|Gary, Indiana–Chicago, Illinois
|City of license||Gary, Indiana|
|Slogan||The Power Station|
|Channels||Digital: 51 (UHF)
Virtual: 50 (PSIP)
|Owner||Fox Television Stations
(Fox Television Stations, Inc.)
|First air date||April 4, 1982|
|Call letters' meaning||PoWeR|
|Former callsigns||WBBS-TV (shared operation, 1982–1986)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
60 (UHF, 1982–1987)
50 (UHF, 1987–2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1982–1995)
|Transmitter power||1000 kW|
WPWR-TV, virtual channel 50 (UHF digital channel 51), is a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated television station serving Chicago, Illinois, United States that is licensed to Gary, Indiana. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, as part of a duopoly with Fox owned-and-operated station WFLD (channel 32). The two stations share studio facilities in the Chicago Loop, and WPWR's transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower. The station is available on Comcast cable channel 8.
As an independent station
The station began as a split, two-station operation on April 4, 1982 on channel 60. Fred Eychaner's Metrowest Corporation (later to become Newsweb Corporation), which was the original applicant for the UHF channel 60 license in 1978, launched WPWR-TV with a large percentage of its broadcast schedule dedicated to a new pay television service called Sportsvision, which Eychaner had developed in a deal with Chicago White Sox co-owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. For the service, viewers had to rent a set-top converter and pay a subscription fee to watch their favorite sports teams. However, Sportsvision was not a success and became a cable channel in January 1983, eventually becoming SportsChannel Chicago. With Sportsvision gone from its schedule, Eychaner began acquiring public domain movies and sitcoms from the early to mid-1950s as well as old cartoons to fill WPWR's schedule. In 1984, familiar classic sitcoms and newer barter cartoons were mixed in.
WPWR shared the channel 60 frequency with another station, Spanish-language WBBS-TV, owned by Chicago resident Marcelino Miyares, who assisted Eychaner in completing the construction of channel 60. WBBS featured an array of Spanish-language programs, including telenovelas, movies, as well as locally-produced shows, such as the popular music video program Imagen, hosted by local Spanish-language television personality (and now media executive) Rey Mena and co-host Vivianne Plazas. One of WBBS's notable events occurred in 1984, when the station introduced the teen Latin pop group Menudo (which included a young Ricky Martin), to Chicago's Spanish audiences. WBBS programmed channel 60 from 7:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. seven days a week, with WPWR broadcasting the rest of the time.
Another twist in this arrangement was that although WBBS broadcast from the same transmitter, WBBS was actually licensed to West Chicago while WPWR as per the Federal Communications Commission's channel assignment table, was licensed to Aurora.
The 1985 announcement that WSNS-TV (channel 44) would be affiliating with the Spanish International Network (the forerunner to today's Univision) effectively ended the split-channel arrangement. Realizing it could not hope to compete with Univision, WBBS cut back its schedule to Spanish-language movies on weekends.
Meanwhile, Eychaner spent $1.5 million for WGMI, a channel 56 construction permit licensed to Gary. The permit had been held by a group of Indiana businessmen since 1976, but the station had never been built. In 1985 Eychaner also acquired the license of WCAE, a non-commercial station on channel 50 in St. John, Indiana. He successfully petitioned the FCC to move the non-commercial allocation from 50 to 56, and channel 56 became WYIN (now licensed to Gary). Eyechaner originally wanted to move channel 56's transmitter to downtown Chicago, but was unable to do it because of the presence of channel 60 there; FCC anti-interference regulations for analog UHF stations effectively required stations broadcasting from nearby sites to be spaced at least six channels apart. Eychaner then decided to move channel 50's transmitter to downtown Chicago and move WPWR's programming there.
In early 1986, Eychaner bought WBBS's share of channel 60 for $11 million, formally ending the split-channel arrangement. A year later, Eychaner sold channel 60 to the Home Shopping Network for $25 million. The frequency swap occurred on January 18, 1987: HSN changed channel 60's call letters to WEHS (it is now WXFT-DT) and at the same time, WPWR moved to channel 50. WPWR's first program on its new frequency was an episode of the anthology series Night Gallery.
