|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2012)|
|St. Petersburg–Tampa, Florida|
|City of license||St. Petersburg, Florida|
|Slogan||CW 44 Rules, TV Now|
|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:
44 (UHF, 1968–2009)
59 (UHF, 1995–2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1968–1986 and 1988–1993)
|Transmitter power||550 kW (digital)|
|Height||454 m (digital)|
WTOG channel 44 is a CW owned-and-operated television station in St. Petersburg, Florida that also serves the city of Tampa. The station's owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation. WTOG's studios are located in St. Petersburg, near the west end of the Gandy Bridge (located about a mile from the studios of CBS affiliate WTSP, the only other Tampa station whose operations are based in St. Petersburg) and its transmitter is located in Riverview, Florida.
WTOG's signal is relayed through two translators: W23CN-D (channel 23) in Sebring and W26DP-D (channel 26) in Inverness. On cable, WTOG can be seen throughout the Tampa Bay area on Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS channel 4 and on Comcast channel 9 in Sarasota and Venice.
- 1 History
- 2 Digital television
- 3 Programming
- 4 News operation
- 5 References
- 6 External links
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 a lineup of older movies, some low-budget syndicated programs, a few off-network westerns and sitcoms, and some cartoons. The station had broadcast for about eight 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 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 into the early 1980s, WTOG was the only independent station in the Tampa Bay area. During the 1970s, WTOG gradually expanded its programming hours: by 1972, the station signed on at 10:30 a.m. on weekdays and around 1 p.m. on weekends. By 1976, WTOG signed 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
Channel 44 finally gained competition in 1981, when Family Group Broadcasting signed on WFTS-TV (channel 28) as a family-oriented independent station. However, WTOG remained the clear leader in the market for the next two decades. During the 1970s and 1980s, the station was carried on many cable providers in central and southwestern Florida. In the 1980s, WTOG also had a network of low-powered repeaters, located in Sebring, Inverness, Arcadia (in the Ft. Myers market; that translator has since shut down), Ocala (part of the Orlando market; that translator, W29AB, has since become a translator for Orlando's WKMG-TV) and Okeechobee (part of the 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 stations in the country. In fact, during the late 1970s, Ted Turner called the station to ask how WTOG made itself so profitable. It is believed[by whom?] that WTBS in Atlanta modeled its programming format after WTOG.
From Fox to UPN
On October 9, 1986, WTOG became a charter affiliate of the fledgling Fox Broadcasting Company. The station was still effectively programmed as an independent station during its time as a Fox affiliate as the network's programming only comprised two hours of its primetime lineup on Saturday and Sunday evenings early on. However, over time, the station became one of several Fox affiliates nationwide that were disappointed with the network's weak programming offerings, particularly on Saturday nights, which were bogging down WTOG's otherwise successful independent lineup. Channel 44's relationship with the network lasted only less than two years, as WTOG dropped its Fox affiliation in 1988, sending it to WFTS (which was acquired by the E. W. Scripps Company also in 1986). Through the early 1990s, WTOG still was running mostly cartoons (both old and recent), classic and recent sitcoms, drama series and older movies. As part of deal with United Television, WTOG was an affiliate of the Prime Time Entertainment Network syndication programming service from 1993 to 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), however WTOG did regain a network affiliation when it became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network, aligning itself with UPN at its launch on January 16, 1995. As with its days as a Fox affiliate, WTOG continued to program a traditional independent format during the day, with UPN programming being shown during the primetime hours.
Paramount Stations Group, a subsidiary of Viacom (which jointly owned the cable news service All News Channel with Hubbard) purchased the station in the spring of 1996; at the time, Paramount Stations Group was in the process of selling of stations the company owned that were not UPN owned-and-operated stations, and traded NBC affiliates WNYT in Albany, New York and WHEC in Rochester, New York to Hubbard. The purchase by Viacom made WTOG a UPN owned-and-operated station, becoming the first network-owned station in the Tampa Bay market. Soon after taking control, Paramount changed WTOG's on-air branding to "UPN44", which remained in use for the remainder of UPN's run. By the late 1990s, older sitcoms (such as All in the Family) and older cartoons made way for talk shows, court shows and reality programs (such as People's Court and Judge Mills Lane) during the daytime. Recent cartoons (such as Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Garfield and Friends and Disney's Hercules) and recent sitcoms (such as Charles in Charge, Step by Step, Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Roseanne, The Simpsons, Seinfeld (now on WTTA) and Friends) continued to air but movies also were eliminated almost completely. Viacom bought CBS in 2000.
