|Channels||Digital: 22 (UHF)|
(shared with WLS-TV)
Virtual: 60 (PSIP)
|Owner||Univision Communications |
(UniMas Chicago LLC)
|Sister stations||TV: WGBO-DT|
|First air date||April 20, 1982|
|Former call signs||WBBS-TV / WPWR-TV (1982–1987)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
60 (UHF, 1982–2009)
59 (UHF, 2006–2009)
50 (UHF, 2009–2017)
44 (UHF, 2017–2019)
|Former affiliations||Spanish Ind. (1982–1987)|
|Call sign meaning||C(X)hicago/Xtreme TeleFuTura|
(WCFT was already in use at the time of assignment)
|ERP||908 kW (STA)|
1,000 kW (CP)
|HAAT||475 m (1,558 ft) (STA)|
518 m (1,699 ft) (CP)
|Public license information||Profile|
WXFT-DT, virtual channel 60 (UHF digital channel 22), is an UniMás owned-and-operated television station serving Chicago, Illinois, United States that is licensed to Aurora. The station is owned by the Univision Local Media subsidiary of Univision Communications, as part of a duopoly with Joliet-licensed 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 shares transmitter facilities with ABC owned-and-operated station WLS-TV (channel 7) atop the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive in the Chicago Loop. On cable, WXFT is available on Comcast Xfinity and RCN channel 15. Due to a lack of an UniMás affiliate in the Milwaukee market, it is carried on DirecTV as part of that market's local channel lineup (channel 60 in both Chicago and Milwaukee).
Prior history of channel 60 in Chicago
The UHF channel 60 allocation to Aurora was originally occupied by WLXT-TV, which broadcast from May 16, 1969 to July 17, 1970. WLXT was an independent station that abruptly closed after 14 months of attempting to serve its suburban coverage area, but it was notable for the people that passed through it, particularly news director Christine Lund, who became a well-known news anchor in Los Angeles, and Tom Skilling, longtime chief meteorologist at WGN-TV (channel 9), who got his start in television broadcasting at WLXT and presented daily weather forecasts for the station during his junior year of high school.
When applications for channel 60 were reopened in 1978, considerable interest was attracted. Several applicants proposed a new Spanish-language television station, including the Spanish International Network (which ended up applying for channel 66 instead) and a local group headed by Marcelino Miyares, the owner of Spanish-language advertising agency OMAR. The Miyares group became known as Hispanic American Television–Chicago and eventually HATCO-60 when it merged with competing applicant Aurora-Chicago Telecasters, Inc. The FCC received five proposals, three of which were designated for hearing by the FCC in July 1980: HATCO-60 (specifying West Chicago; Metrowest Corporation, specifying Aurora; and the College of DuPage, for Glen Ellyn.
In late 1981, HATCO-60 and Metrowest agreed to a shared-time agreement. Under the agreement, Metrowest would broadcast daily from 2:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., while the Hatco-60 station would broadcast daily from 7 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., giving channel 60 the distinction of being the only split-licensed station in the United States (and the first to operate in more than 20 years). With the arrangement in place, the two stations signed on in April 1982, sharing transmitter facilities atop the Sears Tower. Eychaner signed on independent station WPWR-TV.
At the same time WPWR debuted, Miyares signed on WBBS-TV (a callsign assigned to the station by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the objections of CBS owned-and-operated station WBBM-TV, channel 2), which maintained a Spanish-language entertainment format as an affiliate of NetSpan (which would evolve into Telemundo in 1987). WBBS featured various programming aimed at Hispanic audiences including local news programming, telenovelas and variety series as well as other locally produced shows, such as the popular music video program Imagen, hosted by local Spanish-language television personality (and now media executive) Rey Mena and Vivianne Plazas. One of the notable events for WBBS occurred in 1983, when the station introduced the Latin teen pop group Menudo (which included a young Ricky Martin), to Chicago's Latino community. The station's primary competitor was WCIU-TV (channel 26, now an English language independent station), which was then a part-time affiliate of the Spanish International Network (the forerunner to the present-day Univision).
Both stations shared one critical piece of programming: a new subscription television service called SportsVision (a companion service to ONTV), which Eychaner and Miyares had developed through a deal with Chicago White Sox co-owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. In order to access the service, viewers had to purchase a set-top descrambling converter and pay a monthly subscription fee in order to view sporting events such as White Sox games. However, SportsVision achieved little success on WPWR/WBBS-TV and converted into a cable channel in January 1984. With SportsVision removed from the station, WPWR ran public domain movies, cartoons and classic sitcoms from the early to mid-1950s to fill its schedule. In 1984, more popular classic sitcoms and newer barter cartoons were mixed into the lineup.
