WUCW is the CW-affiliated television station serving Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 22 (virtual channel 23.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter at the Telefarm site in Shoreview. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WUCW maintains studios on Como Avenue (near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds) in Saint Paul. Syndicated programming on this station includes Extra, The People's Court, The Steve Wilkos Show, and Family Feud. The station is perhaps best known for originating the cult cable television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, which got its start as a locally produced program when channel 23 was an independent station.
As an independent station
Channel 23 signed on the air on September 22, 1982, under the callsign KTMA (the call sign standing for "Twin Metro Area"), as the Twin Cities affiliate of the Spectrum over-the-air subscription television service. In addition to mainstream and softcore pornographic films, and animated fare such as Grendizer from Spectrum, the station also broadcast home games of the MLB's Minnesota Twins and the NHL's Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars). The Spectrum programming lasted on the station for just two years, before the station was sold to the United Cable TV Corporation, who in turn began asking for bids one year later in 1985. The owners of radio station KTWN made a bid to purchase channel 23 and took some operational control of the station for a while, broadcasting music videos. However, the station was eventually sold to the KTMA-TV Acquisition Corp. in 1986 for $7 million. The station's new general manager Donald W. O'Connor soon transitioned KTMA to a more traditional general entertainment station, acquiring a number of older syndicated programs such as The Andy Griffith Show and Laurel and Hardy.
Despite a major marketing campaign in 1987, after the station was acquired, the station was only moderately successful at attracting viewers and revenue from commercial advertising. In 1988, attempts were made at creating locally produced shows. To fill a hole in the Saturday night lineup, the station created "Saturday Night at Ringside". A multi-hour block of pro wrestling programming hosted by Mick Karch which debuted in March 1988 and lasted until 1992.
As production manager Jim Mallon sought to fill a hole in the Sunday night lineup, he talked to his contacts in the local comedy community and ended up meeting Joel Hodgson. After a successful lunch meeting with Mallon to produce a new locally produced program for KTMA, Hodgson created Mystery Science Theater 3000 (also known under the abbreviated title MST3K), which debuted in November 1988.
In December of that year, KTMA attempted to create a new regional television network called the Minnesota Independent Network (MIN), in conjunction with a media group based in Fargo, North Dakota (KVRR channel 15), KXLI (channel 41) in St. Cloud and KXLT-TV (channel 47) in Rochester. Despite good intentions, the network never got off the ground. KVRR, the Fargo area's Fox affiliate, continued its normal operations, while KXLI eventually was forced to go off the air for two years. KTMA was also hit hard, leading O'Connor to file for bankruptcy reoganization in July 1989. Hodgson and Mallon sold Mystery Science Theater 3000 to cable network, The Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) that year; the program ran on the network for seven years, before moving to the Sci Fi Channel for its final three seasons. In 1989, a small start-up home shopping network called Valuevision (now ShopHQ) rented space at the channel 23 studios and made its initial launch on two area low-power stations broadcasting on VHF channel 7 and UHF channel 62.
Through the bankruptcy, the station still maintained its general entertainment programming format, partially supported with infomercials, paid religious shows, daytime shows from the major broadcast networks that KARE, KSTP-TV and WCCO-TV did not clear for broadcast (mostly game shows from CBS and ABC) and home shopping programming. In December 1989, KTMA moved into a studio facility near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Saint Paul that was formerly occupied by PBS member station KTCA (that station had already moved into a newly constructed studio building in downtown Saint Paul). After nearly two more years of bankruptcy proceedings, O'Connor was fired as general manager by the court-appointed trustee. In November 1991, the station was purchased by Christian broadcaster Lakeland Group Television.
Under Lakeland Group ownership, channel 23 adopted a family-oriented programming format, and changed the station's callsign to KLGT (standing for either "light" or "Lakeland Group Television") in 1992, using the on-air branding "Sonlight 23". Programming during this period consisted of a few hours of religious programming a day, along with family-oriented off-network sitcoms, cartoons and classic movies. The new format was not very popular, but the station held its own. Lakeland Group brought sports programming back to the station in 1994, this time in the form of the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball, basketball games from the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, and games from the Minnesota Moose minor league hockey team. Around this time, KLGT began an association with CBS affiliate WCCO-TV, with that station providing local news updates during KLGT's prime time programming.
Joining The WB
In January 1995, KLGT became the Twin Cities' charter affiliate of the fledgling WB Television Network. KLGT did not air a news program of its own until WCCO purchased airtime on the station in order to air an experimental newscast known as News of Your Choice in 1995, in which two different newscasts (each one covering different stories) were produced simultaneously at the WCCO studios. At regular intervals, the news anchors would mention the stories airing on either station, allowing viewers to decide which one they were more interested in and to tune into the appropriate station. Due to declining ratings at WCCO at the time, the project was canceled in January 1996 after one year.
Following the station's 1998 sale to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, its callsign was again changed to KMWB (standing for "Minnesota's WB"). The station was hit by the 2004 controversy surrounding the decision by Sinclair to air the documentary Stolen Honor, which was critical of U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry's service record in the Vietnam War.
From The WB to The CW
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner made the decision to merge UPN and The WB to form a new network called The CW Television Network. On February 22, News Corporation announced a new competing network, MyNetworkTV. On May 2, 2006, Sinclair Broadcast Group signed an affiliation agreement with The CW for the company's eight WB affiliates to join the network; as a result, KMWB was confirmed as the new network's Twin Cities affiliate. UPN affiliate WFTC would automatically affiliate with MyNetworkTV, due to the station being owned by that network's owner, the News Corporation subsidiary Fox Television Stations.
In preparation for the affiliation switch, KMWB changed its call sign to WUCW (in reference to The CW and predecessors The WB and UPN) on June 19, 2006, to reflect its forthcoming CW affiliation. Ironically despite three call letter changes, WUCW's licensee is still listed as "KLGT Licensee." On August 16, 2006, WUCW changed its on-air branding from "WB23" to "CW Twin Cities" and then in 2013 to "CW23". Until recently, the station carried Minnesota Timberwolves basketball games. WUCW continues to support homegrown comedy, airing the first Transylvania Television special on October 12, 2007, and the new one-hour TVTV Halloween Special on October 22, 2010. And in 2014, this station revived a cult favorite from the '80s, the "Melon Drop" New Year's Eve TV special, and followed it up in 2015.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|23.1||1080i||16:9||WUCW-HD||Main WUCW programming / The CW|
On July 15, 2006, WUCW launched a second digital subchannel, which carried programming from The Tube Music Network; it was part of an affiliation agreement between The Tube and Sinclair, the latter of whom severed the agreement at the beginning of 2007 (The Tube would discontinue operations that October). Subchannel 23.2 remained silent until joining another music video network, TheCoolTV, on October 4, 2010. After Sinclair's affiliation with TheCoolTV concluded at the end of August 2012, 23.2 returned to silent status until joining classic movie network GetTV in July 2014.
On October 22, 2010, WUCW launched subchannel 23.3, which carried music videos and programming from The Country Network, which was renamed ZUUS Country in Summer 2013. ZUUS Country would be replaced on 23.3 with the male-oriented network Grit in December 2014.
WUCW (as with most Sinclair-owned television stations) shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 23, 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 (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 22. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 23.
The broadcast signal of WUCW is also extended by way of six digital translators in central and southern Minnesota: