WGN America

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This article is about the national version of WGN-TV. For the local Chicago television station that is affiliated with The CW, see WGN-TV. For its sister AM radio station, see WGN (AM).
WGN America
WGN America logo 2014.png
Logo used since January 20, 2014.
Launched November 1978 (1978-11)[specify][1]
Network independent (1978–1995 and 1999–present)
The WB (1995–1999)
Owned by Tribune Broadcasting
(Tribune Media)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)
Slogan Chicago's Very Own (during WGN-TV news simulcasts)
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area United States
Canada (via cable)
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois (programming);
New York City, New York (sales)
Formerly called WGN (1978–2001)
WGN Superstation (2001–2002)
Superstation WGN (2002–2008)
Sister channel(s) WGN-TV, Chicagoland Television, WGN (AM)
Website www.wgnamerica.com
Availability
Satellite
DirecTV (U.S.) 307 (HD/SD)
Dish Network 239 (HD/SD)
Cable
Verizon FiOS 568 (HD)
Consult local lineup for SD channel number
Available on most other U.S. cable systems Consult your local cable provider for channel availability
Consult your local cable provider for channel availability
(the WGN-TV Chicago signal is available in lieu of WGN America on most Canadian cable systems)
IPTV
AT&T U-verse 1180 (HD)
180 (SD)
(not available in the Chicago area)
MTS TV 1245 (HD)
245 (SD)

WGN America is an American basic cable and satellite television channel, that operates in principle as a superstation feed of Chicago, Illinois television station WGN-TV (channel 9). Owned by Tribune Broadcasting, the channel is one of several flagship properties owned by the Chicago-based Tribune Media Company, which also owns regional cable news channel Chicagoland Television (CLTV) and radio station WGN (720 AM).

WGN America is the only remaining U.S. superstation to be distributed nationally through both cable and satellite television – a distinction it has held since the October 2007 split of TBS from its former Atlanta local feed. WGN-TV/WGN America is also one of four superstations that are owned by Tribune: KTLA/Los Angeles, KWGN-TV/Denver and WPIX/New York City are distributed nationally through Dish Network (for grandfathered subscribers of its superstations package that purchased the a la carte tier before Dish halted sales of the tier to new subscribers in September 2013), on cable and satellite providers throughout Canada (all four stations are authorized for cable and satellite distribution as a U.S. superstation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; however, KWGN-TV is the only one of the four that is not distributed in that country), and are available through cable on a regional basis in their respective regions of the Western and Northeastern United States.

As of August 2013, WGN America is available in approximately 73,969,000 pay television households (64.77% of households with at least one television set) in the United States.[2]

Overview[edit]

WGN America carries a variety of programs consisting mainly of recent and classic off-network sitcoms, drama series and feature films, along with original programming and some locally produced programs supplied by WGN-TV/Chicago (including televised games from Chicago's Major League Baseball and NBA sports teams, locally produced newscasts, public affairs programs and occasional specials) as well as some scripted television series produced exclusively for the channel.

The channel broadcasts throughout the United States and in parts of Canada without certain local programs and most syndicated programs that are carried on the Chicago broadcast signal, which are substituted with other programs due to syndication exclusivity rights held by other stations for most syndicated programs seen on WGN-TV and rights restrictions for sports telecasts imposed by the NBA and the National Hockey League. The most notable programming difference between the national feed and the Chicago area broadcast signal is that WGN America does not carry any programming from The CW, even though WGN-TV is the network's charter affiliate for the Chicago market; this is because The CW is widely available throughout the United States via over-the-air broadcast stations and affiliations with digital subchannels and local cable outlets (including through The CW Plus in smaller markets). Conversely, WGN-TV does not carry WGN America's original series, outside of any special presentations of a program's series premiere (such as with the July 2013 premiere of Manhattan, which aired on WGN-TV and several other Tribune-owned stations on the night of its debut on WGN America).

WGN America broadcasts on an Eastern Time schedule (with programs shown at earlier or later times depending on the location); as it is a superstation feed, the channel does not timeshift its programming for other U.S. time zones in order to allow it to schedule its entertainment programs around simulcasts of Chicago-based programs and sports telecasts produced by WGN-TV that the channel clears for broadcast. As such, promos for WGN America programs reference airtimes for both the Eastern and Pacific time zones (for example, America's Funniest Home Videos is promoted as airing at "6 p.m. East/3 p.m. West", a scheduling reference format used since 2008 in the channel's promos, instead of referring to both zones as "Eastern" and "Pacific").

