Crosley Broadcasting Corporation

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Crosley Broadcasting Corporation
Former type Public
Fate Assets divided
Successor(s) Avco Broadcasting
Founded March 22, 1922 (with the sign-on of WLW)
Founder(s) Powel Crosley, Jr.
Defunct 1968
Headquarters Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S

The Crosley Broadcasting Corporation was a radio and television broadcaster founded by radio manufacturing pioneer Powel Crosley, Jr.. The company was an early operator of radio stations in the United States. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Crosley's flagship station was WLW (AM). Most of its broadcast properties adopted callsigns in which the first three letters were "WLW", which stood for "[the] World's Largest Warehouse". By the 1950s, the company would operate a small television network in the eastern Midwest.

History[edit]

Crosley Super Musicone speaker

During World War II, Crosley built the Bethany Relay Station in Butler County, Ohio's Union Township, one mile west of its transmitter for WLW, for the Office of War Information. It operated as many as five shortwave stations, using the callsigns WLWK, WLWL, WLWO, WLWR and WLWS. It operated the facility for the government until 1963.

In 1945, the Crosley interests were purchased by Aviation Corporation. The radio and appliance manufacturing arm changed its name to Avco, but the broadcast operations continued to operate under the Crosley name until they adopted the Avco name in 1968.

Crosley (Avco) also owned WLWF, an FM station it operated along with its WLWC (now WCMH-TV). WLWF went silent in 1953, and Crosley (Avco) returned its license to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the late 1950s, a construction permit for a new station on WLWF's frequency was granted to Taft Broadcasting, owner of WTVN-TV also in Columbus (now WSYX-TV), who signed on the station in late 1959 as WTVN-FM (it is now WLVQ-FM).

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Crosley operated a small television network in which programs were produced at one of its stations and broadcast on the other Crosley stations in the Midwest, and occasionally by non-Crosley stations as well. The company occasionally produced programs picked up for broadcast on either NBC or DuMont. Programs which aired nationally included NBC's Midwestern Hayride (on which Rosemary Clooney often performed) and Breakfast Party. Other programs originated on the Crosley network included DuMont's The Paul Dixon Show and The Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club. The Phil Donahue Show started in 1967, originating from WLWD in Dayton, Ohio.

1969 Advertisement for The Bob Braun Show appearing in TV Guide.

In 1968, Avco, which had just purchased Embassy Pictures, consolidated its television operations into Avco Embassy Television.

Beginning in 1975, Avco sold all of its broadcasting holdings. In 1975, it sold WLWC-TV in Columbus, WLWI-TV in Indianapolis, WOAI-AM/FM/TV in San Antonio (the AM station was sold to the nascent Clear Channel as the chain's second property), and WWDC-AM/FM in Washington D.C.; in 1976, it sold WLW-AM and WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, WLWD-TV in Dayton, and its Avco Embassy Television and Avco Embassy Program Sales divisions; in 1977, it sold KYA-AM/FM in San Francisco and WRTH-AM in Wood River-St. Louis.

The closest equivalent to a "successor" to Avco Broadcasting was Multimedia, Inc., to whom Avco sold flagship TV station WLWT, as well as Avco Embassy Television and Avco Embassy Program Sales in 1976. In December 1995, Gannett (who owned former Crosley station WXIA-TV in Atlanta) acquired Multimedia, Inc., while the respective syndication division was acquired by MCA Universal. By 1997, all of the original Crosley radio and television properties had been sold off by its successor companies, with the exception of WTHR in Indianapolis, which is still owned by an affiliate of the Dispatch Broadcast Group.

By the 1970s the Crosley name had ceased to exist in the memory of most US citizens (as would that of its major successor company, Avco, a decade later); but many of the "WLW-" station call-letters persist (see below). The deserted ruins of the major Crosley manufacturing facility can still be seen on the west side of I-75, just north of the area where the Cincinnati Museum Center (previously the Union Terminal train station) is currently located and near where Crosley Field once stood. The impressively huge transmission tower and old 50,000 watt transmitter at the Tylersville Road facility near U.S. Route 42 (Reading Rd.), between Dayton and Cincinnati still exists.

Brand Value of the WLW Call Letters[edit]

WCMH-TV used the WLWC call letters from its 1949 sign-on until the station was sold to Outlet Broadcasting in 1976. In the 1990s, WCMH entered into an agreement to manage the operations of WWHO-TV in the Columbus market under a "local marketing agreement" (LMA) with Fant Broadcasting, owner of WWHO-TV. Due to the success of this arrangement, WCMH's sister station WJAR in Providence, RI entered into a similar arrangement to operate Channel 28 in that market, also owned by Fant.

At about the same time, Premier Broadcasting Corporation also announced that it would be using the WLWC call letters for Columbus low-power television station W62BE. Because of the historic and brand value of the WLWC call letters in the Columbus market, Outlet arranged to have the call sign "warehoused" on Channel 28 in Providence in order to keep competitors from using them in the Columbus area. Channel 28 applied for and was assigned the WLWC call letters and has used them ever since. Premier's television station, now silent, ultimately took the call letters WLWG.

Lima, Ohio Radio station WBKS-FM used the WLWD call letters when it was branded "Wild 93.9". The WLWD call letters are familiar in the Lima area since the WDTN signal reaches various portions of the Lima market either over the air or through cable carriage. Today, the WLWD call letters are used by a low-power television station in Springfield, Ohio, which is part of the Dayton, Ohio television market.

The WLWI call letters are used by an AM and FM radio station serving the Montgomery, Alabama radio market.

Former Crosley Assets[edit]

Broadcast outlets operated by Crosley Broadcasting or its successor Avco include:

AM Radio Stations[edit]

FM Radio Stations[edit]

Television Stations[edit]

Stations are arranged in alphabetical order by state and city of license.

Note: Two boldface asterisks appearing following a station's call letters (**) indicate a station that was built and signed-on by Crosley/Avco.

City of License / Market Station Channel Years Owned Current Ownership Status
Atlanta WLWA 8/11 1953-1962 NBC affiliate, WXIA-TV, owned by Gannett Company
Indianapolis WLWI** 13 1957-1974 NBC affiliate, WTHR, owned by Dispatch Broadcast Group
Cincinnati WLWT** 4/5 1948-1976 NBC affiliate owned by Hearst Television
Columbus, Ohio WLWC** 3/4 1949-1976 NBC affiliate, WCMH-TV, owned by Media General
Dayton, Ohio WLWD** 5/2 1949-1976 NBC affiliate, WDTN, owned by LIN Media
San Antonio WOAI-TV 4 1965-1975 NBC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group