WXIN, virtual channel 59 (UHF digital channel 45), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company, as part of a duopoly with Bloomington-licensed CBS affiliate WTTV, channel 4 (and its Kokomo-licensed satellite WTTK, channel 29). The two stations share studios on Network Place (near 71st Street & I-465) at the Intech Park office development in northwestern Indianapolis; WXIN's transmitter is located on West 73rd Street (or Westlane Road) on the northern outskirts of the city (west of Meridian Hills).
On cable, WXIN is available on Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum and AT&T U-verse channel 11.
Prior history of UHF channel 59 in Central Indiana
The UHF channel 59 allocation in Central Indiana was originally assigned to Lafayette (located approximately 63 miles (101 km) northwest of Indianapolis). The allocation would become occupied by CBS affiliate WFAM-TV (now WLFI-TV), which original owner Sarkes Tarzian (who also founded WXIN's present-day sister station WTTV) signed on in June 1953. After that station moved its allocation to UHF channel 18 in 1957, UHF channel 59 would remain dormant until the Federal Communications Commission later reassigned the allotment to Indianapolis.
WXIN station history
As an independent station (1983–1986)
Channel 59, as an Indianapolis station, first signed on the air on February 1, 1984 as WPDS-TV. It was founded locally by USA Communications, operated by Ron Palamara (founder of locally based Anacomp, Inc.), Chris Duffy (who formerly served as station manager at NBC affiliate WTHR (channel 13)) and Melvin Simon (co-founder of shopping mall owner Simon Property Group and co-owner of the Indiana Pacers NBA franchise). The last initials of Palamara, Duffy, and Simon served as the basis for the WPDS callsign. Originally operating as an independent station, channel 59 maintained a general entertainment programming format featuring cartoons, movies, classic sitcoms and drama series. Through Simon's part-ownership of the station, it also aired Indiana Pacers NBA games in the 1984–85 season. The station originally operated from studio facilities located on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis' Television Row section. Its primary competitor was rival independent WTTV (channel 4, now a CBS affiliate) in Bloomington; WPDS would gain another competitor when WMCC (channel 23, now MyNetworkTV affiliate WNDY-TV) signed on November 1, 1987. Palamara, Duffy and Simon sold the station to Outlet Broadcasting (through its Atlin Communications subsidiary) in 1985; the station's call letters were then changed to WXIN on August 10 of that year. The station lost the Pacers broadcast rights after the sale, with the telecasts returning to WTTV for the 1985-86 season.
As a Fox affiliate (1986–present)
WXIN became a charter affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company when the network launched on October 9, 1986, after WTTV—despite its status as one of the strongest independent stations in the country—turned down an offer to become an affiliate. As was the case with other Fox stations during the network's early years, channel 59 was programmed as a de facto independent station, as Fox initially ran primetime programs only on weekends and would not offer nightly programming until September 1993. Until then, WXIN aired a movie at 8:00 p.m. on nights when network programs did not air. The station began identifying as "Fox WXIN 59" by 1988 (simply adding the Fox name to the "WXIN 59" branding in use since 1985), which was simplified to "Fox 59" in 1991; it also added more sitcoms to its inventory, and eventually began to overtake WTTV in the ratings. Outlet sold WXIN to Chase Broadcasting in December 1989; Chase subsequently merged with Renaissance Broadcasting in 1993.
Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting bought Renaissance's television properties for $1.13 billion on July 7, 1996. Under Tribune ownership, WXIN gradually added more talk shows, reality series and court shows to its schedule. By that time, WXIN carried the weekday afternoon edition of the Fox Kids block from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., before moving it one hour earlier (from 1:30 to 3:30) in 1999; Fox discontinued the Fox Kids weekday block in December 2001, though WXIN continued to carry the remaining Saturday morning lineup (which was relaunched FoxBox in September 2002, and was later branded as 4Kids TV from September 2005 until December 2008, when Fox discontinued its children's programming after declining to renew its agreement with time-lease partner 4Kids Entertainment).
