||This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2012)|
|St. Petersburg - Tampa, Florida|
|Slogan||CW 44 Rules|
|Channels||Digital: 44 (UHF)
Virtual: 44 (PSIP)
(CBS Operations, Inc.)
|First air date||November 4, 1968|
|Call letters' meaning||Disambiguation of former sister radio station WGTO (now WFLF)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
|Former affiliations||Independent (1968-1986 and 1988-1993)
|Transmitter power||550 kW (digital)|
|Height||454 m (digital)|
WTOG, channel 44, is a television station in St. Petersburg, Florida. Owned by the CBS Corporation, WTOG serves as the Tampa Bay Area owned-and-operated station for the co-owned CW Television Network. The station has studios located in St. Petersburg near the west end of the Gandy Bridge, and its transmitter is located in Riverview, Florida.
Early years 
WTOG-TV began operations on November 4, 1968 as an independent station. It was originally owned by Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting. Initially, WTOG ran old movies, some low budget syndicated programs, a few off network westerns and sitcoms, and some cartoons. The station was on the air about 8 hours a day. In the station's early days, its slogan was "WTOG... as far as the eye can see", which was made famous by a 1970s station identification package. WTOG caught on with the viewers immediately; so much so, in fact, that it forced competitor WSUN-TV (channel 38, frequency now occupied by WTTA) off the air in 1970. For the rest of the 1970s and well into the 1980s, WTOG was the only independent station in the Tampa Bay area. A later campaign slogan was "44 is For You!" In the 1970s, WTOG gradually expanded their broadcast day. By 1972 the station signed on at 10:30 a.m. weekdays and about 1 p.m. weekends. By 1976, WTOG was on the air daily by 7 a.m. Gradually, WTOG added better sitcoms, more cartoons, off network dramas, and better movies. While the station was profitable all along, the programming improved significantly in the late 1970s.
Becoming a superstation 
This distinction finally ended in 1981, when WFTS-TV, then owned by Family Group Broadcasting, signed on. However, the station remained the clear leader in the market for the next two decades. In the early 1980s, the station's slogan was "We're 44...we show you the good life".
During the 1970s and 1980s, WTOG was seen on many cable systems in central and southwestern Florida. In the 1980s, WTOG also had a network of low-powered repeaters, with repeaters in Sebring, Inverness, Arcadia (in the Ft. Myers market), Ocala (Orlando market) and Okeechobee (West Palm Beach market). It billed itself as "Florida's Super Station", which "Covered Florida Like The Sun". There was also some consideration to put WTOG on cable in Tallahassee, but that never came to fruition.
WTOG was one of the most profitable independent television stations in the country. In fact, during the late 1970s, Ted Turner called the station to ask how it was that WTOG could be so profitable. It is believed[by whom?] that WTBS in Atlanta was modeled after WTOG.
From Fox to UPN 
In 1986, WTOG became a charter affiliate of the new Fox Broadcasting Company. However, this relationship lasted only less than two years, as WTOG dropped the affiliation in 1988, sending it to WFTS, now owned by the E.W. Scripps Company. The station was still effectively independent during its time as a Fox affiliate, as Fox programming only comprised a small part of its schedule. As part of deal from United Television, WTOG was an affiliate of the Prime Time Entertainment Network from 1993 until 1995.
