WWJ-TV, channel 62, is a CBS owned-and-operated television station located in 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, predominately in the province of Ontario, and is one of five local Detroit television stations seen in Canada on satellite provider Shaw Direct.
WWJ is notable for its brief weather forecast at 11 pm, which begins with the meteorologist saying "Two and a Half Men, starts in two and a half minutes." At one point, viewers were invited to submit videos of themselves saying the phrase, which were then played in a momtage before each forecast.
The station first signed on the air on September 29, 1975, as WGPR-TV (the callsign standing for "Where God's Presence Radiates"). The station was originally owned by WGPR Incorporated, formed by the Detroit-based International Free and Accepted Modern Masons. 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 the inner northern 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.
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.
Purchase by CBS
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 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. 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.
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 nearby VHF stations. 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 and the immediate area. 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.
Negotiations with WGPR moved slowly. 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, it 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, CBS changed the station's call letters to WWJ-TV after WWJ radio (950 AM), which CBS had owned since 1989. 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's 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, and 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, a fundraiser was held at the Detroit Historical Museum; in 2016, an exhibit on WGPR-TV will be displayed at the Detroit Historical 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 that will be located at the station's original operating quarters.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|62.1||1080i||16:9||WWJ-HD||Main WWJ-TV programming / CBS|
|62.2||480i||16:9||Decades||Secondary WWJ-TV programming / Decades TV Network|
WWJ-TV began operating its digital high-definition feed on UHF 44 in July, 1999. WWJ-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 62, 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 remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 44. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 62, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
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. The network is co-owned by CBS and Weigel (owner of CBS affiliate WDJT-TV in Milwaukee), with Weigel being responsible for distribution to non-CBS-owned stations. It airs programs from the extensive library of CBS Television Distribution, including archival footage from CBS News. Decades soft-launched on WWJ-TV in mid-February 2015 under the title Countdown to Decades, with full programming beginning on May 25, 2015. During the soft launch period, Decades had a unique programming slate that was dedicated to one TV series at a time, with continuing episodes airing in sequence 24 hours a day. Viewers were able to binge on episode after episode of each program as it aired in order.
WWJ-TV's signal adequately covers most of Metro Detroit, including Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as Windsor, Leamington, Chatham-Kent, and the Port Huron-Sarnia areas as well. During good television reception conditions, it can be picked up as far away as the Flint area.
Cable and satellite carriage
The station is carried on most cable outlets in Southeast Michigan, Southwestern Ontario, and Northwestern Ontario, and via satellite on Shaw Direct, Dish Network and DirecTV (most of whom carry it in high definition). The Shaw Broadcast Services CANCOM satellite feeds are in turn used to feed cable television systems in communities such as Ottawa, Ontario.
As a CBS O&O, WWJ-TV broadcasts CBS Sports telecasts, including CBS's coverage of NFL football. Although most regular season Detroit Lions games air on Fox because the team is in the NFC; from 2008 to 2010, WWJ-TV was the flagship station of the Detroit Lions Television Network in place of sister station WKBD-TV. The station also aired the weekly program The Ford Lions Report, produced by the Detroit Lions during the regular season, and also aired pre-season games for the team (by NFL rules, all cable games are required to be broadcast by a local television station in the team's primary market). In 2010, WWJ-TV had broadcast all Lions preseason games in high definition. The rights to broadcast Lions preseason games and other team-related programming moved to ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV (which as a result, replaced WWJ-TV as the flagship of the Detroit Lions Television Network) beginning with the 2011 season.
WWJ-TV, as per CBS's contract, broadcasts Detroit Lions regular season games when the team is hosting an AFC opponent, including the traditional Thanksgiving Day game on even-numbered years. WWJ-TV also broadcasts the Lions' ESPN Monday Night Football and NFL Network's Thursday Night Football games, resulting in CBS' entire primetime lineup being moved to WKBD-TV for the night. As per ESPN's Monday Night contract, WWJ-TV has the right of first refusal for at least one Monday night game. This right of first refusal has only been deferred twice, when the Lions' lone Monday night game of 2011 was moved to WXYZ-TV due to an unexpected winning record at the time, and then when the station moved the team's first Monday night game of 2015 to WKBD so as to not preempt a new episode of The Big Bang Theory, among other programs. Being the team's primary market, it is subject to the NFL blackout policy.
