WCWF, virtual channel 14 (UHF digital channel 21), is a CW-affiliated television station located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States that is licensed to Suring. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with Fox affiliate WLUK-TV (channel 11). The two stations share studios located on Lombardi Avenue (U.S. 41) in Green Bay, WCWF's transmitter is located in Glenmore.

History

The station launched on February 22, 1984 as religious independent station WSCO-TV, under the ownership of Northeastern Wisconsin Christian Television Incorporated. The station's former analog transmitter was located outside of the unincorporated Oconto County community of Krakow, four miles north of Pulaski on WIS 32. Financial problems would force the station off the air by 1987; VCY America would purchase the station's license that year[2] and return it to the air by 1993 as a sister station to Milwaukee's WVCY-TV with religious and home shopping programming. On April 30, 1997, Paxson Communications purchased the station[3] and converted it to a paid programming format under Paxson's inTV service. In August 1998, WSCO became a charter owned-and-operated station of Pax TV under the new call sign WPXG (for "Paxson Green Bay").

On June 2, 1999, Paxon sold WPXG to ACME Communications;[4] the station immediately became a primary WB affiliate and changed its call sign to WIWB, originally branded as "WB 14" and later "Wisconsin's WB". Before it joined the network, WB programming in Northeastern Wisconsin was previously seen either through cable providers that carried WGN and/or Milwaukee's WVTV or during off hours on UPN affiliate WACY-TV (channel 32; Kids' WB programming aired as part of WACY's children's lineup). WIWB also continued to air Pax programming in the mornings, overnights and weekends for a few years after ACME's purchase was finalized; it would drop that network by 2004, at which time the station's programming lineup adopted a more general entertainment format that was heavily reliant on sitcom reruns and court shows, in addition to WB programming. Pax TV's successor, Ion Television would not return to the market over-the-air until November 2015, when WBAY-TV launched it on their DT3 subchannel.

On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW.[5][6] On March 9, 2006, ACME Communications announced that WIWB would become Green Bay's CW affiliate.[7] The station officially joined the network upon its September 18, 2006 launch. Prior to that date, it temporarily carried not only WB programs, but also shows from UPN after its Green Bay affiliate WACY-TV dropped UPN before that network's closure to join MyNetworkTV.

On June 4, 2010, LIN TV Corporation, owner of Green Bay's Fox affiliate WLUK-TV, as part of an agreement with ACME Communications in three markets where both companies owned stations, announced that it would begin to operate WIWB through separate shared services and joint sales agreements; WLUK would provide WIWB with technical, engineering, promotional, administrative and other operational support services, as well as joint advertising sales for the two stations.[8] As part of its agreements with ACME, LIN TV had the option to purchase WIWB, an option it exercised in September 2010, purchasing not only WIWB but another CW station in a similar arrangement, Dayton, Ohio's WBDT.[9] LIN TV included in its license transfer request to the Federal Communications Commission a "failing station waiver," an indication that the station was in an economically non-viable position and that FCC should relax ownership limits that apply to the Green Bay market so that Channel 14 could stay on the air; that limit (found in CFR§73.3555(b)(2) of the FCC's rules) permits ownership duopolies in markets with at least eight full-power stations, whereas Green Bay has only seven (Journal Communications would also seek a waiver in its 2012 purchase of WACY-TV, which has been operated through Journal-owned WGBA-TV since 1994).[10][11]

In April 2011, the FCC approved the ownership transfer of WCWF from ACME to LIN TV, also applying the requested failing station waiver.[12] Additionally, the FCC denied a petition from Time Warner Cable, the dominant cable provider in Northeast Wisconsin; the FCC dismissed as speculative TWC's claims that that higher retransmission fees for WCWF, when paired with those for WLUK, would result from LIN TV's purchase of the station, and that LIN's collective retransmission plans for both stations did not violate FCC rules.[2] The sale of WCWF to LIN was consummated on May 20, 2011.[2]

Almost immediately after taking control of WIWB, LIN TV would make changes at the station, starting with relocating its operations from the Parkview Plaza strip mall in suburban Ashwaubenon to WLUK's studios on Lombardi Avenue. During August and September 2010, the station would undergo changes in both on-air branding (from "Wisconsin's CW" to "CW14") and call sign (from WIWB to WCWF). Also in the fall of 2010, WCWF would upgrade syndicated programming to high-definition (which already occurs on WLUK), while both WCWF and WLUK would begin hourly cross-promotions of each other's programming.[2] In mid-November 2010, WCWF's website was switched from being managed by ACME's webhost, Desert Bloom Productions, to LIN Media Interactive (LIN Media's branding for EndPlay, formerly Fox Interactive Media).

