One of Chicago’s last locally-owned independent television stations is going network.
The station long known as “The U” will be rebranded as “The CW26” and begin carrying the network’s primetime lineup from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday — including such shows as “Riverdale,” “The Flash” and “Arrow” — along with children’s programming on Saturday mornings.
Since 2016 The CW Network has been airing without much success on Fox-owned WPWR-Channel 50, the low-rated sister station of WFLD-Channel 32. For 10 years before that, CW programming aired on Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9, although the station retained its branding as “Chicago Very Own.”
Coinciding with the new affiliation, Weigel Broadcasting will shift The U to WCUU-Channel 26.2, a separate subchannel it currently brands as “The U Too.” That’s where it will move “ABC7 Eyewitness News on The U” at 7 p.m., and debut a new syndicated talk show hosted by Tamron Hall at 8 p.m. The subchannel will be available over the air on Channel 26.2 as well as on major cable systems.
Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting, said he was confident in the company's strategy to promote the change through an extensive marketing campaign in the coming months. “If you don’t take risks, you don’t get rewards,” he told me.
From 1989 to 1994, WCIU was an affiliate of the Univision Spanish-language network. Since then it's been fully independent.
In his official statement, Sabin said: “About 25 years ago WCIU became The U and changed the television landscape in Chicago. Now we are embarking on an ambitious plan to once again elevate WCIU and The CW Network’s presence here as a lively and local destination for entertaining and engaging television. We will all have a lot of fun and excitement to share with Chicago’s new The CW26.”
Chris Brooks, executive vice president of network distribution for The CW, said: "We are thrilled to partner with Weigel Broadcasting and WCIU, The CW’s new home in Chicago, where viewers can continue to enjoy The CW's popular, critically-acclaimed primetime programming. The CW has continued to grow with popular shows such as 'Riverdale' and 'The Flash,' and our relationship with WCIU is a perfect opportunity to add to that momentum in Chicago.”
A joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS, The CW Network was formed in 2006 when UPN and The WB merged.
As The CW26, WCIU will continue to air its current non-primetime programming, including the weekday morning talk show “The Jam” and such sitcoms as “Seinfeld,” “Mike & Molly” and “The King of Queens” as well as syndicated court shows “The People’s Court” and “Judge Mathis.” Starting this fall the new "Tamron Hall" is expected to have a second daily airing weekday afternoons on the CW26.
“Today’s technology allows us to create The CW26 on WCIU while continuing to grow The U as well," Sabin added. "The power of two local brands means more choice for our viewers and options for our advertisers."
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