WTOG, channel 44, is a television station in St. Petersburg, Florida. Owned by the CBS Corporation, WTOG serves as the Tampa Bay Area station for the co-owned The CW Television Network. Its transmitter is located in Riverview, Florida.
|St. Petersburg - Tampa, Florida|
|Slogan||TV To Talk About|
|Channels||Digital: 44 (UHF)|
(CBS Operations, Inc.)
|First air date||November 4, 1968|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
44 (1968-2009) Digital: 59 (1995-2009)
|Former affiliations||Independent (1968-1986 and 1988-1995)|
|Transmitter power||550 kW (digital)|
|Height||454 m (digital)|
|Transmitter coordinates||27°49′46″N82°15′59″W (digital)|
WTOG-TV began operations on November 4, 1968 as an independent station. It was originally owned by Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting. Initially, WTOG ran old movies, some low budget syndicated programs, a few off network westerns and sitcoms, and some cartoons. The station was on the air about 8 hours a day. In the station's early days, its slogan was "WTOG... as far as the eye can see", which was made famous by a 1970s station identification package. WTOG caught on with the viewers immediately; so much so, in fact, that it forced competitor WSUN-TV (channel 38, frequency now occupied by WTTA) off the air in 1970. For the rest of the 1970s and well into the 1980s, WTOG was the only independent station in the Tampa Bay area. A later campaign slogan was "44 is For You!" In the 1970's, WTOG gradually expanded their broadcast day. By 1972 the station signed on at 10:30 a.m. weekdays and about 1 p.m. weekdends. By 1976, WTOG was on the air daily by 7 a.m. Gradually, WTOG added better sitcoms, more cartoons, off network dramas, and better movies. While the station was profitable all along, the programming improved significantly in the late 1970's.
Becoming a superstation
This distinction finally ended in 1981, when WFTS-TV, then owned by Family Group Broadcasting, signed on. However, the station remained the clear leader in the market for the next two decades. In the early 1980s, the station's slogan was "We're 44...we show you the good life".
During the 1970s and 1980s, WTOG was seen on many cable systems in central and southwestern Florida. In the 1980s, WTOG also had a network of low-powered repeaters, with repeaters in Sebring, Inverness, Arcadia (in the Ft. Myers market), Ocala (Orlando market) and Okeechobee (West Palm Beach market). It billed itself as "Florida's Super Station", which "Covered Florida Like The Sun". There was also some consideration to put WTOG on cable in Tallahassee, but that never came to fruition.
WTOG was one of the most profitable independent television stations in the country. In fact, during the late 1970s, Ted Turner called the station to ask how it was that WTOG could be so profitable. It is believed[by whom?] that WTBS in Atlanta was modeled after WTOG.
From Fox to UPN
In 1986, WTOG became a charter affiliate of the new Fox Broadcasting Company. However, this relationship lasted only less than two years, as WTOG dropped the affiliation in 1988, sending it to WFTS, now owned by the E.W. Scripps Company. The station was still effectively independent during its time as a Fox affiliate, as Fox programming only comprised a small part of its schedule.
WTOG was largely unaffected by the affiliation swaps of 1994, which saw longtime CBS affiliate WTVT switch to Fox, WFTS going to ABC and longtime ABC affiliate WTSP go to CBS, but WTOG did become a charter UPN affiliate, aligning itself with the network at its launch in 1995. As with its days as a Fox affiliate, WTOG continued to program a traditional independent format during the day, with UPN programming shown during prime time. In the early 90's, WTOG still was running mostly cartoons both old and recent, classic sitcoms, recent sitcoms, drama shows, and older movies. Paramount Stations Group, a subsidiary of Viacom (with which Hubbard had co-owned the All News Channel) purchased the station in the Spring of 1996, swapping NBC affiliates WNYT in Albany, New York and WHEC in Rochester, New York to Hubbard in the process. Paramount wanted to get rid of its non-UPN stations. This made WTOG the first O&O in Tampa Bay. Soon after taking control, Paramount changed WTOG's on-air branding to "UPN44", which it kept for the remainder of UPN's run. By the late 1990's, older sitcoms (such as Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch) and older cartoons (such as The Woody Woodpecker Show) made way for talk shows, court shows (such as People's Court and Judge Mills Lane), and reality programs during the daytime. Recent cartoons (such as Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Garfield and Friends, DuckTales, Disney's Hercules and Disney's Doug) and recent sitcoms (such as Family Matters, Step by Step, All in the Family, Cheers [later on WTTA, then WMOR], Sister,Sister, Grace Under Fire, Roseanne, The Simpsons, Friends, Seinfeld, Mad About You and NewsRadio) continued to air but movies also were eliminated almost completely. Viacom bought CBS in 2000.
Ownership during the 2000s
There were rumors that The E. W. Scripps Company would buy WTOG from CBS Corporation (recently spun off from Viacom), thus creating a duopoly with ABC affiliate WFTS (who ironically had taken the FOX affiliation from WTOG in 1988). As of 2010, this has not occurred.
On January 24, 2006, it was announced that UPN and The WB would merge into a new network, The CW. The new network signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with 11 of CBS's UPN stations, including WTOG. The new network launched on September 18, 2006. Under current ownership, WTOG is one of two network O&Os in Tampa Bay, alongside Fox-owned WTVT. Gradually, cartoons would disappear from WTOG's schedule as with every broadcast station in the early 2000's. More reality and court shows would begin airing in place of that programming. The station continues to run some sitcoms in the evenings. In tha last 10 years, infomercials have also aired on the station overnights and early mornings.
