WOFL, virtual channel 35 and UHF digital channel 22, is an Fox owned-and-operated television station located in Orlando, Florida, United States. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, and is part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated WRBW (channel 65). The two stations share studios located on Skyline Drive in Lake Mary, Florida, and its transmitter is located in unincorporated Bithlo, Florida.
The channel 35 allocation in Orlando was previously occupied by WSWB, Central Florida's first independent station, which signed on the air on March 31, 1974. Owned by Sun World Broadcasting, WSWB produced children's programing (Uncle Hubie's Penthouse Barnyard), and aired reruns of such shows as Batman, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Green Acres, Mister Ed and Lost In Space. The 1970s recession impacted the station's operations; Sun World encountered financial difficulties and was forced to file for bankruptcy in January 1976. The station signed off the air in May 1977; WSWB's studios would later become the studios for WMFE television (now WUCF-TV) and radio.
Then-unknown media mogul Ted Turner tried to buy the station; however, the attempt failed because of ensuing legal actions. In fact, the station’s 44-acre (180,000 m2) transmitter site was briefly owned by Turner while the tower and broadcasting equipment were tied up in a judgment claim held by Pat Robertson, owner of the Christian Broadcasting Network. As a result, channel 35 remained off the air until the license was granted to a group of investors known as The Omega Group, with the Meredith Corporation owning a non-voting interest. Meredith would be consultants for the station, holding an option to eventually buy out the other partners. The station signed back on the air on October 15, 1979 under its current call letters, WOFL.
Meredith Corporation exercised its option to buy out Omega in 1982. In 1986, the station moved to its current facility in Lake Mary — a major change from the prior studios that were located in a converted bank building in Orlando's adult-entertainment district centered on South Orange Blossom Trail. As the 1980s progressed, WOFL acquired more recent sitcoms, cartoons and movies.
WOFL became one of the Fox Broadcasting Company's charter affiliates at the network's inception on October 9, 1986. The station was frequently ranked as one of the country's leading Fox affiliates during the network's early years, achieving a number one ranking on several occasions through the early 1990s. It was also the most profitable station in Meredith's station group, despite being its only UHF "independent" station at that time. As the 1990s progressed, WOFL offered fewer movies and older shows, and more talk, reality and court shows. As with most Fox stations, WOFL carried children's programming including those from the network's Fox Kids block. Despite having competing independents, WOFL was one of the last remaining Fox affiliates in a major market to retain broadcasting rights to most cartoons syndicated by Disney throughout the 1990s; while this left Orlando without an official The Disney Afternoon lineup (due to Fox Kids competing for those same timeframes in most markets), the station still aired all of the lineup, though out of pattern in other timeslots.
Most of WOFL's programming, including Fox programming, was originally seen in Citrus County on W49AI in the 1980s. The station did not air WOFL's late-night programming, however, as it signed off at midnight. This arrangement continued until WOGX became a Fox affiliate in 1991. In the mid-1990s, WOFL took over the operations of Gainesville's Fox affiliate, Ocala-based WOGX (channel 51), which became a semi-satellite of WOFL.
WOFL, along with KVVU in Las Vegas, were excluded from the 1994 affiliation deal between Meredith and CBS. The two stations were among Fox's strongest affiliates at the time, despite WOFL broadcasting on the UHF band. At the same time, CBS's existing Orlando station, WCPX-TV (channel 6, now WKMG-TV), was one of that network's weaker affiliates, and Fox did not want to move from a UHF outlet to a lower-rated VHF outlet. Meredith briefly owned WCPX for one day in September 1997, following a merger with that station's owner, First Media.
In 2002, Meredith traded WOFL and WOGX to News Corporation's Fox Television Stations Group, and, in return, Meredith received KPTV in Portland, Oregon; the deal was finalized on June 17, 2002, making WOFL a Fox owned-and-operated station, and sister station to then-UPN affiliate WRBW. Fox had acquired WRBW and KPTV several months earlier, when it acquired the United Television station group. This trade protected WOFL's Fox affiliation. After the trade was finalized, WRBW merged its operations with those of WOFL, and moved into WOFL's facility in Lake Mary. WOFL was the only network-owned station in the Orlando/Daytona Beach market during that time as the Chris-Craft purchase effectively stripped WRBW of its status as a UPN O&O. WOFL began airing fewer cartoons on the weekdays in the late 1990s and, in 2002, dropped them altogether during the 5-day week when Fox ended its children's programming block and leased the lineup to 4Kids Entertainment under the 4Kids TV brand. Until Fox bought WJZY in Charlotte in 2013, it was also the smallest Fox O&O in the Eastern Time Zone.
