WSTR-TV, virtual channel 64 (UHF digital channel 33), is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station located in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. The station is owned by Deerfield Media but operated under a local marketing agreement by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also owns CBS affiliate WKRC-TV (channel 12). Both stations share studios on Highland Avenue in the Mount Auburn section of Cincinnati. WSTR's transmitter, Star Tower, is located in the city's College Hill neighborhood.
As an independent station
On June 29, 1979, permission was granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a new television station to be constructed and operated in Cincinnati, Ohio. WBTI-TV signed on the air on January 28, 1980, under the ownership of Buford Television of Ohio, Inc. It transmitted at one million watts of power, and operated from studios on Fishwick Drive. The station's original transmitter was located on Chickasaw Street in Cincinnati.
During the early days of WBTI, it signed on at 10:00 a.m. and operated as a general entertainment independent station until 7 p.m. each day. At that time, the station's signal was scrambled as it carried programming from the ONTV service, which provided movies, sports, and live events to viewers through a paid subscription and required a decoder to receive ONTV programs. Eventually, WBTI expanded its broadcast day by signing on earlier; the station began carrying movies and cartoons until 10 a.m., when the Christian Broadcasting Network program The 700 Club aired until 11:30.
The afternoon lineup consisted of movies, cartoons, and sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Morning cartoons included Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo and Popeye. Weekends were heavily laden with classic movies and adventure shows such as The Outer Limits, The Wild Wild West and Bonanza. WBTI also began airing World Championship Tennis and Notre Dame football games. The weekly "Hollywood Gold" movies on Saturdays and Sundays were hosted by one-time theater operator and Hamilton, Ohio native Fred Baum, who most recently owned the Holiday Auto Theater; Baum died in 2007.
In January 1981, the station added more sitcoms to its lineup during the week such as Mister Ed, The Addams Family, The Munsters, and The Beverly Hillbillies. ON-TV programming expanded on weekend evenings, signing on at 5 p.m. ONTV ran for several hours each night usually ending around 2 a.m. On some nights, WBTI would resume unencrypted broadcasts and air general entertainment programs until it signed-off. In August 1981, Buford Television changed its name to HEN Incorporated (its initials standing for "Home Entertainment Network"). In January 1982, HEN became the official owner of WBTI.
On April 1, 1982, the ON-TV service expanded to 20 hours per day. At that time, the FCC required that broadcast stations be on-the-air for at least four hours per day. The station ran New Zoo Revue at 8 a.m., Jimmy Swaggart at 8:30, PTL Club at 9 a.m., 700 Club at 10 a.m., and INN Midday Edition at 11:30. After 12 Noon, ON-TV now made up the rest of the broadcast day. The station at that point went 24 hours a day. There was a short time in January of 1983 when WBTI extended some afternoon programming from noon to 2 p.m. running the hour edition of 700 Club and a couple other religious shows but that was short lived, when ON-TV began broadcasting close to 22 hours per day by March of that year. At that point WBTI only carried the 90 minute edition of 700 Club weekdays and ON-TV the rest of the day and weekends except for a few hours Sunday morning for religious shows. But also in early 1983, and after much delay, the Warner-Amex cable service QUBE became available in the Cincinnati city limits. This made the ON-TV subscription service less attractive to viewers. The subscription service was only one channel at close to the same price as the 60-channel Warner-Amex "QUBE" service. HEN TV sold the station in November of 1984 to 64 Joint Ventures.
In January 1985, ON-TV programming was scaled back. New owners Channel 64 Joint Venture relaunched the station on January 1, 1985; on that date, the station changed its call letters to WIII and adopted the slogan "The Eyes of Cincinnati". The station began running general entertainment programming from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weeknights and 3 p.m. on weekends when the station switched to ON-TV programming. In April of 1985 ON TV was further scaled back to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. WIII dropped ON-TV completely in June of that year. On Weekdays, the station ran older cartoons 7 to 9 a.m.; religious shows 9 a.m. to Noon and 6 to 7 a.m.; some off network dramas and westerns noon to 2:30 p.m., recent cartoons 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., a mix of older and recent sitcoms 5:30 to 8 p.m., and a mix of dramas and movies after 8 p.m. Weekends the station ran a mix of older movies, drama shows, and some first run syndicated shows. The station ran religious shows Sunday mornings.
