WISC-TV (digital channel 50 or PSIP virtual channel 3) is the CBS affiliate television station for Madison, Wisconsin. The station is the flagship station of Madison-based Morgan Murphy Media, and has been affiliated with CBS since its launch on June 24, 1956. The station airs regular local and CBS programming on digital channel 3.1 and also operates TVW, a MyNetworkTV affiliate, on digital channel 3.2 (which is also carried on local cable TV and DIRECTV in the Madison market). The two stations share studios located on Raymond Road in Madison, and its transmitter is located on Mineral Point Road in the city's Middleton Junction section.


WISC-TV first took to the airwaves on June 24, 1956, taking over Madison's CBS affiliation from WKOW-TV (which retained ABC affiliation). Despite being the state's second largest market, Madison was a "doughnut" market as it was sandwiched between other markets where primary VHF signals were already assigned (Milwaukee to the east, Wausau and Green Bay to the north, Chicago and Rockford to the south, and La Crosse/Eau Claire to the west). Having the market's only VHF signal gave channel 3 a distinct advantage—and market leadership—over UHF competitors WKOW and WMTV, a position that the station has enjoyed for much of its history, even after the advent of cable television put the competitors on equal footing (WISC's former slogan, "Wisconsin's Leadership Station," played upon that advantage).

WISC-TV has been affiliated with CBS since its launch, though it was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network during the late 1950s.[3] From 1995 to 1999, WISC-TV carried select UPN programming during overnight hours, before the launch of a full-time UPN affiliate in the market, WHPN. UPN returned in 2002 on WISC's cable/digital subchannel, TVW, which had been affiliated with The WB since 1998; TVW has been with MyNetworkTV since 2006.

WISC-TV commemorated its 50th anniversary in June 2006, which merited a congratulatory mention by David Letterman on his Late Show broadcast of June 22, 2006 (its first program, he quipped, was "Good Morning, Cheddar").

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[4]
3.11080i16:9WISC-DTMain WISC-TV programming / CBS
3.2480i4:3TVWTVW (WISC-TV) MyNetworkTV

In 2000, WISC-TV launched subchannel 3.2 carrying TVW, which before then was a cable-only station.

Analog-to-digital conversion

WISC-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, at 12:30 p.m. 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). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 50.[5] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3. The analog channel 3 continued to serve as a "nightlight," broadcasting a loop of digital transition information and instructions in addition to any local news programming and emergency information, until signing off for good the final week of March 2009.


Outside of the CBS network schedule, syndicated programming on WISC-TV includes The Dr. Oz Show, and Entertainment Tonight. WISC was home to ESPN Plus broadcasts of Wisconsin Badger sports before the syndicator's relationship with the Big Ten Conference ended in 2007.


TVW, found on WISC-TV's secondary digital subchannel (3.2), replays of some WISC programming, including replays of News 3's morning newscast from 7 to 9 a.m. TVW does air its own content, including first-run syndicated shows such as Divorce Court and Access Hollywood, off-network reruns including The Middle and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and locally-produced high-school football under the "PrepMania" banner.


In addition to its normal morning, noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, WISC airs "News 3 Live at Four," a one-hour newscast which is largely devoted to non-headline news and features that focus on the community and the people of Madison, Dane County, and southern Wisconsin. Live at Four originally aired at 5 p.m., but moved to 4 p.m. in October 2015 to expand to one hour. In April 2011, WISC began offering free on demand segments of their newscasts on the Roku digital video player.[6] WISC-TV also produces a 9 p.m. newscast for Fox affiliate WMSN-TV, under a news share arrangement that began on January 1, 2012 (before then, WMSN had aired a newscast from WKOW since 1999, while WISC had produced a 9 p.m. newscast for TVW since 2004).[7]

On October 26, 2008, WISC-TV began producing all its newscasts in total high-definition video, becoming the first commercial TV station in Wisconsin to do so.[8] The station had produced occasional news features in HD since the beginning of 2008.

Former on-air staff