Availability[edit]

WGN America is available in the United States on most cable providers, as well as on Dish Network, DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS. However, it remains unavailable on cable in portions of the western United States and much of the New England region of the northeastern United States (including portions of the New York City metropolitan area). Moreover, some cable providers in select markets where Tribune Broadcasting owns a television station do not carry WGN America on analog or digital cable. Due to contractual stipulations in distribution agreements with most cable, IPTV and fiber optic television providers in the United States, WGN America is generally carried on a "limited basic" (or "lifeline") programming tier – alongside local broadcast stations and public, educational and government access channels. As a superstation, pay television providers that carry WGN America are required to make royalty payments to the United States Copyright Office under compulsory license provisions for retransmitting out-of-market stations.[3][4]

In the Chicago metropolitan area, WGN America is not available over-the-air as a digital subchannel of WGN-TV or through pay television via Comcast Xfinity, WOW!, RCN, AT&T U-verse and other providers in the city proper and its suburbs (making the channel's original programming unavailable in much of the market) – although satellite subscribers within the Chicago market can access the WGN superstation feed, in addition to the WGN-TV broadcast signal, through DirecTV and Dish Network.

The channel is also carried in Canada on select cable providers (such as Cogeco Cable), although most pay television providers in that country that previously carried WGN America now receive WGN-TV/Chicago instead as the main supplier of WGN in Canada, Shaw Broadcast Services, switched from the superstation feed to the Chicago area signal on January 17, 2007. This resulted in the duplication of CW network and many syndicated programs that are available domestically on other channels (such as fellow superstations KTLA and WSBK-TV), and effectively displaced the WGN national feed from most Canadian cable systems and satellite provider Star Choice (although Bell TV had been carrying the Chicago area signal for several years). The decision to switch to the Chicago area feed is believed to have been made in order to avoid paying fees that are required to carry the WGN superstation feed. A few subscription television providers (such as MTS TV and Cogeco) carry both WGN America and WGN-TV Chicago. The WGN-TV feed is also carried in Canada as part of the NHL Centre Ice sports package, primarily for simulcasts of Chicago Blackhawks games.

History[edit]

WGN-TV goes national[edit]

In October 1978, United Video Satellite Group uplinked the signal of Chicago independent station WGN-TV (channel 9) to the Satcom-3 satellite for cable and satellite subscribers throughout the United States. For about eleven years afterward, the national WGN-TV signal carried the same programming schedule as that seen in the Chicago area; the national feed also used the same on-air branding as the Chicago area signal (which was referred to on-air at the time as either "Channel 9" or "WGN Channel 9") until 1997, when it became known as simply "WGN" outside of Chicago (although it retained the varied forms of the WGN logo wordmark until 2008). After United Video launched Prevue Guide (now TVGN) in the late 1980s, it utilized WGN's audio subcarrier channel – which was unheard by viewers – to transmit programming schedules in a 2400 bit/s data stream to local cable providers.

In 1989, the Federal Communications Commission passed the Syndication Exclusivity Rules (or "SyndEx") into law – the regulations required cable providers to black out syndicated programs shown on any out-of-market television stations that the provider carried, when a station within a television market obtains the exclusive rights to air that particular program. In response, a separate national feed of WGN-TV was launched on January 1, 1990 to avoid any potential blackouts, save for some sports programming (the feed was originally similar in structure to the now-defunct WWOR EMI Service, a superstation feed of Secaucus, New Jersey-based WWOR-TV that launched seven months after WGN-TV achieved superstation status, only with fewer programming blackouts). By the early 1990s, WGN began to increase its national coverage when many cable systems began to swap out WWOR and its New York City area rival (and sister station to WGN-TV) WPIX for the WGN superstation feed;[5][6] its distribution expanded further as it gradually gained carriage on direct broadcast satellite via DirecTV, Dish Network and Primestar during that decade.

Former logo as WGN Superstation, used from 2001 to 2002.
Former logo as Superstation WGN, used from 2002 to 2008.

On December 3, 1993, Tribune Broadcasting signed an affiliation agreement with WGN-TV/Chicago to become a charter affiliate of The WB Television Network, a joint venture between the Warner Bros. Television unit of Time Warner and the Tribune Company (which held a minority ownership stake in the network); this made the station a network affiliate for the first time since the August 1956 shutdown of the DuMont Television Network (WGN-TV had been a primary CBS/secondary DuMont affiliate from its sign-on in April 1948, before becoming exclusively affiliated with DuMont after CBS moved to WBKB-TV (channel 4, now WBBM-TV on channel 2) in 1953).[7] Through the agreement and Tribune's ownership interest in The WB – which resulted in most of the company's independent stations becoming the network's charter affiliates – The WB allowed the WGN superstation feed to nationally distribute its primetime (and when it was added by The WB in September 1995, children's) programming, in order to make the network available to areas of the United States that did not initially have a local affiliate.[8]

