WGN America (formerly known as "Superstation WGN" or "WGN Superstation") is a Chicago-based American superstation for WGN-TV, owned by Tribune Broadcasting Company. WGN America offers its national programming across North America without the CW network programming that is carried on the Chicago area feed. It is the only remaining national superstation after TBS became a regular cable channel on October 1, 2007 (although WGN America is still not available on most cable systems in the New England region of the United States).
WGN America is available via satellite to DirecTV and Dish Network as well as cable in the United States as well as through some smaller Canadian cable companies; most Canadian viewers which previously received the previous Superstation WGN feed now receive the WGN-TV Chicago feed. In the Chicago metropolitan area, WGN America is not available on cable or terrestrial digital but is available to DirecTV and Dish Network.
|Network||The WB/Kids' WB (1995-1999)|
|Owned by||Tribune Company|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)1080i (HDTV)|
|Slogan||Everywhere America Calls Home (general)Chicago's Very Own (used during WGN newscasts) |
|Broadcast area||United States|
New York (sales)
|Formerly called||WGN (1978-2001)
WGN Superstation (2001-2002) Superstation WGN (2002-2008)
|Sister channel(s)||WGN-TV, CLTV|
|Galaxy 14||Transponder 13 (DVB)|
|DirecTV||Channel 307 (SD/HD)|
|Dish Network||Channel 239|
|Available on most cable systems||Check local listings for channels|
|Verizon FiOS||Channel 568 (HD)
Check local listings for SD channel location
|AT&T U-verse||Channel 180 (SD)
Channel 1180 (HD)
WGN America has no separate coastal feeds; as such, channel promos refer to shows airing at the same time on the Eastern Time Zone and the Pacific Time Zone (ex., America's Funniest Home Videos would be advertised as airing at "7 p.m. East/4 p.m. West", which it has used since the rebrand in lieu of referring to those zones as Eastern and Pacific). As a result, the weekday noon and nightly 9 p.m. newscasts from WGN-TV air in the Central Time Zone at the same time as the Pacific, Mountain and Eastern time zones, but is shown earlier or later depending on the location.
Differences between Chicago and national
In October 1978, United Video uplinked the signal of WGN-TV Channel 9 in Chicago to the Satcom-3 satellite for cable and satellite subscribers nationwide. For over 11 years, the national program schedule was the same as Chicago's.
In 1989, a new law known as Syndication Exclusivity Rule, or "SyndEx", was passed. This law means that whenever a local station has the exclusive rights to air a syndicated program in their market, it must be blacked out on any out-of-town stations by the local cable company. On January 1, 1990, a separate national feed of WGN-TV was launched to avoid any blackouts, save for some sports programming, similar to WWOR-TV's "WWOR EMI Service", only with fewer blackouts.
One major programming difference between the national and Chicago area feeds is that WGN America does not carry CW Network programming (which does appear on WGN-TV Chicago), as that network is available in most markets around the country. Superstation WGN did carry programming from the former WB Network nationwide (which Tribune had an ownership interest in) from the network's launch in 1995 until 1999, when local station coverage was deemed sufficient enough by Time Warner and Tribune to discontinue airing The WB on Superstation WGN, giving the network an early advantage over UPN (which declined to allow former superstation WWOR to carry their network nationwide). Moreover, some markets with Tribune-owned stations do not have WGN America on analog or digital cable. During this period, Superstation WGN also carried Kids' WB, which was carried only on the Superstation due to WGN's local morning newscast (It was seen in Chicago at the time on WCIU-TV, channel 26).
Change to WGN America
On May 24, 2008, Superstation WGN formally changed its name to WGN America. Initially, its use was limited to promos, as the Superstation WGN idents remained in use. The new name and logo (which was similar to the 1988-1997 logo used by The Movie Channel) went into fulltime use on the channel on Memorial Day, May 26, 2008; the new logo was also the first used by the superstation feed to not include a variant of WGN-TV's logo. The channel would soon begin a slow change in its programming lineup, starting with the Sunday night "Out of Sight Retro Night" block, featuring older programs such as WKRP in Cincinnati, Newhart and The Honeymooners, some of which aired on WGN prior to the syndex era, or even after the start of syndex on the Chicago signal only.
