WNUV, virtual channel 54 (digital channel 40), is a CW-affiliated television station located in Baltimore, Maryland. The station is owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, and is operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group through a local marketing agreement. It is part of a virtual triopoly with Fox affiliate and Sinclair flagship WBFF and MyNetworkTV affiliate WUTB. All three stations share studios and office facilities on "Television Hill" in the Woodberry neighborhood of Baltimore, while WNUV's transmitter was initially based in Catonsville in southwest suburban Baltimore County, but moved to Television Hill during the DTV (digital television broadcasting systems) switch to the 1280 foot tall WBFF-TV tower, which stands adjacent to the earlier landmark "candleabra tower" from the late 1950s, also on the then renamed "Television Hill" or "TV Hill" for the city's original three main VHF stations (WMAR, WBAL, and WAAM).
WNUV was formerly carried on DirecTV from January 2007 to January 2008, as the satellite provider's distant CW affiliate, intended to serve the few areas of the eastern United States where The CW's programming is not available through a local station; it has since been replaced by WDCW in Washington, D.C.
WNUV began broadcasting on July 1, 1982, originally owned by a local firm called NUVision, Inc. The station was Baltimore's third UHF commercial outlet, but only the second on the air at the time (alongside eventual sister station WBFF). Channel 54 was originally programmed as a hybrid of weekday business news from the Financial News Network (now part of CNBC) and the subscription television service SuperTV. FNN programming ran during the daytime hours, while subscription television programs from SuperTV aired during the evening and late night hours, as well as on Sunday afternoons.
In the fall of 1984, WNUV dropped weekday FNN programming and slowly began to add general entertainment programs, such as cartoons, off-network reruns and movies (which the station had already been running on weekends), while retaining Super TV programming at night and on Sunday afternoons. In the spring of 1986, the station dropped the SuperTV service and became a full-time conventional independent station, adopting the on-air brand name "Baltimore 54". At that time, channel 54 ran morning and afternoon children's programming similar to WBFF's Captain Chesapeake, hosted from a mock space ship by a Star Trek-like crew of characters known as the "54 Space Corps". Also, during the mid-1980s, the station IDs included a "Pet of the Day", each of which was offered by a local viewer. WNUV quickly established itself as a solid competitor to WBFF.
In 1989, WNUV was bought by Abry Communications. Under its ownership, the station remained a full-time independent one and, in 1994, picked up the broadcast rights to some Baltimore Orioles games produced by Home Team Sports. The station showed Orioles games through 2006.
Around 1994 or late 1993, Abry merged with Sinclair Broadcast Group. However, Sinclair already owned WBFF and could not keep both stations. Accordingly, WNUV was purchased by Glencairn Ltd., headed by former Sinclair executive Edwin Edwards. The Smith family, owners and founders of Sinclair (which launched WBFF in 1971) owned 97% of Glencairn's stock, so Sinclair effectively owned both stations. Sinclair further circumvented the rules by signing a local marketing agreement with Glencairn, under which WNUV's operations were merged with those of WBFF. In effect, Sinclair had emasculated WBFF's major rival. WNUV was Glencairn's first station, and similar deals resulted in Glencairn owning eleven stations all operated by Sinclair under LMAs. The Federal Communications Commission eventually fined Sinclair $40,000 in 2001 for illegally controlling Glencairn. WNUV was an affiliate of the Prime Time Entertainment Network programming service from 1993 until 1995.
WNUV became the original Baltimore affiliate of the United Paramount Network, when the network launched on January 16, 1995. However, in January 1998 – through an affiliation deal that resulted in Sinclair's five UPN affiliates switching to the network – channel 54 became the market's WB affiliate, replacing low-power station WMJF-LP. The UPN affiliation moved to Home Shopping Network station WHSW (channel 24), which had been purchased by UPN part-owner Chris-Craft Industries and changed its callsign to WUTB.
Sinclair tried to purchase WNUV outright in 2001 as part of a merger with Glencairn. However, the FCC turned down the request because Baltimore was one of six markets where Sinclair could not legally have a duopoly. The Baltimore market, despite its relatively large size (it is the 24th-largest market) has only seven full-power stations (or six, if the two Maryland Public Television stations licensed in the market are treated as one) – too few to legally permit a duopoly (the FCC requires a market to have eight unique station owners once a duopoly is formed – effectively limiting duopolies to markets with at least nine full-power stations). As a result, WNUV was one of five stations retained by Glencairn, which was renamed Cunningham Broadcasting. However, Cunningham (and WNUV) is still effectively owned by Sinclair since most of its stock is held by trusts owned by the Smith family. There is nearly uncontestable evidence that Glencairn/Cunningham has served as a corporate shell used by Sinclair to circumvent FCC ownership rules.
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that they would shut down The WB and UPN and merge some of their programming on a new network called The CW. One month later, Fox, which had bought WUTB in 2001, announced the formation of MyNetworkTV, with WUTB and the other Fox-owned UPN affiliates as the nuclei. Conventional wisdom suggested that WNUV would become Baltimore's CW affiliate. However, when The CW released the initial list of affiliates outside its core group of stations owned by Tribune Broadcasting and CBS Television Stations, WNUV was not included on the list. Sinclair later announced that it would affiliate most of its WB and UPN affiliates with MyNetworkTV a month after that network announced its formation, leading to speculation that WNUV would revert to being an independent station. It was not until May 2, 2006, that Sinclair entered into a deal to affiliate the company's UPN and WB affiliates that did not sign with MyNetworkTV, including WNUV, with The CW. The station's branding switched in September to "The CW Baltimore". The CW Television Network commenced operations on September 18, 2006.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|54.1||720p||16:9||WNUV-HD||Main WNUV programming / The CW|
WNUV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 54, 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. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 54.
Testing new technologies
Sinclair has twice used WNUV as a testing ground for new television technologies.
In February 2013, WNUV received FCC authorization to begin conducting tests of the OFDM-based DVB-T2 terrestrial television standard and other future television broadcast standards, with the aim of identifying the feasibility of next-generation standards for mobile device usage and 4K ultra-HD; the experimental broadcasts began on the morning of March 28. The tests run between 1am and 5am and do not interrupt cable reception; the lost programs are aired on a digital subchannel of WBFF.
WNUV launched a 6:30 p.m. newscast in 1997 called UPN 54 News at 6:30 (changed to WB 54 News at 6:30 in January 1998). The newscast shared the same news set and anchors as WBFF's 10 p.m. newscast. In January 2005, Sinclair decided to move WNUV's 6:30 p.m. newscast over to WBFF airing at 5:30 p.m. weeknights. The station currently airs no live newscasts, but airs rebroadcasts of WBFF's weeknight 11 p.m. newscast at 12:30 a.m. the following morning.