The superstation feed became a de facto national WB affiliate upon the network's January 11, 1995 launch, giving The WB an early advantage over the United Paramount Network (UPN), which declined to allow WWOR to carry its programming to areas without an affiliate. While The WB's programming was initially split between two stations in the Chicago area, WGN-TV – which aired its primetime programming, and WCIU-TV (channel 26) – which ran Kids' WB children's programming until it moved to WGN-TV in 2004, The WB's entire programming schedule was carried by the WGN superstation feed. In addition, as The WB only carried programming on Sundays when it launched and would not expand its primetime schedule to six nights a week until September 1999, the superstation feed – as with most over-the-air WB affiliates during the network's early years – filled the 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time slot on nights without WB network programming with either sports telecasts from WGN-TV that were cleared for national broadcast (which as The WB expanded its programming to other nights over a four-year period beginning with the launch of its Wednesday lineup in September 1995, would result in pre-emptions of the network's programs until later in the week) or movies.

In 1996, not long after WGN-TV temporarily lost rights to broadcast Chicago Bulls basketball games due to a lawsuit between the station and the National Basketball Association, the WGN superstation feed was dropped from cable systems operated by Tele-Communications, Inc. in several U.S. cities outside of the Chicago area. The move was partly made in order to make room for additional cable networks due to limited space; TCI's removal of WGN had a minor complication for The WB as even though the network had been slowly adding stations to its roster at the time, it still did not have local affiliates in many mid-sized and small markets. Outcry from some TCI subscribers over the decision to drop WGN resulted in the cable provider later backing off plans to drop the superstation feed in five Midwestern states.[9][10] In 1997, TCI and Tribune had discussed a proposal to sell a 50% ownership stake in the WGN superstation feed to TCI and convert it into a basic cable channel (similar to what Atlanta superstation WTBS did that same year, as well as Tribune's ongoing conversion of WGN America into a basic service that started in 2014), this ultimately did not go forward.[11]

On October 7, 1999, WGN stopped carrying The WB's programming on its superstation feed at the network's request, on mutual grounds between Time Warner and Tribune that The WB had increased its national broadcast coverage (through affiliation agreements signed with local broadcast stations after its launch and the debut of a cable-only affiliate group in markets where no over-the-air affiliate was present) to the point that discontinuing the network's carriage on the superstation feed was necessary. Kids' WB programming on weekday mornings and afternoons and on Saturday mornings was replaced with syndicated series, while feature films replaced The WB's primetime programs, resulting in the superstation's schedule moreso resembling an independent station than a general entertainment cable network due to the presence of local programming from WGN-TV.[12][13] The removal of WB programming from the superstation feed reduced The WB's potential household audience by 10 million homes, and was cited as the reason behind the network's ratings declines during the 1999–2000 television season (The WB fell to sixth place in the Nielsen ratings that season, behind UPN), as the network lost an estimated 19% of its household audience through the decision.[14]

In 2001, the superstation feed was rebranded as WGN Superstation, before undergoing another name change as Superstation WGN in November 2002, coinciding with the introduction of WGN-TV Chicago's current logo (to which the superstation feed used a stylized version that added an ovular die-cut "S" emblem to represent its superstation status, alongside the text logo that included WGN-TV's wordmark).

Change to WGN America[edit]

Original logo as WGN America, used from May 2008 to January 2009; the text became the sole logo from January to April 2009.
Logo used from April 2009 to June 30, 2010; the logo shown immediately below is a modified version of this logo.
Logo used from July 1, 2010 to January 19, 2014.

On May 24, 2008, Superstation WGN changed its name to WGN America (initially, the use of the WGN America name was limited to on-air promos, as the Superstation WGN channel IDs remained in place). The new name and logo went into full-time use on May 26, 2008. The new logo was also the first used by the superstation feed to not incorporate WGN-TV's on-air logo branding in some capacity (the "WGN" text was similar in resemblance, although the "G" was not formed into an ovular arrow as it is in WGN-TV's logo), and its design featured the eyes of a female, which was used alongside the new slogan "TV You Can't Ignore".

