal independent outlets available to viewers in southeastern Michigan for lower-budget programming.
WGPR was also hampered by an inadequate signal, broadcasting at only 800,000 watts. By comparison, WKBD broadcast at 2.3 million watts, and WXON broadcast at 1.5 million watts. Its signal was so weak that it could only be seen over-the-air in Detroit itself and some nearby suburbs (such as Southfield, East Detroit, Redford Township, Warren, Royal Oak, Livonia and Mount Clemens). The signal could not reach the outlying suburbs such as Clarkston, Lake Orion and Richmond. For its first 20 years on the air, it was the only Detroit station not carried in the Flint-Lansing edition of TV Guide, which, in the Detroit market, was sold in Sanilac, Lapeer, western and northern Livingston, and northwestern Oakland counties.
In August 1986, the station started carrying the International Television Network, which was an overnight four-hour block of primarily foreign-language subtitled programs.
By the 1990s, WGPR's on-air look had become very primitive. It was the only local station which still used art cards instead of CGI for its sponsor announcements and newscasts. Further, a character generator manufactured in the 1970s remained in use for some graphics for many years.
As a CBS owned-and-operated station (1994–present)Edit
WGPR's situation changed in 1994, when New World Communications signed an affiliation deal with Fox under which twelve of its stations switched their affiliations to that network. One of those stations was Detroit's longtime CBS affiliate, WJBK-TV. CBS then approached each of Detroit's four remaining major commercial stations – NBC affiliate WDIV, ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV (channel 7), soon-to-be former Fox outlet WKBD, and WXON – for an affiliation deal. However, WXYZ's owner, the E. W. Scripps Company, forced ABC (which, ironically, had owned WXYZ until 1986) to agree to a long-term affiliation deal with WXYZ and several of its other stations after threatening to affiliate WXYZ and sister station WEWS-TV in Cleveland with CBS. WKBD was eliminated when its owner, the Paramount Stations Group, announced that its stations would become charter affiliates of the co-owned United Paramount Network (UPN). Neither WDIV nor WXON were interested in affiliating with CBS either, thus leaving the network with only two realistic choices for a new Detroit affiliate: WGPR and another low-profile UHF independent station, Mount Clemens-based WADL (channel 38). Though WGPR was initially thought to have a minimal chance at landing an affiliation deal, CBS broke off negotiations with WADL after its owner started making unreasonable demands. Essentially by default, CBS began discussions with WGPR. However, negotiations with the Masons moved slowly.
CBS faced similar situations in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland and Milwaukee. In all cases, the longtime CBS affiliates (Atlanta's WAGA-TV, Austin's KTBC-TV, Cleveland's WJW-TV and Milwaukee's WITI) also switched to Fox. While CBS was able to land on higher-profile UHF stations in Atlanta, Austin and Cleveland (the latter two simply swapping with the old Fox affiliates), it was unable to do so in Detroit or Milwaukee.
As a backup, CBS worked out deals with three VHF stations in nearby markets. First, the network persuaded WNEM-TV in Bay City, a longtime NBC affiliate, to switch to CBS as part of a multi-station deal with its parent company, the Meredith Corporation. WNEM's signal penetrated further into the northern portions of the Detroit market than the longtime Flint/Tri-Cities CBS affiliate, WEYI-TV. WNEM provided a strong "grade B" signal to Detroit's northern suburbs, including St. Clair County and parts of Oakland and Macomb counties; as well as Sarnia, Ontario. It also provided a strong city-grade signal to the lower Thumb. CBS also signed a long-term deal with its longtime affiliate in Toledo, Ohio, WTOL-TV, which provided at least grade B coverage to most of Detroit, Windsor and the immediate area and city grade coverage to Monroe County. It also convinced WLNS-TV in Lansing to build a translator in Ann Arbor. The main WLNS signal reached portions of Detroit's western suburbs, such as Livingston and Oakland counties. These moves were made not only in the event CBS could not land an affiliate of its own in Detroit, but also because of channel 62's aforementioned signal problems.
With only a few days remaining before WJBK was due to switch to Fox, CBS had still not lined up a replacement affiliate in Detroit. Fearing it would be left without an affiliate in the nation's tenth-largest market and faced with the prospect of having to pipe in WNEM, WTOL and WLNS for Detroit viewers, CBS struck an eleventh-hour deal to purchase WGPR outright for $24 million. The final price tag was more a reflection of CBS' desperation than the actual value of the station.
