WKBD-TV, virtual channel 50 (digital channel 14), (branded as CW 50) is an owned and operated station of the CW Television Network, based in Detroit, Michigan. The station is owned and operated by the CBS Corporation, and is one-half of a duopoly with sister station WWJ-TV (channel 62). Its studios and transmitters are located at 11 mile and Inkster Roads in Southfield, Michigan. It currently operates with a power of 180 kW from a tower 1,000 foot in height but has filed an application to increase it to 370 kW.
|Slogan||Made in Michigan|
|Channels||Digital: 14 (UHF)|
(Detroit Television Station WKBD, Inc.)
|First air date||January 10, 1965|
|Call letters' meaning||Kaiser
Broadcasting Detroit (reference to original ownerKaiser Broadcasting)
|Sister station(s)||WDZH, WOMC, WWJ, WWJ-TV,WXYT, WXYT-FM, WYCD|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
50 (UHF, 1965-2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent / United Network (1965-1986)|
|Transmitter power||180 kW|
|Transmitter coordinates||42°29′0.9″N 83°18′43.5″W|
WKBD-TV can be seen on most cable systems in south-east Michigan. It is carried as far north as Saginaw and Flint, and as far south as Findlay and Bowling Green, in Ohio. The WKBD-TV signal can be received over-the-air in the Flint and Lapeer areas. These areas are covered by WBSF Channel 46 (CW) in Flint and "CW 50".
An early BID fails
Channel 50 in Detroit was originally allocated to WBID-TV in 1955. Owned by Max Osnos' Woodward Broadcasting (who also owned WITI in Milwaukee), WBID planned on broadcasting from the Cadillac Tower in downtown Detroit. However, WBID never made it to the air—and neither did WTOH-TV in Toledo, Ohio, Channel 79, another proposed station owned by Woodward Broadcasting. (Both WBID and WTOH planned on taking at least some programming from the failing DuMont Television Network.) It would be another decade Detroiters would finally see programming on Channel 50.
WKBD first went on the air on January 10, 1965, under the ownership of Kaiser Broadcasting, the broadcasting arm of Kaiser Aluminum. It started as an all-sports station, predating ESPN by some 14 years. It eventually became a typical UHF independent station running cartoons, sitcoms and old movies. WKBD has broadcasted in color since it first went on the air in 1965. Some locally produced programs such as Lou Gordon were broadcast in black and white until the station upgraded to color cameras in the late 60's. (WKBD briefly went network in the spring of 1967, when it became the Detroit affiliate of the short-lived United Network.) For many years it had an afternoon movie hosted by Detroit legend Bill Kennedy. WKBD also produced a hard-hitting weekly talk show, The Lou Gordon Program, which was seen between the late 1960s through 1977 on all Kaiser stations (and a few non-Kaiser outlets). However, sports remained a central part of WKBD's schedule, and it was the over-the-air home for Red Wings hockey and Pistons basketball for many years, as well as Tigers baseball for a decade.
Changes in the 1970s and '80s
Field Communications, which owned WFLD-TV in Chicago, bought a minority interest in Kaiser in 1972. Field bought the remainder of Kaiser's shares in 1977. Two years later, the station added the -TV suffix to its legal call sign. Over the years, WKBD was the leading independent in Detroit, running a typical schedule of cartoons, off-network sitcoms and old movies. Channel 50 was carried on cable systems throughout Michigan, even deep into the Upper Peninsula. At one point in the early 1980s, WKBD was the only independent station running a full time schedule of entertainment.
In 1982, Field put all its stations up for sale. However, Field had a difficult time selling WKBD-TV for the amount of money it wanted. As a result Field was forced to hold onto channel 50, which at the time was one of the country's top-rated independents. In late 1983, Cox Enterprises offered to buy the station, which they did on January 30, 1984. Shortly thereafter, the station dropped the -TV suffix, becoming simply WKBD once again. The programming remained the same as before, with one notable exception: in the late 1980s WKBD began airing Late Night with David Letterman when NBC affiliate WDIV (channel 4) declined to clear it.
From Fox to UPN
The station retained its title as the leading independent station in the Detroit market until 1986, when it became a charter affiliate of the Fox network, later adopting the name Fox 50. Channel 50 was later sold to the Paramount Stations Group in June 1993 (the station group's owners at the time, Paramount Communications - previously Gulf+Western - actually descended from a small company located in Michigan). Even though WKBD was one of Fox's strongest affiliates, it lost the Fox affiliation to WJBK-TV (channel 2), Detroit's longtime CBS affiliate, on December 11, 1994. This was a result of WJBK's owner, New World Communications, making a group deal with Fox to switch the affiliation of nearly all of its stations to Fox (which then bought most New World stations in 1997).