Tribune acquired WTTV and its Kokomo satellite WTTK (channel 29) from the Sinclair Broadcast Group on April 29, 2002; this created the market's first television duopoly under current FCC regulations with WXIN when the purchase was finalized on July 24 (Sinclair – which had ironically considered acquiring WXIN and the other Renaissance stations in 1996 – had briefly owned WTTV and WIIB (channel 63, now Ion Television owned-and-operated station WIPX-TV) from 1996 to 1998 under a cross-ownership waiver as the FCC had prohibited duopolies at the time). While an affiliation swap should have been expected given that WTTV was a VHF station that had been on the air much longer than UHF outlet WXIN, and WXIN had an established news department whereas WTTV had been outsourcing its newscasts since 1990, Tribune kept the WB affiliation on WTTV and Fox programming on WXIN due to the fact that WTTV had a weaker signal in the northern parts of the market as its transmitter was located farther south than other area stations, requiring WTTK to relay its programming. Additionally since Fox holds the broadcast television rights to the National Football Conference, the network only airs Indianapolis Colts regular season games (at least two per season) in which the NFL team plays against an NFC opponent (with most other games airing on WISH-TV (channel 8) at the time through American Football Conference rightsholder CBS; however, starting in 2014, any games that are moved from WISH or WTTV to WXIN will air on channel 59, via the new 'cross-flex' broadcast rules), so Fox did not consider Indianapolis an important market for getting a VHF affiliate (incidentally, WXIN carried Colts-related analysis programs including head coach Bill Polian's discussion program from 2006 to 2008, assuming the rights from and later losing them to WISH-TV and WNDY-TV). In 2004, WXIN relocated its operations from its Meridian Street studio to a new facility at 6910 Network Place at the Intech Park office development on the city's northwest side (as a result, both it and WTTV are the only major network affiliates in Indianapolis whose studios are not located within the Television Row section).
In 2011, WXIN and WSJV in South Bend became the only full-power Fox affiliates in Indiana to carry the network's programming on their primary channels, after Fox programming was relegated to digital subchannels of Big Three-affiliated stations in three markets due to a dispute between the network and the Nexstar Broadcasting Group over reverse compensation of retransmission consent fees that led to Nexstar's Evansville and Fort Wayne stations (WTVW and WFFT-TV) being stripped of their Fox affiliations, and its Terre Haute station (WFXW, now WAWV-TV) dropping the network to rejoin ABC (WFFT-TV rejoined Fox on March 1, 2013, after Nexstar settled a 2011 lawsuit against Granite Broadcasting citing undue control of five major network affiliations on Granite's virtual duopoly in Fort Wayne at the time – ABC and The CW on WPTA and NBC, Fox and MyNetworkTV on WISE-TV). As a result of fellow charter affiliate WFFT-TV losing its Fox affiliation, WXIN became the longest-tenured Fox affiliate in the state of Indiana. On January 1, 2015, WXIN became the second largest Fox affiliate (behind WRAZ in Raleigh, North Carolina) owned in a duopoly with a "Big Three" station when WTTV switched from The CW to CBS; it is also the only station in Indianapolis to have never changed its network affiliation.
Averted loss of Fox affiliation
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. If the deal receives regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, this would reunite sister station WTTV under the Sinclair umbrella, fifteen years after the group sold the station to Tribune. WXIN/WTTV would also gain a new sister station in CBS primary/Fox subchannel-only affiliate WSBT-TV in the nearby South Bend market. The deal has brought concerns by Fox about increased leverage that Sinclair would have with reverse compensation in future Fox affiliation contract negotiations as the Tribune purchase would add 14 Fox stations based entirely in top-50 markets to the 38 that Sinclair already operates (which would account for 28% of the Fox network's national affiliate reach). Executives with network parent 21st Century Fox also see Sinclair as a competitor to Fox News Channel as the group produces conservative-leaning news and commentary segments that appear on local newscasts of stations owned and/or operated by the group. (This has furthered existing confusion among some viewers over the connection between Fox News and local newscasts on Fox stations, despite the fact that Fox News is not structured as a news division of the Fox Broadcasting Company and operates as a separate entity from its broadcast sister.)
