|Owner||Fox Television Stations, LLC|
First air date
|April 20, 1966|
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|Washington, District of Columbia Area|
("DCA" is also the airport code for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport)
|HAAT||235 m (771 ft)|
Public license information
WDCA (channel 20), branded on-air as Fox 5 Plus, is a television station in Washington, D.C., airing programming from MyNetworkTV. It is owned and operated by Fox Television Stations alongside Fox outlet WTTG (channel 5). WDCA and WTTG share studios on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland. Through a channel sharing agreement, the stations transmit using WTTG's spectrum from a tower also located in Bethesda at WDCA's former studio facilities on River Road (WDCA previously used this tower from its inception in 1966 until the digital TV transition in 2009).
WDCA-TV signed on as an independent station on April 20, 1966; it was originally owned by the Capitol Broadcasting Corporation. Channel 20 was Washington's third independent station, nearly 20 years younger than its future sister station WTTG, which had been founded as a DuMont affiliate, and after WOOK-TV, the nation's first African American-oriented television station. Veteran Washington broadcaster Milton Grant, who previously worked at WTTG, was president of Capitol Broadcasting, and also served as WDCA's founding general manager. Grant would sell channel 20 three years later in 1969 to the Superior Tube Company, although he would stay on as WDCA's general manager for the next decade.
In 1977, WDCA broke into local sports by signing a five-year deal for full live coverage of mostly road games for the nascent Washington Capitals, replacing WTOP-TV (channel 9)'s sporadic and often tape-delayed and edited coverage, which even its then-sister newspaper The Washington Post called "revolting". WDCA entered into a similar deal with the Washington Bullets the same year, also replacing WTOP-TV. The station began splitting coverage of both teams with cable channel Home Team Sports (now NBC Sports Washington) in 1984, an arrangement that continued until both teams moved their over-the-air games to WFTY (channel 50) in 1995. It was also the home of the Baltimore Orioles.
In 1979, Superior Tube sold WDCA to Cincinnati-based Taft Broadcasting, but only after an earlier proposed sale to the Chicago-based Tribune Company fell through. In the 1970s and 1980s, WDCA's best-known personality was Dick Dyszel, who played Bozo the Clown, horror movie host "Count Gore de Vol", and kids show host "Captain 20", and also served as the station's main announcer. The station was also home to Petey Greene's Washington, an Emmy Award-winning show featuring the wit, wisdom and observations of Ralph "Petey" Greene, civil-rights activist and native Washingtonian.
Under Taft's stewardship, channel 20 became very profitable. As Taft upgraded the programming (much of which was distributed by new sister company Worldvision Enterprises, especially Hanna-Barbera cartoons), WDCA gained higher ratings but still trailed WTTG overall.
Channel 20 also became a regional superstation appearing on cable television systems up and down the East Coast. At its height, it was available on nearly every cable provider in Maryland and Virginia, and was carried as far south as Charlotte, North Carolina and as far north as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As early as 1987 – when it was displaced on Charlotte-area cable providers by upstart independent station WJZY (later a sister station to WDCA under Fox ownership) – WDCA began losing most of its out-of-market cable audience as more independent stations signed on in its former cable footprint. However, it is still available on several cable providers in Maryland and Virginia.
In February 1987, Taft sold WDCA and its other independent and Fox-affiliated stations to the Norfolk, Virginia-based TVX Broadcast Group. At the same time, the station dropped its longtime branding of "TV20" and became known as "DC20". The Taft purchase created a debt load for TVX and the sale of their smaller-market stations did not fully reduce the debt. In early 1989, TVX sold a minority interest in the company to Paramount Pictures. Two years later, in 1991, Paramount bought TVX's remaining shares and became full owner of the stations, which were renamed as the Paramount Stations Group and, as a result, WDCA changed its branding to "Paramount 20", like its Houston sister station KTXH. The original Viacom purchased the group as part of its acquisition of Paramount Pictures in 1993.
In 1994, Chris-Craft Industries and its broadcasting subsidiary, United Television, partnered with Viacom's newly acquired subsidiary Paramount Pictures to form the United Paramount Network (UPN). WDCA became the network's Washington area station when the network debuted on January 16, 1995. At the network's launch, WDCA was an affiliate of UPN as Chris-Craft had wholly owned the network at the time; the following year in 1996, Viacom (whose relationship to UPN was initially in the form of a programming partnership) bought a 50% ownership stake in UPN from Chris-Craft; this effectively turned channel 20 into a UPN owned-and-operated station through Viacom's part-ownership (Viacom later bought CBS and Chris-Craft's remaining 50% interest in UPN in 2000).