WTOG was largely unaffected by the affiliation swaps of 1994, which saw longtime CBS affiliate WTVT switch to Fox, WFTS going to ABC and longtime ABC affiliate WTSP go to CBS, but WTOG did become a charter UPN affiliate, aligning itself with the network at its launch in 1995. As with its days as a Fox affiliate, WTOG continued to program a traditional independent format during the day, with UPN programming shown during prime time. In the early 90's, WTOG still was running mostly cartoons both old and recent, classic sitcoms, recent sitcoms, drama shows, and older movies. Paramount Stations Group, a subsidiary of Viacom (with which Hubbard had co-owned the All News Channel) purchased the station in the Spring of 1996, swapping NBC affiliates WNYT in Albany, New York and WHEC in Rochester, New York to Hubbard in the process. Paramount wanted to get rid of its non-UPN stations. This made WTOG the first O&O in Tampa Bay. Soon after taking control, Paramount changed WTOG's on-air branding to "UPN44", which it kept for the remainder of UPN's run. By the late 1990s, older sitcoms and older cartoons made way for talk shows, court shows, and reality programs during the daytime. Recent cartoons, such as Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Garfield and Friends, DuckTales, Doug and Hercules: The Animated Series, and recent sitcoms, such as Charles in Charge, Step by Step, All in the Family, Cheers (later on WTTA and then WMOR-TV), Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Grace Under Fire, Roseanne, The Simpsons, Friends, Seinfeld (now on WTTA), Mad About You and NewsRadio continued to air but movies also were eliminated almost completely. Viacom bought CBS in 2000.
Ownership during the 2000s 
There were rumors that The E. W. Scripps Company would buy WTOG from CBS Corporation (recently spun off from Viacom), thus creating a duopoly with ABC affiliate WFTS (who ironically had taken the FOX affiliation from WTOG in 1988). As of 2010, this has not occurred.
On January 24, 2006, it was announced that UPN and The WB would merge into a new network, The CW. The new network signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with 11 of CBS's UPN stations, including WTOG. The new network launched on September 18, 2006. Under current ownership, WTOG is one of two network O&Os in Tampa Bay, alongside Fox-owned WTVT. Gradually, cartoons would disappear from WTOG's schedule as with every broadcast station in the early 2000s. More reality and court shows would begin airing in place of that programming. The station continues to run some sitcoms in the evenings. In tha last 10 years, infomercials have also aired on the station overnights and early mornings.
WTOG had handled master control operations for its sister station, KEYE in Austin, Texas, until WTOG's master control, along with that of Atlanta's WUPA, were moved to sister CW affiliate WGNT in Norfolk, Virginia; twenty employees were laid off from WTOG even though CBS had previously denied that such would happen (). KEYE has since been sold to Cerberus Capital Management, through its Four Points Media Group (which in turn was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, who operates and effectively owns WTTA, at the beginning of 2012). WGNT was sold to Local TV, the owner of that market's CBS affiliate WTKR, in August 2010. CBS is in the process of winding down operations at the Norfolk hub; when that is completed, WTOG and WUPA will once again be handling their own master controls in-house.
On cable, WTOG can be seen throughout the Tampa Bay area on Bright House and Verizon FiOS channel 4, and on Comcast channel 9 in the Sarasota and Venice headends. WTOG also has a translator in Sebring (W23CN-D channel 23)() and Inverness (W26DP-D Channel 26)(). As for the other translators, the Arcadia facilities have shut down while the Ocala station (W29AB) has since become a translator for Orlando's WKMG-TV.
In May 1999, after WTOG's news department closed, WTOG housed WFLA-TV one day, when WFLA had a power outage at their main studios in Downtown Tampa.
WTOG is one of two stations to have studios located in St. Petersburg alongside WTSP; the studios are located about a mile from each other, on or near Gandy Boulevard.
Digital television 
WTOG shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 44, on June 12, 2009, as part of the DTV transition in the United States. The station had been broadcasting its pre-transition digital signal over UHF channel 59, but returned to channel 44 for its post-transition operations, mainly due to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclaiming channels 52-69 for public safety and wireless devices.