News and weather operations
As WGPR-TV, the station produced a low-budget newscast titled Big City News, which served as a launching pad for several news personalities such as Amyre Makupson (née Porter), who later became the lead anchor and public affairs director at WKBD; and Sharon Crews, who later became a multiple-award-winning broadcast journalist. The WGPR-TV news operation was shut down in the late 1980s. In the fall of 1996, WWJ-TV presented a news special on the annual "Devil's Night" fires in Detroit. It served as the pilot for what would become InDepth Detroit, a newsmagazine that aired on Sunday evenings from early 1997 to March 2001.
Unlike other former independent stations and Fox affiliates that joined a Big Three network displaced due to Fox's affiliation deals with longtime major network stations, WWJ-TV did not invest in its own news department after it was acquired by CBS. The station would not have a regular newscast until April 2001, when WWJ-TV launched 62 CBS News at 11. The stripped-down newscast was produced by WKBD, which had been producing its own newscast at 10 p.m. since 1968. Initial efforts tried to brand channel 50's newscast (known as UPN Nightside) as a younger, hipper program and channel 62's as a more straightforward, traditional major-network-owned newscast. However, WKBD and WWJ-TV relied on the same pool of reporters and anchors and even broadcast from the same studio (a situation common with television stations that outsource news programming to another same-market station, mainly in regards to the use of reporters). The same resources, such as ENG trucks, cameras, writers and editors, were used on both broadcasts, although each broadcast generally had its own producer. Not surprisingly, the two newscasts came to mirror each other closely on most nights; a 2002 from The Detroit News called the similar newscasts "attack of the clones".
Despite the link to WKBD's long-successful news department, WWJ-TV never came even close to competing with WDIV, WJBK and WXYZ-TV. The newscast was dropped in December 2002  along with the WKBD newscast when owner Viacom shut down the shared news department. The 10:00 p.m. newscast on WKBD continued, retitled "UPN Detroit Action News", and produced by Scripps-owned WXYZ, employing some of the news staff laid off from WWJ-TV and WKBD (that newscast would eventually be canceled in 2005). This move made WWJ-TV the only CBS-owned station not to produce any local news programming (in sharp contrast, WWJ radio is the only all-news radio station in the Detroit area). WWJ-TV is the largest of a group of major-network stations, and the only owned-and-operated station of the four major American broadcast networks, that does not air regular local newscasts. This group also includes ABC affiliate WATM-TV in the Altoona/Johnstown/State College, Pennsylvania market and NBC affiliate WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida, among others. During the period in which they did have local newscasts, WWJ-TV was also the only owned-and-operated station of the four major American broadcast networks whose newscasts were not closed-captioned.
Currently, during the time slots when local newscasts would generally air, WWJ-TV instead runs syndicated programming such as Dr. Phil, The Insider, Family Feud, and Two and a Half Men. The former two programs are both syndicated by CBS Television Distribution, while the latter of the four had its episodes air first-run on CBS. Alongside the relaunch under the "WWJ-TV" branding, short weather updates known as the WWJ-TV First Forecast were added on weekday mornings during The Early Show (and later CBS This Morning), and evenings at 5:00 and 11:00 p.m. on January 7, 2008. This was later accompanied by a new morning program on May 5, 2009, called First Forecast Mornings; while the program primarily focused on weather and traffic reports, news headlines were also included via a partnership with the Detroit Free Press, effectively marking WWJ-TV's return to airing a local newscast. The partnership with the Free Press ended at the end of 2010, and WWJ-TV's radio sister replaced the Free Press as its news partner. On February 7, 2011, an extension of First Forecast Mornings debuted on sister station WKBD-TV from 7 to 9 a.m.
In addition, WWJ-TV airs one other locally produced program, Michigan Matters, a talk show featuring economic and political topics relevant to the metro Detroit area. WWJ-TV senior producer, Carol Cain, is the host. Typically there are two interviews, an open conversation "Round Table" segment and then a "Final Viewpoint" where each of the three panelists and the host read a prepared statement pertaining to the topic of the show.
WWJ-TV and WKBD-TV upgraded all locally produced programming to high definition on February 2, 2012, making them the final CBS-owned properties with an in-house news operation to upgrade to HD; however, the stations continue to air syndicated programming in place of traditional evening and late night newscasts. First Forecast Mornings was discontinued on December 28, 2012 due to low viewership, with the program being replaced by the CBS Morning News and Dr. Phil in its timeslot. On January 25, 2016, a new short-form sports segment known as the Detroit Sports Report was added following the 11:00 p.m. First Forecast segment.