WPCW, virtual channel 19 (VHF digital channel 11), is a television station licensed to Jeannette, Pennsylvania, United States that serves as the CW owned-and-operated station for the Pittsburgh television market. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation, as part of a duopoly with CBS station KDKA-TV (channel 2). The two stations share studio facilities at the Gateway Center in downtown Pittsburgh; WPCW's transmitter is located in the Perry North section of Pittsburgh. On cable, WPCW is carried on Comcast channels 15 (channel 22 in Bethel Park) (standard definition) and 808 (high definition), and Verizon FiOS channel 3.
By way of extended cable coverage, WPCW also serves as the default CW affiliate for the Johnstown-Altoona-State College television market, since that area currently lacks a CW affiliate of its own, even though CW affiliated Superstation WPIX in New York is also carried on Comcast in State College. WPCW was a Johnstown station for most of its history.
This station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|19.1||1080i||16:9||WPCW 19||Main WPCW programming / The CW|
WPCW shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 19, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 49 (where its digital signal was originally slated to remain post-transition) to VHF channel 11 (the former allocation of WPXI's analog signal). Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 19. Interference with Cleveland, Ohio CBS affiliate WOIO that existed when both stations operated analog signals is no longer an issue as that station is broadcasting its digital signal on VHF channel 10. In July 2009, the station applied with the FCC for a repeater digital signal on channel 27 in Johnstown.
WPCW is rebroadcast on WBPA-LP in Pittsburgh (owned by Venture Technologies Group, LLC) from the days when it did not have a strong signal throughout the city. WPCW has a construction permit to air a fill-in digital translator in Johnstown.
|Callsign||Channel||City of license||Transmitter location||Note|
|WPCW||27||Johnstown||Laurel Hill State Park along the Somerset and Westmoreland County line||Licensed|
|WBPA-LP||30||Pittsburgh||same as main signal||has construction permit to operate digital signal on VHF channel 6 as WBPA-LD from new transmitter in Clinton|
WPCW signed on the air on October 15, 1953 as WARD-TV on analog UHF channel 56, with studios on Franklin Street in Downtown Johnstown. The station was founded by Central Broadcasting, with the licensee for the TV station under the name Rivoli Realty Company, separate from the radio station yet still co-owned. The station operated at a power of 91,000 watts visual, and 45,500 watts aural power, which, as it was later learned in these experimental days of UHF, was rather low for such a station. It was co-owned with WARD radio (1490 AM, now WNTJ, and 92.1 FM, now WJHT). The station was the area's CBS affiliate with a secondary ABC affiliation. During the late-1950s, it was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
On March 22, 1971, Jonel Construction Company bought WARD-AM-FM-TV and changed their calls to WJNL-AM-FM-TV the following year, doing business as Cover Broadcasting, Inc. Having been issued a construction permit to do so in 1969, the television station then moved to the stronger UHF channel 19 and dropped ABC programming. The channel move also brought a substantial transmitter power increase to 215,000 watts visual, and 21,500 watts aural.
It also left the Franklin Street studio for a new facility located on Benshoff Hill, not too far from the transmitter atop Cover Hill in suburban Johnstown. The radio stations moved to the Benshoff Hill location in 1977, after the Franklin Street studios were destroyed in a massive flood.
Even with the move to the stronger channel 19 and the authorized power increase, the station was still plagued by a weak signal. Most of Western Pennsylvania is a very rugged dissected plateau, and at the time, UHF stations usually did not get good reception in rugged terrain. In fact, Johnstown viewers got better signals from WFBG-TV (channel 10) in Altoona and KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. After WFBG-TV was sold in 1973, that station changed its callsign to WTAJ-TV in part to acknowledge its Johnstown viewership (its call letters stand for "We're Television in Altoona and Johnstown"). As a result, WJNL-TV never thrived, and was more or less a non-factor in a market dominated by WJAC-TV (channel 6). It only stayed afloat because of the tremendous success of its FM sister, an adult contemporary powerhouse.
In 1982, the Johnstown and Altoona/State College markets were collapsed into a single designated market area. CBS gave its affiliation in the newly enlarged market to Altoona's WTAJ-TV, as it already had a large viewership in Johnstown. In contrast, WJNL-TV could not be seen at all in much of the eastern part of the market; while Altoona was just inside channel 19's grade B contour, State College was just outside it.
