WFTX-TV, virtual channel 36 (UHF digital channel 35), is a Fox-affiliated television station serving Fort Myers and Naples, Florida, United States that is licensed to Cape Coral. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. WFTX maintains studio facilities located on Southwest Pine Island Road (SR 78) in Cape Coral, and its transmitter is located in Punta Gorda (east of I-75/SR 93) near the Charlotte and Lee County line.
Known on-air as "Fox 4", the branding is derived from WFTX's primary cable position in the market on Comcast Xfinity and most other cable providers in the area. This practice stems in part from the area's exceptionally high cable penetration rate, which is one of the highest in the United States. Comcast also carries the station's high definition feed on digital channel 434.
The station first signed on the air on October 14, 1985, operating as an independent station; the station was originally owned by Family Group Broadcasting, which had previously owned WFTS-TV in Tampa, from which the WFTX call letters are derived. WFTX became a charter affiliate of Fox on October 9, 1986. Family Group Broadcasting sold the station to Terre Haute, Indiana-based Wabash Valley Broadcasting, controlled by the family of Tony Hulman, that December. Under Wabash Valley Broadcasting, elements of the station closely paralleled that of Wabash Valley's flagship station in Terre Haute, WTHI-TV; the two stations used the same voice-over announcer and identical logos, and one of WTHI's news anchors subsequently transferred to WFTX.
The station changed hands again in 1998, when Emmis Communications purchased the assets of Wabash Valley Broadcasting. From 2001 to 2005, WFTX's master control and other internal operations were operated from WKCF, its sister station in Orlando, as its studios in Lake Mary served as a centralcasting location for Emmis' stations in the Southeastern United States. From WKCF's facilities, Emmis maintained broadcast capabilities during several major hurricanes, including Hurricane Charley in 2004, that impacted WFTX and WKCF.
The arrangement was discontinued in 2005, when Emmis decided to sell off its television stations; that August, WFTX and two of its sister stations were sold to the Journal Broadcast Group. Journal introduced a new logo known as the "big red 4", which is generally used along with the Fox logo, but excludes any Fox reference during local newscasts. In March 2007, WFTX redesigned its website with a new look and began offering more interactive content to viewers.
On July 30, 2014, it was announced that the E. W. Scripps Company would acquire Journal Communications in an all-stock transaction. The combined firm will retain their broadcast properties, including WFTX, and spin off their print assets as Journal Media Group. The deal will make WFTX a sister station once again to WFTS and also NBC affiliate WPTV in West Palm Beach; WPTV also currently provides newscasts and services to West Palm Beach Fox affiliate WFLX, which is owned by Raycom Media and is based inside WPTV's facilities. The FCC approved the deal on December 12, 2014. It was approved by shareholders on March 11, 2015, closing on April 1. In October 2015, the station redesigned its website again, due to them being owned by Scripps now, matching sisters WFTS' and WPTV's websites. The only apparent effects of the merger currently are a new web domain to host the station's website, and a Scripps logo closing the station's newscasts.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|36.1||720p||16:9||WFTX-DT||Main WFTX-TV programming / Fox|
WFTX-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 36, 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 35, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 36.
WFTX produces a lifestyle and entertainment magazine program titled Fox 4 Morning Blend, which debuted on August 13, 2007 after the station dropped the last hour of its weekday morning newscast. The program was adapted from a similar talk show (simply titled The Morning Blend) on Journal flagship station WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Airing for an hour each weekday morning at 8 a.m. from a secondary set, it had originally been hosted by Tracey Edwards and Astrid Martinez. Bill Wood (a former Food Network program host, who had been serving as a feature reporter for the station's weekday morning newscast), joined Edwards and eventually became the solo host. Wood was later joined by co-host Carley Wegner. Wegner currently co-hosts the program with Stephanie Summers.
WFTX-TV presently broadcasts 29½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 4½ hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). In addition to its main studios, WFTX operates a Naples Newsroom on Tamiami Trail North (U.S. 41/SR 45) in that city. The station does not currently operate a sports department.
The station's news department was first established in 1994, with hour-long newscasts at 6 and 10 p.m.; the 6 p.m. newscast was canceled in 2000 and was replaced by syndicated programming. After the sale to Journal, WFTX expanded its news department with a focus on consumer advocacy and investigative reporting as the main theme. A weekday morning newscast titled Fox 4 News Rising subsequently debuted in the fall of 2006 that originally aired from 5 to 9 a.m. However, due to low ratings and the lack of consistent viewership, it was cut back to two hours, from 6 to 8 a.m.; the 5 a.m. hour would be reinstated on January 17, 2011. To complement the 10 p.m. show, WFTX eventually launched a weeknight late evening newscast, Fox 4 News Tracker at 11, in 2007. On September 17, 2007, longtime weeknight co-anchor Krista Fogelsong left WFTX in a much publicized departure (she is now at rival WZVN-TV). Weekday morning co-anchor and Cape Coral native Amy Wegmann moved to the weeknight broadcasts to fill the vacancy.
Due to the highly competitive nature of the Fort Myers/Naples market, WFTX's flagship 10 p.m. newscast has attracted competition over the years. In August 2006 when ABC affiliate WZVN-TV (channel 26) announced that it would launch a nightly primetime newscast on cable-only MyNetworkTV affiliate "WNFM". On March 26, 2007, CBS affiliate WINK-TV (channel 11) entering into the 10 p.m. race with its own broadcast on CW affiliate WXCW. Right from the start, this emerged as a strong second place finisher to WFTX's longer-established newscast, building on WINK-TV's longtime status as the most watched station in the market. On May 25 after only eight months on-the-air, the nightly WZVN-produced newscasts on WNFM were dropped, due to Comcast's frequent technical difficulties (the cable provider operates the MyNetworkTV affiliate) which hindered in the program's ratings, as well as the success of the WXCW production. To take on the big three stations, WFTX began airing an hour-long weeknight 6 p.m. newscast on August 2, 2010, with the second half competing against the national evening news programs on WZVN, WBBH and WINK.