However, the plans hit a snag when leaders of Detroit's African-American community spoke out against the sale. Most of the community's ire was directed toward the Masons, who were criticized for agreeing to sell to a mainstream network broadcaster. While the deal's opponents had no objection to WGPR-TV becoming a network affiliate, they feared an important local voice would be lost if CBS gained outright ownership of the station. CBS and the Masons, and their local supporters, contended that they were engaged in a fair business transaction. There was growing sentiment to block the sale of WGPR-TV to CBS in favor of selling it to a locally based broadcaster. Spectrum Detroit Inc., an investment group led by Lansing-based real estate investor and broadcaster Joel Ferguson, made a counter offer to buy the station outright, or at the least convince CBS to enter into a joint-ownership venture. When those efforts failed, the group sued CBS in a last-ditch effort to block the sale. However, Spectrum Detroit could not stop CBS from moving its programming from WJBK to WGPR on December 11, 1994. Shortly after the switch, CBS started an advertising campaign featuring actor Bill Cosby (among others) in an effort to attract viewers to this previously unknown UHF station. This advertising campaign ended around 1998, with mixed results.
After a court ruled in favor of CBS, the network was able to close on its purchase of channel 62. When the purchase was finalized, channel 62 became the first network-owned station in Detroit since ABC sold WXYZ-TV to Scripps in 1986. On July 24, 1995, the station's call letters changed to WWJ-TV after WWJ radio (950 AM), which CBS had owned from 1989 to 2017 (it is now owned by Entercom). The WWJ-TV calls had originally been used by what is now WDIV from 1947 to 1978; the two television stations are not related. CBS officially took control of channel 62 on September 20, 1995, in what would be the last station purchase completed by the original CBS Inc. before the Westinghouse Electric Corporation took full control of the company two months later.
CBS' ratings in Metro Detroit took a huge hit in the aftermath of the loss of WJBK, as viewers adjusted to the somewhat odd situation of having to tune to a previously little-known station with a high channel number for CBS programming. This was mostly because many cable systems in the outer portions of the Detroit market did not carry it. It would take more than a year for the station to get adequate penetration throughout the area. The network's ratings in the market have never really recovered, and to this day channel 62 has been the weakest major-network station in Detroit. In contrast, WJBK was perennially one of CBS' strongest affiliates. However, CBS initially made a large investment into channel 62, moving the station into a state-of-the-art studio at Stroh River Place in downtown Detroit soon after taking control. It also brought back some limited original programming, having dropped all local programming soon after the purchase.
In 1999, WWJ-TV activated a new tower and transmitter at its radio sister's former transmitter site in Oak Park, boosting its effective radiated power to five million watts, the strongest signal in Detroit. Until the power boost, many viewers in Detroit's outer-ring suburbs watched CBS by way of the three surrounding VHF stations from Bay City, Toledo, and Lansing.
Viacom, which owned then-UPN affiliate WKBD, purchased CBS in September 1999, shortly after WWJ-TV activated its new tower. In 2001, WWJ-TV merged its operations into WKBD's studio facility in Southfield. WKBD is the senior partner in this duopoly since it was longer-established; the CBS affiliate usually is the senior partner in other duopolies that involve stations respectively aligned with CBS and The CW (CBS and UPN prior to 2006). Since then, the station has served mostly as a "pass-through" for automated programming. It does not produce much local content, and much of its lineup outside of CBS network programming consists of syndicated programs.
In February 2014, the Detroit Historical Museum held a fundraiser for a 2016 exhibit on WGPR-TV which will occupy the museum's Community Gallery, in collaboration with the WGPR-TV Historical Society, which aims to immortalize the station's legacy. The exhibit will be moved to a new WGPR-TV Museum to be located at the station's original operating quarters.
On October 21, 2014, CBS and Weigel Broadcasting announced the launch of a new digital subchannel network called Decades on all CBS-owned stations in 2015, including on WWJ-TV on subchannel 62.2.
In 2017, CBS Radio agreed to merge with Entercom, which separated WWJ radio from WWJ-TV.
|TV stations in Michigan|
| WWJ, Detroit|
|TV stations in Southeast Michigan, including Detroit|
| WJBK 2 (Fox) |
WDIV 4 (NBC)
WXYZ 7 (ABC)
WHNE-LD 14 (LIGHT)
WDWO-CD 18 (AZA)
WUDL-LD 19 (Info)
WMYD 20 (MNTV)
WUDT-LD 23 (Daystar)
WPXD 31 (Ion)
WHPS-CD 33 (Ind)
WADL 38 (Ind)
WLPC-CD 40 (Impact)
WKBD 50 (CW)
WTVS 56 (PBS)
WWJ 62 (CBS)