|Channels||Digital: 50 (UHF)
Virtual: 60 (PSIP)
|Subchannels||60.1 UniMás HD
60.2 UniMás SD
|Owner||Univision Communications, Inc.
(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:
59 (until 2009)
|Former affiliations||Spanish independent (1982-1987)
|Transmitter power||172 kW|
WXFT-DT is the UniMás owned-and-operated television station serving the Chicago, Illinois metropolitan area that is licensed to Aurora. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 50 (virtual channel 60.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter atop the Willis Tower. Owned by Univision Communications, WXFT-DT is sister to Univision owned-and-operated station WGBO-DT (channel 66) and both stations share studios on Fairbanks Court (near Columbus Drive and Illinois Street) in the Streeterville neighborhood. 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. As a UniMás owned-and-operated station, WXFT offers a Spanish-language programming format featuring movies, telenovelas, comedies, children's programs and soccer events.
|60.1||1080i||16:9||WXFT-HD||Main WXFT Programming / UniMás|
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.
Currently this station is 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.
The original station to transmit on channel 60 was WLXT-TV, which signed on in 1969 and operated 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 (later WMAQ-TV) channel 5 in Chicago. They 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 WGN-TV's Tom Skilling), who later became well known as a member of 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, WSNS, 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 allocation was able to go on to the Sears Tower; this was not the case for channel 56.
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 calls 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 signal is now on channel 50 after the DTV transition was completed in 2009.
Barry Diller, who owned USA Network, acquired Silver King in the mid-1990s. By 1997, the company was known as USA Broadcasting. There were plans to convert WEHS to a general entertainment programming schedule, and USA almost sold to Disney (which would have made the station a sister to ABC-owned WLS-TV). However, the station was sold to Univision in a group deal. As a result, channel 60 became WXFT, and switched to Univision's new network, Telefutura.
WXFT's 5,000,000 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 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.
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WXFT-DT
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WXFT-DT