The channel would soon begin to slowly revamp its programming lineup, starting with the introduction of the Sunday evening classic sitcom block "Out of Sight Retro Night" (which ran from August 2007 to September 5, 2010, airing weekly from 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time, with a breakaway at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for the WGN News at Nine and Instant Replay); the block featured series such as WKRP in Cincinnati, Newhart, ALF, Barney Miller and The Honeymooners – some of these programs had previously aired on WGN prior to implementation of the SyndEx rules, or even after the rules went into effect on the Chicago signal only, and in some cases, the superstation feed as well.[15] A few shows were dropped from the channel, such as former WGN staples U.S. Farm Report and Soul Train, primarily due to the dissolution of Tribune's television production and distribution unit.[16] In late July 2008, the network's logo bug was revised with the eyes element of the logo being morphed into the "WGN America" text – the eyes element remained a part of the general logo in all other uses until January 2009, when it was deemphasized in favor of using the channel's wordmark text as the primary logo.

In the fall of 2008, then-Tribune chairman/CEO Sam Zell and co-CEO Randy Michaels stated to the media during a nationwide tour promoting the Tribune properties that the company was interested in producing a late night talk show hosted by comedian Jay Leno, following the end of his initial run as host of NBC's The Tonight Show that year, by launching it on Tribune's television stations and using WGN America to broadcast the show nationally.[17] However, in December 2008, NBC agreed to a deal to let Leno host a weeknight primetime talk show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, called The Jay Leno Show (which was cancelled in February 2010, due to low ratings, with Leno returning as host of Tonight one month later).

In April 2009, WGN America underwent another rebrand, with a new retro-style logo (which was given a minor update on July 1, 2010 with the rounded trapezoid containing the "WGN" letters simplified into rounded squares and the word "america" being spaced), a new five-note sounder (which was also used on WGN radio in Chicago), new graphics, a new slogan ("Everywhere America Calls Home") and the introduction of some original programming. The changes were made in order to increase its cable carriage outside the channel's traditional coverage area and position itself as a general entertainment network that programs to the entire nation, not just Chicago and the Midwest.[18]

The logo was overhauled again in January 2014, ahead of the launch of the network's first original scripted programs, to a simpler and neutral variant removing the flourishes of the Zell/Michaels era of Tribune ownership, and focusing more on the "WGN" call letters for branding; the new imaging was unveiled on December 19, 2013 as part of a promotional trailer for its first scripted drama series Salem.[19] The incorporation of scripted original programming came as part of a gradual evolution of WGN America from a superstation to a conventional cable network (similar to TBS's transition to a basic cable channel in the 1990s, that eventually led to its parent Atlanta station WTBS to be separated from the national cable channel in October 2007). Salem and WGN America saw a major promotional push which began with Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, where local ad time on Tribune's fifteen Fox affiliates (including stations in Seattle and Denver, the two cities whose local NFL teams played in the game) was used to air an extended promotional ad for Salem, followed by further promotion on Tribune's other local television stations in the lead-up to the show's April 20 premiere.[20] With the channel's new programming strategy, Tribune Company president and CEO Peter Liguori, in a May 2014 symposium at the MoffattNathanson Media & Communications Summit, stated that about 50% of U.S. cable providers would begin offering WGN America as a conventional cable channel by the end of 2014, with all cable providers offering it as a basic cable service by around 2016.[3]

Programming[edit]

As of 2014, WGN America's programming slate relies primarily on a variety of reruns such as In the Heat of the Night, Parks and Recreation, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Walker, Texas Ranger, Matlock, Rules of Engagement and edited syndication versions of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Some of the shows airing on the channel can also be seen on other broadcast television stations throughout the United States, but have been cleared by television syndication distributors for "full-signal" rights – therefore allowing these programs to air on WGN America as they do not fall under syndication exclusivity regulations (for example, although 30 Rock is syndicated to other television stations nationwide, including WGN-TV/Chicago, it is allowed to air on WGN America due to its clearance by NBCUniversal for "full-signal" carriage). However in 2013, WGN America began to acquire exclusive cable rights to programs eligible for syndication, such as Person of Interest, as part of its shift towards a conventional cable network.[21]

Feature films on the channel are also cleared for "full-signal" carriage, as the superstation feed runs movies from film packages distributed for local broadcast syndication by Warner Bros. Television, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, 20th Television, Sony Pictures Television and other distributors. Movies formed much of the superstation's primetime schedule for much of its existence until the "Superstation WGN" branding era – though there have been exceptions: fewer primetime movies aired during the week during its four-year run as a cable-only affiliate of The WB from 1995 to 1999 as that network's programming expanded to additional nights, with films airing on a nightly basis again once WB programming was dropped (films were later removed from Sunday nights with the launch of the "Outta Sight Retro Night" block in 2007 and from Thursday nights between 2009 and 2010). WGN America then relegated its movie telecasts to Sunday afternoons and weekend late nights from September 18, 2010[22] until primetime films returned on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in May 2013.