For one day in May 1999, WTOG housed the operations for WFLA-TV, after a power outage occurred at that station's main studios in Downtown Tampa. There were rumors that the E. W. Scripps Company would purchase WTOG from CBS Corporation (which was spun off from Viacom in December 2005), which would have created a duopoly with ABC affiliate WFTS (which ironically had taken the Fox affiliation from WTOG in 1988). However, the station remains owned by CBS Corporation.
Switch to The CW
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Time Warner announced that UPN and The WB would be shut down with some of their higher-rated programming moved to a new network called The CW Television Network. The CW signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with 11 of CBS's UPN stations including WTOG; channel 44 became a CW owned-and-operated station when the network launched on September 18, 2006. Under current ownership, WTOG is one of two network-owned stations in the Tampa Bay market, 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, while sitcoms continue to run during the evening hours.
WTOG had handled master control operations for its sister station, KEYE in Austin, Texas, until WTOG's master control facilities, 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 terminations would happen. KEYE was later sold to Cerberus Capital Management, through its Four Points Media Group (which in turn was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA). 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.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|44.1||1080i||16:9||WTOG-HD||Main WTOG programming / The CW|
WTOG shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 44, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. 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 device use.
Syndicated programming seen on WTOG includes The King of Queens, Rules of Engagement, Steve Harvey, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Cold Case, 'Til Death and CSI: Miami. WTOG formerly produced a Saturday afternoon horror movie showcase, Creature Feature, which ran on the station from 1971 to 1995.
From its sign-on through 1976, WTOG carried Atlanta Braves baseball games through a syndication package that aired regionally on stations across the Southern United States. In 1977, WTOG dropped the Braves telecasts and spent the next thirteen seasons until 1989, airing Major League Baseball games from various teams on a daily basis (with the exception of Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays). These included 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 games. 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 the baseball broadcasts when ESPN became the cable partner for Major League Baseball in 1990.
The station also aired NHL games televised by NBC that were preempted by WFLA-TV in the 1970s. It later aired games from the NHL Network syndication 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.
From its sign on through 1982, WTOG ran daily news capsules, mainly at sign-on and sign-off, with an announcer reading the day's headlines over a slide. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the station featured an on-camera newsreader providing a news summary during its morning discussion program, Florida Daybreak. WTOG started using the Eyewitness News brand in the late 1970s, though its news was still a rather staid, low-key affair.
In 1982, Hubbard Broadcasting established a full-fledged news department for WTOG, and debuted a nightly 10 p.m. newscast. 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 1980s, the station's newscast was renamed Tampa Bay Tonight, subsequently changing in 1988 to 44 News at Ten and then WTOG 44 News at Ten in 1992. Between 1985 and 1995, John Summer served as primary anchor with various co-anchors, including Barbara Callahan. In 1996, following Viacom's acquisition of WTOG, the 10 p.m. broadcast was retitled as the UPN44 10 O'Clock News, co-anchored by Callahan and Patrick Emory.
WTOG's news department was shut down in 1998, as a result of cost-cutting measures mandated by then-parent company Viacom and competition from Fox station WTVT's own 10 p.m. newscast. WTOG hasn't aired any newscasts since that time, making it one of seven CBS-owned stations that do not currently air any local news programming (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 cancelled their morning newscast in 2012 [although, WWJ-TV still airs weather updates]). However, WTOG has aired the syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz since 2004.
- 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)
- "WTOG, As Far as the Eye Can See" (1974–1980)
- "Florida's Super Station, Your 44" (1980–1995)
- "We're 44, We Show You the Good Life" (1981–1983)
- "Covering Florida Like the Sun" (1985)
- "Live, Local, Latebreaking" (1995–1998)
- "Tampa Bay's #1 Entertainment Station" (2006–2008)
- "TV To Talk About" (2009–2011; also CW network slogan)
- "TV Now" (2012–present; also CW network slogan)
Notable former on-air staff
- Jane Akre - anchor (1996)
- Jack Harris - various spots (1970s–1983)
- John Nicholson - anchor (1982–1986; now a professor at Syracuse University)
- Ray Perkins - host of The Buc Report
- Beasley Reece - sports (1986–1988, 1997–1998; now at KYW-TV in Philadelphia)
- Carmen Roberts - reporter (1980s)
- Mary Rogers - 10 p.m. anchor (–1993)
- Rob Stone - sports (late 1990s)
- Ken Suarez - reporter (1988–1998, now at WTVT)
- Randy Scott - sports director (1982–1987)
- Barbara Callahan - anchor (1986–1998; deceased)
- Susan, King (January 23, 1994). "Space, 2258, in the Year 1994". Los Angeles Times. p. 4. Retrieved December 22, 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.
- Exec says local TV station is not moving, St. Petersburg Times, November 5, 2006. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WTOG
- List of Digital Full-Power Stations
- WTOG 44 News Open (1993).
- 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