|Branding||WCIU, The U|
|Channels||Digital: 27 (UHF)
Virtual: 26 (PSIP)
|Affiliations||Independent (1964–1968 and 1995–present)|
(WCIU-TV Limited Partnership)
|First air date||February 26, 1964|
|Call letters' meaning||Chicago's
I (first in Roman numerals)
|Sister station(s)||WWME-CA, WMEU-CD|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
26 (UHF, 1964–2009)
|Former affiliations||SIN/Univision (1968–1985)
Net Span/Telemundo (1985–1989)
|Transmitter power||550 kW|
WCIU-TV, virtual channel 26 (UHF digital channel 27), is an independent television station in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is the flagship television station of Weigel Broadcasting and has been owned by the company since its inception; WCIU-TV is sister to Me-TV owned-and-operated station WWME-CA (channel 23) and fellow independent outlet WMEU-CD (channel 48), both are fellow Weigel flagship properties that are relayed on the station's second and third digital subchannels, respectively. All three stations share studios on Halsted Street (between Washington Boulevard and Madison Street) in the Greektown neighborhood, and WCIU's transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower.
Since the station signed on the air on February 6, 1964, WCIU has spent much of its history carrying multi-ethnic entertainment programming. At its sign-on, channel 26 operated as an independent station. From the late 1960s until 1985, WCIU ran religious programs during the early morning hours. It ran The Stock Market Observer (a business news block similar to the format of the present-day cable channel CNBC) from about 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which broadcast from the Chicago Board of Trade (whose building housed the WCIU studios). After 5 p.m. on weekdays, the station ran Spanish language entertainment programming – including controverisal bullfighting matches – from the Spanish International Network (the forerunner to Univision). On weekends, WCIU ran a blend of religious programs, Spanish language programming, paid programming and various other ethnically oriented shows.
In 1970, channel 26 became the birthplace of the ground-breaking African-American music program Soul Train, hosted by its creator (and then-WCIU station employee) Don Cornelius. The show later entered into national syndication and relocated its production to Los Angeles the following year, though WCIU continued to produce Soul Train for its local viewers through 1976, initially and simultaneously with the Los Angeles-based version, with Cornelius himself as host, succeeded by Clinton Ghent, the main producer under Cornelius.
After the second-to-last all-black-and-white station WXXW went dark in 1974, the station remained the only Chicago-area television station to still be broadcasting in monochrome. Just prior to the Christmas season of 1974, the station installed and tested its color transmission equipment, broadcasting on a low-power relay station located in Lincoln Park. In November 1974, the color and black and white signals traded transmitters for the remainder of the holiday season, and on December 31, 1974, the translator was taken offline with channel 26 broadcasting in color full-time.
Beginning in the summer of 1985, SIN moved to WSNS-TV (channel 44) and WCIU picked up NetSpan, which would become Telemundo, shortly thereafter; but in 1989, Univision returned to WCIU, swapping back affiliations with WSNS-TV.
Return to full-time independence
In 1994, Univision asked WCIU to drop Stock Market Observer, along with all other programs that were not broadcast in Spanish and carry the network's programming full-time. WCIU refused, which led Univision to purchase then-English language independent station WGBO-TV (channel 66) and move its programming there. On December 31, 1994, WCIU switched to a full-time general entertainment independent format, taking programs left over from WGBO, along with newly purchased shows that were not carried by any of the other Chicago stations, moving its remaining ethnic programming to its low-powered sister station on channel 23, WFBT-CA (now WWME-CA). Channel 26's programming began to feature mostly classic sitcoms and drama series. The station also revived the horror/sci-fi movie showcase Svengoolie, which had previously run in the market on WFLD.
Initially, the station continued to run the Stock Market Observer from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and entertainment programming in all other weekday timeslots and throughout much of the broadcast day on weekends. WCIU then added a weekday block of children's programs from 7–9 a.m. in March 1995. In August 1995, the station began to air The WB Television Network's children's program block Kids' WB upon its debut; the market's WB affiliate WGN-TV (channel 9), opted not to carry the block and continued to run its morning newscast and an afternoon sitcom block in the timeslot's the block would normally air on other WB affiliates (ironically, WGN's superstation feed for cable providers outside of the Chicago area and satellite providers nationwide carried Kids' WB programming, in addition to The WB's primetime schedule). The weekday business news programming was cut back to 9 a.m.–12 p.m., and would move a couple of years later to WFBT-CA as "WebFN", a joint venture between Weigel and Bridge Information Systems (which also aired on Milwaukee sister station WMLW-CA), and featured several former anchors from WMAQ radio after that station converted to a sports talk format in 2000 as WSCR. By the late 1990s, WCIU began adding more recent sitcoms and in 2000 the station began to add more syndicated first-run talk and reality shows onto its daytime lineup.