As WFAT and WPTJ
As a result, WJNL-TV became an independent station. Forced to buy an additional 19 hours of programming a day, its ratings plummeted even further. It was sold on February 1, 1983 to WFAT Incorporated, a company headed by Leon Crosby, a former owner of the original KEMO-TV (now KOFY-TV) in San Francisco, and renamed WFAT-TV. Crosby also had an ownership interest in WPGH-TV in neighboring Pittsburgh from 1973 to 1978, in addition to serving as that station's President and General Manager. Under the direction of Crosby, who had gained a favorable reputation from successfully turning around failing stations, the new WFAT-TV underwent a substantial number of transmitter renovations intended to overcome its ongoing stigma of poor signal reception in its own home market.
The station's transmitter facility was moved from Cover Hill to Pea Vine Hill, a much higher summit atop Laurel Hill Mountain in Ligonier Township, just outside the Cambria County border in neighboring Westmoreland County...about ten miles east of the Cover Hill location. With the move came its most powerful transmitter power increase yet to 1.6 million watts visual, and 166,000 watts aural. This enabled the station to provide a grade B signal to Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs, introducing itself to viewers there for the very first time who were unaware that this station had been on the air for many years by this time. The signal finally provided a clear city-grade signal to Johnstown viewers but still had a problem attracting Altoona viewers due to the mountainous terrain separating the two cities, resulting in still poor reception.
WFAT ownership corrected this by signing on a VHF translator (W12BR) in Altoona, which provided a Grade B signal to Altoona viewers. Unfortunately, the changes did little to improve its fortunes, largely because the major Pittsburgh independents were available on cable, and a construction permit had just been issued for a new VHF station in Johnstown, which would become known as WWCP(channel 8) when it signed on in 1986.
While WFAT-TV now had a highly competitive signal, it still had a primitive on-air look, using art cards rather than CGI technology, a character generator used since the WARD-TV years, and substandard microphones. As Crosby's formula of hiring young creative talent to produce local shows cheaply played a strong part in his turnarounds, even this was no longer profitable, as such shows were losing ground to syndicators now offering much cheaper alternatives that could be tailor-made for specific markets. The very few locally produced programs WFAT now had left were limited to discussion-based talk shows limited to simple, undecorated sets with little more than chairs and carpet. David Smith and Lee Mack (the former had been program director of WJNL Radio) served as the station's booth announcers.
Decline and bankruptcy
The station was seriously undermined in 1986 when WWCP-TV (channel 8) signed on and having the advantage of a VHF signal, took most of WFAT's stronger shows. The station changed calls to WPTJ in 1988 and moved its studios to Allen Bill Drive in the Johnstown Industrial Park, but saw no change in its fortunes. Frequent transmitter problems often left the station off-the-air for extended periods of time.
Declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, WPTJ went off the air in 1991, but intended a return as soon as the station's financial turmoil could be worked out. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the station was so heavily in debt by this time and its owners were unable to formulate a reorganization plan that would allow the station continued operation and an emergence from bankruptcy protection. Thus, the owners chose to switch from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which mandated the liquidation of all assets, thus removing any hope of returning the station to the air for the foreseeable future.
Return as WTWB-TV
Meanwhile, over in Pittsburgh, WBPA-LP on analog UHF channel 29 signed on in 1994 as a low-powered station owned by Venture Technologies Group, LLC. It ran some ABC and NBC shows that respectively, WTAE-TV (channel 4) and WPXI (channel 11) pre-empted, along with infomercials, religious, and home shopping programming. It added WB programming when that network launched on January 11, 1995 and added a few syndicated shows in the fall of that year. At some point in time, that station moved to UHF channel 30. Also in 1995, Venture Technologies bought the dormant WPTJ license in Johnstown. That station returned to the air in early 1997 under the callsign WTWB-TV, a full-powered satellite of WBPA-LP. Venture, however, still had trouble getting viewership in Pittsburgh in part because cable providers in the area were not willing to pick it up. To solve this problem, Venture asked and received permission to move WTWB-TV's license to Jeannette (about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh) and place it in that market. This qualified it for "must-carry" status on Pittsburgh cable providers. In the wake of the move, WTWB-TV began to acquire more off-network sitcoms and first-run syndicated shows, alongside cartoons from Kids' WB and primetime programming from The WB.
