WWJ-TV, virtual channel 62 (digital channel 44), is the CBS owned and operated television station in Detroit, Michigan. It is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation as part of a duopoly with CW station WKBD-TV (channel 50). The two stations share studio facilities on 11 Mile Road in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, WWJ-TV's transmitter is located in Oak Park, Michigan.
The station is carried on several Canadian cable providers, predominately in the province of Ontario, and is one of five local Detroit television stations seen in Canada on satellite provider Shaw Direct.
As part of the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, WWJ-TV shut down its analog transmitter on June 12, 2009, and continued to broadcast on its pre-transition digital channel 44. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display its virtual channel as 62.
Channel 62 signed on the air on September 29, 1975, as WGPR-TV (the callsign standing for "Where God's Presence Radiates"). The station was owned by WGPR Incorporated, formed by the Detroit-based International Free and Accepted Modern Masons. WGPR was the first wholly African American-owned television station in the United States, and was marketed towards Detroit's urban audience. At the time, WGPR's emergence was hailed as an advance for African-American enterprise, with the "color line" having been broken by the station's establishment. Station president William V. Banks, together with Jim Panagos and George White, sales and programming managers respectively of co-owned WGPR-FM (107.5 FM), were the management team at the station's outset. Prior to WGPR-TV's sign-on, the channel 62 frequency had been used by WXON (now WMYD), which had originally broadcast on that channel when it signed on in 1968 before moving to channel 20 in 1972.
WGPR-TV aired shows from NBC and CBS that were pre-empted by the original WWJ-TV (channel 4, now known as WDIV) and WJBK-TV (channel 2) respectively, as well as older cartoons, a number of religious shows, brokered programs, programs aimed at the black community, R&B music shows, low-rated off-network dramas, and low-rated barter syndicated shows.][
Channel 62's most popular and most well-known show was a Middle Eastern variety show called Arab Voice of Detroit, which was broadcast on late Saturday nights. Another popular program was a nightly dance show titled The Scene (similar in content to the nationally syndicated Soul Train) that aired from October 13, 1975 to December 31, 1987. A similar lower-budget Friday evening dance show called Contempo was initially The Scene's replacement in 1988; it was hosted by several different personalities from WGPR radio, and featured local artists. But lackluster ratings caused the show's cancellation in early 1990, and eventually it was replaced by The New Dance Show, which was hosted by R.J. Watkins and aired until 1996. The station was also home to the horror show host Ron "the Ghoul" Sweed during the late 1970s, and was Detroit's affiliate for the 1970s version of the NHL Network.
The socially laudatory aims of the station did not immediately translate into good business. During its tenure as an independent station, WGPR-TV was easily the lowest-rated television station in Detroit, with only a niche viewership within its target audiences. The owners did not reckon with the existence of several already marginal independent outlets available to southeastern Michigan viewers, none of whom had many choices for top-tier syndicated programming, most of which went to WKBD and WXON. Channel 62 faced an additional problem in the form of Windsor-based CBC owned-and-operated station CBET (channel 9), which owned the Detroit rights to many American syndicated programs.
WGPR was also hampered by an inadequate signal, broadcasting at only 800,000 watts. By comparison, WKBD broadcast at 2.3 million watts, and WXON broadcast at 1.5 million watts. Its signal was so weak that it could only be seen over the air in Detroit itself and the inner northern suburbs (such as Southfield, East Detroit, Redford, Warren, Royal Oak, Livonia and Mount Clemens). The signal could not reach the outlying suburbs such as Clarkston, Lake Orion and Richmond. Until late 1994 when it became a CBS affiliate, it was the only Detroit station not carried in the Flint-Lansing edition of TV Guide, which, in the Detroit market, was sold in Sanilac, Lapeer, western and northern Livingston, and northwestern Oakland Counties.][
By the 1990s, WGPR's on-air look had become very primitive. It was the only local station which still used art cards instead of CGI for its sponsor announcements and newscasts. Further, a character generator manufactured in the 1970s remained in use for some graphics for many years. By the early 1990s, WGPR aired infomercials for most of the day.][
WGPR's situation changed in 1994, when New World Communications made an affiliation deal with the Fox Broadcasting Company under which almost all of its stations switched their affiliations to Fox. One of those stations was Detroit's longtime CBS affiliate, WJBK-TV. CBS then approached each of Detroit's four remaining major commercial stations – NBC affiliate WDIV, ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV (channel 7), soon-to-be former Fox outlet WKBD, and WXON – for an affiliation deal. Unfortunately for CBS, the loss of WJBK came at a time during which the network's ratings had slipped to all-time lows (owing in part to the loss of NFL broadcast rights to Fox), and attracting a new Detroit affiliate to replace WJBK proved difficult. WXYZ was taken out of consideration when its owner, the E. W. Scripps Company, agreed to a group affiliation deal with ABC. WKBD was eliminated when its owner, the Paramount Stations Group, announced plans to launch the United Paramount Network with WKBD as one of its charter stations. Neither of the two remaining stations were interested, leaving CBS with only two realistic choices for a new Detroit affiliate: WGPR and another low-profile independent station, Mount Clemens-based WADL (channel 38). Though WGPR was initially thought to have a minimal chance at landing an affiliate deal, CBS broke off negotiations with WADL after its owner started making unreasonable demands. Essentially by default, CBS began discussions with WGPR.