Until 2012, the channel's morning and early afternoon schedule heavily relied on reruns of television series produced between the 1960s and the early 1990s. During the early 2000s, WGN America acquired sub-run syndication rights to series that had previously aired in their original broadcast runs during the channel's affiliation with The WB, including 7th Heaven, The Wayans Bros., Sister, Sister and The Parent 'Hood. Between 2006 and 2009, WGN America ran teen- and preteen-oriented sitcoms during mid-afternoon timeslots such as Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and Sister, Sister, only for these shows to quickly be moved to overnight graveyard slots, when the show's target audiences are usually not awake, and then removed entirely shortly afterward. This was likely due to the restructuring of Tribune's television division and a distribution agreement with the Disney Channel that proved too expensive to maintain.

WGN-TV programming[edit]

Newscasts[edit]

As of February 2014, WGN America presently broadcasts 10 hours of WGN-TV's local newscasts each week (less than one-fifth of the 56 hours of newscasts that station produces on a weekly basis), with two hours on weekdays: it simulcasts the 4:00 a.m. hour of the WGN Morning News and the 12:00 p.m. hour of the WGN Midday News (all times Central).

For undetermined reasons, WGN America has not cleared local newscasts that have been added by WGN-TV since 2008 for broadcast on the superstation feed: the 11:00 a.m. hour of the WGN Midday News (which debuted in October 2009), its weeknight 5:00 p.m. newscast (which launched in September 2008 as a 5:30 p.m. newscast, and was expanded to weekends in July 2014) and the current incarnation of its weekend morning newscasts (which launched in October 2010); these newscasts are, however, streamed live on WGNTV.com without geographic restrictions, besides the removal of video of sports highlights because of rights issues with the major professional sports leagues. The last five hours (5:00-10:00 a.m. Central Time) of the WGN Morning News also do not air outside of the WGN-TV Chicago viewing area, and cable providers in portions of Illinois and Indiana within the Chicago market that carry the WGN-TV local feed. SyndEx rules on paid segments featured within that portion of the newscast (to which WGN-TV's sales department negotiates the appearance and the terms, under which it would be charged a national rate if such segments were broadcast outside of the Chicago market) reportedly do not allow some segments of that newscast to air outside Chicago; however, the morning newscast did air nationally during the program's first two years, from September 1994 to September 1996. WGN America had also broadcast weekend morning newscasts that WGN-TV previously produced during the 1990s, both of which were dropped by the superstation feed as a result of those newscasts' cancellations: a Saturday edition that ran from 1992 to 1998 and a Sunday edition that ran from 1992 to 1994. The superstation feed had also broadcast John Drury and Newsnine, the predecessor of WGN-TV's current 9:00 p.m. newscast – which aired at 10:00 p.m. Central Time, until it was expanded to and moved earlier by one hour in 1980; and Nightbeat, an overnight news program that ran until 1983.

Preemptions of the 9:00 p.m. newscast on WGN America had decreased with the removal of primetime movies on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in favor of nightly primetime sitcom reruns on September 13, 2010,[23] to only occasional instances where certain sports events that air on WGN-TV are not cleared to air outside the Chicago market, and the game was scheduled to run past 9:00 p.m. Central Time (prior to the scheduling change, feature films than ran past 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time also caused the primetime newscast to be preempted since most were not scheduled to start earlier in the evening to avoid such preemptions); movies began factoring into the preemptions again with the return of primetime films on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in May 2013. Episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos (from either the 2001–present Tom Bergeron run or the 1997-1999 Daisy Fuentes-John Fugelsang run) and later on, sitcom reruns aired in place of the WGN News at Nine in the event of a sports telecast or movie preemption outside the Chicago market. The 12:00 p.m. hour of the WGN Midday News is also occasionally preempted – though in far rarer instances – in the event that a Cubs or White Sox baseball game scheduled for broadcast on WGN-TV/WGN America begins at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

