WQOW is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Chippewa Valley of Western Wisconsin, United States. Licensed to Eau Claire, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 15 (or virtual channel 18 via PSIP) from a transmitter at the studios of rival NBC outlet WEAU (channel 13) on South Hastings Way in Altoona. Owned by Quincy Media, WQOW has facilities on Friedeck Road in Eau Claire (with a WIS 93 postal address) south of I-94.
Although operated as a separate station in its own right, WQOW is actually considered a semi-satellite of WXOW (channel 19) in La Crosse. It simulcasts all ABC network and syndicated programming as provided through its parent but airs separate local newscasts, commercial inserts, legal on-air identifications, and Sunday morning religious programming. WXOW serves the southern half of the La Crosse/Eau Claire market while WQOW serves the northern portion. The two stations are counted as a single unit for ratings purposes. DirecTV and Dish Network offer both WXOW and WQOW as of September 2010.
WQOW signed-on for the first time on September 22, 1980. For its first decade on-the-air, WXOW had been hampered by an inadequate signal in the northern half of the market. Unlike the area's other stations, WXOW's transmitter is located alongside its studios in La Crescent, Minnesota. As a result, viewers in Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley could only watch the station on cable.
Its original studios were on Business U.S. 53/Hastings Way east of the London Square Mall and then-current interchange with WIS 93 on the southeast side of Eau Claire. Originally, WQOW was a straight simulcast of WXOW, except for identifications and commercials. However, since 1982, it has evolved into a more localized station.
Since the new U.S. 53 Bypass was set to be constructed on the site of WQOW's building, the station moved in January 2001. The old building's site is located approximately in the northbound lane of the bypass near the WIS 93 northbound bridge. The new building is on WIS 93 immediately south of I-94 on the south side of Eau Claire. WQOW/WXOW began operating a cable-only affiliate of The WB in 1998 known as "WBCZ".
This was seen through a simulcast on channel 15 on most systems in La Crosse and Eau Claire. It would be replaced with new second digital subchannels (simulcasting The CW) when it launched in the fall of 2006. After The CW Plus national service was upgraded to 720p high definition level in Fall 2012, an HD feed became available on Charter digital channel 610. WQOW began airing solely in digital, effective February 17, 2009, with the analog transmitter operating for sixty additional days broadcasting only local news and information about the digital transition.
In July 2009, Dish Network announced it would add WQOW to its local channel lineup in the Eau Claire area after previously only offering WXOW. WQOW/WXOW launched This TV simulcast on new digital third digital subchannels of the stations in February/March 2010. This TV on WQOW-DT3 can also be seen on Charter digital channel 968. Following the collapse of WEAU's tower on March 22, 2011, WQOW temporarily discontinued This TV on 18.3 in order to provide space to broadcast WEAU temporarily on its subchannel until a new tower was erected.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|18.1||720p||16:9||WQOWABC||Main WQOW programming / ABC|
|18.2||WQOWCW||La Crosse–Eau Claire CW|
With the launch of WQOW, WXOW began to simulcast its newscasts on that station. In 1982, WQOW established a separate news operation with local newscasts focusing on Eau Claire and the surrounding areas. Since it did not operate an in-house weather department of its own, all segments originated from WXOW's studios in a tape-delayed arrangement. The effort was cancelled in March 1990 as a cost-cutting measure and, as a result, WQOW once again began simulcasting WXOW's newscasts.
It would not be until October 1996 when WQOW would relaunch its own local news operation for a second time which remain to this day. Although this incarnation of news production includes a separate weather department from WXOW, meteorologists from that station can fill-in on WQOW (this is the case especially on weekends and for severe weather coverage transitioning between each station's coverage area). In September 2011, WXOW became the second television station in the market to perform an upgrade to high definition newscast production. Included in the change was a new studio and updated graphics package. The news department at WQOW was upgraded to HD level at the same time.