When WPTT acquired the WB affiliation and changed its call letters to WCWB in 1998 (it is now MyNetworkTV affiliate WPNT, channel 22), the UPN affiliation in the market became available. As such, channel 19 took the affiliation and changed its call letters to WNPA. Viacom's Paramount Stations Group bought the station in 1998. It became a sister station to KDKA-TV after the company merged with CBS in 2000. Viacom consolidated WNPA's operations into KDKA-AM-TV's studios at One Gateway Center by 2001. WNPA began to identify on air as "UPN Pittsburgh" in late 2003 due to the fact that various cable providers in the area carry the station on different channels.
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that The WB and UPN would shut down and be replaced by a new network called The CW, which would initially feature series from both predecessor networks along with newer programs. To coincide with this change, the station changed its call sign to WPCW and rebranded itself as "Pittsburgh's CW" in August. The network launched on September 18, 2006.
WPCW's analog transmitter was on Laurel Mountain west of Jennerstown, which is 35 miles southeast of Jeannette. This provided city-grade coverage to Johnstown and "rimshot" coverage to Pittsburgh. As a result, it was barely viewable over-the-air in many low-lying areas in the northern and western parts of the city and could not be seen at all in the city's western suburbs. When it applied to move its license to Jeannette, Venture sought and received a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule requiring a station's transmitter to be no farther than 15 miles from the city of license. It successfully contended that there was no way it could build an analog tower within the 15-mile limit without interfering with WOIO in Cleveland. However, on June 12, 2009 coinciding with the national transition to digital television, WPCW turned off its transmitter near Jennerstown and began broadcasting its digital signal from its new transmitter near Downtown Pittsburgh.
For years, CBS has fed a direct fiber signal to both Comcast and Verizon FiOS. The relocation of its transmitter now provides Pittsburgh with city-grade coverage, in addition to greater coverage west of the city but has left many viewers east of Westmoreland County (who were able to pick up WPCW's analog signal) without a viewable signal. WPCW is one of three former CBS affiliates that have since become CW stations owned by CBS, along with WTVX in West Palm Beach and KSTW in Seattle. However, WTVX has since been divested to Cerberus Capital Management's Four Points Media Group (the Four Points Media stations are now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Pittsburgh stations WPGH-TV and WPNT).
As CBS has done with most of its other CBS/The CW duopolies in other markets, WPCW's web address has been folded within the KDKA website with only basic station and programming information, along with entertainment news and promotional video from The CW.
WPCW usually televises about six Pittsburgh Penguins games a year to allow Fox Sports Pittsburgh (the team's usual broadcasting partner) to fulfill its national commitments to Fox Sports Networks' Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast Conference college football television packages. In 2010, WPCW broadcast the entire home schedule of the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcan Football season under the "Vulcan Sports Network" moniker.
WPCW and KDKA-TV serve as the area's official Pittsburgh Steelers stations and air several team-related shows. This includes Steelers Saturday Night on Saturday nights from 9 to 10 and Steelers TV on Saturday nights from 11 to 11:30 (hosted by Tunch Ilkin and Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola) during the NFL season. Depending on CBS' weekly doubleheader schedule, the Xfinity Xtra Point may air on WPCW right after a Steelers game. That program is anchored by Bob Pompeani, Ed Bouchette, and Edmund Nelson. The UPMC Nightly Sports Call airs every night from 10:35 to 11 after the KDKA-TV-produced prime time newscast. Weeknights are anchored by Bob Pompeani while weekends feature Jory Rand. Depending on the doubleheader schedule, there is a special edition that is shown during the season after the Xfinity Xtra Point.
As WJNL-TV in Johnstown, it did produce a local newscast from 1971 to 1974 on weekdays and a few public affairs programs to try to compete against WJAC. However, its facilities were below the standards expected for a network affiliate. In August 2001 as WNPA, the station began to carry a prime time newscast every night at 10 produced by KDKA (currently known as The KDKA-TV 10 O'Clock News on The CW since September 2006). The 35-minute newscast competes with a nightly newscast at 10 p.m. on Fox affiliate WPGH-TV that is produced by WPXI.
In 2005, the station debuted a two-hour extension of KDKA's weekday morning newscast airing from 7 to 9 a.m. This was later shortened to one hour amid poor ratings. On June 16, 2009, KDKA began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, starting with its weekday noon broadcast, with the introduction of a new set and weather center. KDKA was the last major Pittsburgh television station to begin airing newscasts in HD and the WPCW shows were included in the upgrade.
Notable current on–air staff
- Ken Rice - weeknights anchor
- Jon Delano - money and politics editor