KGCW is the CW-affiliated television station for the Quad Cities of Eastern Iowa and West-Central Illinois. Licensed to Burlington, Iowa, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 41 (virtual channel 26.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter in the Seaton village of Abington Township, Illinois. The station can also be seen on Mediacom channel 113 and in high definition on digital channel 713. KGCW is owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group as part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate WHBF-TV. Nexstar also operates Fox affiliate KLJB, owned by Marshall Broadcasting. All three stations share studios in the Telco Building on 18th Street in downtown Rock Island. KGCW carries MLB Chicago Cubs baseball from ABC O&O station WLS-TV in Chicago and also carries preseason NFL Green Bay Packers football from that team's Wisconsin state network. KGCW can also be seen on WHBF's second digital subchannel (VHF channel 4.2 or virtual channel 4.2 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Bettendorf; a city located within Pleasant Valley Township in Scott County, Iowa.
The station signed-on January 6, 1988 as KJMH. It aired an analog signal on UHF channel 26 with an effective radiated power of 200 kilowatts (at a height of 96 meters) from a tower on Winegard Drive in Burlington. KJMH quickly became a Fox affiliate, primarily serving the southern portion of the Quad Cities market. However, the station suffered interference and duplication from the area's other Fox affiliate, KLJB in Davenport serving the northern portions of the area. Finally in 1996, this station became a full-time satellite of KLJB. In 2001, KJMH broke off and became a The WB affiliate for the Quad Cities and adopted the KGWB-TV call sign.
In September 2006 as a result of The WB and UPN merging to form The CW, the station was picked as the new network affiliate for the Quad Cities. To reflect the change, KGWB adopted the KGCW-TV call letters on June 30, 2006. Meanwhile, the area's low-powered UPN affiliate WBQD-LP joined the other new service, News Corporation's MyNetworkTV. While broadcasting in analog, KGCW's signal failed to cover the Quad Cities adequately because WBQD also transmitted on channel 26. In addition, its coverage area was less than most full-powered UHF outlets in the United States due to its lower effective radiated power and antenna height. However, from 2001 to 2015, this shortfall had been made up by it being available on cable systems in the area through a fiber optic link and a simulcast on KLJB-DT2. During the Spring of 2015, however, the KGCW subchannel simulcast would migrate to WHBF-DT2.
On November 6, 2013, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the Grant Broadcasting stations, including KGCW and KLJB, for $87.5 million. Due to Federal Communications Commission ownership regulations (Nexstar was also in the process of acquiring WHBF-TV), KLJB was originally slated to have been spun off to Mission Broadcasting, with Nexstar operating the station through a shared services agreement. However, on June 6, 2014, Nexstar announced that it would instead sell KLJB to a minority-controlled company Marshall Broadcasting—a new company headed by Pluria Marshall Jr., for $58.5 million. While this company acquired much of the station's assets, Nexstar entered into a shared services agreement to provide non-programming resources (such as master control) and advertising sales for Marshall's three stations. The sale was completed on December 1, 2014.
On March 25, 2015, it was announced that KGCW would broadcast 24 Chicago Cubs baseball games to Quad City area baseball fans during the 2015 Major League Baseball Season. This was due to the baseball games no longer being available on a national basis to cable and satellite viewers via WGN America. The origination of the baseball broadcasts was split between Chicago's WGN-TV and ABC O&O station WLS-TV, with KGCW carrying the games broadcast by WLS, and the Quad Cities' MyNetworkTV affiliate WQAD-DT3 airing the games broadcast by WGN. In the past, KGCW had aired St. Louis Cardinals baseball games when that team's flagship station was fellow WB/CW affiliate KPLR-TV. On April 5, 2016, it was revealed that during the 2016 Major League Baseball Season, KGCW would carry Chicago Cubs baseball telecasts originating from WLS-TV for a second consecutive year.
In November 2014, while Nexstar was still waiting for the completion of its sale of KLJB to Marshall Broadcasting, there was speculation by other local media that KGCW might move to a digital subchannel of WHBF-TV. On May 14, 2015, Nexstar relaunched WHBF's 4.2 subchannel with a standard definition simulcast of KGCW. The simulcast had previously aired on KLJB's 18.2 subchannel, but was moved to the WHBF subchannel due to the sale of KLJB to Marshall Broadcasting.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|26.1||720p||16:9||KGCW-HD||Main KGCW programming / The CW|
In December 2009, it finally changed the PSIP identifier for the main channel on 26.1 from its pre-transition labeling of "KGCW-DT" to its current legal call sign "KGCW" without the "-DT" suffix in it. KGCW shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 26, at noon on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 41. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 26. It transferred the "KGCW-TV" calls from its now-defunct analog signal channel 26 to its digital signal on channel 41 and the "KGCW-DT" call sign was discontinued.
However, it changed the legal Federal Communications Commission (FCC) call sign again to KGCW around the revised digital transition date in June 2009 while continuing to use "KGCW-DT" through PSIP to identify channel 26.1 all the way up until December 2009. The current digital signal had been on-the-air from a new transmitter site near north of Seaton since November 2008 and from the station's original Burlington site on Winegard Drive prior to that. The remainder of the television stations in the Quad Cities terminated analog signals on the new analog shutoff date, June 12.
Until 2010, KGCW aired a rebroadcast of KLJB's thirty-minute prime time newscast produced by the Independent News Network (INN) on Tuesday through Saturday mornings at 5. On August 6, 2010, it was made public KLJB terminated its long standing partnership with INN and entered into a news share agreement with ABC affiliate WQAD-TV (owned by Local TV). On September 6, that station began producing a nightly half-hour prime time show on KLJB still known by the same name. KGCW then began repeating the previous night's newscast Monday through Friday mornings at 5. Production of Fox 18 Nine O'Clock News changed once more on December 31, 2012 when it was taken over through a new outsourcing arrangement by NBC affiliate KWQC-TV (owned by Young Broadcasting). KGCW moved the repeat of KLJB's show to the next morning at 1. In the fall of 2015, the KLJB newscast repeat was dropped in favor of an overnight rebroadcast of WHBF-TV's late newscast.