On March 21, 2014, LIN Media entered into an agreement to merge with Media General in a $1.6 billion deal. Because Media General already owns ABC affiliate WBAY-TV (which was acquired in 2013 as part of Media General's merger with Young Broadcasting), the companies were required to sell either WLUK or WBAY to another station owner in order to comply with FCC ownership rules as well as planned changes to those rules regarding same-market television stations which would prohibit sharing agreements.[2][2][2]

On August 20, 2014, Media General announced that it would keep WBAY and sell WLUK and WCWF, along with WJAR/Providence and WTGS/Savannah, to Sinclair Broadcast Group in exchange for Sinclair stations in Tampa Bay (WTTA) and Colorado Springs (KXRM-TV and KXTU-LD).[19] As part of its acquisition, Sinclair announced it would seek a continuation of the FCC rules waiver allowing the joint ownership of WCWF and WLUK.[2] The sale was completed on December 19.[21]

On October 31, 2015, WCWF formally launched a digital subchannel affiliated with Comet, a science fiction-themed network jointly owned by Sinclair and MGM Television;[22] it is the first subchannel offered by Sinclair on either WCWF or WLUK, and is expected to also feature programming from Sinclair's sports service, American Sports Network. In March 2016, WCWF aired two NBA on ABC games during a weekend in lieu of WBAY, which was carrying its annual telethon for local cerebral palsy research and medical care.

Digital television

Digital channel

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[23]
14.11080i16:9WCWF-HDMain WCWF programming / The CW
14.2480iCOMETComet

Analog-to-digital conversion

On December 12, 2008, the station replaced its digital transmitter antenna due to a wavering signal and recommended that viewers perform a channel rescan to restore the WIWB's digital signal if they lost reception. WCWF (as WIWB) shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 14, 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 (which was later pushed back to June 12). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 21.[24] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 14.

As part of the SAFER Act,[25] WCWF kept its analog signal on the air until March 4 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters. On May 6, 2009 due to the station's close proximity to the Canadian border, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a conditional approval of WIWB's construction permit to expand its coverage area by increasing power. The approval was needed in order to work with interference problems resulting from PBS member station WCMW across Lake Michigan in Manistee, Michigan sharing channel 21 and to address the concerns of interference in local health care facilities' radiological equipment.[26] The increase in power was applied on September 8, 2009 and station officials asked viewers to rescan for the signal.

In mid-November 2011, the station experienced major problems with its transmitter and LIN's technical staff had to take the station off the air for several days to repair the problem. As there was no backup fiber optic link to Time Warner Cable, the station was not available to cable viewers either, and as neither of LIN's stations in Green Bay carry any subchannels, WLUK was unable to offer WCWF's programming over a backup 11.2 signal. The station was unable to get permission from The CW to carry the two nights of network programming missed during the shutdown and referred viewers to the network's website and Hulu to watch the missed shows.

Programming

In addition to carrying The CW's full network programming lineup, syndicated programming on WCWF includes Family Feud, The People's Court, Extra, How I Met Your Mother, and Family Guy among others; the station also carried the entire run of The Daily Buzz, which originated under ACME ownership, from its 2003 launch to its sudden April 17, 2015 ending. WCWF also broadcasts syndicated college sports from the ACC Network and, since its acquisition by Sinclair, the company's American Sports Network, with weeknight ASN programming airing on WCWF-DT2 to allow CW programming to air without pre-emption. WCWF is also used as a "shadow station" for WLUK programming pre-empted due to extended breaking news or severe weather coverage, or network programming (mainly sports events) that overruns into or is scheduled to preempt regular programs; for example, 9 p.m. newscasts on WLUK that are preempted for Fox Sports broadcasts will air on WCWF (in prior years, WLUK leased access on a Time Warner Cable channel for its preempted newscasts).[27] Beginning in 2016, the station acquired local rights to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state basketball and hockey championships as part of Quincy Media's statewide network of stations, taking over from longtime partner WACY-TV.

Locally-produced content

From December 2008 to June 2010, WIWB featured Daily Buzz inserts called "Buzzed Into the (920)" (named for the telephone area code for Green Bay and the Fox Cities). "Buzzed" was patterned after then-sister station WBUW's "Buzzed Into Madison" and featured an on-air presenter (originally Kristen Rietz, later Kari Merchant) profiling positive stories and features on news, events, businesses and personalities in the Green Bay/Fox Cities area. "Buzzed Into the (920)" was dropped when WLUK took over WCWF's operations, although past installments are still available on the feature's .

Existing local content on WCWF, in addition to the occasional WLUK news broadcast, includes Sunday morning airings of the polka music show Polka, Polka, Polka and the cooking show Mad Dog & Merril's Midwest Grillin (Mad Dog & Merril are longtime Northeast Wisconsin-based cooking experts). LIN Media, after taking control of WCWF, would add severe weather bulletins; the weekly prep football highlight show High School GameTime in August 2011;[28] and, in late 2011, CW 14 Focus, a Sunday morning local public affairs program that debuted in order to fulfill local programming requirements; it is hosted by WLUK reporter Robert Hornacek.[29]

Also added in 2011 was the position of "CW 14 Star," who represents the station on-air, online, and at community events. Maria Parmigiani was selected as the first "Star" during the first quarter of 2011, earning the job after an audition process, an appearance on WLUK's Good Day Wisconsin, and an online voting process.[30] Parmigiani was succeeded by Katie Phernetton in 2013 after a similar audition and selection process.[31]