WCWN is the CW-affiliated television station for New York State's Capital District and Western New England. Licensed to Schenectady, New York, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 43 (PSIP virtual channel 45) from a transmitter southwest of New Scotland's Voorheesville section. The station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable channel 15 (hence the CW 15 branding) and in high definition on digital channel 1815. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WCWN is sister to CBS affiliate WRGB. It is operated out of WRGB's studios on Balltown Road in Niskayuna.
Since WCWN is a sister station to WRGB, the station can air CBS programming if the other station preempts the network for weather/emergency updates or local specials. In the past, it has been known to air coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. When the yearly Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon aired in its original 20-hour format, WCWN was responsible for airing WRGB's local, syndicated, and network lineup. The station also airs some New York Mets baseball games produced by WPIX in New York City. Games are shown on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays. The arrangement is in place because WCWN was owned by Tribune Company, WPIX's owner, from 1999 to 2006. Also, WCWN airs WRGB's newscasts at times when CBS Sports preempts them (prime examples include the Masters Tournament and the NCAA Tournament and Final Four).
WCWN originated as an independent station on December 3, 1984 under the call letters WUSV, after its owner, Union Street Video. However, it made little headway against the market's original independent, WXXA-TV. As with most independent stations in mid-sized markets during that period, it had difficulties from the outset in terms of getting programming with only afternoon cartoons and some reruns getting respectable ratings. Most of the stronger programming was picked clean by WXXA, which had access to stronger programming by virtue of its original owners' ties to Hollywood. The Capital District was just barely large enough at the time to support two independent stations, and there wasn't enough programming to go around. It didn't help matters that New York City's WPIX and Boston's WSBK-TV were available on cable, as had been the case for more than a decade.
When WXXA joined Fox as a charter affiliate, WUSV had some difficulty filling the void, especially since WXXA was still essentially programmed as an independent. Due to continuing financial difficulties, Union Street Video finally gave up in 1987 and sold the station in a fire sale to WMHT Educational Telecommunications. Under WMHT's ownership, channel 45 became a secondary PBS station under the calls WMHX. It was still licensed as a commercial station, but operated as a noncommercial broadcaster—much like Buffalo's WNED-TV operated for many years.
This arrangement lasted until 1991 when, due to financial difficulties, WMHX was taken off-the-air. Two years later, the station returned to the air as WMHQ, carrying a large amount of instructional programming alongside repeats and double runs from WMHT. Further financial difficulties at WMHT led to WMHQ being put up for sale in the late 1990s.
Despite WMHT's financial difficulties, WMHQ's commercial license was still very valuable. After a sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group, which intended to make the station a dual UPN/WB affiliate, fell through, Tribune Broadcasting bought the station in 1999 for $18.5 million. WMHQ's final day of programming was September 5, 1999; after its nightly midnight sign-off, channel 45 returned to the air at 6:00 a.m. the next morning as WB affiliate WEWB-TV, branded on-air as "WB 45". Prior to WEWB's relaunch, WPIX had been the default WB affiliate for the Capital District. WPIX remained available to cable viewers in Albany until 2002, but was blacked out during WB programming as well as syndicated programming shown exclusively on Albany stations (due to syndication exclusivity law).
From the station's relaunch as WEWB until December 2006, its master control was located at sister station WB affiliate WLVI-TV in Boston. However, local offices were at Corporate Woods in Albany. WLVI's meteorologists maintained WCWN's weather page. In 2004, WEWB's digital signal signed on-the-air and began broadcasting on UHF channel 43. In 2005, the "WB 45" name was dropped in favor of "Capital Region's WB" at the tail end of a period in which most of Tribune's WB affiliates (minus its VHF and "heritage" stations) were re-branded in the same format.