In 2002, WCIU dropped the afternoon children's block, reducing children's programming to mornings. In 2004, the station dropped the Kids' WB weekday and Saturday blocks, which moved to WGN-TV. Classic sitcoms gradually disappeared from WCIU's schedule between 2001 and 2004 (some of these programs would find their way onto WFBT when it began a classic television programming block called "Me-TV", which would become that station's full-time format under the callsign WWME-CA on January 1, 2005). Early in 2005, the business news format was scaled back to a daily program, First Business. In April 2006, WCIU began broadcasting Chicago White Sox, Cubs and Bulls home games in high definition, with away games following suit in April 2008.
Until mid-August 2012, WCIU was relayed on low-powered WFBN-LP (UHF analog channel 33) in Rockford, Illinois, which broadcasts from a transmitter on State Street and Smith Avenue in the city. At that time, Weigel converted WFBN to a simulcast of Milwaukee Telemundo affiliate WYTU-LD (channel 63) to bring Telemundo programming into the Rockford market, as WSNS provides weak to rimshot signal coverage to that area.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|26.1||720p||16:9||WCIU-HD||Main WCIU-TV programming|
|26.2||480i||U Too||The U Too (time-shifted simulcast of 26.1, with other syndicated programming)|
|26.3||4:3||Me-TV||Simulcast of WWME-CA|
|26.5||Bounce||Bounce TV programming|
In July 2008, Weigel Broadcasting announced the creation of This TV, a national subchannel network operated as a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Weigel. This TV officially launched with WCIU as its flagship station (airing on digital subchannel 26.5) on November 1, 2008. This TV will move to the third digital subchannel of WGN-TV on November 1, 2013, as a result of the May 13, 2013 announcement that WGN owner Tribune Broadcasting would acquire Weigel's ownership interest in This TV. Bounce TV will occupy This TV's former channel, moving from WWME 23.2 to WCIU 26.5.
On December 1, 2010, WCIU dropped its ethnic programming service FBT on digital subchannel 26.6 and replaced it a simulcast of the station's main channel. Two weeks later on December 15, the 26.6 subchannel was dropped and its programming was shifted to digital channel 26.2 (replacing a simulcast of sister station WWME-CA, which moved to WCIU digital subchannel 26.3) where it continued to simulcast most of WCIU's main programming. In addition, PSIP channel 48.1 was discontinued (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 at that time but has since resumed with programming from Bounce TV).
On January 4, 2011, MGM and Weigel Broadcasting announced plans to turn the Me-TV format that originated on sister station WWME-CA into a national network. The national Me-TV service launched on WWME and WCIU digital subchannel 26.3 on December 15, 2011.
On January 5, 2011, digital subchannel 26.2 relaunched with its own general entertainment format, branded as "The U Too". The U Too features some time-shifted programming from WCIU's main channel, including some syndicated programs airing for the first time in the Chicago market. It also broadcast a handful of DePaul Blue Demons and other Big East Conference Basketball games, along with being the main over-the-air broadcaster of Chicago Wolves hockey, sharing the rights with WPWR-TV and Comcast's CN100, which carries the bulk of Wolves games. From January 10, 2011 to September 2013, The U Too subchannel was also simulcast on the analog signal of WWME-CA until The U Too began broadcasting in high definition on WMEU-CD channel 48.1 (the 26.2 version of the U Too signal remains in 16:9 standard definition widescreen). Currently, WWME-CA's analog signal simulcasts the MeToo programing from digital subchannel 26.4.
On June 12, 2009, the date of the federally mandated switch from analog to digital television for full-power stations, WCIU-TV shut down its analog signal. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 27. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers are displaying WCIU-TV's virtual channel as 26.
From June 13, 2009 to January 9, 2011, WCIU-TV's main programming was simulcast on sister station WWME-CA (channel 23) to provide a nightlight service as the low-power station continued to operate an analog signal. From June 13 to July 12, 2009, the station ran newscasts from WMAQ-TV and WGN-TV for viewers that either were not ready for the digital transition or had problems receiving WGN and WMAQ's signals after the June 12 digital transition.
Syndicated programming seen on WCIU-TV includes America's Court with Judge Ross, Dr. Phil, Trisha, The Steve Wilkos Show, The Jerry Springer Show, Cheaters, The People's Court, Judge Mathis, The Doctors, omg! Insider, Are We There Yet?, Meet The Browns, Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Family Guy, Rules of Engagement, The King of Queens, Seinfeld, That 70's Show, American Dad, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Scrubs, Malcolm and Eddie, Futurama, The Steve Harvey Show, Married... with Children, Sister, Sister, Moesha and Martin.