CBS faced similar situations in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland and Milwaukee. In all cases, the longtime CBS affiliates (Atlanta's WAGA-TV, Austin's KTBC-TV, Cleveland's WJW-TV and Milwaukee's WITI-TV) also switched to Fox. While CBS was able to land on higher-profile UHF stations in Atlanta, Austin and Cleveland (the latter two simply swapping with the old Fox affiliates), it was unable to do so in Detroit or Milwaukee.
As a backup, CBS worked out deals with three nearby VHF stations. First, the network signed Bay City NBC affiliate WNEM-TV as part of a multi-station deal with its parent company, the Meredith Corporation. WNEM's signal penetrated further into the northern portions of the Detroit market than the longtime Flint/Tri-Cities CBS affiliate, WEYI-TV. WNEM provided a strong "grade B" signal to Detroit's northern suburbs, including St. Clair County and parts of Oakland and Macomb counties; as well as Sarnia, Ontario. It also provided a strong city-grade signal to the lower Thumb. CBS also signed a long-term deal with its longtime affiliate in Toledo, Ohio, WTOL-TV, whose overall signal covered most of Detroit and the immediate area. It also convinced WLNS-TV in Lansing to build a translator in Ann Arbor. WLNS' signal reached portions of Detroit's western suburbs, such as Livingston and Oakland counties (additionally, as part of Michigan folklore, Detroiters would buy large outdoor TV antennas and point them towards Lansing to pick up WLNS in order to watch Detroit Lions games blacked out in Detroit). These moves were made not only in the event CBS could not land an affiliate of its own in Detroit, but also because of channel 62's aforementioned signal problems. Negotiations with WGPR moved slowly, and with only a few days remaining before WJBK was due to switch to Fox, CBS had still not lined up a replacement affiliate in Detroit. Fearing it would be left without an affiliate in the nation's tenth-largest market and faced with the prospect of having to pipe in WNEM, WTOL and WLNS for Detroit viewers, CBS struck an eleventh-hour deal to purchase WGPR outright for $24 million. The final price tag was more a reflection of CBS' desperation than the actual value of the station.
However, the plans hit a snag when leaders of Detroit's African-American community spoke out against the sale. Most of the community's ire was directed toward the Masons, who were criticized for agreeing to sell to a mainstream network broadcaster. Opponents of the deal feared that an important local voice would be lost if CBS gained outright ownership of WGPR-TV over an affiliation contract. CBS and the Masons, and their local supporters, contended that they were engaged in a fair business transaction. There was growing sentiment to block the sale of WGPR-TV to CBS in favor of selling it to a locally-based broadcaster. Spectrum Detroit Inc., an investment group led by Lansing-based real estate investor and broadcaster Joel Ferguson, made a counter offer to buy the station outright, or at the least convince CBS to enter into a joint-ownership venture. When those efforts failed, the group sued CBS in a last-ditch effort to block the sale. However, Spectrum Detroit could not stop CBS from moving its programming from WJBK to WGPR on December 11, 1994. Shortly after the switch, CBS started an advertising campaign with actor Bill Cosby (among others) promoting the station, in an effort to attract viewers to this previously unknown UHF station. This advertising campaign ended around 1998, with mixed results.