In the spring of 1985, WSNS-TV (channel 44) ended its five-year run as an affiliate of the ONTV subscription service and announced that would affiliate with SIN. In response to losing access to SIN programming, WCIU chose to align with NetSpan. Miyares, realizing that the loss of the NetSpan affiliation would be crippling for his station, reduced WBBS' programming schedule to 8 p.m. to its late-night sign-off on weekend evenings late that year, selling the rest of the weekday time periods that his station had occupied to Eychaner, allowing WPWR to broadcast full-time on weekdays.
In 1984, Eychaner acquired the construction permit for WDAI, a proposed station that would be licensed to Gary, Indiana and broadcast on UHF channel 56, for $1.5 million. The permit had been held by a group of Indiana businessmen doing business as GWWX-TV and later Great Lakes Broadcasting. The WDAI construction permit had existed since 1982, but short-spacing concerns to channel 60 and to two allocations in southeast Wisconsin had meant channel 56 could not be placed on the Sears Tower; this finding crippled a previous attempt to build the allocation as WGMI in 1968. However, another channel allocated to Gary could: channel 50, which as educational station WCAE had folded the previous year due to financial problems. The license was transferred to Northwest Indiana Public Broadcasting, but NIPB was not able to reactivate the station from improved facilities without an infusion of resources. Eychaner paid $684,000 to Northwest Indiana Public Broadcasting, giving it the funding it needed to build its facility, if it would switch allocations with WDAI. The move had been initially designed to potentially allow WBBS-TV to go full-time on channel 60, but the loss of affiliation doomed those plans. In August 1986, the commission issued final orders switching the commercial and noncommercial allocations for Gary. This allowed Metrowest to proceed with its plan of moving the WPWR-TV intellectual unit from channel 60 to channel 50 while selling the channel 60 license; the noncommercial allocation shifted to channel 56, which signed on as WYIN on November 15, 1987.
HSN/USA Networks ownership
In October 1985, Eychaner purchased WBBS for $11 million, and WBBS aired its last programs in August 1986 when the sale was approved. Channel 50 was ready to sign on as a commercial outlet by October 1986, at which point Eychaner then sold the channel 60 allocation to the Home Shopping Network for $25 million. HSN, which owned the station through its Silver King Television arm, changed the station's call letters to WEHS (originally planned to be changed to WHSI). WPWR moved to channel 50 on January 18, 1987, at which time the channel 60 signed on as an HSN owned-and-operated station, with its only diversions from the master HSN schedule being the minimum fulfillment of local and educational programming requirements.
Barry Diller—then-owner of the USA Network—acquired Silver King Communications in November 1995; the sale was finalized on December 19, 1996, ten months after its March 11 approval by the FCC. By 1997, the company was known as USA Broadcasting. In January 1999, USA Broadcasting considered converting WEHS into a general entertainment independent station under the "CityVision" programming model infusing local and syndicated programming that was adopted by its Miami sister station WAMI-DT in June 1998; under such a change, it also proposed changing the station's call letters to WNDE (meaning "Windy", in reference to Chicago's nickname, "The Windy City").
Univision Communications ownership
However, before the proposed conversion into an independent station could occur, the plans were put into question after USA Broadcasting announced that it would sell off its television station group in 2000. Among the prospective buyers for the group was The Walt Disney Company, which placed a bid to acquire the 13 USA-owned stations (had Disney's bid been successful, it would have created the market's first television duopoly with ABC owned-and-operated station WLS-TV, channel 7); however, Disney was outbid by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications, which purchased the USA Broadcasting stations in a $1.1 billion group deal on December 7, 2000; the sale was finalized on May 21, 2001. 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), when that network launched on January 14, 2002.
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 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.
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 moved from its pre-transition UHF channel 59 to channel 50. 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.
In December 2009, WXFT and sister station WGBO, along with most of Univision's other owned-and-operated stations, upgraded their main digital channels to transmit in 16:9 1080i high definition, in preparation for the launches of Univision and Telefutura's HD simulcast feeds in 2010.
On April 13, 2017, station owner Univision Communications announced that the over-the-air spectrum of WXFT-DT was sold in the FCC's spectrum reallocation auction for $126.1 million. In January 2016, the ABC Owned Television Stations group, owners of WLS-TV announced that they will enter into a channel sharing agreement with Univision for WXFT. WXFT-DT will not go off the air, but they will share spectrum with WLS-TV. In June 2017, a construction permit was filed to allow the spectrum share.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|60.1||720p||16:9||WXFT-DT||Main WXFT programming / UniMás|
|60.2||480i||ESCAPE||Court TV Mystery|
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- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WXFT-DT