WBUW (digital channel 32 or "CW 57") is a television station affiliated with The CW. Licensed to Janesville, Wisconsin, the station serves all of Madison, south-central Wisconsin, and portions of Northern Illinois. WBUW is owned by Byrne Acquisition Group, and has offices and studios at 2814 Syene Road on Madison's far south side and transmits a high-definition video signal from a tower located on Madison's southwest side.
The original construction permit for Channel 57 was granted on May 2, 1998 with the call letters WJNW, however, the station did not sign on until July 5, 1999 as WHPN-TV. With a transmitter located approximately ten miles west of Janesville, the station served as the UPN affiliate for both the Madison and Rockford, Illinois TV markets.
In 2002, WHPN was purchased by ACME Communications, a station group run by Jamie Kellner, a founder of The WB Television Network and former CEO of that network and TBS. In conjunction with the sale, WHPN changed affiliations to The WB in August 2002 and adopted the WBUW call letters (while Madison's former WB affiliate, WISC-owned cable channel/digital subchannel WB14, took the UPN affiliation and "UPN14" branding).
In 2004, WBUW moved its transmitter to its current location in the Greentree neighborhood of Madison's southwest side, sharing space on a new tower with WMTV (Channel 15); this move extend WBUW's coverage throughout south-central Wisconsin. It remained the Rockford affiliate for the WB until the launch of The CW in September 2006, when Rockford's WREX-TV (channel 13) launched a CW subchannel for that market.
In March 2006, WBUW was confirmed  as Madison's affiliate of The CW Television Network, the result of the WB and UPN networks amalgamating; WBUW was one of eight ACME-owned WB affiliates who joined The CW as a group in September 2006.
On December 13, 2011, ACME announced it would sell WBUW to Byrne Acquisition Group for $1.8 million, a move that was part of ACME's gradual exit from the TV business. The deal was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and consummated in February 2012 (one quarter ahead of schedule), and gave the Byrne Group its second TV property (after low-power station "WHHI-TV" in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina). Since its acquisition by the Byrne Group, on-air changes at WBUW have included a 2012 rebranding (from "Madison's CW" to "CW 57"); a master control upgrade to accommodate local and syndicated programming produced in high-definition; an expansion of locally-focused content (see below); and, in Summer 2015, the addition of two digital subchannels.
Upcoming loss of CW affiliation
WBUW's affiliation agreement for The CW, which then-owner ACME Communications reached at the network's 2006 launch, was for a ten-year period, lasting until September 2016. The station's affiliation with The CW will end at that time, the result of an affiliation agreement announced by Gray Television, owner of Madison's NBC affiliate WMTV, on December 15, 2015. Gray's agreement, along with extending affiliations with its existing CW stations, includes the addition of the network on WMTV's DT2 subchannel, which currently carries WeatherNation TV, in the fall of 2016. No formal post-CW plans have been announced by WBUW, though the station has been featuring a non-network branding ("Channel 57") on some of its locally-produced programming since early 2016.
Local news and features
In September 2003, WBUW launched The WB57 Nine O'Clock News, a 35-minute, Monday-thru-Friday newscast produced in partnership with the news operations at NBC affiliate WMTV. The newscast was geared toward The WB's younger-skewing audience, with a fast-paced format (most stories were no more than 30 seconds in length, the lead story no more than 2 minutes), a large emphasis on entertainment and lifestyle features, nightly e-mail contests, sweeps-month "free gas giveaways," and in-studio performances by local musicians during Friday editions of the newscast. The WB57 Nine O'Clock News never gained ratings ground against competing newscasts on WMSN and UPN14; as a result, WBUW cancelled the newscast and its news-share relationship with WMTV in December 2005, with syndicated programming being returned to the time slot.
At the beginning of 2007, local content on WBUW resumed in the form of "Buzzed Into Madison." Airing each day during WBUW's broadcasts of The Daily Buzz (usually around 20 minutes after each hour), the "Buzzed Into Madison" vignettes included "positive" (the station's term) features on Madison-area news, events, and personalities, as well as features with and promotions from station sponsors. The success of "Buzzed into Madison" would lead ACME Communications, The Daily Buzz's then-producer (and WBUW's then-owner), to permit other Daily Buzz affiliates to insert their own local segments if they so desired. Emmy Fink served as the original host and producer of "Buzzed into Madison" from the feature's 2007 launch until her June 2011 departure from WBUW. "Buzzed" would air on a limited basis after that, with content including entertainment previews from the Isthmus newspaper and a series of "junior reporters" from area schools (one reporter per month during the 2011-2012 academic year).
Since its 2012 acquisition by the Byrne Group, WBUW's local content has greatly expanded to mirror the approach of its South Carolina sister station. A notable portion of "CW 57's" weekly schedule is devoted to locally-oriented discussion programs, sporting events, and other content featuring sponsoring businesses from Madison and Southern Wisconsin. Such past and current programs have included:
- Current features
- Bordello of Horror - a mainstay of local cable access channel WYOU, "Freakshow, the Deacon of Darkness" hosts presentations of classic and independent horror movies
- Girl Talk - discussions on issues and topics affecting women as well as showcases of women-owned or -oriented businesses
- High school sports - tape-delayed football (in the fall) and basketball (in winter) broadcasts, airing in their entirety on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and primarily featuring high schools from the Big Eight and Badger Conferences
- Maximized Living with Dr. Patrick Andersen - advice and insight on health, fitness, and nutrition from the chiropractic orthopedist based at Madison's Maximized Living clinic
- The Real Estate News - information about the real estate industry and advice from Southern Wisconsin realtors
- The Restaurant Show - profiles, menu items, and recipe tips from area restaurants and culinary experts
- The Sports News - a sportscast spotlighting Southern Wisconsin sports, primarily focusing on high school and college athletics
- Talk of the Town - interviews with and profiles of local newsmakers, personalities, businesses, organizations, and upcoming events
- Wisconsin Doctors - information, advice, and discussions on health, fitness, and well being from area physicians and health experts
- Wisconsin Family - advice and business profiles oriented to helping families live better lives
- Past features
- Community Connections - two-minute features on local events and businesses throughout the broadcast day
- Destination - profiles of businesses in specific communities in Madison and Southern Wisconsin (e.g. Destination Monona, Destination Wisconsin Dells)
- Fusin' It with Joe Perkins - a Dinner and a Movie-style film showcase, with cutaway studio features on recipes and menu offerings presented by Joe Perkins, owner of the Cold Fusion restaurants.
- Inside Badger Nation - a weekly half-hour show produced with Badger Nation magazine that offered highlights and profiles of University of Wisconsin—Madison athletics
- Madison in the Morning - a partial simulcast of WIBA radio's weekday morning news and information show
- Open Seating - a precursor to The Restaurant Show, hosted by Brian Lee of the website EatDrinkMadison.com and emphasizing interviews and profiles of Madison-area restaurateurs
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|57.1||1080i||16:9||WBUW-HD||Main WBUW programming / The CW|
|57.3||H&I||Heroes & Icons|
WBUW shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 57, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 32. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 57, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition. With the analog channel 57 serving as a "nightlighting" (broadcasting a loop of digital transition instructionals) until signing off for good the first week of March 2009.