WKBD briefly went independent again until January 1995, when it became Detroit's UPN Owned-and-operated station through Paramount's stake in that new network. It was the first network O&O in Detroit in ten years since ABC sold off WXYZ-TV to Scripps, predating the sale of WGPR (now WWJ-TV) to CBS in 1995. Channel 50's programming was unchanged from its days as a Fox affiliate except for the Prime time programming provided by UPN. Eventually, the older sitcoms were replaced with more first-run syndicated talk or reality shows. Fox Kids stayed on WKBD until 1998, when it moved to WADL (channel 38). WKBD continued to maintain a morning cartoon block that became the "UPN Kids Disney Block" until UPN ended cartoons in the Fall of 2003.
In 2000, Paramount's post-1994 parent Viacom acquired CBS, a move that united channel 50 with WWJ-TV channel 62, which CBS acquired in 1995 after losing its affiliation contract with WJBK. After the merger, WWJ-TV moved from its facilities in downtown Detroit to WKBD's Southfield studios.
The CW in Detroit
On January 24, 2006, the UPN and WB networks announced they would merge into a single network called the CW, to be owned jointly by CBS and the Warner Bros. Television unit of Time Warner. WKBD was chosen as the CW's Detroit affiliate, and the station continued to carry UPN programming until September 15, 2006, when UPN ceased operations. The CW commenced operations on September 18, 2006. Today, WKBD has a format primarily of first-run syndicated talk, courtroom and reality shows, some recent off-network sitcoms and CW first-run programming in prime time. Effective July 9, 2009, the station's legal call sign became WKBD-TV once again.
WKBD was first licensed for its digital facility in January, 2001. As part of the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, WKBD-TV shut down its analog transmitter on June 12, 2009, and continued to broadcast on its pre-transition digital channel 14. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display WKBD-TV's virtual channel as 50.
Newscasts and public affairs programming
Under Field Communications ownership, WKBD aired a brief newscast at various times of the day, typically called Newscene (or alternately News Scene), similar to that of other Field-owned stations at the time, such as WFLD in Chicago. In 1968, WKBD began newscasts at 10PM.
For much of its existence under Cox, Paramount and Viacom, WKBD produced the only television newscast in Detroit at 10 p.m. Originally a half-hour program, "The Ten O'Clock News" expanded to a full hour in 1989. After going through several name changes to coincide with the changes in ownership and network affiliations over the years, in December 2002 UPN Detroit Nightside was cancelled after nearly 15 years on the air, along with the 62 CBS Eyewitness News at 11 which aired on sister station WWJ-TV. WXYZ-TV, Detroit's ABC affiliate, agreed to continue producing a 10 p.m news for WKBD using WXYZ's studio and staff along with some of the former WKBD staff, but many long-time Channel 50 employees simply lost their jobs. This arrangement ended in 2005 and WKBD no longer broadcasts news at 10 p.m. The time slot was filled with off-network syndicated shows, such as repeats of sitcoms like The King Of Queens and According to Jim. On February 7, 2011, "First Forecast Mornings" premiered in the 7-9am time slot. The live program showcases weather, traffic and news headlines and is an updated version of the same program airing from 5-7am on sister station WWJ-TV.
Tara Wall, now a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, is a former WKBD news reporter and former host of the public affairs program "Street Beat". This program is now hosted by Detroit Free Press columnist Carol Cain and airs every other Sunday morning.
