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Janesville/Madison, Wisconsin
United States
City Janesville, Wisconsin
Branding Wisconsin's 57 Television (general)
WI57 (alternate)
Slogan Your Home for Local
Channels Digital: 32 (UHF)
(to move to 21 (UHF))
Virtual: 57 (PSIP)
Subchannels 57.1 Independent
57.2 Movies!
57.3 Heroes & Icons
57.4 Stadium
57.5 QVC
Affiliations Independent (2016–present)
Owner Byrne Acquisition Group, LLC
Founded April 26, 1989
First air date July 5, 1999 (18 years ago) (1999-07-05)[1]
Call letters' meaning WIsconsin's Fifty-Seven
Former callsigns WHPN-TV (1999–2002)
WBUW (2002–2016)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
57 (UHF, 1999–2009)
Former affiliations Analog/DT1:
UPN (1999–2002)
The WB (2002–2006)
The CW (2006–2016)
ASN (DT4, 1/2017-9/2017)
Transmitter power 200 kW
157 kW (CP)
Height 387 m (1,270 ft)
Facility ID 26025
Transmitter coordinates 43°3′3″N 89°29′13″W / 43.05083°N 89.48694°W / 43.05083; -89.48694
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website wi57.tv

WIFS, virtual channel 57 (UHF digital channel 32), is an independent television station serving Madison, Wisconsin, United States that is licensed to Janesville. Owned by Byrne Acquisition Group, the station maintains studios at 2814 Syene Road on Madison's far south side; its transmitter is located on Madison's southwest side.


As a network affiliate[edit]

The station's original construction permit was granted on May 2, 1998 with the call letters WJNW. After a few delays and an aborted attempt to become Wisconsin's first digital-only broadcast TV outlet, the station, now under the WHPN call sign, would begin analog broadcasting on channel 57 in the summer of 1999, with partial test airings occurring the week before the station's full-time launch on July 5, 1999.[2][3] The location of its then-transmitter, outside the Rock County community of Evansville, accorded WHPN to serve as the UPN affiliate for both the Madison and Rockford TV markets. Prior to WHPN's launch, UPN programming in Madison had aired on CBS affiliate WISC-TV on a secondary basis.

In the spring of 2002, after WHPN's owners had declared bankruptcy, the station's assets were acquired by ACME Communications, a station group run by Jamie Kellner, a founder of The WB network and former CEO of that network and TBS.[4] Though they would not close on the acquisition until the end of 2002,[5] ACME took over operations immediately through a local marketing agreement. The most evident change resulting from ACME's takeover was a network affiliation swap with WISC-owned cable channel/digital subchannel TVW the final week of August 2002; at that time, TVW became Madison's UPN affiliate, while WHPN joined The WB and adopted a new call sign, WBUW (an acknowledgement to its new affiliation and Madison's University of Wisconsin).

In 2004, WBUW moved its transmitter to its current location, a new tower located on property owned by Gray Television and next to the studios of Gray-owned WMTV in the Greentree neighborhood of Madison's southwest side.[6] The stronger signal the new tower provided WBUW allowed the station's coverage reach to extend throughout south-central Wisconsin and well into Northern Illinois, allowing WBUW to remain Rockford's default WB affiliate until the launch of The CW in September 2006, when Rockford's WREX-TV (channel 13) added The CW to its secondary subchannel.

WBUW's logo under the "Madison's CW" branding (c. 2006-2012)
WBUW's final logo as a CW affiliate (c. 2014-2016)

In March 2006, WBUW was confirmed as Madison's affiliate of The CW, the result of the WB and UPN networks amalgamating.[7] WBUW, branded as "Madison's CW," was one of eight ACME-owned WB affiliates who joined The CW as a group at the network's September 2006 launch.

On December 13, 2011, ACME announced a deal to sell WBUW to Byrne Acquisition Group; the $1.8 million transaction was part of ACME's gradual exit from the TV business (ACME would formally dissolve at the end of 2016).[8][9][10] The deal, which was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and consummated in February 2012,[11][12] gave the Byrne Group its second TV property (after low-power station "WHHI-TV" in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina). The Byrne Group would rebrand WBUW from "Madison's CW" to "CW 57" later in 2012. It would also subsequently upgrade the station's master control to accommodate local and syndicated high-definition; expand its locally-focused content (see below); and add two digital subchannels in the summer of 2015 (two more channels would be added during the first quarter of 2017).

As an independent station[edit]

An affiliation agreement announced by The CW and Gray Television in December 2015 included the addition of the network to the DT2 subchannel of Gray-owned Madison NBC affiliate WMTV.[13] WMTV-DT2 formally joined The CW on September 12, 2016, when WBUW's 10-year affiliation deal with the network, reached by then-owner ACME Communications at the network's 2006 launch, reached its expiration.[14][15] The September 10 airing of The CW's One Magnificent Morning E/I block (ending with Calling Dr. Pol) was the final network programming on WBUW. (Penn & Teller: Fool Us, airing the night before, was the final CW prime time show on the station.)

