Chicago’s first affiliation change in over 20 years takes place this week as CW moves from Tribune-owned WGN-TV to Fox-owned WPWR-TV.
The change marks WGN’s return to independent status for the first time since 1995, when the station joined the then-new WB network (which merged with UPN in 2006 to form The CW.)
Meanwhile, WPWR becomes the first-ever Fox-owned CW affiliate. This is significant given Fox created My Network TV as a response to ten of its stations (including WPWR) losing UPN.
Unlike previous affiliations switches taking place on a weekend day or the start of the week (as was the case during the Fox-New World affiliation swaps in 1994 and 1995), this change takes place on Thursday at 12:01 a.m. (September 1) – the time WGN’s CW contract officially expires.
Back in May, Tribune Broadcasting signed a new five-year deal with CW, renewing the network on all of its stations except in Chicago.
Also unlike switches in the past – when stations were staffing phone lines to take calls from confused viewers, this affiliation change is taking more of a low-key approach: much of CWs programming doesn’t premiere until October. One daytime CW program – The Robert Irvine Show – premieres on Sept. 12., replacing The Bill Cunningham Show.
Just today, CW released key art for three of its new shows: Frequency, No Tomorrow, and the highly anticipated Supergirl, which has moved from CBS.
With two hours freed from CW programming, WGN plans to air various programs in primetime between Thursday and Sept. 19, when off-network sitcom Last Man Standing takes over the 8-to-9 p.m. time slot. Among them include a special celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field (Sept. 2), a WGN Morning News primetime special (Sept. 14) and special versions of SportsFeed, borrowed from sister local cable news station CLTV.
WGN also has six weeknight baseball games in September – three games apiece for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
As for WPWR, the station has already aired promotions for CW’s fall programming, on its station and WFLD. On Friday, Mario Lopez (of Extra) will be handing out school supplies featuring the new WPWR branding, “Chicago’s CW 50” on them (Extra is shifting to WFLD on Sept.5, after 22 years at WMAQ.)
My Network TV programming (featuring off-network shows) will air on WPWR from 10 p.m. to midnight starting Thursday, with Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show bridging the gap between CW and My Network TV programming at 9 p.m. starting Sept. 12 according to the show’s website (Harry is also airing on WFLD at 4 p.m. starting on the same date.)
“CW 50” social media components have yet to be announced. A link on WFLD’s website to “My50 Chicago” – the station’s previous brand, only shows TV listings for WPWR and related subchannels and an ad for My Network TV programming for the week of… December 7, 2015.
The last affiliation change to happen in Chicago took place on Saturday December 31, 1994 when Univision moved its Spanish-language programming to WGBO-TV from WCIU, leaving the latter as a full-time independent station. WGN’s move now gives Chicago two independent stations, a rarity among large markets.