A few shows, such as former WGN staples U.S. Farm Report and Soul Train, had been dropped, mostly due to the dissolution of Tribune's television studio division. The transition process for a full rebranding was expected to take 12 to 18 months. In late July 2008, the network's logo bug was revised - the eyes element of the logo morphed into the words WGN America, and have also remained a part of the general logo in all other uses until the beginning of 2009. From January to April 2009, the text of the WGN America logo bug became the main logo with the eyes element.
In April 2009, WGN America rebranded the channel, with a new retro-style logo (which was given a slight update on July 1, 2010 with the rounded trapezoid containing the "WGN" simplified into rounded squares and the word "america" spaced), a new five note sounder equivalent to the NBC chimes (this same sounder is also in use on WGN Radio in Chicago), new graphics, a new slogan ("Everywhere America Calls Home"), and new original programming. The channel did so to increase cable carriage outside the network's traditional carriage area and position itself as a general entertainment channel that programs to the entire nation, not just Chicago and the Midwest. 
Main article: List of programs broadcast by WGN AmericaThe network now relies primarily on a variety of re-runs and movies, such as I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, America's Funniest Home Videos (from the Bergeron and Fugelsang/Fuentes era of that series), Scrubs, 7th Heaven, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Cosby Show, South Park, In the Heat of the Night and Matlock. Other programs that the network features at times are Coach and NewsRadio. As of September 2009, the only "SyndEx-proof" shows airing on WGN America that air on the local Chicago feed are the religious program Singsation!, the local public affairs program People to People, Legend of the Seeker, Smash Cuts and WWE Superstars.
Films, which formed the majority of the station's primetime schedule until the "Superstation WGN" branding era, also continue to air on the network, but mostly in weekend time periods. However, the channel does still air movie presentations on weeknights with the "Drive-in Theater" on Tuesdays (the title is also used for its weekend movie presentations), "Way Back Wednesday with Winslow", featuring films released in the 1980s and hosted by Michael Winslow of Police Academy fame and the Friday night "Movie Underground", hosted by Marc Chase and April Rose (portraying "The Night Watchman" and "The Nightie Watchman", respectively). Monday primetime is reserved for a three-hour block of America's Funniest Home Videos and Thursday primetime is reserved for WWE Superstars and America's Funniest Home Videos.
The channel at present is heavily reliant on classic series during the late morning and afternoon hours, and also airs a Sunday night classic comedy block called Outta Sight Retro Night, which consists of reruns of The Cosby Show, Newhart, Barney Miller and Cheers. The lineup starts at 5:00 p.m. ET, breaks away at 10:00 p.m. ET for WGN News at Nine and Instant Replay, and resumes from 11-2 a.m. ET.
In recent years, WGN America has acquired syndication rights to series that have ran previously on the channel in first-run form in the mid-late 1990s when it carried WB network programming, 7th Heaven is the only such show currently airing on WGN America, with The Wayans Bros., Sister, Sister and The Parent 'Hood having aired in the past. Between 2006 and 2009, WGN America ran sitcoms aimed at teen and preteen audiences during the mid-afternoon hours, such as Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and Sister, Sister, only to move these shows to late night graveyard slots, when the show's target audiences are usually not awake, after a short time and eventually dropped them, likely due to the restructuring of Tribune's television division and a deal with the Disney Channel which proved too expensive to maintain.
WGN America programming chief Sean Compton revealed the new fall 2010 line-up in an October edition of Variety. It was revealed that for over a year WGN America had been quietly buying hit off-network sitcoms. In September 2010 the hit TV shows How I Met Your Mother, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Entourage join the line-up. It was also revealed that 30 Rock will be joining the line-up in September 2011 along with another sitcom Compton would not reveal. The syndicated edited version of South Park recently joined the network's line-up. In a Chicago Tribune article it was mentioned that the network will look entirely different come fall 2010 when the new shows sign on.
On August 21, 2008, it was announced that radio hosts Bob and Tom would join the WGN America line-up on November 3, 2008; the video simulcast of that show is produced for Tribune's Indianapolis sister operation WXIN/WTTV by B&T flagship station WFBQ. Originally airing in a standard late night slot, it has since been moved to overnights.
