Starting September 1, “Chicago’s Very Own” will return to its roots as an independent station with a fully local programming lineup. Additional news, sports and syndicated programming are expected to replace the network shows in primetime and on weekends.
In Chicago, The CW Network will move to Fox-owned WPWR-Channel 50, the low-rated sister station of WFLD-Channel 32. The affiliation change is expected to shift less than $4 million in revenue, according to industry sources.
“As an independent television station, we’ll have the opportunity to bring more primetime baseball, basketball and hockey games to Chicago sports fans on weeknights, add some popular syndicated programming, expand our weekend morning news, and take control of all of WGN-TV’s primetime advertising inventory,” Larry Wert, president of Broadcast Media for Tribune Broadcasting, said in a statement Monday. “Importantly, we’ll also avoid having to move any games off of WGN-TV to accommodate network programming.”
As broadcast home of Cubs and White Sox baseball, Bulls basketball and Blackhawks hockey, WGN has the rights to more than 150 games each year. CW commitments required WGN to farm out more than 30 games a year to other Chicago stations. But not anymore.
“WGN is the heartbeat of local news and sports in Chicago,” Greg Easterly, vice president and general manager of WGN, said in a statement. “We’re very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and the freedom of being an independent station in the nation’s third-largest market.”
Plans are in the works to add at least one hour of news on Saturday mornings in place of CW Network children’s programming now airing on WGN.
“Chicago’s Very Own” became a WB charter affiliate in 1995 and switched to CW affiliation when UPN and The WB merged to form The CW in 2006. A joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS, the network includes such primetime shows as “The Flash” and “Jane The Virgin.”
As WGN goes its own way, Tribune Media announced Monday it renewed CW affiliation agreements for 12 other stations, including WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles.
“We are extremely pleased to continue our strong relationship with The CW Network,” Peter Liguori, president and CEO of Tribune Media, said in a statement. “The primetime entertainment programming offered by The CW drives a passionate and loyal audience to our stations and we are looking forward to a lot of success.”
Terms of WPWR’s affiliation agreement were not disclosed, but The CW lineup will provide a much-needed boost to a station that has languished in the market since Fox acquired it in 2002 from Fred Eychaner’s Newsweb Corp. for $425 million.
“We love high quality, big budget first-run prime and we love having more original programming,” said Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for Fox Television Stations. “But most of all, we love moving to The CW the same time as ‘Supergirl.’ ”