WTXF-TV, channel 29, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of the 21st Century Fox. WTXF's studios are located on Market Street in Center City, and its transmitter is located in the Roxborough section of the city.
The station signed on the air on May 16, 1965 as independent station WIBF-TV, originally owned by brothers William, Irwin, and Benjamin Fox. The Fox brothers had already been operating WIBF-FM (103.9 FM, now WPPZ) for several years. Channel 29's original studio was located in the Fox family's Benson East apartment building on Old York Road in the suburb of Jenkintown, located north of Philadelphia. WIBF-TV was the first commercial UHF station in Philadelphia, and the first of three UHF independents in the Philadelphia market to sign-on during 1965, with WPHL-TV (channel 17) and WKBS-TV (channel 48) both making their debuts in September.
WIBF-TV struggled at first, in part because it signed on only a year after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required television manufacturers to include UHF tuning capability. In 1969, the Fox family sold the station to Cincinnati-based Taft Broadcasting. Taft already owned ABC-affiliated WNEP-TV (channel 16) in Scranton, whose signal area also included coverage of the Lehigh Valley, which is part of the Philadelphia market; indeed, WNEP has operated a translator there for years. Taft sought a waiver to keep both stations, since the FCC at that time normally did not allow common ownership of two stations with overlapping coverage areas, even if they were in different markets; the FCC granted the waiver. Taft later opted to sell WNEP-TV in late 1973 to NEP Communications, a group composed of the station's executives and employees.
Taft assumed control of channel 29 in mid-1969 and changed the calls to WTAF-TV (which stood for TAFt). Under Taft's ownership, WTAF soon established itself as a local powerhouse. It ran programs from Taft's archive, such as Hanna-Barbera cartoons, which from 1979 onward were distributed by Worldvision Enterprises (which Taft had purchased), and later on the Quinn Martin library. By the start of the 1980s, WTAF had passed WKBS as Philadelphia's leading independent station. From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, it was also carried on several cable providers on the New Jersey side of the New York City market, as far north as The Oranges. When WKBS left the air in the late summer of 1983, the station placed advertisements in TV Guide and local papers reminding Philadelphia viewers that channel 29 was still around and that channel 48's former audience was welcome to sample channel 29. But interestingly, the station passed on picking up any of channel 48's shows, most of which went to WPHL.
WTAF-TV also became a strong sports station. At various times, it owned the broadcast rights to Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies (Taft also owned a small portion of the team for much of the 1980s), the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. In the 1980s, the station also aired network shows that ABC station WPVI-TV (channel 6) and then-NBC affiliate KYW-TV (channel 3) preempted in favor of local programming.
On October 9, 1986, WTAF-TV became a charter affiliate of the fledgling Fox television network. However, channel 29's schedule didn't change that much, since Fox didn't air a full week of programming until 1993; for all intents and purposes, it was still an independent.
Taft sold its independent and Fox-affiliated stations, including WTAF, to the Norfolk, Virginia-based TVX Broadcast Group in February 1987. On June 1, 1988, the new owners replaced the A in the call letters with an X, changing it to WTXF-TV. The Taft purchase created a large debt load for TVX, and as a result, the company sold a number of its smaller stations. Paramount Pictures purchased a majority stake in TVX in 1989. The following year, after branding itself as "TV-29" for many years, the station changed its on-air branding to "Fox 29". In 1991, Paramount acquired the remaining stock in TVX that it did not already own, and the company's name was changed to the Paramount Stations Group, with WTXF as its largest station by market size.
In the late summer of 1993, Fox shockingly announced its intention to purchase rival independent WGBS-TV (channel 57, now WPSG) and move its programming there in April 1994. As staffers at WTXF-TV continued to reel in the aftermath of that announcement, its corporate parent was undergoing a transition of its own. Only one month later, in September, the original Viacom agreed in principle to merge with Paramount. Not long after that, home shopping giant QVC mounted a competing bid and the two firms entered into an intense bidding war, in which Viacom ultimately prevailed in February 1994, with the deal closing on March 11. Meanwhile, in late October 1993, Paramount announced plans to create a new network, the United Paramount Network, which it would co-own with Chris-Craft Industries. The initial affiliation plans called for WTXF, which was set to lose Fox to WGBS, becoming the Philadelphia outlet for the new network, which was targeted to launch in January 1995. However, Fox's purchase of WGBS fell through in early 1994, making it increasingly unlikely that Paramount would want to drop Fox programming from channel 29 (particularly after Fox acquired the rights to show games from the NFL's National Football Conference, including most Philadelphia Eagles games); nonetheless, during the spring, WTXF gradually de-emphasized its Fox affiliation, changing its branding to simply "29".
