|City of license||Joliet, Illinois|
|Channels||Digital: 38 (UHF)
Virtual: 66 (PSIP)
66.3 Grit TV
(WGBO License Partnership, GP)
|First air date||September 18, 1981|
|Call letters' meaning||Grant BrOadcasting
|Sister station(s)||WOJO, WPPN, WXFT-DT|
|Former callsigns||WFBN (1981–1986)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
66 (UHF, 1981–2009)
53 (UHF, –2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1981–1995)|
|Transmitter power||600 kW|
WGBO-DT, virtual channel 66 (UHF digital channel 38), is a Univision owned-and-operated television station serving Chicago, Illinois, United States that is licensed to Joliet. The station is owned by Univision Communications, as part of a duopoly with UniMás owned-and-operated station WXFT-DT (channel 60). The two stations share studios on Fairbanks Court (near Columbus Drive and Illinois Street) in the Streeterville neighborhood, and its transmitter is located atop the John Hancock Center in the Chicago Loop.
The station signed on the air on September 18, 1981 as independent station WFBN; it was originally owned by Focus Broadcasting. Initially, it ran public-access television programs during the day and the subscription television service Spectrum by night. By 1982, the station ran Spectrum programming almost 24 hours a day, but by the fall of 1983, Spectrum shared the same schedule with Chicago subscription rival ONTV.
WFBN continued this format until early 1984, when it dropped Spectrum in favor of a 24-hour music video format. By the fall of 1984, WFBN dropped the music videos and transitioned to a general entertainment programming format, filling the schedule with movies from the 30's through the 80's, off-network classic sitcoms, and dramas. Most of these shows fell off WGN TV and WFLD in the years before. The station was losing money and its owners put it up for sale in the Summer of 1985. Grant Broadcasting bought WFBN that fall and changed its call letters to WGBO-TV in January 1986, adopting the moniker of "Super 66."
In January 1986, though not dramatically different overall, WGBO added a few more off-network sitcoms and a couple of children's programs, as well as a lot of westerns. The station also adopted a very slick on-air look, using CGI graphics of near-network quality. This look was very similar to those adopted by sister stations WGBS-TV (now WPSG) in Philadelphia and WBFS-TV in Miami. However, WGBO was run somewhat more cheaply than its two sisters and never really thrived, despite Grant's ambitions of turning his three stations into regional superstations.
Unfortunately, when WGBO tried to get more barter programming and cheap low budget shows, it found the available inventory was picked clean by established independents WGN-TV (channel 9), WFLD (channel 32) and WPWR-TV (channel 60, now on channel 50). WGBO made virtually no headway against the established independents and was not even able to compete against WPWR (even with all the low-budget shows WPWR had, along with lots of barter shows). There simply was not enough moderate rated syndicated programming to go around, even in a market as large as Chicago. By the end of 1986, Grant was so badly overextended that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. While the other two stations kept similar formats with fewer shows, WGBO added a lot of infomercials, religious shows and other paid programs to its schedule, although it did hold on to some entertainment programs. Ratings remained low as they were to begin with.
In 1989, Grant Broadcasting was forced into receivership. Combined Broadcasting, a creditor-controlled company, took over the three stations. In the early 1990s, WGBO added some barter cartoons and sitcoms that other stations passed on or dropped previously. After Time Warner announced the launch of The WB on November 2, 1993, the network had entered into discussions with WGBO to become the network's Chicago affiliate; even though Tribune Broadcasting would hold a partial ownership interest in The WB and tapped its independent stations in other markets to serve as the network's charter affiliates, WGN-TV – the company's flagship television station – originally passed on affiliating with The WB due to management concerns that a network affiliation would hamper its ability to balance its sports broadcast commitments. WGN-TV reversed course on December 3, in a deal that also resulted in its superstation feed (now known as WGN America) carrying the network nationally, keeping WGBO a true independent station. The United Paramount Network then planned to affiliate with WGBO as they made agreements to affiliate with sister stations WGBS and WBFS.