On February 3, 2014, the channel restored a simulcast of the WGN Morning News to its schedule, running only the 4:00 a.m. (Central Time) hour, which replaced paid programming that occupied the timeslot nationally.[24] This occurred as WGN America discontinued its simulcast of the WGN News at Nine (and by association, the 20-minute Sunday evening sports highlight program Instant Replay, certain specials produced by the station's news department, and many of WGN-TV chief meteorologist Tom Skilling's weather specials – the latter two of which typically aired on occasions in which WGN-TV abbreviated the hour-long 9:00 p.m. newscast to a half-hour in order to air a news special) after the January 30, 2014 edition, with Instant Replay last airing on January 26; television series and occasionally, movies overrunning into the 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time timeslot now fill that hour on a permanent basis, effectively rendering the WGN-TV news simulcasts to be reduced to only airing Monday through Fridays (the 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time hour – a timeslot commonly used by cable as well as broadcast networks to carry first-run programming – will also be used to run the network's original programming).[24] Although Tribune Broadcasting CEO Matt Cherniss stated that he did not expect for the removal of the 9:00 p.m. news simulcast to cause any issues with viewers, disapproval of the move by some former Chicago residents living elsewhere in the United States resulted in the creation of a Facebook page asking WGN America to return the broadcast to the schedule, citing concerns about a perceived inability to stay updated on news from the Chicago area despite the fact that WGN-TV's newscasts are streamed worldwide through the station's website.

Since 2008, WGN-TV anchors have referenced the national simulcast at the beginning of each newscast seen on WGN America (until the 9:00 p.m. newscast was dropped, this excluded weekend evenings and pre-scheduled preemptions of the 9:00 p.m. newscast on WGN America for movies airing only on the national feed or sports programming not cleared for broadcast outside of Chicago). The superstation feed ironically does not air promotions for the WGN-TV newscasts, though sports telecasts aired on WGN-TV that are carried nationally are promoted on WGN America.

Other WGN-TV programming[edit]

Aside from programming shared by both the local and national superstation feeds that have been cleared for "full-signal" carriage, other local programs shared by both feeds (in addition to the 4:00 a.m. and noon newscasts) include the bi-weekly Saturday morning local public affairs programs Adelante, Chicago and People to People. WGN America also simulcasts or airs on a delayed basis other Chicago-based programs produced by WGN's local programming department, such as local parades, event coverage and retrospective shows on WGN's past (including the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade and the special Bozo, Gar and Ray: WGN TV Classics).

WGN-TV/Chicago and the national superstation feed initially maintained similar programming schedules in the years after the SyndEx rules became law, running much of the same programs with limited substitutions outside of Chicago – though since the early 2000s (particularly since the rebrand to WGN America), WGN-TV/Chicago and the national superstation feed have carried substantially fewer common programs shared between the two feeds than in previous years. In addition to locally produced programs, other programs carried on WGN-TV/Chicago that are cleared for full-signal carriage on WGN America as of October 2013 are syndicated reruns of 30 Rock; religious programs Singsation!, Discover the Truth and Tomorrow's World; and select feature films (which are aired in different timeslots than they air on WGN-TV/Chicago).

In addition, WGN America airs the Illinois Lottery's daily drawings, which are produced by WGN-TV (making it the only U.S. state lottery whose drawings, including multi-jurisdictional games, are televised nationally) out of the station's Bradley Place studios in Chicago's North Center neighborhood; the live drawings air weekdays during the simulcast of the 12:00 p.m. hour of the WGN Midday News (at 12:40 p.m. Central Time). Until the removal of the 9:00 p.m. newscast from WGN America after the January 30, 2014 edition, it also aired the nightly drawings that were shown during the WGN News at Nine (at 9:22 p.m. Central Time); an independent certified public accountant agency under the lottery's employ monitors the drawing, as is standard in the United States. The winning numbers for the midday and evening drawings were also shown in the event that the noon newscast is preempted, and during scheduled programming on weekend afternoons in the 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time hour and nightly in the 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time hour – which were shown either during a commercial break or appearing on a lower-third on-screen graphic within the program. Through the Illinois Lottery's participation in these two multi-state lotteries, WGN America also simulcast the Mega Millions and Powerball drawings on their respective drawing nights – Tuesdays and Fridays for Mega Millions; Wednesdays and Saturdays for Powerball – at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time, except during ongoing sports telecasts; WGN America effectively acted as the default Mega Millions and/or Powerball drawing broadcaster in areas of lottery-participating states where no local station televises the drawings. Because of the channel's ubiquitous distribution in the state of Iowa, the Iowa Lottery uses Illinois' lottery numbers for its own Pick 3 and Pick 4 games daily.[25][26]

Through WGN-TV's longtime association as the MDA Love Network station for Chicago, WGN America had simulcast the annual MDA Show of Strength (having aired the telethon in its 21½-hour format from 1979 to 2010, the six-hour evening format used in 2011 and the three-hour primetime-only format used in 2012), including the local segments featuring WGN-TV personalities; as a result, donations to the Chicago-based segments of the telethon came from various parts of the United States and Canada, in addition to the Chicago area. The WGN America simulcast of the Show of Strength and WGN-TV's rights to the telethon ended with the 2012 edition, as the MDA decided to move the telethon from syndication to ABC beginning with the 2013 broadcast.[27]