Several months later, the shoe dropped on the biggest affiliation shuffle in Philadelphia television history. In the summer of 1994, Westinghouse Broadcasting, owners of KYW-TV, entered into a longterm affiliation agreement with CBS. This resulted in KYW-TV dropping NBC in favor of CBS, which would then sell its longtime owned-and-operated station, WCAU-TV (channel 10). Several months earlier, Fox entered into a multi-station, multi-year partnership with New World Communications. New World and NBC emerged as the leading bidders for WCAU, with New World intending to switch WCAU to Fox if it emerged victorious. Fox also joined the bidding for WCAU in case New World's bid failed. However, Paramount/Viacom changed its Philadelphia plans and decided to sell WTXF to Fox, making WTXF a Fox O&O. Almost simultaneously, Viacom bought WGBS and made it a UPN O&O. Both transactions involving Viacom and Fox closed on the same day – August 25, 1995.
Soon after Fox restored the network's name onto the station branding as "Fox Philadelphia" (similar to how Chicago sister station WFLD was branded as "Fox Chicago") with the channel number used sparingly and the call letters mostly limited to legal IDs; this was because WTXF, to this day, is normally not on channel 29 on area cable systems (though for the first few months, it was merely branded as "Fox" with the call letters below a color-changing Fox logo in promos). As a Fox owned-and-operated station, WTXF immediately added more first run talk and reality shows to the schedule. Throughout the mid-to-late 1990s, WTXF was available nationally to satellite television providers as the east coast Fox feed, most notably on PrimeStar.
In 2003, WTXF rebranded back to Fox 29 for the first time since 1994 to create a consistent use of the Fox (channel number) branding across all Fox-owned stations. WTXF also underwent a major overhaul of its studio facilities in Old City Philadelphia, with a making its debut on June 6, 2005. The "Window of the World" studio was originally intended to be used for the station's morning newscast.
It is a historical irony that the station, originally owned locally by the Fox family as WIBF, is now owned by Los Angeles-based Fox Broadcasting.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|29.1||720p||16:9||WTXF-DT||Main WTXF-TV programming / Fox|
WTXF-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 29, 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 42. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 29.
|Call letters||Channel||City of license||Transmitter location|
|38||Allentown||Atop South Mountain in Allentown|
On December 29, 2014, WTXF-TV announced the launch of their Allentown translator to allow northern tier viewers to better receive and watch Fox 29 and its sub-channels.
WTXF presently broadcasts 49 hours 35 minutes of locally produced newscasts each week (8½ hours on weekdays, 3 hours on Saturdays and 3 hours 35 minutes on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among the Philadelphia market's broadcast television stations, and highest in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general. In areas of central New Jersey where the Philadelphia and New York City markets overlap, WTXF shares resources with New York City sister station and fellow Fox O&O WNYW. The stations share reporters for stories occurring in New Jersey. WTXF now opens "Fox 29 Sports Show" running from 10:35pm to 11pm every Sunday.
Throughout the early 1980s, WTAF-TV aired the syndicated Independent Network News, which was produced by then-independent station WPIX in New York City. This lasted until channel 29 began its own in-house news department. Taft Broadcasting started a news department for the station in the spring of 1986, with the debut of a nightly 10:00 p.m. newscast. It was the second attempt at a primetime newscast in the market, after WKBS-TV ran a short-lived program in the late 1970s. Channel 29's effort has been the longest-running, and the most successful; it was expanded to an hour-long newscast in 1990. On April 1, 1996, shortly after channel 29 became a Fox-owned station, the station replaced the children's programs that had been airing on weekday mornings in favor of what at its launch was a three-hour long newscast called Good Day Philadelphia; partnered with it was a straighter newscast called Good Day at 6:30, which was replaced in the fall of 1997 by the hour-long Fox Morning News. The overall branding of news at this point was Fox News Philadelphia or just Fox News; it is possible that potential viewer confusion with the Fox News Channel played a part in the station's rebranding back to "Fox 29" in 2003.
On October 1, 2006, WTXF became the second television station in the Philadelphia market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Eight days later on October 9, the station debuted a half-hour midday newscast at 11:00 a.m. On January 22, 2007, a new hour-long newscast at 5:00 p.m. debuted, enabling channel 29 to go head-to-head with two of the three other network-owned stations (WPVI-TV and WCAU). On October 6, 2007, WTXF launched hour-long 6 p.m. newscasts on Saturday and Sunday evenings. From September 1 to November 3, 2008, WTXF aired an election-themed 11 p.m. newscast called The Last Word, anchored by 5 p.m. anchor Kerri-Lee Halkett.
On November 13, 2008, Fox Television Stations and NBC Local Media entered into an agreement to test a system that would allow stations owned by Fox and NBC to pool news resources ranging from sharing field video footage to sharing aerial helicopter footage. WTXF and WCAU were the first stations to undertake the Local News Service arrangement as an effective way to deal with the difficulties in the costs of running news operations. On September 7, 2009, channel 29 expanded its morning and evening news programming: Good Day Philadelphia was expanded to five hours on that date with the addition of an hour at 9 a.m. (the fifth hour of the broadcast replaced The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet, whose co-host Mike Jerrick returned to WTXF as 7–10 a.m. anchor of Good Day on July 27, 2009), the station also expanded its 6 p.m. newscast to weekdays as a half-hour broadcast. On March 29, 2010, WTXF expanded Good Day once again with the start time moved back by a half-hour to 4:30 a.m. Currently, FOX 29 Morning News airs from 4-6am and Good Day Philadelphia airs from 6-10am.
