|Fort Wayne, Indiana
|Branding||WFFT Local (general)
WFFT Local News (newscasts)
|Channels||Digital: 36 (UHF)
Virtual: 55 (PSIP)
55.2 Bounce TV
|Affiliations||Fox (since 2013; also from 1986–2011)|
(Ft. Wayne TV License Company, LLC)
|First air date||December 21, 1977|
|Call letters' meaning||We're Fifty Five Television (former analog and current PSIP channel number)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
55 (UHF, 1977–2009)
Independent (1977–1986, 2011–2013)
|Transmitter power||1,000 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WFFT-TV, virtual channel 55 (UHF digital channel 36), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States. The station is owned by Heartland Media. WFFT's studios and transmitter are both located on Hillegas Road in Fort Wayne.
As an independent station
The station signed on the air on December 21, 1977 as an independent station. Many shows on WFFT during its early days had not been seen in the market since their original airing on network television; among the classic series it aired were The Little Rascals, Superman, Batman, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Night Gallery, The Wild Wild West and McHale's Navy. For a time, the station carried ABC shows that were preempted by WPTA, which usually included shows that were part of the "ABC Late Night" block.
In January 1978, just one month after it signed on, the Midwestern United States suffered through a snowstorm known as the "Great Blizzard of 1978". Due to the severity of the storm, engineers were trapped at the station, and rather than sign off the air as they normally would, they got permission from management to simply continue transmitting. They filled the time with information about the weather situation (to the degree that they could given their limited resources), and public-domain films and videos from the station's library. The appeal of 24-hour broadcasting was so popular, it would later end up staying on the air all night each Friday and Saturday on a regular basis during a time when the other Fort Wayne stations would sign-off for the night around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.; it filled the overnight timeslot with a feature film showcase called Nite Owl Theatre, which began with the beginning refrain of "I've Been Searching So Long" by Chicago as its theme music.
In later years, Friday late nights featured classic horror movies such as: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mole People and Invasion of the Body Snatchers hosted by a character called "The Shroud" on Nightmare Theatre (of which only one episode is currently known to exist). The station provided a much-needed alternative to viewers in the Fort Wayne area (particularly younger viewers) with its array of cartoons, movies and old sitcoms. This was especially important for those who did not have cable and could not watch regional or national superstations such as WTTV from Indianapolis or WGN-TV from Chicago, Illinois.
At one time, WFFT was voted the #1 independent station in the United States, a feat that was especially remarkable since Fort Wayne was one of the smallest markets in the country at the time to have an independent station. Beginning in 1982, the station carried programming from CNN Headline News during various parts of the day, including the overnight hours on weekdays. It also provided some coverage of local events such as the Three Rivers Festival. The station also served as the official Fort Wayne outlet for Chicago Cubs baseball. WFFT was also remembered for its Happy's Place and Froggy's Pad children's programs in the 1980s and 1990s. Happy's Place was known for its two-hour block of syndicated children's programs that initially aired from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. During programming breaks, "Happy the Hobo" would emcee children's activities from the WFFT studios. Also on the broadcast were characters such as "Froggy", "Chester T. Fox" and "Lawn Boy". Froggy's Pad was a morning show spun off from Happy's Place that featured the raspy-voiced frog puppet presenting animated shows.
Joining, disaffiliating and rejoining Fox
WFFT became a charter affiliate of Fox at the network's launch on October 6, 1986 and was branded as "Super 55 Fox" in the early to mid 1990's. In the late-1990s, amidst the station's shift away from programming that was produced locally at its studios, the Happy's Place program was retooled. Segments were taped on location (and sometimes even in transit) and featured area attractions such as the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. This format did not last long and the show was later cancelled. After this point, WFFT's programming apart from the Fox schedule was centered around syndicated fare including daytime talk and court shows, and reruns of network sitcoms. After the launch of UPN on January 16, 1995, WFFT began carrying the fledgling network through a secondary affiliation. The network's programming eventually moved to CBS affiliate WANE-TV (channel 15) full-time on a new second digital subchannel by the mid-2000s; when UPN and rival netlet The WB were shut down to form a combined network in 2006, WPTA (channel 21) gained the resulting CW affiliation for its own subchannel. WFFT changed its on-air branding from "Fox 55" to "Fox Fort Wayne" on January 1, 2008 to reflect its various cable channel positions in the market.
