WWCW, virtual channel 21 (UHF digital channel 20), is a CW-affiliated television station located in Lynchburg, Virginia, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group, as part of a duopoly with Fox affiliate WFXR (channel 27). The two stations share studio facilities at the Valleypointe office park on Valleypoint Parkway in Hollins (near Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport), with WWCW operating an advertising sales office on Airport Road, along Lynchburg's southwestern border with Campbell County (though with a Lynchburg address); WWCW maintains transmitter facilities located on Thaxton Mountain in unincorporated central Bedford County. On cable, the station is available in standard definition on Comcast and Cox channel 5 (which the station's on-air branding, "CW 5", is derived from), and in high definition on Comcast digital channel 214 and Cox digital channel 1005.
Even though WWCW maintains a digital signal of its own, the signal's full-powered broadcasting radius does not cover much of the eastern portions of the Roanoke-Lynchburg market. Therefore, the station is simulcast in standard definition over WFXR's second digital subchannel in order to reach the entire market. This signal can be seen on UHF channel 17.4 (or virtual channel 27.2 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Poor Mountain in unincorporated southwestern Roanoke County.
The UHF channel 21 allocation in Lynchburg was originally slated to be used to launch an independent station in 1984, which was slated to sign on with a general entertainment format. But due to financial and engineering issues, the original owner of the channel 21 license, Carney Communications, was not able to sign the station on the air. Jefferson-Pilot Communications (now Lincoln Financial Media) subsequently purchased the station's broadcast license in September 1985. After resolving the difficulties, Jefferson-Pilot signed on WJPR (for Jefferson Pilot Radio) as the area's first entertainment-based independent on March 23, 1986. The station's initial schedule consisted of cartoons, off-network programs, movies, and some religious programming. On October 6, 1986, WJPR became a charter affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company at that network's inception.
One month after WJPR signed on the air, WVFT (channel 21) launched as a religious-based independent station. That station eventually began adding more general entertainment programming in the fall, and had become a full-fledged conventional independent by 1987.
Merger with WFXR
At the time WVFT signed on, the Roanoke-Lynchburg market was too small to support what were essentially two independent stations – Fox would not air a full week's worth of programming until September 1993 – and both channels 21 and 27 suffered from the tight competition between one another. However, by 1990, WVFT's financial problems were more pronounced; the station suffered from declining viewership and was unable to pay for the rights to acquire stronger syndicated programming.
Meanwhile, WJPR was hampered by signal issues in the western portion of the market. Although its 4.1 million watt analog signal easily covered Roanoke, it provided anywhere from Grade B coverage to absolutely no reception at all in the New River Valley. Some areas of the Valley region, along with other rural portions of the market, were among the few regions of the country where cable television service was still not readily available. To solve both stations' problems, in 1991, Jefferson-Pilot presented a proposal to merge WVFT's stronger programming inventory onto WJPR's schedule and turn WVFT into a full-time satellite station of WJPR. Family Group readily accepted the offer, and WJPR and WVFT began their joint simulcast later that year, at which time the stations began collectively branding as "Fox 21/27". The two stations provided a strong combined signal throughout the market with 60% overlap, providing a strong signal to provide Fox programming throughout the market.
On September 15, 1993, WVFT and WJPR were purchased by the Grant Broadcasting System, owned by UHF television pioneer Milton Grant. The simulcast between the two stations continued, although WVFT began serving as the main station. In October 1993, WVFT had its call letters changed to WFXR-TV. It was also announced at that time that the simulcast between WFXR and WJPR would eventually end, with one station being converted into an independent station; however, this plan never materialized during the remainder of the history of the two stations' analog broadcasts.
In January 1995, WFXR/WJPR acquired a secondary affiliation with the newly launched United Paramount Network (UPN), running the network's programs on weekends and in some late-night time periods on weeknights. In the spring of 1997, the market's UPN affiliation moved to Danville-based WDRG-TV (channel 24, now Cozi TV affiliate WFFP-TV), at which time WFXR/WJPR picked up a secondary affiliation with The WB. This paved the way for WFXR and WJPR to start the area's cable-only WB affiliate on September 21, 1998, as a member of The WeB (subsequently renamed The WB 100+ Station Group) known by the fictional calls "WBVA-TV" and branded on-air as "WB 5", in reference to its cable position on Cox Communications channel 5.