WTOG's newscasts prior to 1982 was mainly at sign-on and sign-off, with the announcer reading the day's headlines over a slide. In the late-1970s and early-1980s, it featured a newsreader on camera reading the news during its morning discussion, Florida Daybreak. WTOG started using the Eyewitness News moniker in the late-1970s, though its news was still a rather staid, low-key affair, until they established a regular 10 PM newscast in 1982. At first, WTOG continued to use the Eyewitness News name, with Barbara Callahan (former co-host of WTOG's PM Magazine) and John Nicholson (formerly an anchor at WTVT) as co-anchors. During the mid 80s, the news adopted the name "Tampa Bay Tonight" and then in 1988 it was renamed "44 News at Ten"' followed by "WTOG 44 News at Ten". During the period from 1985 to 1995 John Summer served as primary anchor with various co-anchors, including Barbara Callahan. By 1996, following Viacom's acquisition of WTOG, it became "UPN44 10 O'Clock News" (with the slogan "Live, Local, Late Breaking"), co-anchored by Callahan and Patrick Emory. WTOG's news department was discontinued in 1998 due to financial reasons and competition from WTVT. WTOG has not aired any newscasts since that time, making it the first of seven CBS-owned stations that do not currently air a local newscast of any kind (the other six are KSTW in Seattle, Washington and WUPA in Atlanta, Georgia, both of which last aired outsourced newscasts in 2005, KTXA in Dallas–Fort Worth and WBFS-TV in Miami, Florida, both of which canceled newscasts produced by a sister station in 2011 [though KTXA retains a sports show], and the Detroit duopoly of WWJ-TV and WKBD-TV, which ended their morning newscast in 2012 [though WWJ still airs weather updates]). However, WTOG has aired the syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz since 2004.
News/station presentation 
Newscast titles 
- WTOG News (1968–1982)
- 44 Eyewitness News (1982–1985)
- Tampa Bay Tonight (1985–1988)
- 44 News at Ten (1988–1992)
- WTOG 44 News at Ten (1992–1995)
- UPN 44 Ten O'Clock News (1995–1998; newscasts were cancelled after 1998)
Station slogans 
- WTOG, As Far as the Eye Can See (1970s)
- Florida's Super Station, Your 44 (1980s-1995)
- We're 44, We Show You the Good Life (1981–1983)
- Covering Florida Like the Sun (1985)
- Live, Local, Latebreaking (1995–1998; stopped using slogan after 1998)
- Tampa Bay's #1 Entertainment Station (2006–2008)
- TV To Talk About (2009–2011)
- TV NOW (2012–present)
From its signon until 1976, WTOG was affiliated with the Atlanta Braves' television network. When the NFL awarded Tampa Bay an expansion team, which became the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WTOG dropped Braves games and spent the next 13 seasons, between 1977 and 1989, airing Major League Baseball games from across the country on a daily basis (with the exception of Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays), as MLB Network does today. These included games of the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and the Toronto Blue Jays. Most of these teams then held spring training in the Tampa Bay area; others held spring training in nearby Orlando, Fort Myers and Sarasota. WTOG discontinued baseball when ESPN became the cable partner for Major League Baseball in 1990.
WTOG also has aired NHL hockey. The station aired NHL games on NBC that were preempted by WFLA-TV in the 1970s. It later aired the NHL Network syndicated package in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From 1992 until 2003, the station was the flagship of the Tampa Bay Lightning television network; the Lightning has been cable-exclusive since the 2003–04 NHL season.
Creature Feature 
WTOG produces a Saturday afternoon horror series Creature Feature (WTOG) from 1971 to 1995.
Notable former on-air and news staff 
- Jane Akre – anchor (1996)
- Jack Harris – various spots (1970s-1983)
- John Nicholson – anchor (1982–1986; now a professor at Syracuse University)
- Ray Perkins – "The Buc Report"
- Beasley Reece – sports (1986–1988, 1997–1998; now at KYW-TV in Philadelphia)
- Carmen Roberts – reporter (1980s)
- Mary Rogers – 10pm anchor (-1993)
- Rob Stone – sports (late 1990s)
- Ken Suarez – reporter (1988–1998, now at WTVT)
- Randy Scott - Sports Director 1982-1987
- Susan, King (January 23, 1994). "Space, 2258, in the Year 1994". Los Angeles Times. p. 4. Retrieved December 22, 2011.
- Official website
- Channel 44 Station IDs - 1970s
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WTOG
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WTOG-TV