WWME-CD, virtual channel 23 (UHF digital channel 39), is a television station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States, which serves as the flagship station of MeTV. The Class A station is owned by locally based Weigel Broadcasting, and is a sister station to fellow Weigel flagship properties, independent stations WCIU-TV (channel 26) and WMEU-CD (channel 48). All three stations share studio facilities located on Halsted Street (between Washington Boulevard and Madison Street) in the Greektown neighborhood; WWME-CD maintains transmitter facilities located atop the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive in the Loop district.
Even though WWME has a digital signal of its own, the low-powered broadcasting radius does not reach the outer ring of Chicago proper or surrounding suburbs. Therefore, the station can also be seen through a simulcast on WCIU-TV's third digital subchannel in order to reach the entire market. This signal can be seen on UHF channel 27.3 (or virtual channel 26.3 via PSIP), broadcasting from the Willis Tower transmitter. On cable, the station is available on RCN channel 14, Mediacom channel 110, WOW! digital channels 19 and 198, AT&T U-verse standard definition channels 23 and 136 and high definition channels 1023 and 1136, and Comcast Xfinity digital channels 223 and 357; on satellite, the station is available on DirecTV and Dish Network channel 23.
The station first signed on the air on October 28, 1987 as W23AT, originally operating as a translator of WFBT. In 2001, the station changed its callsign to WFBT-CA and switched to a brokered-time ethnic programming format (coincidentally, this was the original programming format of sister station WCIU-TV from 1964 until it converted into an English language entertainment-based independent station on December 31, 1994).
Launch of MeTV as a programming format
On January 6, 2003, WFBT debuted a programming block called "Me-TV", which featured classic television series from the 1950s to the 1980s (such as The Jack Benny Program, Sergeant Bilko, The Carol Burnett Show, Maude and One Day at a Time) daily from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. "Me-TV" underwent several lineup changes throughout its existence as a block, adding and removing shows and expanding the time periods during which it broadcast (eventually running from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. by 2004).
On January 1, 2005, Weigel rechristened channel 23 as WWME-CA, with MeTV becoming the station's full-time programming format and on-air branding. The station's former ethnic programming and WFBT call letters moved to W48DD (channel 48). On August 4, 2007, WWME introduced "Sí! Me-TV" (the first two parts of the moniker were based on the phrase "see me", although "Sí" is the Spanish word for "yes"), a weekend morning block which featured Spanish-dubbed versions of American shows from the Universal Television library (such as Hercules, Xena, Miami Vice, Quantum Leap and The Incredible Hulk). Some programs that aired during the block were available to the station only in Spanish, due to syndication restrictions imposed on the original English-language versions; "Sí! Me-TV" also offered a public affairs program targeted at Chicago's Latino and Hispanic population, which began at a later date. The block was discontinued on January 25, 2009.
On March 1, 2008, channel 48 – which adopted the WMEU-CA call letters at that time – was converted into an extension of WWME's MeTV format as MeToo. Initially, the two stations maintained similar programming schedules; however by that fall, one station focused mainly on sitcoms while the other largely focused on dramas, and vice versa. In addition to classic television series, WWME also broadcast sporting events from the Chicago Public Schools Public League.
On September 14, 2009, WWME's MeTV schedule shifted its programming to a sitcom-intensive format (running such shows as The Bernie Mac Show, All in the Family, The Three Stooges and Frasier), while the MeToo schedule on WMEU-CA was restructured to feature only off-network dramatic programs (such as Perry Mason, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Twilight Zone) and films to streamline the schedules of both MeTV outlets.
Conversion into the flagship station of the MeTV network
On November 22, 2010, Weigel Broadcasting announced that it would turn the MeTV concept into a national network that would compete alongside similar classic television multicast networks such as the Retro Television Network and (the then yet-launched) Antenna TV, while complimenting its successful sister network This TV. The MeTV network debuted on December 15, 2010, with WWME serving as its flagship station, and by effect, effectively became an owned-and-operated station of the national network. Concurrently, WMEU reincorporated comedy series into its schedule, resulting in both stations once again maintaining identical formats – albeit with different programming as the national MeTV network focuses on series from the 1950s to the 1970s while WMEU's MeToo format continued to offer series from the 1980s to the 2000s on its schedule, in addition to older programs.
On December 15, 2010, WCIU moved its simulcast of WWME to digital subchannel 26.3 in preparation for the January 1 launch of "The U Too", a general entertainment programming service that replaced the WWME simulcast on digital channel 26.2. In concurrence with the launch of The U Too, PSIP channel 48.1 was deleted (to be later used by the digital signal of WMEU-CA), while 23.1 reverted to being the virtual channel number for WWME-CA (23.2 was also discontinued, but WWME restored that subchannel with the addition of Bounce TV upon the network's September 2011 launch as part of affiliation agreement with Weigel Broadcasting).
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|23.2||H&I||Heroes & Icons|
As part of an affiliation agreement between the network and Weigel Broadcasting (which also included Milwaukee sister station WBME-TV, the station began carrying Bounce TV on digital subchannel 23.2 when it launched on September 26, 2011. On September 29, 2014, WWME-CD2 disaffiliated from Bounce TV to become a charter affiliate of Heroes & Icons, a Weigel-owned network focusing primarily on classic drama and action series.
Analog-to digital transition
On March 11, 2008, WWME signed on its digital signal on UHF channel 39, becoming the first low-power television station in the Chicago market to operate a digital signal. From early 2009 to December 2010, the station's full-power simulcast on WCIU-DT was also mapped as virtual channel 23.1, while WWME-CA was mapped to virtual channel 23.2 to prevent channel duplication.
WWME-CA replaced the simulcast of WCIU's main channel on its analog signal on January 10, 2011, in favor of carrying a simulcast of WCIU's "The U Too" subchannel (which was otherwise carried on digital subchannel 26.2). In September 2013, with the upgrade of "The U Too"'s programming to high definition (as shown on WMEU-CD channel 48.1), the WWME analog signal was switched to a simulcast of WCIU's "MeToo" service on digital subchannel 26.4; the analog simulcast of MeToo ended on January 7, 2015, with the analog signal not broadcasting any programming as a result until March 2015, when the analog signal began carrying programming from Heroes & Icons. The future of UHF channel 23 is uncertain, as a spectrum incentive auction for American broadcast television stations is currently scheduled for mid-2016. WWME-CA would have been required to shut down its analog transmitter on September 1, 2015 in any event, as the FCC's since-delayed digital transition for low-power stations did not affect Class A-licensed stations.
WWME-CA shut down its analog signal on January 7, 2015. No termination notification campaign was produced as was done in 2009, as it was assumed most viewers had made the transition years before to WWME's digital signal with the full-power analog transition.
Analog nightlight programming
On June 12, 2009, WWME converted its analog signal into a simulcast of full-power sister station WCIU-TV, in order to provide an analog nightlight signal following the digital television transition. From June 13 to July 12, 2009, WWME also carried simulcasts of morning and early evening newscasts from NBC owned-and-operated station WMAQ-TV (channel 5), along with the 9:00 p.m. newscast from WCIU's sports broadcast partner WGN-TV (channel 9), except on nights when WGN aired sports telecasts. The regular MeTV schedule continued to air on WCIU-TV digital channel 26.3 and WWME-LD 23.1 (digital channel 39).