As time went on, WPWR began acquiring many cartoons, more recent off-network sitcoms, drama shows, movies, and first-run syndicated shows, including Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987 and War of the Worlds in 1988. At least one Star Trek spinoff would air on WPWR from that time until June 2005, when the last network episode of Star Trek: Enterprise was broadcast by UPN. Within a year of starting full-time operation on channel 50, WPWR had firmly established itself as the third independent station in Chicago, behind WGN-TV (channel 9) and future sister WFLD (which was still effectively programmed as an independent for a few years after becoming a charter owned-and-operated station of Fox since that network had not expanded to a seven-day-a-week schedule at the time).
On January 16, 1995, WPWR-TV became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN); the station continuing to adding syndicated programming to its lineup during this time. As WPWR was never owned by either of UPN's parent companies, Chris-Craft Industries or Viacom (the latter – which maintained a program partnership with the network from its launch through Paramount Television – acquired 50% of UPN in 1996 and bought out Chris-Craft's stake in 2000), it was the largest UPN station that was not owned by the network.
In July 2002, Newsweb Corporation sold WPWR to Fox Television Stations (at the time, a subsidiary of News Corporation, which in turn was the then-parent company Fox) for $425 million – a handsome return on Eychaner's original investment 20 years earlier; the sale closed on August 21, 2002. As a result of this transaction, Fox now owned UPN's three largest affiliates; it already owned WWOR-TV in New York City and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles as a result of buying most of the television holdings of Chris-Craft Industries the previous year. Although rumors abounded that UPN's future was in jeopardy due to its three largest stations being effectively owned by the corporate parent of another network, Fox quickly signed a new three-year affiliation deal with UPN.
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. The CW signed a 10-year affiliation deal with 16 of Tribune Broadcasting's 19 WB affiliates, including WGN-TV, to join the new network. In response to its UPN affiliates being passed over for affiliations with The CW, Fox stripped all network branding from its UPN affiliates and stopped promoting the network's programming on those stations. It is very unlikely that WPWR would have been selected as The CW's Chicago affiliate, however, as CW representatives were on record as preferring to align with UPN and The WB's "strongest" affiliates; WGN-TV had been well ahead of WPWR in the ratings since the latter's sign-on.
A month later on February 22, 2006, Fox announced the launch of its own "sixth" network called MyNetworkTV, which would be operated by its Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television subsidiaries. WPWR and the other Fox-owned UPN affiliates served as the nuclei for the new network. The station had reverted to its pre-UPN era branding of "Power 50," and used it for most of summer 2006. However, at the same time the station began to use the "My 50" brand in some advertising to promote the change, particularly at sponsored events such as the Taste of Chicago; this brand began to be used officially in July 2006.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|50.1||720p||16:9||WPWR-DT||Main WPWR programming / MyNetworkTV|
|50.3||MundoFX||MundoFox/full-power simulcast of WOCK-CD 13.1|
WPWR-TV also operates two Mobile DTV feeds, one of subchannel 50.1, labeled "WPWR", and a feed of sister station WFLD labeled "WFLD", broadcasting at 3.67 Mbit/s. It is the highest bitrate of any Chicago television station's mobile feed.
WPWR-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 50, 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 51. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 50.
Occasionally as time permits, WPWR may air Fox network programs whenever WFLD is unable to in the event of extended breaking news or severe weather coverage. In certain instances, WPWR may also interrupt regularly scheduled programming to simulcast live breaking news coverage from WFLD. WPWR is the only major television station in the Chicago market that has never aired local news programming of any kind. Starting with the 2008 season, WPWR obtained broadcast rights to games from the Major League Soccer franchise Chicago Fire S.C..
- Hofmeister, Sallie (August 12, 2000). "News Corp. to Buy Chris-Craft Parent for $5.5 Billion, Outbidding Viacom". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- 'Gilmore Girls' meet 'Smackdown'; CW Network to combine WB, UPN in CBS-Warner venture beginning in September, CNNMoney.com, January 24, 2006.
- UPN and WB to Combine, Forming New TV Network, The New York Times, January 24, 2006.
- "News Corp. to launch new mini-network for UPN stations". USA Today. February 22, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- News Corp. Unveils MyNetworkTV, Broadcasting & Cable, February 22, 2006.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WPWR
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Official website
- WPWR-TV on Facebook
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WPWR-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WPWR-TV