|City of license||Aurora, Illinois|
|Channels||Digital: 50 (UHF)
Virtual: 60 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||60.1 UniMás HD
60.2 UniMás SD
(TeleFutura Chicago, LLC)
|First air date||April 20, 1982|
|Call letters' meaning||C(X)hicago/Xtreme TeleFuTura
(WCFT was already in use)
|Sister station(s)||WGBO-DT, WOJO, WPPN|
|Former callsigns||WBBS-TV (1982–1987)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
60 (UHF, 1982–2009)
59 (UHF, –2009)
|Former affiliations||Spanish independent (1982–1987)
|Transmitter power||172 kW|
WXFT-DT, virtual channel 60.1 (UHF digital channel 50), is a UniMás owned-and-operated television station serving Chicago, Illinois, United States that is licensed to Aurora. The station is owned by Univision Communications, as part of a duopoly with Univision owned-and-operated station WGBO-DT (channel 66).
The two stations share studios on Fairbanks Court (near Columbus Drive and Illinois Street) in the Streeterville neighborhood, WXFT's transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower in the Chicago Loop. The station can also be seen on Comcast Xfinity and RCN channel 15, and AT&T U-verse channels 16 and 3005. There is a high definition feed offered on Comcast Xfinity digital channel 194, RCN digital channel 614 and AT&T U-verse channel 1016.
The original station to transmit on channel 60 was WLXT-TV, which signed on in 1969 and operated only on evenings and weekends. WLXT broadcast Northern Illinois Huskies football on tape delay and Mickey Mouse cartoons; both of these, as well as all other WLXT programming, were transmitted in black-and-white. WLXT carried remote broadcasts of the Aurora Sealmasters fast-pitch softball team and quarter-mile drag racing from nearby Oswego Raceway. By 1970, WLXT purchased two RCA TK-60 color studio cameras from WNBQ-TV (channel 5, now WMAQ-TV). These cameras were said to be the first ever delivered and carried serial numbers 001 and 002. With a color studio, there was afternoon programming for children, an exercise show ("Nanette") and early and late half-hour news blocks. Newscasts were anchored by Christine Lund, who became a well-known news anchor in Los Angeles just over two years after the station signed off for good in August 1970. One part-time WLXT employee was Jeff Skilling (then a high school student, and brother of longtime WGN-TV (channel 9) meteorologist Tom Skilling), who later became well known as a member of the ill-fated Enron Corporation's management team.
Fred Eychaner's Metrowest Corporation originally applied for a new channel 60 license in 1978, but soon attracted competition from Marcelino Miyares, doing business as Hatco-60. Ultimately, the two sides would reach a compromise, in which Metrowest's station would be licensed to Aurora and broadcast from 2:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, while Hatco-60's station would be licensed to West Chicago (located in western DuPage County, near the Kane County border) and broadcast from 7:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily. This made channel 60 something of an oddity, especially for a major market, in that it was a split-licensed station.
With the compromise reached, in April 1982, Eychaner signed on WPWR-TV, with a large percentage of its broadcast schedule dedicated to a new subscription television service called Sportsvision that was part of ONTV, which Eychaner had developed in a deal with Chicago White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. To access the service, viewers had to pay for a set-top converter and subscription fees to watch their favorite baseball team. However, Sportsvision achieved little success on WPWR, and moved to cable in January 1984. With Sportsvision gone, WPWR ran public domain movies and old sitcoms from the early to mid-1950s as well as old cartoons. In 1984, more familiar classic sitcoms and newer barter cartoons were mixed in.
During the hours in which Hatco-60 ran channel 60, it operated as WBBS-TV, broadcasting a Spanish language entertainment format. However, at this point in Chicago's television history, the market could only handle two Spanish-language stations. Three were on the air, including WCIU (channel 26), WSNS-TV (channel 44) and WBBS. Though ratings were good for WBBS, the 1985 announcement that WSNS was affiliating with the Spanish International Network caused WBBS to end weekday programming at the end of 1985; the station would continue to broadcast Spanish movies on weekends into 1986.
Eychaner had spent $1.5 million for WGMI (later WDAI), a channel 56 construction permit that had been held by a group of Indiana businessmen since 1976, but was never built; in 1982, Eychaner opted to build channel 60 with Marcelino Miyares. However, in 1985, Eychaner acquired the educational broadcast license for WCAE channel 50 (licensed to Gary, Indiana), which had belonged to Lake Central School Corporation of St. John, who had not been unable to sustain WCAE's operations and had shut the station down a year earlier. Eychaner then swapped the licenses for channels 50 and 56, resulting in channel 56 becoming WYIN and channel 50 becoming a commercial license, with plans to use WPWR's assets (including the call letters) to put that station on the air. The primary reason for swapping the licenses for channels 50 and 56 was that the channel 50 transmitter could be moved to the Sears Tower. This was not the case for channel 56, as FCC rules required full-power analog UHF stations in close proximity to be at least six channels apart and channel 60 was already transmitting from downtown Chicago.
In early 1986, Eychaner bought WBBS's share of channel 60 for $11 million. When channel 50 was ready to sign on, he sold channel 60 to the Home Shopping Network for $25 million. HSN, which owned the station through its Silver King Television arm, changed the call letters to WEHS, and on January 17, 1987, switched channel 60 to HSN programming right in the middle of a sale. At the same time, WPWR moved to channel 50 (ironically, WXFT-DT's digital signal is now physically on channel 50 following the digital television transition in 2009).
Barry Diller, who owned the USA Network, acquired Silver King in the mid-1990s; by 1997, the company was known as USA Broadcasting. There were plans to convert WEHS into a general entertainment independent station, modeled after the local programming-infused format of USA's stations in select other markets (such as Dallas and Miami); however, before this occurred, USA Broadcasting later decided to put its television stations up for sale. USA almost sold to its television stations to The Walt Disney Company (which would have made the station a duopoly partner to ABC-owned WLS-TV). However, the station was instead sold to Univision Communications in a group deal. As a result, channel 60 changed its call letters to WXFT, and became a charter owned-and-operated station of Univision's new network, Telefutura (the forerunner to UniMás).
WXFT's five million watt transmitter malfunctioned in the early hours of December 6, 2006, causing an alarm which forced action by the Chicago Fire Department to extinguish the smoldering equipment. The transmitter was destroyed, leaving only one-half of its power available. The station also remained available via cable, which were fed via a direct connection from the station. A new transmitter was commissioned on January 11, 2007, restoring normal operation.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|60.1||1080i||16:9||WXFT-HD||Main WXFT programming / UniMás
(60.2 to become GetTV in October 2013)
In December 2009, WXFT and sister station WGBO, 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.
The station is currently experiencing closed captioning display problems, as many viewers (especially those subscribed to Comcast) have complained that the network's captions are not being displayed or displayed properly.
WXFT shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 60, 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 from its pre-transition UHF channel 59 to UHF channel 50 for post-transition operations. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 60, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
- WXFT’s transmitter catches fire on Sears Tower, Broadcast Engineering, December 11, 2006.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WXFT
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WXFT-DT
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WXFT-DT