Move to WCIU takes place Sunday; rebrands as “CW 26” as WPWR returns to “My 50”
Goodbye Taye Diggs, hello Vincent D’Onofrio.
Beginning Sunday, WPWR reverts back to a primary My Network TV affiliate as CW programming heads to WCIU, who is rebranding as “CW 26” with WPWR returning to “My50”.
The affiliation switch was officially announced April 19 as The CW struck a multi-year deal with Weigel Broadcasting’s Chicago station. For WCIU, the deal marked the end of 25 years as an independent station, as it lost its ties to Univision at the end of 1994 after the company bought former independent WGBO-TV.
CW programming moving to WCIU includes Riverdale, Arrow, Taye Diggs’ All American, and Supernatural, not to mention new series Batwoman and Nancy Drew Mysteries with the latter two launching in early October.
The move shocked many in Chicago media circles when Robert Feder first reported the news, given WPWR was only a CW affiliate for three years and reportedly had two years left on its contract. The Fox-owned station surprised many observers when it was able to grab the network in the first place after longtime affiliate WGN-TV did not renew their contract in 2016. A return to The CW could have been in the cards for WGN after the Tribune-owned station recently lost sports rights to four local pro sports teams as NBC Sports Chicago signed an exclusive deal with the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox and the Cubs launching their own regional sports network, but WCIU got the affiliation instead.
While no official reason was given why WPWR lost The CW, it was understood the station’s low ratings played a role: in 2016 when it was still a primary My Network TV affiliate, WPWR’s total-day household rating was 0.3. Also an issue was a lack of a social media presence for “CW 50” as it never had a Twitter handle or even a website. By comparison, WCIU recently launched a new “CW 26” website and created a Twitter account @cw26chicago.
There was also word Fox was no longer interested in running CW programming on WPWR as since the affiliation agreement was signed, former parent 21st Century Fox sold much of its assets to Disney for $71.3 billion, retaining Fox Entertainment, Fox Sports, Fox News, Fox Television Stations, Fox Business, and My Network TV – all forming a core nucleus of a new company called Fox Corporation.
Despite being a lame-duck affiliate, WPWR still promoted some CW programming, but less frequently as it did in the past as the station still featured a “CW 50” logo at the bottom right-hand of the screen. In the last few weeks, more promos for sister station WFLD popped up, not to mention those for the Fox network itself – putting WPWR in a odd position of being a CW affiliate promoting another network’s prime-time lineup.
As a result of the changes, there are some major scheduling moves taking place as WPWR returns to the My50 branding. Beginning Monday, WPWR airs syndicated Chicago P.D. reruns at 7 p.m., followed by My Network TV’s checkerboarded off-network programming block from 8-10 p.m. starting with Law & Order: Criminal Intent with Vincent D’Onofrio, who recently played Wilson Fisk in the now-canceled Netflix series Daredevil (the schedule changes on Sept.23; click here for more information.)
Outside of prime-time, My50 debuts a new game show, the off-GSN America Says at 4 p.m. beginning September 16.
For WCIU, the forthcoming CW programming ends ABC-owned WLS-TV’s 7 p.m. newscast, whose final airing was Friday night. Anchor Hosea Sanders is stepping away from the anchor desk, but is remaining with the station doing feature pieces and hosting public-affairs specials such as Heart & Soul. Also out are off-network sitcoms The Game (moving to 1 a.m. as of next week) and Rules of Engagement, which is exiting syndication. “The U” branding meanwhile, shifts to WCIU-WCUU-Ch.26.2/WMEU Ch.48.1. featuring a lineup of mostly true crime programs and primetime syndicated talk shows. Also coming to “The U” are new talk show Dr. and The Diva (9 a.m.) and ABC 7 castoff Right This Minute (5:30 a.m., 10 a.m.)
Other new programs headed to the new “CW 26” beginning Sept. 9 include Judge Jerry at 9 and 9:30 a.m as Jerry Springer starts a new career as a TV judge; Tamron Hall at 4 p.m. (with a secondary run at 8 p.m. on The U), and off-network repeats of Bob’s Burgers at 12:30 a.m. as it expands to a strip after four years as a weekly Saturday offering.