CW 5 (on DT2)
|Slogan||Your First News
TV to Talk About (on DT2)
|Channels||Digital: 17 (UHF) &
WWCW-DT 21.2 (UHF)
Virtual: 27 (PSIP)
27.2 The CW
|Owner||Nexstar Broadcasting Group
(Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.)
|First air date||March 10, 1986|
|Call letters' meaning||We're FoX Roanoke|
|Former callsigns||WVFT (1986-1993)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
27 (UHF, 1986-2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1986-1990)|
|Transmitter power||695 kW
916 kW (WWCW-DT2)
|Public license information:||Profile
WFXR is the Fox-affiliated television station for Southwestern Virginia licensed to Roanoke. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 17 (or virtual channel 27.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Poor Mountain in unincorporated Southwestern Roanoke County. The station can also be seen on Comcast and Cox channel 8 in standard definition, and on Comcast digital channel 213 and Cox digital channel 1008 in high definition. Owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, WFXR is sister to the area's CW affiliate WWCW and the two outlets share studios on Colonial Avenue Southwest (along I-581/U.S. 220) in Roanoke's Franklin-Colonial section.
The latter also operates an advertising sales office on Airport Road along Lynchburg's southwestern border with Campbell County. WFXR can be seen over-the-air through a standard definition simulcast on WWCW's second digital subchannel. This airs on UHF channel 20.2 (or virtual channel 21.2 via PSIP) from a transmitter on Thaxton Mountain in unincorporated Bedford County.
Channel 27 origins
The channel 27 frequency in Roanoke was originally home to WROV-TV, which operated for less than five months in 1953. It was the first UHF station in the country to go dark. Southwest Virginia is very mountainous and the difficulties faced by UHF stations at the time were magnified by the area's rugged terrain. Its facilities were eventually sold to the Times-World Corporation to launch its new station, WDBJ-TV, in 1955.
Also appearing on the channel 27 frequency was WRFT, which was known to have aired from 1966 to 1974 as an ABC affiliate. At the time, the area's primary ABC affiliate, WLVA-TV in Lynchburg (now WSET-TV), provided only marginal coverage of Roanoke.
The current incarnation of channel 27 debuted in March 1986 as a Christian television station WVFT owned by Roanoke Christian Television. Initially, the station ran only religious programming but was sold soon after sign on to Family Group Television. Beginning in the fall, the station began transitioning towards a general-entertainment format, and by 1987 the station was a conventional independent station.
The Roanoke-Lynchburg market was too small at the time to support what were essentially two independent stations (WJPR, now WWCW, had joined Fox at its inception in 1986, but the network wouldn't air a full week's worth of programming until 1993), and both channels 21 and 27 suffered from the tight competition. However, by 1990, WVFT's financial problems were more pronounced; the station suffered from lower ratings and was unable to pay for stronger syndicated programming. Jefferson-Pilot, then-owner of WJPR, offered to merge WVFT's stronger programming onto WJPR's schedule and begin simulcasting WVFT on WJPR. WVFT readily accepted, and the simulcast began later that year. The two stations provide a strong combined signal with 60 percent overlap. This gave Fox a strong signal throughout the market. Although channel 21 decently covers Roanoke, its analog signal left much to be desired in the New River Valley (despite its 4.1 million-watt ERP). Some areas of the New River Valley, along with other rural portions of the market, were among the few parts of the country where cable television still wasn't readily available.
On September 15, 1993; UHF television pioneer Milton Grant bought both WVFT and WJPR. The simulcast continued, though WVFT began serving as the main station. In October 1993, WVFT was renamed WFXR-TV. It was also announced that the two stations would eventually split from each other, with one reverting to independent status. However, this plan never manifested itself during the remainder of the analog era.
