WAOW is the ABC-affiliated television station for North-Central Wisconsin's Northern Highland. Licensed to Wausau, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 9 from a transmitter on Rib Mountain. Owned by Quincy Media, WAOW has studios on Grand Avenue/U.S. 51 in Wausau.
WAOW signed on the air June 12, 1965. It was owned by Mid-Continent Broadcasting. It served as a satellite station of Madison's WKOW as part of the Wisconsin Television Network which would later include WXOW in La Crosse and WQOW in Eau Claire. Midcontinent Broadcasting sold the stations to Horizon Communications in 1970. Liberty Television bought the stations in 1978. This station gradually increased its local programming and content finally severing the electronic umbilical cord with WKOW in the 1980s.
In 1985, Liberty Television sold the Wisconsin stations to Tak Communications. Tak filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991 and was later taken over by a group of creditors. In 1995, as part of Tak Communications went bankrupt, Shockley Communications Corporation purchased WAOW along with three sister stations (WKOW, WXOW and WQOW). Quincy Newspapers purchased most of the Shockley stations, including it's Wisconsin sister stations in June 2001.
WAOW previously aired Fox's NFL package from 1994 until 1999 after the National Football Conference contract and rights for most Green Bay Packers games moved from CBS (locally WSAW-TV) due to the lack of a local Fox affiliate. When Wittenberg-licensed WFXS-DT came on-the-air in December 1999, it became the area's Fox affiliate.
WYOW's first broadcast to viewers in Northern Wisconsin and the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan was on January 4, 1997 under the ownership of Northwoods Educational Television. Shockley operated the station through a local marketing agreement (LMA) until Shockley successfully purchased it outright in December 1998. On June 25, 2002, WAOW became the first commercial television station in the market to broadcast in high definition and was joined by WYOW on October 24.
WAOW/WYOW converted fully to digital on February 17, 2009 without a nightlight period for WAOW while WYOW converted after a nightlight period. The two stations carried the Retro Television Network (RTV) on a third digital subchannel until March 2009. In the beginning of that month, it was replaced with This TV.
In February and March, WAOW aired WFXS's digital signal temporarily on DT3 while that station ironed out problems with activation of its digital transmitter. In early-September 2009, WFXS added RTV to its third digital subchannel. In mid-February 2009, Quincy announced the purchase of Crandon-based WBIJ, a FamilyNet affiliate, which was sold to Quincy by the widow of the station's founder.
Plans called for the conversion of the station to a second satellite of WAOW to serve the northeastern portion of the market near the Michigan border after completing the station's digital VHF channel 12 transmitter facilities. Quincy has since renamed the station WMOW to conform with the call letters of WAOW and the remainder of Quincy's network of ABC affiliates throughout the state which all carry a "OW" suffix. Quincy put the WMOW on-the-air June 4, 2010.
In addition to its main signal, WAOW operates two satellite stations that provide additional coverage and significant overlap.
WYOW airs the same broadcast schedule as WAOW except for separate legal identifications and local commercial inserts. However, this slightly different feed is seen exclusively over-the-air as only WAOW is offered on Charter systems in the market. WYOW maintains an advertising sales office on West Pine Street/WIS 17/WIS 70 in Eagle River. The station is identified on-air as "Northwoods 34" based on North-Central Wisconsin's namesake as a popular vacation and retirement destination in the Upper Midwestern United States. WYOW also serves the western portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula although the off-air signal reach is limited to areas around Iron River and Watersmeet.
WMOW technically operates as another full-time satellite of WAOW. However, in an unusual arrangement the big three network is actually seen on a second digital subchannel of WMOW. Therefore, this essentially makes its main channel a straight satellite of CW affiliate WAOW-DT2 (through the CW Plus national service). Besides its transmitter, WMOW does not maintain any physical presence locally in Crandon.
|Station||City of license||Channel|
|First air date||ERP||HAAT||Facility ID||Transmitter coordinates||Transmitter location|
|WYOW||Eagle River||28 (UHF) /|
|January 4, 1997||70 kW||163 m||77789||in unincorporated Oneida County between Sugar Camp and Three Lakes|
|WMOW-DT2||Crandon||12.2 (VHF) /|
|June 4, 2010||3.2 kW||119 m||81503||east of downtown|
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|9.1||720p||16:9||WAOW DT||Main WAOW programming / ABC|
|9.2||CW||Central Wisconsin CW|
WYOW does not maintain any news-related personnel at its Eagle River office. However, there is a specific section on WAOW's website featuring "Northwoods 34" branded headlines as provided through WAOW's regional coverage. In 2000, WAOW entered into a news share agreement with WFXS (owned by Davis Television, LLC). The arrangement resulted in a weeknight prime time newscast to debut on the Fox outlet. The broadcast, known as Fox 55 News at 9, could be seen for thirty minutes.
Although there was no weekend edition of the show, it was eventually joined by a weekday morning newscast (also produced by WAOW) on April 23, 2012. Known as Fox 55 This Morning, this program aired for an hour (from 7 until 8) on WFXS offering a local alternative to the national morning programs seen on the big three networks. Both of the WFXS newscasts maintained a separate music package and graphics scheme from WAOW. The broadcasts originated from the ABC outlet's primary set at its studios but with unique duratrans indicating the Fox-branded shows. On June 19, 2011, WAOW became the market's second television outlet to upgrade local news to high definition level. Included in the change was a redesigned set and updated graphics scheme. Eventually, in 2012, WFXS made the transition to HD newscasts.
On July 1, 2015 co-current with the Fox affiliation moving to low-powered WZAW-LD, both of the Fox-branded newscasts were cancelled after the news share arrangement was terminated. Almost a week later (on July 6), WAOW introduced its own prime time news at 9 (airing weeknights for a half-hour) on its CW digital subchannel. This broadcast, known as Newsline 9 at 9 on The CW, can also be seen through a simulcast on WMOW's main channel and WYOW-DT2. At some point in fall 2015, WSAW (which is co-owned with WZAW) will launch a new show at 9 on the Fox outlet offering competition in the time slot.