WTOG had handled master control operations for its sister station, KEYE in Austin, Texas, until WTOG's master control, along with that of Atlanta's WUPA, were moved to sister CW affiliate WGNT in Norfolk, Virginia; twenty employees were laid off from WTOG even though CBS had previously denied that such would happen (). KEYE has since been sold to Cerberus Capital Management, through its Four Points Media Group. WGNT was sold to Local TV, the owner of that market's CBS affiliate WTKR, in August 2010. CBS is in the process of winding down operations at the Norfolk hub; when that is completed, WTOG and WUPA will once again be handling their own master controls in-house.
On cable, WTOG can be seen throughout the Tampa Bay area on Bright House and Verizon FiOS channel 4, and on Comcast channel 9 in the Sarasota and Venice headends. WTOG also has a translator in Sebring (W23CN channel 23)() and Inverness (W61AK Channel 61)(). WTOG has applied to make Sebring digital on channel 23 and Inverness digital on channel 26. As for the other translators, the Arcadia facilities have shut down while the Ocala station (W29AB) has since become a translator for Orlando's WKMG-TV.
In May 1999, after WTOG's news department closed, WTOG housed WFLA-TV one day, when WFLA had a power outage at their main studios in Downtown Tampa.
WTOG is one of two stations to have studios located in St. Petersburg alongside WTSP; the studios are located about a mile from each other, on or near Gandy Boulevard.
WTOG shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 44, on June 12, 2009, as part of the DTV transition in the United States. The station had been broadcasting its pre-transition digital signal over UHF channel 59, but returned to channel 44 for its post-transition operations, mainly due to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclaiming channels 52-69 for public safety and wireless devices.
WTOG's newscasts prior to 1982 was mainly at sign-on and sign-off, with the announcer reading the day's headlines over a slide. In the late-1970s and early-1980s, it featured a newsreader on camera reading the news during its morning discussion, Florida Daybreak. WTOG started using the Eyewitness News moniker in the late-1970s, though its news was still a rather staid, low-key affair, until they established a regular 10 PM newscast in 1982. At first, WTOG continued to use the Eyewitness News name, with Barbara Callahan (former co-host of WTOG's PM Magazine) and John Nicholson (formerly an anchor at WTVT) as co-anchors. In the early-1990s, it was renamed 44 News at Ten. By 1996, following Viacom's acquisition of WTOG, it became "UPN44 10 O'Clock News" (with the slogan "Live, Local, Late Breaking"), co-anchored by Callahan and Patrick Emory. WTOG's news department was discontinued in 1998 due to financial reasons and competition from WTVT.
- WTOG News (1968–1982)
- 44 Eyewitness News (1982–1985)
- Tampa Bay Tonight (1985–1988)
- 44 News at Ten (1988–1992)
- WTOG 44 News at Ten (1992–1995)
- UPN 44 News at Ten (1995–1998; newscasts were cancelled after 1998)
- WTOG, As Far as the Eye Can See (1970s)
- Florida's Super Station, Your 44 (1980s-1995)
- We're 44, We Show You the Good Life (1981–1983)
- Covering Florida Like the Sun (1985)
- Live, Local, Latebreaking (1995–1998; stopped using slogan after 1998)
- Tampa Bay's #1 Entertainment Station (2006–2008)
- TV To Talk About (2009–2013)
- CW44 TV Now (2013-present)
Notable former on-air and news staff
- Patrick Emory, anchor (1994–1998)
- Barbara Callahan, PM Magazine co-host (1980–1982); anchor (1982–1986; 1993–1998) (then deceased)
- John Nicholson, anchor (1982–1986)
- Sandra Cole, anchor (1988–1989) (now at WOWK)
- John ("J.P.") Peterson, sports (1997–1998, later worked at WFLA-TV, now at WQYK AM)
- Wendy Ross, weather (1983–1998) (now at WWSB)
- Justin Kiefer, weather (1997–1998, now at WMBB-TV)
- Kathryn Bursch, reporter (1980s-1990s, now at WTSP)
- Julie Brannon, anchor
- Jane Akre, anchor (1996)
- John Summer, anchor (1987–1994)
- Greg Starddard, reporter, back-up anchor, public affairs talk show host, (1985–1987), left for WTVT
- Monica Stokes, weekend anchor (-1998)
- Beasley Reece, sports (1986–1988, 1997–1998, now at KYW-TV).
- Bob Alvarez, sports (early-mid 1990s)
- Rob Stone, sports (late 1990s)
- Diane Roberts, anchor (1989–1993)
- Carmen Roberts, reporter (1980s)
- Jay Villwock, feature reporter (1980s-1990s, now at WOI-TV)
- Ken Suarez, reporter (1988–1998, now at WTVT)
- Stan Rhoads, Cinema 44 Cash Call
- Harry Hairston, reporter (1980s, now at WCAU-TV)
- Dan Tylman, reporter (-1998)
- Marie Rhodes, reporter (-1998)
- Marcie Cipriani, reporter (-1998, now at WTAE-TV)
- Cindi Dohan, reporter (-1998)
- Stacey Phillips, reporter (-1998)
- Jack Harris, various spots (1970s-1983)
- Randy Scott, sports director (1982–1987)
- Ray Perkins, "The Buc Report"
- Mary Rogers, 10pm anchor (-1993)
- Rob Sumner, reporter/anchor (1990–1994) Now in media relations
- Keith Meka (1994–1997) Reporter/Fill-In Anchor
- Al Pefley, (1980s) reporter