On August 2, 2017, it was reported that Fox Television Stations was in talks with Ion Media to create a joint venture that would own their respective stations. The partnership was said to include plans to shift affiliations from Sinclair stations in favor of Ion-owned stations, such as those whose affiliation agreements are soon to expire. In Indianapolis' case, this would include shifting Fox from WXIN to WIPX-TV (channel 63). In the event that WXIN loses its Fox affiliation, the station may return to independent status. The chances of WXIN keeping its Fox affiliation increased somewhat in October 2017 when Ion elected its stations to have must-carry status instead of retransmission consent, which the FCC ruled Ion must keep for three years. However, must-carry only applies to a main signal, allowing Fox to possibly affiliate with a digital subchannel on WIPX-TV and other Ion stations.
On December 6, 2017, reports stated that Sinclair and Fox were working on a deal that would see most of the Fox-affiliated stations whose affiliation contracts were set to expire at the end of the year renew said agreements, in exchange for Sinclair selling some Fox affiliates involved in the Tribune deal or already under the group's ownership directly to Fox Television Stations. The deal would see between six and ten Fox affiliates owned by Sinclair and Tribune in markets with an NFL franchise become Fox owned-and-operated stations. It is not known if WXIN would've been one of the stations sold nor how the deal could be brokered with regards to its duopoly with WTTV/WTTK, although the stations being sold to Fox are expected to largely come from Tribune Media (notably KCPQ and its MyNetworkTV-affiliated sister KZJO in Seattle, where Sinclair already owns ABC affiliate KOMO-TV and Univision affiliate KUNS-TV), many of which were previously owned by Fox. (Sinclair may sell additional Fox affiliates to other groups not associated with the company to both address the aforementioned issues and the ownership conflicts that Sinclair and Tribune have in ten markets that largely would be excluded from the side deal with Fox.)
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 U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division 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.
Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group and possible resale
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group—which has owned WISH-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WNDY-TV (channel 23) since January 2017—announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Nexstar is precluded from acquiring WXIN and WTTV/WTTK directly or indirectly, as FCC regulations prohibit common ownership of more than two stations in the same media market, or two or more of the four highest-rated stations in the market. (Furthermore, any attempt by Nexstar to assume the operations of WXIN and WTTV/WTTK through local marketing or shared services agreements may be subject to regulatory hurdles that could delay completion of the FCC and Justice Department's review and approval process for the acquisition.) As such, Nexstar will be required to sell two of the stations (including one ranking in the top four in ratings; WTTV and WTTK counting as one station) to a separate, unrelated company to address the ownership conflict, potentially creating two new duopolies.
|TV stations in Indiana|
|TV stations in Central Indiana, including Indianapolis, Bloomington and Muncie|
|WTTV 4 (CBS) |
WRTV 6 (ABC)
WISH 8 (CW)
WTHR 13 (NBC)
WREP-LD 15 (Youtoo)
WIIH-CD 17 (GetTV)
WDNI-CD 19 (TLM)
WFYI 20 (PBS)
WNDY 23 (MNTV)
WSOT-LD 27 (NRBTV)
WUDZ-LD 28 (Buzzr)
WTTK 29 (CBS)
WTIU 30 (PBS)
WSDI-LD 30 (Quest)
WHMB 40 (FBC)
WCLJ 42 (Bounce TV)
WALV-CD 46 (MeTV)
WBXI-CD 47 (Start TV)
WIPB 49 (PBS)
WIWU-CD 51 (Rel)
WXIN 59 (Fox)
WIPX 63 (Ion)
WDTI 69 (Daystar)