WLWC is the CW affiliate for Providence, Rhode Island, licensed to New Bedford, Massachusetts. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 22 from a transmitter in the Ashley Heights section of East Freetown, Massachusetts. Owned by OTA Broadcasting, LLC (a company controlled by Michael Dell's MSD Capital), the station has studios on Westminster Street in Downtown Providence. It is one of two major Rhode Island stations (along with ABC affiliate WLNE-TV) with facilities in Providence despite being licensed to the Massachusetts side of the market.
WLWC began broadcasting April 14, 1997 as an affiliate of The WB. It was owned by Fant Broadcasting and operated by NBC-owned WJAR under a local marketing agreement (LMA). For the first two years of The WB's existence, Boston's WLVI-TV, which had been carried on cable in Rhode Island for decades, doubled as the WB affiliate for Providence/New Bedford as well. The station launched with various syndicated shows as well as a WJAR-produced 10 p.m. newscast, known as TV 28 News at 10, which began airing a few months after the WPRI-TV-produced effort on Fox affiliate WNAC-TV.
Fant had signed an LMA with WJAR's previous owner, Outlet Communications, on December 14, 1994, prior to Outlet's 1996 merger with NBC. Earlier in 1994, on March 18, Fant's station in Columbus, Ohio, WWHO, became the junior partner in an LMA with Outlet-owned NBC affiliate WCMH-TV. The LMA arrangement allowed channel 28 to come to the air; the station's original construction permit was granted to Metrovision Inc., a company controlled by Franklin D. Graham, on November 8, 1982, but financial problems and difficulties in securing a transmitter location prevented channel 28 (which was assigned the call letters WFDG, referring to Graham, on December 22, 1982; it became WLWC on August 1, 1995) from signing on. After several ownership changes, Fant purchased the permit on January 3, 1995.
Although both of Fant's LMAs with Outlet were intended to expire after ten years, by the time channel 28 signed on, NBC had let it be known that it did not want to run stations outside its core owned-and-operated (O&O) outlets, and pushed Fant to sell WLWC and WWHO. On July 31, 1997, NBC announced a three-way swap in which Fant exchanged WLWC and WWHO to Viacom's Paramount Stations Group subsidiary, while Paramount/Viacom-owned NBC affiliate WVIT in Hartford became an NBC O&O.
With the ownership change, WLWC added a secondary affiliation with UPN, and became a sister station to Boston's UPN affiliate, WSBK-TV, which until then had doubled as the UPN affiliate for Providence/New Bedford and (as with WLVI) had long been carried on Rhode Island cable systems. WLWC's master control and some internal operations were thus relocated from WJAR's studios in Cranston to WSBK's studios in Boston, with sales and public affairs offices remaining in Providence. In addition, TV 28 News at 10 was canceled by September 1997. Channel 28 became more or less a UPN O&O in May 2000, as UPN became its primary affiliation; in addition, the station signed a deal with The WB to retain its programming on a secondary basis through what a Paramount Stations Group executive described as a "program license agreement."
For most of the television era, the FCC had not allowed common ownership of stations with overlapping city-grade signals. Just months earlier, WNAC-TV had to be sold because its previous owner, Argyle Television, had merged with Hearst Broadcasting, owner of Boston's WCVB-TV—the second time in three years that a Rhode Island station had to be sold after its owner merged with the owner of a Boston station. Due to these rules, WLWC's license was thus acquired by Straightline Communications, with WSBK operating the station through an LMA (earlier in 1997, Straightline acquired WTVX in West Palm Beach, Florida on behalf of Paramount/Viacom's Miami–Fort Lauderdale station WBFS-TV; the company later purchased and operated WVNY in Burlington, Vermont separately from Viacom); in 2001, Viacom bought WLWC outright.
After Viacom and CBS merged in 2000, the operations of WLWC and WSBK were integrated with those of WBZ-TV at WBZ's facility on Soldiers Field Road in the Brighton section of Boston. When Viacom split into two companies in 2005, WLWC, along with the rest of Viacom's television stations, became part of CBS Corporation. On January 24, 2006, TimeWarner announced that the company would merge The WB with CBS Corporation's UPN (which CBS took ownership of after the Viacom split in December 2005) to form The CW Television Network. At the same time, the new network signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with 11 of CBS' UPN stations, including WLWC. However, it was a near-certainty that WLWC would become an affiliate of The CW in any event, given that it was a dual UPN/WB affiliate.
On February 7, 2007, CBS announced it was selling WLWC and seven other stations in Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, and West Palm Beach, Florida to Cerberus Capital Management for $185 million. Cerberus then formed a new holding company for the stations, Four Points Media Group, who took over the operation of the stations through local marketing agreements in late-June 2007. On November 26, master control of WLWC moved from WBZ-TV to KUTV's studios on Main Street in Downtown Salt Lake City. The entire group deal officially closed on January 10, 2008. Nexstar took over the operations of all of the Four Points stations in March 2009. At one point, the station had studios on State Street in Downtown Providence.
On June 30, 2010, WLWC invoked the FCC's network non-duplication rule. This resulted in Comcast blacking out primetime CW programming on WLVI-TV in Fall River, Massachusetts. This did not impact the rest of the communities in Bristol County, due to the fact that WLVI-TV still has "significantly viewed" status across Bristol County. However, WLWC filed a request with the FCC to exempt Fall River from significantly viewed status. On August 2, 2010, the station added LATV on a new second digital subchannel. This is also seen on Comcast digital channels 299 and 702, Verizon FiOS digital channel 469, and Cox digital channel 809.