Late in 1985, as an ice storm hit the Cincinnati area, a section of ice on the station's tower broke free and cut through the station's transmission line from the transmitter to the antenna. WIII either off-the-air several days and then operated at very low-power for weeks. The station remained on-the-air after repairs were made, but never quite recovered financially. It continued to run a lot of first-run cartoons and some new ones, such as The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera and The Transformers, and a few low-budget movies, some drama series, and a few classic sitcoms. But the station was not able to get first-rate syndicated programs.
In the fall of 1986, the station had a proposed sale to the Home Shopping Network but due to debt the station could not be sold excluding shows and debt. The station filed bankruptcy early in 1987 and soon after had been turned over to receivership under the ownership of Stephen J. Kent. In 1987, its license was involuntarily assigned to Channel 64 Joint Venture, Debtor-in-Possession. In March 1988, Channel 64 Acquisition, Inc. took over. In November 1989, the license was voluntarily assigned to Cincinnati TV 64 Limited Partnership, under the ownership of Andrew Banks and Royce Yudkoff. Their initials served as the name for ABRY Communications. Soon after, stronger programming was added to include more recent sitcoms and better movies. On September 15, 1990, the station changed its callsign to WSTR-TV and its on-air branding to "Star 64". In 1992, control was officially transferred to ABRY Communications, LP. In 1994, the station increased its transmitter power from one to five million watts at a brand new tower and transmitter site in Cincinnati's College Hill neighborhood. That tower would be known as the "Star Tower" and would eventually be home to several radio stations and other communications services.
Under ABRY's ownership, the station acquired additional syndicated programs; WSTR then became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN) on January 17, 1995 (a day after the network formally launched), later branding itself as "UPN 64". In 1996, Sinclair Communications (now Sinclair Broadcast Group) acquired Abry Broadcasting's stations including WSTR. In July 1997, Sinclair signed an affiliation deal with The WB, that resulted in a number of the company's UPN affiliates and independent stations switching to the network. In January 1998, WSTR switched affiliations with Class A low-power station WBQC-CA (channel 25), with WSTR becoming a WB affiliate while WBQC joined UPN.
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. On February 22 of that year, News Corporation announced the launch of a new "sixth" network called MyNetworkTV, which would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television. MyNetworkTV was created to compete against The CW and to give UPN and WB stations that were not mentioned as becoming CW affiliates another option besides converting to independent stations.
WSTR seemed likely to become The CW's Cincinnati affiliate being a full-power station and WBQC being a Class A low-power outlet. On March 2 however, Sinclair announced that WSTR would affiliate with MyNetworkTV. The announcement seemingly opened the door for WBQC to potentially become the area's CW affiliate. Instead, the network agreed on April 19 to be carried on a new second digital subchannel of WKRC-TV (channel 12) forcing WBQC to become an independent station. With its new MyNetworkTV affiliation, WSTR adopted the "My 64" brand similar to most of the network's other stations. On September 21, 2009, WSTR reintroduced its 1990s brand, dropping the "My" branding in favor of "Star 64", while keeping the network's logo color and style scheme. This followed a similar trend with some other MyNetworkTV affiliates after the network became a syndication service.
On May 15, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Fox agreed to a five-year affiliation agreement extension for Sinclair's then-19 Fox-affiliated stations until 2017. This included an option, exercisable between July 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, for Fox's then-parent News Corporation to buy a combination of six Sinclair-owned stations (two CW/MyNetworkTV duopolies and two standalone MyNetworkTV affiliates) in three out of four markets; WSTR-TV was included in the Fox purchase option, along with stations in Raleigh (WLFL and WRDC), Norfolk (WTVZ) and Las Vegas (KVCW and KVMY). In January 2013, Fox announced that it would not exercise its option to buy any of the Sinclair stations in those four markets. On July 19, 2012, Sinclair announced that it would sell the WSTR-TV license to Deerfield Media (which in turn is owned by the principals of Manhan Media, which purchased WWHO in Chillicothe, serving the Columbus market, earlier in 2012) to comply with the FCC's ownership regulations following the acquisition of WKRC-TV from Newport Television; Sinclair continues to operate WSTR under a local marketing agreement. The sale was completed on December 3, 2012.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|64.1||720p||16:9||WSTR-DT||Main WSTR-TV programming / MyNetworkTV|
From September 23, 2010 to August 31, 2012, WSTR-TV aired TheCoolTV on its second digital subchannel. From June 30, 2014 to December 5, 2015 WSTR-TV aired GetTV on its second digital subchannel. On October 31, 2015 WSTR-TV began to air Comet on its third digital subchannel. On December 5, 2015 WSTR-TV began to air Antenna TV on its second digital subchannel; moving GetTV to its fourth digital subchannel.
WSTR-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 64, on February 17, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television (which was pushed back until June 12, due to an extension granted by Congress). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 33, using PSIP to display WSTR-TV's virtual channel as 64 on digital television receivers.
During the analog era, WSTR-TV operated a translator station in Dayton, W66AQ, on channel 66. This translator signed on in 1980, rebroadcasting then-WBTI's ON-TV service and other programming. It is not well documented whether W66AQ continued to air the parent channel's complete schedule after ON-TV ended, or even whether it broadcast continually throughout the following years. When WSTR-TV subsequently gained network affiliations, Dayton had local affiliates of those networks as well. When WSTR-TV was a UPN affiliate, the network had a secondary affiliation with Dayton's WRGT-TV. When WSTR-TV was a WB affiliate, that network aired in Dayton first on WUCT-LP (now WRCX-LP), then on WBDT. When WSTR-TV became a MyNetworkTV affiliate, Dayton had its own affiliation on WRGT-TV's second digital subchannel, WRGT-DT2 ("My TV Dayton"). FCC filings indicate that W66AQ was silent by sometime in 2007. In 2009, after the digital television transition, Sinclair used the W66AQ license to broadcast a low-power analog signal in Dayton on channel 22, repeating its "My TV Dayton" programming. On June 30, 2010, W66AQ's call letters were changed to W22DE. Cincinnati's WCPO-TV moved its digital operations to channel 22 on December 8, 2010 (according to RabbitEars, this knocked W22DE off the air; however, W22DE filed for a license renewal with the FCC on June 3, 2013).
On August 16, 2004, WSTR established a news department and debuted a nightly newscast at 10 p.m. to compete with Fox affiliate WXIX-TV (channel 19)'s long-established prime time newscast. Known as WB 64 News at 10, it was part of Sinclair's centralized News Central operation based at the company's headquarters on Beaver Dam Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Although national news, weather forecasts, and some sports segments originated from News Central, local news and sports operations were based at WSTR's studios. It also aired "The Point", a one-minute conservative political commentary, that a requirement of all Sinclair-owned stations with newscasts. Unable to get enough consistent ratings and viewership against WXIX, the station announced it would discontinue the newscast on February 24, 2006.
On April 26, 2006, WSTR entered into a news share agreement with WKRC. When the outsourced newscast began airing on August 21, this resulted in a CBS affiliate's news being carried on a station with a News Corporation-programmed network once WSTR joined MyNetworkTV two weeks later. The nightly half-hour broadcast was known as Local 12 News at 10 on My 64. WKRC announced its intent to move the primetime newscast to WKRC's CW-affiliated digital subchannel in August 2008. On August 4, 2006, WKRC began a simulcast of this program on WKRC-DT2 that was dropped from WSTR on August 22. Although the station's management expressed interest in partnering with another local station to produce a newscast, it now promotes syndicated shows. With WSTR now effectively a sister station to WKRC-TV, the primetime newscast was moved from channel 12.2 back to channel 64 effective January 6, 2014. On February 3, 2014, the Good Morning Cincinnati 7 a.m. newscast premiered on WSTR.
Notable current on–air staff
- Brad Johansen - sports director; weeknights at 10:00 p.m.; also host of Sports Authority