WMSN-TV is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Madison, Wisconsin, United States. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 49 (or virtual channel 47 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Madison's Middleton Junction section. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WMSN maintains studios on Big Sky Drive on Madison's west side.
WMSN-TV commenced broadcasting on June 8, 1986, airing on analog UHF channel 47. It was the first new commercial station to launch in the Madison market since WISC-TV signed on thirty years earlier. One of WMSN's earlier programs was Big Sky Theater, a Saturday night presentation of classic movies (mostly westerns) from the drive-in era. (The program's name was an acknowledgement to the Big Sky Drive-In Theater, which was located near the present day WMSN studios.)
After a few months as an Independent, the station joined Fox as a charter affiliate on October 9, 1986. Since 1994, as a result of Fox's NFC football package, WMSN has been Madison's primary home for the Green Bay Packers; these broadcasts are routinely the highest-rated programs in the market during football season.
WMSN has been a Fox affiliate since the network's 1986 launch; the station's relationship with Fox will continue through at least 2017, the result of Fox's affiliation agreement with WMSN and Sinclair's 18 other Fox stations, a deal reached on May 15, 2012.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|47.1||720p||16:9||WMSN-TV||Main WMSN-TV programming / Fox|
WMSN-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 47, 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 VHF channel 11. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 47.
In September 2010, WMSN-TV established its first digital subchannel, adding TheCoolTV music video network to subchannel 47.2. The subchannel would go dark in September 2012 at the expiration of Sinclair's carriage agreement with TheCoolTV; the channel was reactivated in July 2014 as an affiliate of GetTV, which would be replaced on October 31, 2015 by Sinclair-owned sci-fi network Comet.
When it completed its move to a new physical channel location, WMSN would add a third subchannel, 47.3, with content from The Country Network, later known as ZUUS Country. That network would be replaced in 2014 by the action-oriented Grit network. Grit would be replaced on June 1, 2017 by another action network, Sinclair-owned Charge!. On that same date, a fourth subchannel, 47.4, was activated and affiliated with TBD. Sinclair's other subchannel network, Stadium, is carried in the market on WZCK-LD4.
In 1999, ABC affiliate WKOW (then owned by the Shockley Communications Corporation) entered into a news share agreement with WMSN, which resulted in Madsion's first nightly prime time newscast, known as Fox 47 News at 9. The 35-minute weeknight broadcast (30 minutes on weekends) was originally produced from a secondary set at WKOW's studios on Tokay Boulevard in Madison. The newscasts employed no WKOW on-air branding, instead using Sinclair's standard music-and-graphics packages. Although the newscasts featured appearances from additional WKOW personnel, WMSN maintained separate weeknight anchors that normally did not appear on WKOW except to fill-in when needed.
On January 1, 2012, WMSN's news share agreement with WKOW expired after nearly 13 years (WMSN General Manager Kerry Johnson termed the split as a "business decision"). On that same date, WMSN began a new news outsourcing agreement with WISC-TV, the Morgan Murphy Media-owned CBS affiliate in Madison; as a result, WISC cancelled its own 9 p.m. weeknight newscast it had produced for its subchannel TVW, making Fox 47 News at 9 the lone remaining prime time newscast in the Madison market. (In addition to TVW's newscast, WBUW also aired a 9 p.m. weeknight newscast from 2003 to 2005). Fox 47 News at 9 originates from WISC's Raymond Road studios, using WISC's own news set and personnel (except the main news anchor) but, just as with WKOW, employing Sinclair's standard news graphics and music packages, as well as use of behind-the-desk duratrans to help differentiate the newscast from those of WISC.