Fox announced on June 20, 2011 that it would end its affiliation with WFFT and sister station KSFX-TV (now KOZL-TV) in Springfield, Missouri; its Fort Wayne affiliation moved to MyNetworkTV affiliate WISE-DT2 on August 1. Nexstar had earlier lost the Fox affiliation for WTVW in Evansville, Indiana following a dispute with the network over retransmission consent fees that it wanted its stations to pay to the network. WFFT, along with WXIN in Indianapolis, had been the longest-tenured Fox affiliates in Indiana (Nexstar would later voluntarily disaffiliate another Indiana station, WFXW – now WAWV-TV – in Terre Haute, from Fox in favor of switching the station's affiliation back to ABC, the network it was affiliated with until 1995). The last Fox program to air on WFFT was a repeat of American Dad on July 31, 2011.
On July 25, 2011, Nexstar Broadcasting filed an antitrust lawsuit against Granite Broadcasting, claiming that the company tried to monopolize advertising sales through its shared services agreement with WPTA (owned by Malara Broadcast Group) and the five network affiliations shared between WPTA and WISE-TV (WPTA carries ABC on its primary channel and The CW on a second digital subchannel, while WISE-TV carries NBC on its primary channel as Fox and MyNetworkTV shared that station's second digital subchannel). Nexstar sought a judgment to force either WPTA-TV or WISE-TV to give up at least one of the three Big Four affiliations they had (the impetus of the lawsuit became ironic as Nexstar, which itself maintains outsourcing agreements with stations it does not own outright in most of the markets where it does own a TV outlet, later created a virtual quadropoly composed of four network-affiliated stations in Little Rock through its 2012 acquisition of 15 stations from Newport Television).
WFFT reverted to independent status on August 1, 2011, which made Fort Wayne one of the only television markets in the United States with all three historical broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) with primary affiliations, and all three current post-1986 networks (Fox, The CW and the MyNetworkTV program service) carried as digital multicast channels in a market with four commercial full-power stations. As an independent, the station filled its primetime schedule with a mix of entertainment newsmagazines and sitcoms on weeknights, a two-hour "Saturday Crimetime" block of police procedural series on Saturdays and family movies on Sundays. On February 6, 2013, as part of a settlement of Nexstar's lawsuit against Granite, the company announced that the Fox affiliation would return to WFFT; the switch was effectively reversed on March 1, 2013, making WFFT the only former Fox affiliate owned or managed by Nexstar that was affected by the 2011 dispute with Fox to rejoin the network. The first Fox program to air on WFFT when it rejoined the network was an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
Nexstar announced on June 13, 2016 that it would sell WFFT-TV and four other stations to Heartland Media, through its USA Television MidAmerica Holdings joint venture with MSouth Equity Partners, for $115 million. The sale was required as part of Nexstar's planned merger with Media General to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership caps; Media General is the owner of rival WANE-TV.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|55.1||720p||16:9||WFFT-HD||Main WFFT-TV programming / Fox|
|55.2||480i||4:3||Bounce TV |
WFFT began broadcasting its digital signal on UHF channel 36 in 2003. Until December 2007, the signal transmitted programming only in standard definition at an effective radiated power of 980 watts limiting reception to within miles of the station. In May 2009, the digital signal was upgraded to full power. It now broadcasts high definition programming in the 720p format, although it aired in 1080i between leaving and rejoining the Fox network.
WFFT shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 55, at 6:01 p.m. 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 remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 36. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 55, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
WFFT presently broadcasts seven hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with one hour each on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, the station also airs a half-hour weekly sports wrap-up show, titled The Locker Room, airing on Sunday evenings after the 10 p.m. newscast.
For most of the station's history, WFFT did not have a regular newscast. In 1980, it formed its initial news department and aired a half-hour primetime news program known as The 10 O’Clock Report; this was established during a time of heavy competition from other newscasts. As an independent, WFFT did not have network shows that could lead into its newscast, so consistent viewership and ratings were difficult to maintain. The news team consisted of only five people, and personnel would shoot and edit their own video. After that broadcast's cancellation a year later, WFFT delivered news bulletins in primetime for almost two decades.