On-air wise, WBUW would begin its post-CW transition during the first quarter of 2016, when it first applied a simple "Channel 57" brand to its local programming. During its last week as a CW affiliate, it unveiled a new branding of "Wisconsin's 57," and would adopt a new call sign to go along with that brand—WIFS—on December 1, 2016. "Wisconsin's 57" operates as an independent station, retaining its mix of locally-produced and syndicated programming and utilizing the latter to fill the prime time void left by The CW's departure.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[16]
57.1 1080i 16:9 WIFS-HD Main WIFS programming
57.2 480i MOVIES! Movies!
57.3 H&I Heroes & Icons
57.4 STADIUM Stadium
57.5 4:3 QVC QVC

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WIFS (as WBUW) discontinued programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 57, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). From February 17, the analog station acted as a "nightlight", broadcasting a loop of digital transition instructions until signing off for good the first week of March 2009.

WBUW's (and later WIFS') digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 32.[17] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 57, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the digital transition. As part of the FCC's reallocation and repackaging of station signals, WIFS will relocate to UHF channel 21 at a date to be determined.[18]


WIFS' programming schedule includes syndicated series Access Live, TMZ, The King of Queens, How I Met Your Mother, and Bones. The station also carries live college football and basketball broadcasts from the ACC and Stadium networks, Chicago Bears preseason football,[19] and tape-delayed broadcasts of Madison Radicals ultimate and Notre Dame Fighting Irish football.

Local news and features[edit]

In September 2003, WBUW launched The WB57 Nine O'Clock News, a 35-minute, Monday-thru-Friday newscast produced in partnership with the news operations at NBC affiliate WMTV.[20] Geared toward The WB's younger, female-skewing audience, the newscast offered what WBUW station manager Tom Keeler called "a different energy" than that found on other newscasts in Madison.[21] Presented with anchors standing in a desk-free studio, WBUW's newscast featured a fast-paced format (most stories lasted no more than 30-to-60 seconds in length) that largely emphasized entertainment and lifestyle features. Nightly e-mail contests and sweeps-month "free gas giveaways" were also included, as were in-studio performances by local musicians during Friday editions of the newscast. Never gaining notice against competing 9PM newscasts on WMSN-TV and UPN14, WBUW cancelled The WB57 Nine O'Clock News and its news-share relationship with WMTV in December 2005, restoring syndicated programming to the time slot.[22][23]

At the beginning of 2007, local content on WBUW resumed in the form of "Buzzed Into Madison." Airing each day during WBUW's broadcasts of The Daily Buzz (usually around 20 minutes after each hour), the "Buzzed Into Madison" vignettes included "positive" (the station's term) features on Madison-area news, events, and personalities, as well as features with and promotions from station sponsors. The success of "Buzzed into Madison" would lead ACME Communications, The Daily Buzz's then-producer (and WBUW's then-owner), to permit other Daily Buzz affiliates to insert their own local segments if they so desired.[24] Emmy Fink served as the original host and producer of "Buzzed into Madison" from the feature's 2007 launch until her June 2011 departure from WBUW.[25] "Buzzed" would air on a limited basis after that, with content that included entertainment previews from the Isthmus newspaper and, during the 2011-2012 academic year, a series of "junior reporters" from area schools, with a different student reporter each month. (Emmy Fink would resurrect "Buzzed Into Madison" as a recurring segment for Madison CBS affiliate WISC-TV in Summer 2016.)[26]

When it acquired what was then WBUW in 2012, The Byrne Group would begin a gradual yet noticeable expansion of the station's local content. Today, notable blocks of WIFS' weekly schedule mirror that of its South Carolina sister station, with locally-oriented discussion programs, sporting events, and other content that mainly feature station sponsors, other Madison- and Southern Wisconsin-based businesses, and community and non-profit organizations from the region. Such past and current WIFS-produced programs have included the following:

Current regular features
  • Bordello of Horror - Saturday night presentations of classic and independent horror movies hosted by "Freakshow, the Deacon of Darkness"; the show previously aired on local cable access channel WYOU before moving to Channel 57
  • Dane Buy Local TV - A shopping channel-style program showcasing products and services offered by members of the same-named local business organization[27]
  • Girl Talk - discussions on issues and topics affecting women as well as showcases of women-owned or women-oriented businesses
  • Madison Maximized Living - advice and insight on health, nutrition, fitness, and personal wellness from Dr. Patrick Andersen, a chiropractic orthopedist based at Madison's Maximized Living clinic
  • The Real Estate News - information about the real estate industry and advice from Southern Wisconsin realtors
  • The Restaurant Show - profiles, menu items, and recipe tips from area restaurants and culinary experts
  • The Sports News - a sportscast spotlighting Southern Wisconsin sports, primarily focusing on high school and college athletics
  • Talk of the Town - interviews with and profiles of local newsmakers, personalities, businesses, organizations, and upcoming events
  • Wisconsin CrossFit Affiliates - profiles of businesses involved in CrossFit-style fitness regimens
  • Wisconsin Doctors - information, advice, and discussions on health, fitness, and well being from area physicians and health experts
  • Wisconsin Family - advice and business profiles oriented to helping families live better lives
Sports broadcasts