After a court ruled in favor of CBS, it was able to close on its purchase of channel 62. On July 24, 1995, CBS changed the station's call letters to WWJ-TV after WWJ radio (950 AM), which CBS had owned since 1989. The WWJ-TV calls had originally been used by what is now WDIV from 1947 to 1978; the two television stations are not related. CBS officially took control of channel 62 on September 20, 1995, as the last station purchase completed by the original CBS, Inc. before the Westinghouse Electric Corporation took full control of the company two months later.
CBS's ratings in Metro Detroit took a huge hit in the aftermath of the loss of WJBK as viewers adjusted to the somewhat odd situation of having to tune to a previously little-known station with a high channel number for CBS programming. This was mostly because many cable systems in the outer portions of the Detroit market did not carry it, and it took a long time for it get adequate cable penetration throughout the area. The network's ratings in Detroit have never really recovered, and to this day channel 62 has been the weakest major-network station in Detroit. In contrast, WJBK was perennially one of CBS' strongest affiliates. However, CBS initially made a large investment into channel 62. It moved the station into a state-of-the-art studio at Stroh River Place in downtown Detroit soon after taking control. It also brought back some limited original programming, having dropped all local programming soon after the purchase.
In 1999, WWJ-TV activated a new tower and transmitter at its radio sister's former transmitter site in Oak Park, boosting its effective radiated power to five million watts, the strongest signal in Detroit. Until the power boost, many viewers in Detroit's outer-ring suburbs watched CBS by way of the three surrounding VHF stations from Bay City, Toledo, and Lansing. Viacom, which owned then-UPN affiliate WKBD, purchased CBS in September 1999, shortly after WWJ-TV activated its new tower. WWJ-TV merged its operations into WKBD's studio facility in Southfield. WKBD is the senior partner in this duopoly since it was longer-established; the CBS affiliate usually is the senior partner in other duopolies that involve stations respectively aligned with CBS and The CW. Since then, the station has not produced much local content, and much of its lineup outside of CBS network programming consists of syndicated programs.
WWJ-TV adequately covers most of Metro Detroit, including Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as Windsor, Leamington, Chatham-Kent, and the Port Huron-Sarnia areas as well. During good television reception conditions, it can be picked up as far away as the Flint area.
The station is carried on most cable outlets in Southeast Michigan, Southwestern Ontario, and Northwestern Ontario, and via satellite on Shaw Direct, Dish Network and DirecTV (most of whom carry it in high definition). The Shaw Broadcast Services CANCOM satellite feeds are in turn used to feed cable television systems in communities such as Ottawa, Ontario.
As a CBS O&O, WWJ-TV broadcasts CBS Sports telecasts, including CBS's coverage of NFL football. Although most regular season Detroit Lions games air on Fox because the team is in the NFC; from 2008 to 2010, WWJ-TV was the flagship station of the Detroit Lions Television Network in place of sister station WKBD-TV. The station also aired the weekly program The Ford Lions Report, produced by the Detroit Lions during the regular season, and also aired pre-season games for the team (by NFL rule, all cable games are broadcast by a local television station in the team's primary market). In 2010, WWJ-TV had broadcast all Lions preseason games in high definition. In 2011, the Detroit Lions announced that local ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV replaced WWJ-TV as flagship of the Detroit Lions network.
WWJ-TV, as per CBS's contract, broadcasts Detroit Lions regular season games when the team is hosting an AFC opponent, including the traditional Thanksgiving Classic game on even-numbered years. Being the team's primary market, it is subject to the NFL blackout policy.
As WGPR-TV, the station produced a low budget newscast titled Big City News, which served as a launching pad for several news personalities such as Amyre Makupson (née Porter), who later became the lead anchor and public affairs director at WKBD; and Sharon Crews, who later became a multi-award-winning broadcast journalist. The WGPR-TV news operation was shut down in the late 1980s. In the fall of 1996, WWJ-TV presented a news special on the annual "Devil's Night" fires in Detroit. It served as the pilot for what would become InDepth Detroit, a newsmagazine that aired on Sunday evenings from early 1997 to March 2001.