On April 6, 2009, the station launched its second news operation and prime-time broadcast known as Fox Fort Wayne News First at 10 (now WFFT News First at 10 since June 2011). It was the last Fox affiliate in Indiana to launch a news department, but the only local affiliate in the country to launch a new newscast in 2009. Airing for 35 minutes on weeknights and anchored by broadcast veteran Jim Blue, the show competed with a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast on WISE-DT2 that was produced by WPTA and WISE-TV's Indiana's NewsCenter operation. As with the 1980 production, personnel served as multi-platform journalists, shooting and editing their own stories. There was no sports department until the newscast's expansion following the loss of the Fox affiliation. The newscast was the only one in Fort Wayne to receive an Emmy award nomination for "Best Evening Newscast" from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences-Lower Great Lakes Chapter that year.
When the station became an independent on August 1, 2011, WFFT expanded the 10 p.m. newscast to one hour; the newscast then expanded to weekend evenings on October 1, 2011 (also running for one hour); the Thursday preceding the latter expansion (September 29), WFFT became the first television station in the Fort Wayne market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.
Blue eventually left WFFT, returning to WNWO in Toledo, Ohio. Dan Ball took over as the News Director following Blue's departure after a turbulent departure from KSNV-TV in March 2012. Ball was the News Director from January 2013 until leaving two years later in January 2015 for KMIR Today in Palm Desert, CA. Audra Streetman temporarily took over as the main news anchor before leaving in May 2015 to join KMIR Today in Palm Desert, CA. Streetman and Blue currently co-anchor the 5am - 7am morning show.
Out-of-market carriage and removal from out-of-market cable providers
From January 2009 until WFFT's signal was removed by Bright House Networks systems in Grant County in March 2012, the station and WFWA remained on the cable system as well as Comcast in Blackford County (both with WXIN in-market). This was due to contractual agreements by the Fox network itself which disallow signal duplication of network programming by an out-of-market signal despite the station's longtime service to each area, a source of controversy already in other duplicative market areas in the past, as was the case in October 2008 when WANE-TV was pulled from Bright House.
- "WFFT TV-55 – Nightmare Theatre With The Shroud – 1957's "The Deadly Mantis" Broadcast (Circa-1980)". The Northeast Ohio Video Hunter. March 20, 2015.
- "Fox Moves Afills In Springfield, Ft. Wayne". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. June 20, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
- Michael Malone (July 19, 2011). "Nexstar's Fort Wayne Fox Going Independent". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media.
- Harry A. Jessell (July 25, 2011). "Nexstar Files Antitrust Suit Against Granite". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media.
- Kate Knable (January 29, 2013). "Almost 30 Lose Jobs at KARK, KLRT as TV Owners Consolidate". Arkansas Business. Arkansas Business Limited Partnership. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Nexstar's Fort Wayne Fox Going Independent, Broadcasting & Cable, July 19, 2011.
- Ft. Wayne Fox Affiliation Returns To WFFT, TVNewsCheck, February 6, 2013.
- Nexstar, Granite Settle Antitrust Lawsuit, Returning Fox Affiliation to Fort Wayne’s WFFT, TVSpy, February 6, 2013.
- Malone, Michael (February 6, 2013). "Nexstar's WFFT Fort Wayne Back in Fox Fold". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- "Prather Buys 5 TVs From Nexstar-Media Gen.". TVNewsCheck. June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
- RabbitEars TV Query for WFFT
-  Archived December 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- "RabbitEars.Info". RabbitEars.Info. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- WFFT to partner with Bounce TV
- WFFT’s first, short-lived newscast, Fort Wayne Daily News, February 20, 2009
-  Archived February 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived March 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Local Fox news gets Emmy nod, The Journal Gazette, May 13, 2010.
- WFFT Ft. Wayne Unveils Post-Fox Lineup, TVNewsCheck, July 19, 2011.
-  Archived September 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Co-anchor Dan Ball ousted at KSNV-TV | Las Vegas Review-Journal". Reviewjournal.com. 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
- Wednesday, January 16, 2013 12:07 pm (2013-01-16). "Ball signs on as new WFFT anchor - Fort Wayne Business Weekly: Breaking News". Fwbusiness.com. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
- KMIR News Staff (2014-08-20). "Audra Streetman - KMIR News | Palm Springs, California". Kmir.com. Retrieved 2015-07-22.