Tape-delayed, in-their-entirety broadcasts of the following sporting events:

  • Chosen Few Fighting Championships - occasional broadcasts of events staged by the Madison-based mixed martial arts promotion group
  • High school sports - seasonal broadcasts of sporting events primarily featuring schools from the Big Eight and Badger conferences
    • A-1 Furniture & Mattress Bowl Series - football broadcasts airing each fall (late August thru October), with the broadcasts featuring a different bowl game title each week (e.g. "The Isthmus Bowl," "The Beltline Bowl")
    • Big-Time Basketball - broadcasts airing each January and February since 2015
  • Mad Rollin' Dolls - home bouts from Madison's flat track roller derby league
Past features
  • Community Connections - two-minute features on local events and businesses throughout the broadcast day
  • Destination - profiles of businesses in specific communities in Madison and Southern Wisconsin (e.g. Destination Monona, Destination Wisconsin Dells)
  • Fusin' It with Joe Perkins - a Dinner and a Movie-style film showcase, with cutaway studio features on recipes and menu offerings presented by Joe Perkins, owner of the Cold Fusion restaurants.
  • Inside Badger Nation - a weekly half-hour show produced with Badger Nation magazine that offered highlights and profiles of University of Wisconsin—Madison athletics
  • Madison in the Morning - a partial simulcast of WIBA radio's weekday morning news and information show
  • Open Seating - a precursor to The Restaurant Show, hosted by Brian Lee of the website EatDrinkMadison.com and emphasizing profiles of and interviews with Madison-area restaurateurs[28]
  • Workout Wisconsin - features on exercise, physical fitness, and healthy lifestyles hosted by Reggie Davis[29]


  1. ^ The exact sign-on date in 1999 is unclear; the Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says June 28, while the Television and Cable Factbook says July 5.
  2. ^ "Station's air time nears after two years of delays," from Wisconsin State Journal, 5/21/1999 (via HighBeam Research, accessed 8/25/2016)
  3. ^ "WHPN/57 On Air Monday," from The Capital Times, 6/30/1999 (via HighBeam Research, accessed 8/25/2016)
  4. ^ "Janesville TV station to be sold," from Milwaukee Business Journal, 4/2/2002
  5. ^ "Acquisition of Madison TV station completed," from Milwaukee Business Journal, 1/2/2013
  6. ^ "Lights change color depending on time of day," from Madison.com, 5/16/2006
  7. ^ "Channel 57 Officially Now CW Affiliate", from Capital Times, March 10, 2006
  8. ^ "Acme Selling WBUW Madison, Wis.," from TVNewsCheck, 12/13/2011
  9. ^ Malone, Michael (December 13, 2011). "Byrne Grabs Acme's Madison CW Station". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved December 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ Press release from ACME Communications dated 12/20/2016
  11. ^ Consent to License Assignment (File# BALCDT-20111220AEX), posted by FCC 2/10/2012
  12. ^ "Acme to Byrne Madison TV deal is done". Television Business Report. February 22, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ Kuperberg, Jonathan (15 December 2015). "Gray TV, The CW Ink Affiliate Agreement Extension, Add 4 New Stations". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Source: WMTV Engineering on Twitter (posted 9/9/2016)
  15. ^ ACME Communications 10-K filing for 2007 on WikInvest (accessed 8/7/2016)
  16. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WIFS
  17. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  18. ^ Source: Northpine.com (accessed 9/6/2017)
  19. ^ List of Chicago Bears preseason stations from ChicagoBears.com (accessed 8/7/2016)
  20. ^ "NBC 15 and WBUW 57 Team Up for Local News in Madison, Wisconsin," news release from Globe NewsWire, 6/26/2003
  21. ^ "The Changing Faces of TV News," from Wisconsin State Journal, 1/23/2005
  22. ^ "From Campus to Capital", from Broadcasting & Cable, June 9, 2006
  23. ^ "Why Local News Is in a Sharing Mood", from Broadcasting & Cable, August 4, 2006
  24. ^ "Catching a Homespun Buzz", from Broadcasting & Cable, March 3, 2008
  25. ^ "New host selected for 'Discover Wisconsin,'" from Wisconsin State Journal, 6/16/2011
  26. ^ "Buzzed Into Madison" on Channel3000.com (accessed 8/2016)
  27. ^ Source: Wisconsin's 57 on Facebook (posted 3/14/2017)
  28. ^ "Open Seating" on Facebook
  29. ^ Workout Wisconsin official website

External links[edit]