Notable former on-air staff
- Kelly Jackson, (Now at KXTV-10 ABC in Sacramento, CA since Apr. '07)
- Amyre Makupson
- Pallas Hupé, (Now at KOVR-13 CBS in Sacramento, CA since Feb. '06)
- David Scott
- Tara Wall
- Rich Fisher, (Formerly of WXYZ-TV and WJBK-TV)
- Harry Hairston, (Now at WCAU-10 NBC in Philadelphia, PA since Jan. '04)
- Kristin Smith - now with KSA
- TV-50 Newscene (1970s-1980s)
- TV-50 Ten O'Clock News (1980s-1995)
- UPN 50 Ten O'Clock News (1995–2002)
- UPN Detroit Nightside (2002)
- UPN Detroit Action News (produced by WXYZ-TV; 2002–2004)
- In Detroit, The Choice Is Yours, on TV 50 (1978–1983; local version of Field Communications O&O ad campaign) 
- In Detroit, The Kids' Choice Is, TV 50 (1978–1983; local version of Field Communications O&O ad campaign during kids' programming)
- Don't Let TV-50 Weekends Pass You By (1987-1988; localized version of the Fox slogan)
- Fox 50, This is The Year (1988-1990; localized version of the Fox slogan)
- It's On Fox 50 (1990-1992; localized version of the Fox slogan)
- Everyone Knows It's on Fox 50 (1992-1993; localized version of the Fox slogan)
- A Good Hour Ahead (used for news promotion 1989-1992)
- Your Ten O’Clock News Station (1996–1997)
- Straight To The Point (used for news promotion 1998-2004)
- You’ll Find Your Friends (1998–2000)
- It’s One Hot Number (2000–2001)
- Big (2001–2002)
- It’s All About U (2004–2005; reference to former UPN affiliation)
- U Got It! (2005–2006; reference to former UPN affiliation)
- Free To Be (2006–2007; also the slogan for The CW)
- Contagious Watching (2007–2009)
- Made in Michigan (2009–present)
WKBD produced and broadcast Detroit Red Wings hockey telecasts from 1965 to 2003, with a 2-year hiatus in the '80s when they were on another station. Detroit Tigers baseball games were broadcast on the station from 1994 to 2005, while Detroit Pistons basketball games were broadcast from 1972 to May 2004. Detroit Lions preseason football was broadcast 1992 to 1996 and again from 2004 to 2009. The station also produced occasional Pre- and Post-game shows for all four professional teams. WKBD aired special coverage of the Red Wings' Stanley Cup Celebration and parade ceremonies in 1997 and 1998, as well as carrying the final Tigers game played at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999. WMYD held the rights to the Pistons from 2004–2008, and WJBK occasionally aired Tigers games from 2004-2007. All three teams are now exclusively on Fox Sports Detroit. Coincidentally, WKBD was Detroit's first FOX affiliate, from 1986-1994.
On occasion (and regularly during preseason games), WKBD produced broadcasts of Detroit Lions football games, as well as Detroit Pistons basketball games, until the late 1980s when the Pistons decided to produce and distribute the games itself, with WKBD responsible for advertising. Both were simulcasted to other stations across Michigan, on a select list of affiliate stations.
On April 16, 2008, it was announced that its sister station, CBS O&O WWJ TV, will be the new home of The Detroit Lions exhibition games. The departure of long time sports producer Toby Cunningham (a part of CBS' budget cuts at all its O&Os) closes the book on the storied history of sports coverage by WKBD. WKBD is seen to broadcast the CBS programing on nights when WWJ-TV is holding the Detroit Lions games.
Out-of-market cable coverage
WKBD is available on many cable systems in Southeast Michigan, Southwestern Ontario, and Northwest Ohio. Outside of the Detroit area, however, most programming on WKBD is subject to Syndex territorial restrictions placed on cable systems by the local TV rights holders. During the affected programming, cable systems either switch to another channel, or place a text notice on the screen that says something like: "This channel is being blacked out due to FCC regulations."
In 1994, when Fox switched in Detroit from WKBD to WJBK, many Michigan cable systems outside the Detroit area replaced WKBD with WGKI from Cadillac, in order to keep Fox available in the Upper Peninsula. However, in areas where Fox was already available locally, mainly in the southern and central Michigan markets (especially the Tri-Cities), much of WGKI's programming was blacked out. In 1996, some systems that dropped WKBD for WGKI brought WKBD back.
Following the launch of The CW, WKBD began to be dropped from cable systems outside of the Detroit market, in favor of local or nearest CW or MyNetworkTV affiliates. Coverage on cable systems outside the Detroit / Windsor market may be subject to SyndEx and network blackouts in the United States.
Station Talent from over the Years
- ^ Telecasting Yearbook, 1955-56
- ^ TV goes digital this morning, Catherine Jun and Santiago Esparza • The Detroit News • June 12, 2009
- ^ CDBS Print
- ^ a b Detroit News August 6, 2008 Lions will debut on new home station, WWJ-TV[dead link]
- ^ FSN Detroit Nets Pro Sports 3 pointer