WFTS-TV - History


WFTS-TV first went on the air on December 14, 1981 as an independent station. Being a flagship of the locally-based Family Group Broadcasting, the station programmed a family-oriented general entertainment format with cartoons, off-network dramas, old movies and religious shows. Its call letters originally stood for Family Television Station. An era of local ownership ended on April 22, 1984, when it was acquired by Capital Cities Communications. It was Capital Cities' first station in Florida, the group's first—and only—independent station, and was also the last station acquired by the group prior to its merger with ABC. The first incarnation of channel 28 was to have been WTSS-TV, an affiliate of the DuMont Television Network in the 1950s. It is very likely that that station never made it to air.

Under Capital Cities, the station added more off-network sitcoms and reduced the number of religious shows and dramas on its schedule. In 1986, Capital Cities stunned the world with its purchase of ABC—the network was ten times bigger than CapCities was at the time. CapCities owned several ABC affiliates, and two CBS affiliates: KFSN-TV (channel 30) in Fresno and WTVD (channel 11) in Durham, North Carolina. The company's combined assets exceeded Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits at the time, so CapCities decided to keep its CBS affiliates and change their affiliations to ABC, along with longtime ABC affiliates WPVI-TV (channel 6) in Philadelphia and KTRK-TV (channel 13) in Houston, and sold WFTS and ABC owned-and operated station in Detroit, WXYZ-TV (channel 7), to the E. W. Scripps Company, while selling several other stations to minority-owned firms. WXYZ would figure in WFTS' history once again less than a decade later.

Scripps continued the format on WFTS, running cartoons, sitcoms, movies, and dramas. A 10 p.m. newscast was planned for the station, but did not come to fruition. WFTS picked up the Fox affiliation in 1988 after WTOG (channel 44) dropped it and the station began to identify on air as "Fox 28", and soon after briefly identified its call letters as standing for Fox Television Station.

On May 22, 1994, New World Communications came to an agreement with Fox, and most of New World's stations, including WTVT (channel 13), Tampa Bay's longtime CBS affiliate, were to affiliate with Fox. Among the stations making the switch were longtime CBS affiliates WJBK (channel 2) in Detroit and WJW (channel 8) in Cleveland. Not wanting to be relegated to the UHF band, CBS heavily wooed Detroit's longtime ABC affiliate, WXYZ, as well as Cleveland's longtime ABC affiliate, WEWS-TV (channel 5); both stations were owned by Scripps. With this as leverage, Scripps told ABC that it would have to affiliate with four other stations owned by Scripps: WFTS, KNXV-TV (channel 15) in Phoenix (which was also due to lose its Fox affiliation to a New World station), WMAR-TV (channel 2) in Baltimore and WCPO-TV (channel 9) in Cincinnati -- the latter had to wait for ABC's affiliation contract with WKRC-TV (channel 12) to expire in June 1996 to switch. Scripps insisted on including WFTS and KNXV in the deal even though neither had a news department.

As a result in December 1994, WFTS assumed the ABC affiliation from longtime affiliate WTSP (channel 10), which took over the CBS affiliation from WTVT. WFTS then sent most of its syndicated programming to WTTA (channel 38), WTOG and/or WTMV (channel 32, now WMOR-TV), which would also air Fox Kids. A decade later, WFTS became one of three Florida television stations, and one of the many Scripps-owned ABC affiliates that preempted Saving Private Ryan.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota is the fourth largest market with a major network appearing in the UHF channel range (14-51); although most digital television stations broadcast on a UHF frequency, most also identify through the use of a PSIP virtual channel as being on the VHF band, corresponding with the stations' former analog channel numbers. Because WFTS was formerly on UHF analog channel 28, it continues to identify as channel 28 through the use of PSIP. The larger markets with a major network in the UHF channel range are Phoenix (KNXV-TV, virtual channel 15), Atlanta (WGCL-TV, virtual channel 46) and Detroit (WWJ-TV, virtual channel 62). KNXV is an ABC affiliate while WGCL is an CBS affiliate and WWJ is a CBS owned and operated station.

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