Eleven years after the births of UPN and The WB on January 24, 2006, it was announced by CBS and Time Warner that The WB would merge with its rival network, UPN, to form The CW. As part of the deal, the newly formed network signed a 10-year affiliation deal with 16 of Tribune's WB stations, including WEWB. In preparation, the station's call letters changed to the current WCWN on May 10. In July 2006, commercials for The CW as well as syndicated fall programming had the station rebranding as "The Capital Region's CW" effective with the network's launch on September 18.
On June 19, 2006, Tribune announced it would sell WCWN to Freedom Communications, owner of CBS affiliate WRGB, for $17 million. The purchase faced review from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for much of 2006, since the Capital District has only seven full-power stations—not enough to legally permit a duopoly. However, the FCC granted Freedom a "failed station" waiver for the station's purchase on November 22, clearing the way for Freedom to close on the station on December 6. At that point, all of WCWN's operations were merged into WRGB's facilities in Niskayuna and Freedom began to maintain WCWN's website. The purchase gave the Capital District its first television duopoly. For a short period of time, this essentially gave WRGB control of three stations as it continued its pre-existing joint sales agreement (JSA) with MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYA until February 2007.
Freedom announced on November 2, 2011 that it would bow out of television and sell its stations, including WCWN, to Sinclair Broadcast Group, marking the company's second attempt at acquiring channel 45. Since Freedom had acquired WCWN through a "failed station" waiver, Sinclair requested a similar waiver for the purchase; this was granted on March 13, 2012, as part of the FCC's approval of the transaction. The group deal closed on April 2, 2012.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|45.1||1080i||16:9||WCWN-HD||Main WCWN programming / The CW|
|45.3||720p||16:9||WRGB-SD||Simulcast of WRGB|
From its launch in 2006 until October 1, 2007, WCWN offered The Tube on its second digital subchannel and Time Warner digital cable. On November 1, 2008, WCWN-DT2 relaunched as an affiliate of This TV, then shortly thereafter swapped subchannels with WRGB and took Universal Sports. WCWN-DT2 went dark again on January 1, 2012, when Universal Sports moved to cable only status.
WCWN shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 45, 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 43. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 45.
Cable and satellite carriage
|Comcast||DirecTV||Dish Network||Mid-Hudson Cable||Time Warner Cable||Verizon FiOS|
|11 / *745 Bennington, VT||45||45||7 / 607||15 / 1212||15 / 515|
As WMHQ, it partnered with NBC affiliate WNYT to launch the market's first prime time newscast at 10 which ran from 1996 until 1998. The broadcast was canceled due to a lack of support. At the outset of the station's relaunch as WEWB, there was a chance Tribune would launch a news department possibly with some support from another station in the area. These plans were indefinitely put on hold after Tribune put a news freeze in place and did not consider such a launch to be a priority.
Newscasts would not return to the station until the start of 2007 when Freedom moved an hour-long extension of WRGB's weekday morning show at 7 from WNYA to this channel (currently known as The CW 15 Morning News). This happened because, at the time, WCWN had higher ratings than WNYA. Rumors soon circulated about WRGB launching a prime time show at 10 on this station to compete with Fox affiliate WXXA-TV. However, the moving of a second run of Dr. Phil to the time slot put those plans on hold. On January 14, 2008, the morning news on WCWN began to be produced in high definition. A day earlier, WRGB became the first station in the market to make the upgrade.
On September 24, 2008, WRGB started airing a weeknight prime time newscast in high definition on WCWN. Originally known as The CBS 6 News 10 at 10 and airing for ten minutes, it featured the top stories of the day along with an updated weather forecast. On October 18, 2010, this was expanded to thirty minutes and renamed The CW 15 News at 10. The format on WCWN became unique to the market and is different compared with newscasts seen on WRGB. There is more fast-paced reporting along with original stories and various features. The weekday morning and prime time newscasts are streamed live on WRGB's website. In the past, WCWN has also occasionally aired that channel's 11 o'clock news during CBS's coverage of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. Currently, it airs WRGB's Saturday 6 and 11 and Sunday 6:30 and 11 p.m. whenever the main channel cannot do so, due to CBS Sports coverage.