In April 2010, WGN America announced it would begin carrying Earl Pitts Uhmerikun, a television version of the radio commentary series created by Gary Burbank, it began airing that same month. Burbank has long been close with the current Tribune Company management, who approached him about bringing the series to television. The commentary is aired in the form of a series of 90-second short segments airing usually during WGN-TV newscasts.
Newscasts and other WGN-TV programming
WGN America's national feed does not carry the WGN Morning News (it is claimed that the newscast was dropped in 1996 due to SyndEx rules on some segments), the 11 a.m.-noon portion of the WGN Midday News or the 5 p.m. newscast (there is no known reason why the 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts are not cleared on the superstation feed; these newscasts are however carried via live streaming on WGNTV.com), but it does air the Noon-1 p.m. portion of its midday newscast and the 9 p.m. newscast (all times Central) and the Sunday night sports highlight show Instant Replay. The Illinois Lottery weekday midday (around 12:40 p.m./CT) and nightly (around 9:20 p.m./CT) drawings air during their respective newscasts, and the Tuesday and Friday night Mega Millions and Wednesday and Saturday night Powerball multi-state lottery drawings airing immediately after the 9 p.m. news also air on WGN America.
Currently, WGN America airs a total of 12 hours of newscasts from WGN-TV each week (two hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); however, the nightly newscast is occasionally pre-empted on WGN America due to certain sporting events airing on WGN-TV that are not cleared to air outside of Chicago or if a primetime movie on WGN America runs past 10 p.m. ET, even while a newscast airs on WGN-TV; an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos (either one from the 2001-present Tom Bergeron run airing at 10 p.m. ET if the newscast is preempted outside of Chicago due to a sporting event not cleared to air on WGN America or one from the 1997-1999 Daisy Fuentes-John Fugelsang run if a primetime movie ends at 10 p.m. ET) will typically air in its place in the event the newscast is to be preempted.
Other local programs carried on the local Chicago area feed that are also carried on the Superstation feed include the Saturday morning public affairs programs Adelante, Chicago and People to People, select movies (though they are aired in different timeslots than they air on WGN-TV Chicago) and the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. WGN America also simulcasts or airs on a delayed basis other Chicago-based programs produced by WGN's local department, such as local parades, event coverage, or retrospective shows on WGN's past.
WGN America airs all Cubs and White Sox baseball games televised on WGN-TV's local Chicago feed, as well as a select amount of Bulls basketball games. Due to NBA broadcast rights restrictions, most Bulls games contracted to air on WGN-TV are seen in the Chicago area only; WGN America airs movies and other syndicated programming instead. With former superstation TBS having moved its national broadcasts of the Atlanta Braves to its local Atlanta WPCH-TV feed in 2008, it leaves WGN as the only superstation broadcasting local sports to a national audience. WGN gained the over-the-air rights for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks in 2008. However, due to NHL broadcasting restrictions, these games are exclusive to WGN-TV and syndicated programming or movies air in its place on WGN America. This is despite the fact that many Chicago Blackhawks games are not aired often on other cable channel outlets nationally to a wide audience, except for on the NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package and select telecasts on NBC, NHL Network, Versus.
WGN in Canada
On January 17, 2007, many cable systems in Canada, as well as Star Choice (now Shaw Direct), switched to the WGN-TV Chicago feed, duplicating CW Network and many syndicated programs already available on other channels. This is a result of Shaw Broadcast Services (the main supplier of the WGN feed in Canada) switching to the local feed. It is believed that the switch was made to avoid fees required to carry Superstation WGN. WGN America continues to be carried on other cable systems in Canada (such as MTS TV), however Bell TV has been carrying the WGN-TV Chicago feed for several years.
WGN America HD
WGN America HD is a high definition simulcast of WGN America, broadcasting programming available in HD in the 1080i picture format. Cubs and White Sox baseball, Bulls basketball, WWE Superstars and WGN noon and 9 p.m. newscasts are currently broadcast in high definition. WGN-TV began broadcasting its newscasts in high definition on July 19, 2008. It is available on Cox Communications, Comcast, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS, Dish Network and other select cable providers. DirecTV added the HD channel on May 19, 2010.