The station has broadcast many locally produced programs over the years; among them include Ultrascope (a program sponsored by Sears which was used to sell UHF-capable televisions and converter boxes within their Chicago area stores, and featured a format similar to Music Choice featuring a clock/album cover display and album audio which aired from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily), Ted and the Angel (talk show with Angel Tompkins, 1967–1968), The Homework Show (1995–2006), U Dance with B96 (an American Bandstand-type show with DJs from WBBM-FM, 1995–1997), Stooge-A-Palooza (a showcase of Three Stooges shorts with Rich Koz, 2003–2010), A Black's View of the News (news program, 1968–??), Soul Train (1970–1976, local version only; nationally syndicated version from Los Angeles was seen from 1971 to 2006, locally on WBBM-TV and later, WGN-TV), The Bob Lewandowski Show, (1964–1995), Outdoor Sportsman (1978–1985; originally aired on WSNS-TV, it was produced and hosted by local outdoorsman Joe Wyer), Stock Market Observer (1968–2000), WebFN (2000–2003, replaced the Stock Market Observer), Kiddie-A-Go-Go (1964–1967), Western Theatre with Two Ton Baker (1964–1965), Marty Faye Show, The Chicago Party (c. 1982) and Eddie Korosa's Polka Party (c. 1978).
Current local programs seen on WCIU include the horror/sci-fi film showcase Svengoolie (which is syndicated to Me-TV and other Weigel stations), the business news program First Business (which Weigel took over production in 2003 and replaced WebFN, it is syndicated nationally through MGM Television), religious program Rock of Ages and the children's program Green Screen Adventures (which also syndicated to Me-TV, This TV and other Weigel stations),
In 2009, WCIU debuted You and Me This Morning, a weekday morning program that features entertainment news, lifestyle features and weather forecasts. WCIU is known for its "dog promos" (an idea borrowed from KOFY-TV in San Francisco) where dogs owned by Chicago area residents are filmed to promote shows on the station. Casting calls are announced on the station's website every few months.
In July 1999, WGN-TV and WCIU-TV entered into a programming arrangement involving sports coverage. This allows select Chicago Bulls basketball and White Sox baseball games, and a handful of Cubs baseball games that are produced by and contracted to air on WGN-TV to be broadcast locally on WCIU-TV, due to network affiliation contracts (with The CW and previously The WB) that limit the number of annual programming preemptions that WGN-TV is allowed, and also due to rights restrictions put in place by the NBA which limit the number of Bulls telecasts aired on WGN's national superstation feed WGN America to fifteen games per season.
In 2010, sports coverage on WCIU was rebranded as "WGN Sports on The U", reflecting the fact that the games are produced by WGN-TV. Even though sporting events televised by WCIU-TV had always been produced by WGN, the coverage was previously referred to as "BullsNet", "CubsNet" and "SoxNet", rather than under the WGN branding. In 2011, all White Sox, Bulls, and Cubs games televised on WCIU began to be simulcast to local stations in central Illinois and Iowa through what is referred to on-air as the "WGN Sports Network." Prior to this, select Bulls games on WCIU and WGN had been simulcast to these same stations.
As of the 2010 NFL season, WCIU has aired all ESPN Monday Night Football appearances of the Chicago Bears as part of the league's requirement that a local broadcast station simulcast those games. WLS-TV, being an O&O station of ABC and a sister network to ESPN has the right of first refusal to carry MNF games, but since 2010 chosen not to, deferring instead to airing Dancing with the Stars without delay.
- Soul Train Local, Chicago Reader, October 2, 2008
- Channel 26 Dances To New Local Tune, Chicago Sun-Times, December 21, 1994. Retrieved June 3, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
- Tv Stations Get Set To Swap Languages Chicago Tribune, December 30, 1994, Retrieved June 3, 2013.
- WCIU Parent Weigel to Drop Foreign Subchannel, Launch The U Too, Chicago Tribune, October 5, 2010
- WCUU Launches The U Too Subchannel, Broadcasting & Cable, October 5, 2010
- MGM Links with Weigel Broadcdasting for Digital Subchannel Offering, Chicago Tribune, July 28, 2008.
- Weigel, MGM Hope "This" Thing's a Hit, Broadcasting & Cable, October 27, 2008
- "Tribune Replaces Weigel As Partner on This TV", Broadcasting & Cable, May 14, 2013
- Tribune To Program MGM's This TV, MediaPost, May 13, 2013.
- MGM, Weigel Taking Me-TV Nationwide, Broadcasting & Cable, January 4, 2011
- MGM Launches Classic TV Service to Roar Like the Fonz, Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2011
- CDBS Print
- Weigel's Analog Nightlight Could Help Chicago Stations With Reception Issues, Broadcasting & Cable, June 17, 2009
- Weigel Launching Morning Content Mix, Broadcasting & Cable, July 7, 2009
- Weigel's WCIU Getting Into A.M. News Fray -- In A Small, Unconventional Way, Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2009
- Magic & Blu on WCIU, YouTube.com
- Channel 26 gets Cubs, Bulls next season, Daily Herald, July 9, 1999. Retrieved June 3, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
- Confirmed by WGN-TV "WGN-TV Contact Page". Accessed June 8, 2007.
- Chicago Professional Sports L.P. & WGN Continental Broadcasting Co. vs. National Basketball Association. 961 Fed. 2d 667 (7th Cir. 1992)
- Official website
- The U Too
- Me-TV and Me Too
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WCIU-TV
- The Bob Leandowski Show fansite