On September 8, 2011, Four Points Media announced the sale of its television group, including WLWC, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair was expected to begin operating the stations via a local marketing agreement following antitrust approval and prior to the closing expected in the first quarter of 2012. At the time of the sale, Sinclair owned only one other television station in New England: Portland, Maine's CBS affiliate WGME-TV. However, Sinclair was also a former owner of Springfield, Massachusetts's ABC affiliate WGGB-TV. The deal was completed on January 3, 2012. However, just over a year later on January 11, 2013, Sinclair announced that it would sell WLWC to Fairfax, Virginia-based OTA Broadcasting, LLC (a company controlled by Michael Dell's MSD Capital), for $13.75 Million. This is Sinclair's second divestiture after the announcement of the sale of WLAJ in Lansing, Michigan in October 2012. The FCC granted its approval of the sale on March 19. The deal was completed on April 2. Sinclair would later re-enter the Providence market with its purchase of WJAR on August 24, 2014, as part of the merger of Media General (WJAR's owner) and LIN Media (WPRI's owner), which required Media General to spin off either WJAR or WPRI (the latter included the LMA with WNAC).
The WLWC Call Letters: From Columbus to Providence
In WLWC's short history, there have been several interesting connections between WLWC and television stations in the Columbus market. WLWC's arrangement with WJAR was an outgrowth of a similar arrangement in Columbus with Outlet's WCMH-TV and Fant's WWHO. WLWC and WWHO continued to lead near-identical existences for nearly a decade sharing graphics, voiceovers, and more through several owners.
WCMH used the WLWC call letters from its 1949 sign-on until the station was purchased by Outlet in 1976. The WLW call letters are legendary in Central and Southern Ohio due to the history of WLW Radio, a Cincinnati-based 50,000-watt clear channel radio station once known as "The Nation's Station". WLW Radio was co-owned with several "WLW" branded television stations located in Atlanta (WLW-A), Cincinnati (WLW-T), Columbus (WLW-C), Dayton (WLW-D) and Indianapolis (WLW-I) by Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, later known as Avco Broadcasting Corporation. The WLW television and radio stations were pioneers in producing live local and regional programming such as The Bob Braun Show and The Phil Donahue Show, and locally produced programs could often be seen on other stations in the WLW network. Even today, WLW Radio consistently attracts enough listeners to be rated in the Columbus market.
In the 1990s, Premier Broadcasting Corporation also announced that it would be using the WLWC call letters for Columbus low-power television station W62BE. Because of the historic and brand value of the WLWC call letters in the Columbus market, Outlet arranged to have the call sign "warehoused" on Channel 28 in Providence in order to keep competitors from using them in the Columbus area. Channel 28 applied for and was assigned the WLWC call letters and has used them ever since. Premier's television station, now silent, ultimately took the call letters WLWG.
WWHO was sold in 2005 to the Providence-based LIN TV Corporation, which owns CBS affiliate WPRI and operates WNAC under an LMA. WLWC's former owner, Sinclair, operates stations WSYX, WTTE and now WWHO in Columbus. WTTE was the third station in the Sinclair chain and it is speculated in media circles that Columbus is Sinclair's most profitable market.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|28.1||1080i||16:9||WLWC-D1||Main WLWC programming / The CW|
WLWC discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 28, at midnight on December 9, 2008. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 22, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 28.
As a primary WB affiliate, WLWC aired Kids' WB programming; after the station became a primary UPN affiliate, the block was dropped, as UPN also carried a children's programming block (Disney's One Too). Kids' WB was not picked up again after UPN canceled its own children's block in 2003. The block, which was replaced with The CW4Kids in 2008, returned to WLWC when the station began airing CW programming. (The CW4Kids was renamed Toonzai in 2010 and then Vortexx in 2012.)
On April 1, 2002, WBZ-TV added its weekday morning newscast and Sports Final to WLWC's lineup; a year later, WSBK-TV's Red Sox This Week was also added to the schedule. This was done to serve viewers inconvenienced by Cox's removal of WBZ from its Rhode Island systems. In 2004, WLWC dropped the morning newscast; in its place, on September 13, the station, along with seven other Viacom-owned UPN stations, began airing the nationally syndicated morning program The Daily Buzz. Sports Final and Red Sox This Week were retained (though Sports Final now aired on a half-hour tape delay from its WBZ-TV broadcast), and WLWC also added Phantom Gourmet from WSBK. Beginning with the 2005 season, WLWC (along with WSBK) began airing syndicated broadcasts of ACC college football and basketball games as Boston College's move to the conference created regional interest for the ACC.
Until May 2007, two of WBZ's weekday morning personalities were shown on WLWC's broadcast of The Daily Buzz as the station itself had none. During the program's weather reports, meteorologist Barry Burbank did a thirty-second local weather cut-in. During commercial breaks, traffic reporter Rich Kirkland would give a quick traffic update. After CBS sold the station to Four Points, Sports Final and Red Sox This Week were dropped and the WBZ morning personalities were removed from The Daily Buzz. Currently, WLWC airs the first hour of that program. The station also airs two local public affairs shows on Sunday mornings, The Jim Vincent Show and a rebroadcast of WSBE-TV's A Lively Experiment.