In April 2001, WWJ-TV launched 62 CBS News at 11, the only regular news program on the station. The stripped-down newscast was produced by WKBD, which had long produced its own newscast at 10 p.m. Initial efforts tried to brand channel 50's newscast (known as UPN Nightside) as a younger, hipper program and channel 62's as a more straightforward, traditional major-network-owned newscast. However, WKBD and WWJ-TV relied on the same pool of reporters and anchors and even broadcast from the same studio. The same resources, such as ENG trucks, cameras, writers and editors, were used on both broadcasts, although each broadcast generally had its own producer. Not surprisingly, the two newscasts came to mirror each other closely on most nights; a 2002 article from the Detroit News called the similar newscasts "attack of the clones".
Despite the link to WKBD's long-successful news department, WWJ-TV never came even close to competing with WDIV, WJBK, and WXYZ. The newscast was dropped in December 2002 after WKBD agreed to shut down its own news department and allow WXYZ to produce its newscasts. This move made WWJ-TV the only CBS-owned station not to produce local news (in sharp contrast, WWJ radio is the only all-news radio station in the Detroit area). It is also the largest major-network affiliate, and the only owned-and-operated station of the four major American broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), without a news department.
Instead of local news programming, WWJ-TV currently airs Dr. Phil at 5 p.m., The Insider at 6 p.m., Family Feud from 7-8 p.m., and Two and a Half Men at 11 p.m. (Dr. Phil is syndicated by CBS Television Distribution, while the latter of the four has its episodes air first-run on CBS). Alongside the relaunch under the WWJ-TV branding, short weather updates known as the WWJ-TV First Forecast were added mornings during The Early Show, and evenings at 5 and 11 p.m. on January 7, 2008. This was later accompanied by a new morning show on May 5, 2009, called First Forecast Mornings; while the program primarily focused on weather and traffic reports, news headlines were also included via a partnership with the Detroit Free Press, effectively marking WWJ-TV's return to airing a local newscast. The partnership with the Free Press ended at the end of 2010, and WWJ-TV's radio sister replaced the Free Press as its news partner. On February 7, 2011, an extension of First Forecast Mornings debuted on sister station WKBD-TV from 7 to 9 a.m.
In addition, WWJ-TV airs one other locally-produced program, Michigan Matters, a talk show featuring economic and political topics relevant to the metro Detroit area. WWJ-TV senior producer, Carol Cain, is the host. Typically there are two interviews, an open conversation "Round Table" segment and then a "Final Viewpoint" where each of the three panelists and the host read a prepared statement pertaining to the topic of the show.
WWJ-TV (along with its sister station WKBD-TV) upgraded all locally-produced programming to high definition on February 2, 2012, making them the final CBS-owned properties with an in-house news operation to upgrade to HD; however, the stations continue to air syndicated programming in place of traditional evening and late night newscasts. First Forecast Mornings was discontinued on December 28, 2012 due to low viewership, with the program being replaced by the CBS Morning News and Dr. Phil in its timeslot. WWJ-TV is the largest of a group of major-network stations that do not air regular local evening or late-night newscasts. This group also includes ABC affiliate WATM-TV in the Altoona/Johnstown/State College, PA market, NBC affiliate WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida and CBS affiliate WEVV in Evansville, Indiana, among others.
From 1995 to 2001, the station was branded as "Detroit's 62 CBS". In 2002, it was rebranded as "CBS Detroit" in part due to the perceived embarrassing nature – especially considering the size of the Detroit market – of being a network-owned station operating on one of the highest channel numbers on the television dial (and the highest of any Big Four network O&O) during the analog era. On January 7, 2008, the station dropped the CBS Detroit name in favor of simply using its call letters on-air, part of a campaign to brand itself as a "hometown" station. CBS-owned stations in San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Baltimore also use similar branding schemes. The CBS Detroit branding was reinstated on a secondary basis in late 2009, replacing the slogan introduced in the rebranding, "Driven by Detroit".
On December 8, 2010, WWJ-TV's website was consolidated with WWJ radio and WXYT-AM-FM as CBSDetroit.com, as part of a rebranding of CBS's websites. On March 15, 2012, WWJ-TV rebranded itself as "CBS 62", after a ten-year absence from using the channel 62 allocation for on-air branding use, putting the station in line with most of CBS' other owned-and-operated stations (which, with the exception of the four stations mentioned above, also use the CBS/channel number branding convention) and also to avoid confusion with WWJ radio. The use of a three-letter callsign on an analog UHF television station was rare as these date from the earliest days of AM radio broadcasting. KMJ-TV (now KSEE) in Fresno, California, WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and WHA-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, were the three others to identify in this manner.