Plans were still underway by this time to separate WFXR and WJPR's programming schedules, with the intent to move the "WB 5" intellectual unit and WBVA-TV call letters to WJPR in October 2001, leaving Fox exclusively affiliated with WFXR, although the two stations would still share some syndicated programming. However, the separation plan was aborted due to concerns about reception issues in areas totaling about 40% of the market that were only received over-the-air reception of only one of the two stations. Many of these areas still did not have access to cable, and neither DirecTV nor Dish Network had much subscriber penetration in the market at the time.
When WJPR signed on its digital signal in April 2002, that station only carried programming from "WBVA" on its sole main channel. Fox programming was added to the digital signal in January 2003, with "WBVA" being relegated to a new secondary digital subchannel on virtual channel 21.3 (the WB affiliate was also available locally on DirecTV and Dish Network). When WFXR began transmitting its own digital signal began in December of that same year, it carried Fox network and syndicated programming seen on the station's analog signal as well as "WBVA"'s programming in the same arrangement as WJPR.
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. Entertainment 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 March 28, 2006, it was announced that WBVA would become the market's CW affiliate. To reflect this, the fictional WBVA calls were changed to "WCW5-TV" in June 2006. The CW formally launched on September 18, 2006, at which time, the cable-only station concurrently changed its on-air branding to "CW 5".
On June 30, 2006, WJPR changed its call letters to WWCW, to reflect the station's pending affiliation with The CW, which was carried on the second digital subchannels of both stations. This immediately led to speculation that channel 21 would split off from WFXR and become the area's CW affiliate; however, Fox programming continued to air on the analog and digital signals of both WFXR and WWCW until the analog signals ceased operations upon the digital television transition in June 2009. At that point, the two stations were effectively (though not entirely) separated, with WWCW's primary digital channel now airing CW programming in high definition, with Fox programming airing in standard definition on WWCW's 21.2 subchannel. Conversely, WFXR carries Fox programming in HD on its primary signal, with CW programming airing in SD on WFXR's subchannel on 27.2. This is common practice for many duopolies in which the signal of one of the two stations is weaker in some portions of their home market. Even while transmitting in digital, WWCW's signal is still marginal in some portions of the western part of the market. WWCW's digital transmitter emits a similarly strong radiated power as its analog transmitter, operating at 916,000 watts (which is equivalent to 4.5 million watts for an analog broadcast signal); however, its signal continues to provide marginal coverage in the western portion of the market.
Acquisition by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group
On November 6, 2013, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it would purchase the Grant stations, including WWCW and WFXR, for $87.5 million. The sale was approved by the FCC on November 3, 2014, and was finalized one month later on December 1.
In March 2015, Joseph McNamara – who was appointed as vice president for the stations three months earlier in December 2014 – announced that Nexstar planned to move WFXR/WWCW's operations and staff into a new, larger 14,830-square-foot (0.3-acre) studio facility at the Valleypointe office park in northeastern Roanoke County, near Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport. WWCW and WFXR migrated their operations into the new facility – which cost $3 million to build – during the week of September 14, 2015.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|21.1||720p||16:9||WWCW-HD||Main WWCW programming / The CW|
|21.2||WFXR-HD||Simulcast of WFXR|
WWCW broadcasts high definition programming content on its main channel in 720p, rather than The CW's native 1080i format.
WWCW discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 21, 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 20, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 21.
In November 2013, following the acquisition by Nexstar, WWCW began airing a rebroadcast of WFXR's 10:00 p.m. newscast at 2:00 a.m. on Monday through Friday evenings. The program was originally produced by NBC affiliate WSLS-TV (channel 10) until September 30, 2015, with WFXR taking over production of the newscast the day after (on October 1), following the launch of its in-house news department.