On September 8, 2010, anchor Kerri-Lee Halkett went on a personal leave; a WTXF representative said that Halkett would return to the station in mid-October of that year. However, on September 23, 2010, it was announced that Halkett had decided to leave channel 29 to relocate to Connecticut (where her husband was living), allowing Halkett to accept a job as an anchor for Hartford NBC affiliate WVIT (channel 30). Lauren Cohn took over Halkett's co-anchoring duties with Thomas Drayton on the weeknight 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts; Cohn was replaced one year later by freelance reporter Kerry Barrett.
In 2011, WTXF began using the AFD #10 broadcast flag to present their newscasts in letterboxed widescreen for viewers watching on cable television through 4:3 television sets (in a similar manner to what certain cable channels such as Fox News Channel, HLN and CNN have done around or since that point).
In addition to its own newscasts, on July 8, 2013 WTXF began airing Chasing New Jersey, a daily New Jersey-focused public affairs program. Chasing New Jersey, which is produced by Fairfax Productions (a production company led by WTXF's vice president and general manager) from a studio in Trenton and hosted by Bill Spadea, was designed to replace the 10:00 p.m. newscast on sister station WWOR-TV, but will be seen on WTXF at 12:30 a.m. On September 20, 2014, WTXF debuted weekend editions of the Good Day Philadelphia morning newscast at 8:00 a.m. (running for two hours on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays). In February 2016, the Sunday edition of Good Day Philadelphia Weekend was extended to become a 2-hour broadcast and both editions' start times were moved up by an hour to air from 7-9am.
Notable current on-air staff
- Joyce Evans – weekend evenings anchor; also weeknight reporter
- Mike Jerrick – weekday mornings anchor on Good Day Philadelphia
- Kathy Orr - Meteorologist 5 and 10 pm
- Howard Eskin – weekday sports anchor
- Bob Kelly - Traffic Reporter on "Good Day Philadelphia"
Notable former on-air staff
- John Bolaris - chief meteorologist (2008–2012)
- Sheinelle Jones - reporter/anchor (now at NBC News)
- Dave Price - forecaster last seen on WNBC
- Clayton Morris (now co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend on Fox News Channel)
- Dawn Stensland - weeknights anchor (2001–2009)
- SallyAnn Mosey - meteorologist (now at News 12 Westchester & News 12 Hudson Valley)
Cable and satellite carriage
WTXF is carried in central New Jersey in parts of Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset and Warren, and Morris counties. It is available to all customers in Ocean County with Comcast or Cablevision.
In southern Delaware, WTXF (along with Washington, D.C. sister station WTTG) is available to Mediacom customers in the Millsboro area, and to Comcast customers in much of the rest of Sussex County. Although WBOC acts as the market's Fox affiliate through a subchannel of the station that carries programming from the network, the NFL designates the Salisbury/Rehoboth television market as the broadcast territory for the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. Through Comcast's carriage of WTXF in southern Delaware, Philadelphia Eagles games are also viewable in that region. The station is also carried on cable in Cecil County, Maryland. There is no satellite carriage of the station outside of the Philadelphia market.
2010 Cablevision carriage dispute
On October 16, 2010, WTXF was among the Fox-owned broadcast stations and cable channels that were taken off of Cablevision's Hamilton and Jersey Shore cable systems of as the result of a retransmission dispute between Cablevision and Fox's parent company, News Corporation (who also pulled the signal of sister stations WNYW (channel 5) and MyNetworkTV affiliate WWOR-TV (channel 9) on Cablevision's metropolitan New York system). In addition News Corporation had pulled Fox Business Network, Fox Deportes and National Geographic Wild from Cablevision systems in both the Philadelphia and New York markets. The shutdown came the morning the Phillies were set to begin play in the 2010 National League Championship Series, and also affects Fox's regional coverage of Philadelphia Eagles football games.
The removal of WTXF and the three Fox-owned cable channels was due to an impasse between Fox and Cablevision on a retransmission agreement renewal in which Cablevision claims that News Corporation demanded $150 million a year for access to 12 Fox channels, including those that News Corporation had removed in the dispute. On October 14, 2010 Cablevision said that it was willing to submit to binding arbitration and called on Fox not to pull the plug on the channels, though News Corporation chose to reject Cablevision's call for arbitration, stating that it would "reward Cablevision for refusing to negotiate fairly". On October 30, 2010, News Corporation and Cablevision reached a deal, ending the dispute and restoring WTXF, WNYW, WWOR, and the three News Corp-owned cable channels to Cablevision's lineup.