In January 1995, WFXR/WJPR acquired a secondary affiliation with the newly launched United Paramount Network, running UPN shows on weekends and some late nights. In the spring of 1997, the market's UPN affiliation moved to WDRG-TV (now WFFP-TV), and WFXR/WJPR picked up a secondary alliance with the WB Television Network. This paved the way for WFXR and WJPR to start the area's cable-only WB affiliate, known by the fictional calls "WBVA-TV". It was offered on Cox cable channel 5 and as a result was known on-air as "WB 5".
Plans were still underway to separate the two stations, and in 2001, the "WB 5" intellectual unit and the WBVA-TV calls were set to move to WJPR, leaving Fox on WFXR. The two stations would still share some syndicated programs. However, the separation plan was canceled due to concerns about reception problems in the 40 percent of the market only served by one station over the air. Many of these areas still didn't have access to cable, and neither DirecTV nor Dish Network had much penetration in the market at the time.
When WJPR's digital signal signed on in April 2002, "WBVA" was the sole programming aired on it (Fox was added and WBVA made a subchannel in early 2003). The WB affiliate was also offered on DirecTV and Dish Network. When WFXR's digital signal began airing programming in December 2003, it aired both Fox and WBVA in the same arrangement as WJPR.
On January 24, 2006, the UPN and WB networks announced that they merge into the CW Television Network. On March 28, 2006, it was announced that WBVA would become the area's CW affiliate. To reflect this, the fictional WBVA calls were changed to "WCW5-TV" in June 2006. The CW network began broadcasting on September 18, 2006; the cable-only station changed its branding to "CW 5" simultaneously.
On June 30, 2006, the call letters of WJPR were changed to WWCW. The new call letters matched the new affiliation agreement with the CW network, which appears on both stations' digital subcarriers. This immediately led to speculation that channel 21 would split off and become the area's CW affiliate. Had this happened, both stations could have aired on each other's digital subcarriers to make up for the shortfall in coverage. This is common practice for many duopolies where one station's signal is weak. However, Fox programming continued to air on both WFXR and WWCW, with both analog and digital signals, until the June 2009 analog shutdown. At that point, the two stations were effectively (though not entirely) separated, with WWCW's primary digital channel now airing CW programming in HD, with Fox programming airing in SD on WWCW's second subchannel. Conversely, WFXR carries Fox programming in HD on its primary signal, with CW programming airing in SD on WFXR's second subchannel.
Acquisition by Nexstar
In March 2015, the stations' new vice president Joseph McNamara announced that Nexstar planned to move WFXR/WWCW to new, larger facilities at an office park near Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport. Following the move, Nexstar also plans to establish an in-house news operation for the stations.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|27.1||720p||16:9||WFXR-HD||Main WFXR programming / FOX|
|27.2||480i||4:3||WCW5||Simulcast of WWCW|
WFXR discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 27, 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 17, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 27.
In 1996, the stations reached a deal with NBC affiliate WSLS-TV, allowing WSLS to produce a 10:00 p.m. newscast for WFXR/WJPR. The Fox 10 O'Clock News premiered on October 28, 1996. Currently, the newscast can be seen for an hour on weeknights and thirty minutes on weekends. WFXR's newscast originates from a secondary set at the WSLS studios on 3rd Street in Downtown Roanoke. In 2007, WSLS upgraded its newscasts to high definition becoming the market's first big three station to make such a change. WFXR's nightly prime time show was included in the upgrade. On March 12, 2012, WFXR launched a new 2-hour morning newscast, starting at 7 a.m. with Bob Grebe from WDBJ-TV and Patrick McKee providing weather updates.
In March 2015, Nexstar announced plans to end its partnership with WSLS and begin an in-house news operation for WFXR/WWCW after it moves to its new facilities.
- Malone, Michael (November 6, 2013). "Nexstar to Acquire Seven Grant Stations For $87.5 Million". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
- Consummation Notice, CDBS Public Access, Federal Communications Commission, Retrieved 3 December, 2014.
- "Roanoke's Fox 21/27 plans big changes". The Roanoke Times. March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WFXR
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Official website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WFXR
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WFXR-TV