Sale to Univision
In April 1994, Combined Broadcasting announced the sales of WGBS and WBFS-TV to the Paramount Stations Group (who sold its original Philadelphia station, WTXF-TV, to News Corporation) in a group deal. Originally, WGBO was to be part of this deal as well. Paramount Stations Group in some ways already owned the three stations being non voting partners in Combined Broadcasting. But one month later, Univision announced plans to acquire the license, building, equipment, and transmitter of WGBO, but not the programming. The deal to affiliate WGBO with UPN was also called off and UPN chose to affiliate with WPWR-TV (channel 50). WCIU-TV (channel 26) had been affiliated with Univision for many years, but still aired English-language business news programming before 5 p.m. weekdays. Univision had wanted WCIU to drop that programming and affiliate with them full-time, but WCIU refused; as a result, Univision decided to purchase WGBO, excluding their intellectual programming unit and move the network's programming there.
In August 1994, Univision officially took ownership of Channel 66. Univision's deal with WCIU did not expire until December 31, 1994; therefore, Univision was forced to run WGBO as an independent station for five months. At the end of the year, the station still retained the WGBO call letters, but finally affiliated with the Spanish language Univision network on January 1, 1995. WGBO's general entertainment programs were sold mostly to WCIU, but reruns of Beverly Hills, 90210 continued to run, in English, on Sunday nights for a few months after the Univision buyout. That same year, Oshkosh, Wisconsin radio station WVBO asked WGBO for permission to use the call letters WGBO-FM for its planned Green Bay simulcast (to stand for "Green Bay Oldies"). WGBO refused, and the Green Bay station went on the air as WOGB instead.
The former WFBN call letters are currently used on a low-power television station in Rockford that is owned by Weigel Broadcasting, the owner of WCIU, which currently relays Telemundo programming from Weigel's WYTU-LD in Milwaukee to the Rockford market. The station previously aired WebFN, the successor to Stock Market Observer; ironically, WCIU and WGBO essentially traded programming in 1995 because WCIU refused to drop Stock Market Observer.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|66.1||1080i||16:9||WGBO–DT||Main WGBO-DT programming / Univision|
In December 2009, WGBO and sister station WXFT, along with most other Univision-owned stations, upgraded their main channels to transmit in 16:9 1080i high definition in preparation for the arrival of HD programming from Univision and TeleFutura, which occurred in 2010.
WGBO-DT is one of only two Chicago market full-power television stations (the other being WYCC) which broadcast from the top of the John Hancock Center. Most of the other area stations broadcast from the top of the Willis Tower. WPVN-CD broadcasts from the Trump International Hotel & Tower. On September 24, 2012, WGBO filed an application to move its transmitter to the Willis Tower at 650 kW; the FCC granted a permit on October 23.
Last analog transmission
WGBO powered down regular analog programming and its analog signal, over UHF channel 66, 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 relocated on its pre-transition UHF channel 53 to UHF channel 38 (which was formerly used by the analog signal and presently by the virtual digital channel of Ion Television owned-and-operated station WCPX-TV) for post-transition operations. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 66, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition. On June 23, 2009, WGBO replaced the -TV suffix with the -DT suffix in its legal call sign to conform to the company's practice (the legal call signs of all Univision-owned full-service television stations now end in -DT).
WGBO-DT presently broadcasts five hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with one hour each weekday, consisting of two half-hour newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m.). Upon affiliating with Univision in 1995, WGBO launched local Spanish language newscasts that were anchored by Elio Montenegro (formerly of CLTV) and Edna Schmidt at 5 p.m., and Jorge Barbosa joining in at 10 p.m. On January 4, 2012, WGBO began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.
- Warner Bros., Tribune Broadcasting & Jamie Kellner to Launch WB Network in 1994, TheFreeLibrary.com. Retrieved 12-10-2010.
- Tribune Broadcasting Joins with Warner Bros. to Launch Fifth Television Network, TheFreeLibrary.com. Retrieved 12-10-2010.
- Tribune's Network Tie Could Bench Its Sports, Chicago Sun-Times, November 3, 1993. Retrieved July 20, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
- Channel 9 Joins Warner Network // But Sports Still Gets Top Priority, Chicago Sun-Times, December 4, 1993. Retrieved July 20, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
- WB network signs WGN-TV, Broadcasting & Cable, December 6, 1993. Retrieved 5-28-2013 from HighBeam Research.
- Tribune Superstation WGN-TV to Affiliate with WB Network, TheFreeLibrary.com. Retrieved 12-10-2010.
- Univision Tunes Into Wgbo, Chicago Tribune, 3 August 1994, Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WGBO
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Univision Chicago launched in high definition with new set
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WGBO-DT
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WGBO-DT