Sports programming[edit]

See also: WGN Sports

WGN America airs all Chicago Cubs and White Sox Major League Baseball games televised by WGN-TV/Chicago. It also simulcasts about 10 to 20 Chicago Bulls NBA games from the Chicago area feed. WGN-TV/Chicago has rights to carry additional Bulls games, as well as a number of Chicago Blackhawks NHL games; however, due to broadcast rights restrictions imposed respectively by the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, WGN America is not allowed to carry other games from the Bulls schedule outside of those allowed to air outside the Chicago market, or any Blackhawks game that the local station carries (in the latter case due to the NHL's exclusive contract with Comcast/NBCUniversal). Similar restrictions by these and other sports leagues (as well as the absence of contractual streaming rights) also prevent WGNTV.com from running sports highlights during live streams of WGN-TV newscasts (unusual as many stations, including a few of WGN-TV/WGN America's Tribune-owned sister stations, have had permission to run sports highlights during live streams of local newscasts on their websites and mobile applications), which are replaced with a screen noting the restrictions while only the audio portions of the sports segments are streamed. WGN America substitutes games not cleared for national carriage with either movies or syndicated programming.

Certain related programming carried locally, such as the Blackhawks' victory parade following the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and a half-hour special paying tribute to the late Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo in 2011, have also not been shown on WGN America, though a few Tribune and Local TV-owned partner stations aired the funeral on their digital subchannels and the Blackhawks' victory parade was shown on the NHL Network using the WGN-TV feed.

As a side effect of Tribune's conversion of the network from a superstation into a general entertainment cable channel, WGN America will begin phasing out its carriage of WGN Sports broadcasts of Chicago Cubs, Bulls and White Sox games in January 2015, with Liguori citing limited viewership and advertising revenue generated from the sports broadcasts outside of the Chicago market.[28]

Original programming[edit]

On August 21, 2008, WGN America announced a partnership with Indianapolis radio station WFBQ to carry the television broadcast of The Bob & Tom Show radio program – which was originally produced for Tribune's Indianapolis duopoly WXIN/WTTV. The program debuted on WGN America on November 3, 2008, originally airing in a standard late night slot,[29] before being moved to overnights until the television broadcast ended on September 13, 2010. On December 19, 2008, WGN America reached a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment to broadcast WWE Superstars as an hour-long weekly program, starting on April 16, 2009.[30] The program was dropped from WGN America after the April 7, 2011 telecast (it is now available as an original web series carried on WWE.com in the United States only).

In April 2010, WGN America announced it would begin carrying Earl Pitts Uhmerikun, a television version of the radio commentary series created by Gary Burbank, which began airing that same month. Burbank had long maintained a close relationship with certain Tribune Company executives at that time, who approached him about bringing the segments to television.[31] The commentary was aired in the form of a series of 90-second segments that aired on WGN America until November 2011, usually during simulcasts of WGN-TV newscasts.

As part of Tribune's corporate restructuring (which led to the July 2013 decision to split its publishing division from the remainder of the company to focus on its broadcasting, digital media and real estate units[32]) as a result of its exit from bankruptcy in December 2012, WGN America began to develop original programming – some of which will be produced through Tribune Studios, a production and distribution unit formed in March 2013 to develop syndicated programs that will be seen primarily on Tribune Broadcasting's television properties (the subsidiary's predecessor, Tribune Entertainment, was a contributing supplier of syndicated programs to WGN America prior to the unit's 2007 shutdown).[33][34][35] On June 4, 2013, WGN America placed a 13-episode order for its first original scripted program, the drama series Salem (which is based around the Salem witch trials), which premiered on April 20, 2014.[36]

WGN America HD[edit]

WGN America HD is a high definition simulcast feed of WGN America, which broadcasts programming available in HD in the 1080i picture format. Select syndicated programs (such as 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother and Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Cubs and White Sox baseball and Bulls basketball games, and WGN-TV's morning and midday newscasts are currently broadcast in high definition on the feed. WGN-TV began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition on July 19, 2008. The HD feed is available regionally through Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Xfinity by Comcast, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and other select cable providers, and nationally through satellite providers Dish Network and DirecTV.