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WOFL was the first television station in the Orlando market to commence broadcasting of its digital signal in February 2000 on UHF channel 22. The station's digital signal began broadcasting in widescreen format in January 2002, and started to offer high definition programming in the 720p resolution format in September 2004.
WOFL terminated its analog signal, on UHF channel 35, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 22. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display WOFL's virtual channel as 35. WOFL was one of three stations in the Orlando area to participate in the "Analog Nightlight" program, which lasted until WOFL's analog transmitter was shut down permanently on July 12, 2009.
WOFL presently broadcasts 48 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 8 hours on weekdays and 4 hours on weekends); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the second-highest local newscast output of any television station in the Orlando market, among WFTV's news total by three hours. As is commonplace with Fox stations that carry early evening weekend newscasts, WOFL's Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. newscasts are subject to preemption due to sports coverage. WOFL's Ocala semi-satellite, WOGX (channel 51), currently simulcasts all of WOFL's newscasts except for the weekday 9 a.m., 6 and 11 p.m. editions. WOFL shares resources with Tampa sister station WTVT in areas of Florida in which the Orlando and Tampa markets overlap; the stations share reporters for stories occurring in Florida counties served by both markets, and WOFL also simulcasts WTVT's Tampa Bay Buccaneers pregame show Chip Carter's Tailgate Sunday.
For several years from 1988 to 1998, WOFL's news programming consisted solely of daily news updates featured during the station's syndicated programming. Meredith Corporation eventually decided to establish a full-fledged news department for WOFL, as Fox encouraged its affiliates to offer news programming; the station premiered a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast in March 1998, and became the first independently produced newscast in the Orlando market outside of the "big three" major-network affiliates. WOFL was noted for initially providing "hip" white Ford Mustangs for its news crews. The primetime newscast expanded to an hour in the fall of 1999. In September 2000, the station launched a two-hour weekday morning newscast called Good Day Orlando; this program later expanded to three hours from 6-9 a.m. in September 2002, with the Good Day Orlando being dropped for the existing 7-9 a.m. block of the broadcast in favor of the Fox 35 Morning News brand.
WOFL began competing against the Big Three affiliates in the early evening timeslot with the debut of the 5 p.m. newscast in March 2006, which expanded to seven days a week that fall. A 6 p.m. newscast was added in August 2007 and an 11 p.m. newscast began in January 2008; unlike many other Fox owned-and-operated stations that began airing newscasts in the traditional late news timeslot following Fox's purchase of the New World Communications station group, the 11 p.m. newscast does not use the NewsEdge title.
On February 9, 2009, WOFL became the third station in the Central Florida area to broadcast news in high definition. In June 2009, WOFL shut down its sports department, making it the only Fox-owned station without full-time sports segments; sports anchors Kevin Holden and Tom Johnson were resassigned to other positions. On October 27, 2009, WOFL debuted a new Doppler weather radar called "The Guardian", the most powerful radar system in the market operating on 1 million watts.
On September 14, 2009, the station rescheduled Fox 35 Morning News to 5-8:30 a.m. and launched an extension of the newscast called Good Day (marking a return of the brand after seven years), running weekdays from 8:30-10 a.m. The 8:30 half-hour was shortly reabsorbed into the morning news; however, on November 8, 2010, the entire morning newscast took on the Good Day name, along with an updated version of their news theme music. Also, in April 2010, the morning news was expanded to 4:30 a.m., expanding the entire morning newscast to 5½ hours each weekday morning and competing against an earlier launched 4:30 a.m. newscast on NBC affiliate WESH (channel 2). In November 2012, the morning show was renamed Good Day Orlando to match other Fox affiliates around the country.