See also[edit]

In relation to WGN America's prior history as a cable affiliate of The WB, the following articles discuss similar cable-only affiliates of broadcast television networks:

  • The CW Plus - a station group made up primarily of cable-only outlets that formerly served as affiliates of The WB 100+ Station Group and digital multicast channels
  • The WB 100+ Station Group - predecessor of The CW Plus; WGN America's de facto WB affiliate status for small and mid-sized U.S. markets that did not have an in-market affiliate was superseded by the station group made up of mostly locally-managed cable-only television outlets created in September 1998 by The WB to serve these areas
  • Foxnet - a similar cable-only network for markets without a Fox affiliate, that operated from 1991 to 2006
  • CTV Two Alberta - a cable-only affiliate of CTV Two in the Canadian province of Alberta
  • CTV Two Atlantic - a similar cable-only affiliate of CTV Two in Atlantic Canada
  • City Saskatchewan - a similar cable-only affiliate of the City television network in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Seidman, Robert (August 23, 2013). "List of How Many Homes Each Cable Networks Is In - Cable Network Coverage Estimates As Of August 2013". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Tribune CEO Says He’s “Not Pleased” With CW’s Performance, Deadline.com, May 15, 2014.
  4. ^ Rate Adjustment for Satellite Carrier Compulsory License
  5. ^ WGN gains 2.2M subs; program appeal cited., Multichannel News, July 16, 1990. Retrieved August 24, 2012, from HighBeam Research.
  6. ^ Umstead, R. Thomas. "Midwest systems switch out WWOR; cable television operators sign up WGN", Multichannel News, January 13, 1992. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  7. ^ WB network signs WGN-TV, Broadcasting & Cable, December 6, 1993. Retrieved 5-28-2013 from HighBeam Research.
  8. ^ Time Warner Takes Crucial Step Toward New Network Television: A pact with superstation WGN-TV gives it access to 73% of homes. Analysts say that will still leave gaps., Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1993. Retrieved 12-10-2010.
  9. ^ Katz, Richard. "Networks on chopping block; TCI makes mincemeat of programmers' lineups", Multichannel News, December 2, 1996. Retrieved February 24, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  10. ^ Becker, Dave. "TCI Will Retain WGN in Madison, The Superstation Will Be Available in Five States", The Wisconsin State Journal, December 20, 1996. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  11. ^ Colman, Price. "WGN-TV moving toward basic: superstation is discussing plan that would have TCI owning 50%", Broadcasting & Cable, April 28, 1997. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  12. ^ WGN Drops WB, Adds Movies, Sitcoms, Multichannel News, September 20, 1999. Retrieved June 22, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
  13. ^ Last night Dawson's last ? WGN ceases to air WB programming, The Charleston Gazette, October 7, 1999. Retrieved June 22, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
  14. ^ TV NOTES; A Mix for WB, New York Times, May 17, 2000. Retrieved 12-10-2010.
  15. ^ [2] Retrieved November 9, 2008.
  16. ^ http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/chi-wed-rosenthal-28may28,0,458215.column.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  17. ^ Pursell, Chris and Jon Lafayette. "Tribune Plans Safety Net for Stations" TV Week, 2008-06-15.
  18. ^ WGN America is everywhere America calls home -- Network completes re-brand and relaunches in April The Futon Critic April 9, 2009
  19. ^ "SALEM - WGN America - Promo Teaser". YouTube via WGN America's channel. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "Tribune To Promo WGN Show On Its Fox Affils". TVNewsCheck. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  21. ^ WGN America Acquires Off-Network Rights to 'Person of Interest', The Hollywood Reporter, October 7, 2013.
  22. ^ [3]
  23. ^ http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=270367
  24. ^ a b WGN news loses national platform, Robert Feder, February 5, 2014.
  25. ^ Pick 3: Iowa Lottery Authority Game Specific Rules
  26. ^ Pick 4: Iowa Lottery Authority Game Specific Rules
  27. ^ ‘MDA’ Telethon Heads to Primetime on ABC, Variety, June 17, 2013.
  28. ^ Marek, Lynne (May 30, 2014). "WGN America to drop Chicago sports". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved June 27, 2014. 
  29. ^ http://www.wgnamerica.com/bobandtom.html
  30. ^ "WGN America Enters the Ring". World Wrestling Entertainment. 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  31. ^ Wake Up WGN Uhmerika! Here Comes Earl Pitts, The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 2, 2010.
  32. ^ Haughney, Christine; Carr, David (July 10, 2013). "Tribune Co. to Split in Two". New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  33. ^ WGN America may be channel of change for Tribune Co., Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2012.
  34. ^ Matt Cherniss Joins Tribune As President/ GM Of WGN, Newly Formed Tribune Studios, Deadline.com, March 19, 2013.
  35. ^ Tribune Re-Launching Studio With Matt Cherniss at Helm, Broadcasting & Cable, March 19, 2013.
  36. ^ WGN America Greenlights Its First Original Scripted Series, Brannon Braga’s ‘Salem’, June 4, 2013.

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