In summer 2001, Viacom traded WDCA to the News Corporation's Fox Television Stations unit (along with KTXH in Houston) in exchange for KBHK-TV in San Francisco, resulting in the creation of the first television duopoly in the Washington, D.C. market, which was made final on October 29, 2001. Fox merged the two stations' operations, with WDCA moving from its longtime studios in Bethesda, Maryland, into WTTG's facilities on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Washington's Friendship Heights neighborhood. WTTG was itself once related to Paramount Pictures – it was originally an O&O of the DuMont Television Network, which Paramount had owned in part.
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Time Warner announced that UPN and The WB would be shut down, to be replaced by a new network that would feature some of the higher-rated programs from both networks called The CW Television Network. WB affiliate WBDC (channel 50, now WDCW) was announced as Washington's CW station, due to its owner Tribune Broadcasting having signed a 10-year affiliation agreement for 16 of the company's 19 WB stations. The day after the announcement of The CW's formation (January 25, 2006), Fox removed all network references from the on-air branding of its UPN affiliates, and stopped promoting UPN programs altogether. WDCA accordingly changed its branding from "UPN 20" to "DCA 20", and altered its logo to replace UPN's logo with the "DCA" lettering.
The formation of MyNetworkTV, with WDCA and the other Fox-owned UPN stations as the nuclei, was announced on February 22, 2006, less than one month later. With the impending switch to MyNetworkTV, channel 20's on-air branding was changed to "My 20" beginning on May 5, 2006. Despite MyNetworkTV's announcement that its launch date would be September 5, 2006, UPN continued to broadcast on stations across the country until September 15, 2006. While some UPN affiliates that switched to MyNetworkTV aired the final two weeks of UPN programming outside its regular primetime period, WDCA and the rest of the network's Fox-owned affiliates dropped UPN's programming entirely on August 31, 2006.
WDCA shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 20, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal continued to broadcast on its pre-transition UHF channel 35. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 20.
WDCA's digital signal had been very weak due to a problem with Washington, D.C. in constructing a new transmitter tower. However, around August 10, 2006, it was operating at full power and the signal became receivable in the suburbs.
In the second quarter 2013, WDCA became an initial affiliate of Movies!. In 2012, the station was a charter O&O of the Spanish-language network MundoFox, which officially launched on August 13 over its third subchannel. It left the network around August 2015 when a change in ownership in MundoFox saw Fox's interest in the network end and its renaming to MundoMax. Two months later the 20.3 subchannel became home to Heroes & Icons.
On April 4, 2017, the FCC announced that WDCA was a winner in the 2016-17 spectrum reallocation auction and in return receive $119 million for the frequency. WDCA ceased broadcasting its own signal over channel 35 on July 18, 2018, but continues over-the-air coverage by sharing WTTG's spectrum.
On April 17, 2017, Fox announced that WDCA would be re-branded as "Fox 5 Plus" on July 17, 2017 to provide better name recognition with and aligning it as an extension of its sister station WTTG. The channel continues to air its current lineup of MyNetworkTV (initially on a one-hour delay from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m., moved to 10:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m. on September 25, and 11:00 p.m.–1:00 a.m. as of 2020) and syndicated programming, but has also introduced a new 8:00 p.m. primetime newscast produced by WTTG.
Syndicated programs currently on WDCA are Family Feud, The Big Bang Theory, and The Good Dish, among others. WDCA was also the longtime Washington-market affiliate for Raycom Sports' coverage of Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball until its syndication rights ended in 2019.
In July 1995, WDCA experimented with a half-hour nightly 10:00 p.m. newscast called UPN 20 News at 10 to compete with future sister station WTTG's longer-running prime time newscast. The newscast was produced by regional cable news channel NewsChannel 8. The newscast was discontinued in the summer of 1996.
In October 2006, while WTTG aired Fox Sports' coverage of the 2006 Major League Baseball postseason, the first half-hour of that station's 10 p.m. newscast was broadcast by WDCA under the title Fox 5 News at Ten: Special Edition; this also occurred in 2007, with the WDCA broadcast of the program being titled My 20 News at 10.
As previously mentioned, WDCA began airing a prime time newscast, Fox 5 News on the Plus, on July 17, 2017, as a half-hour broadcast on weekdays and a full hour on weekends. News updates would also air throughout the day. With Fox's duopoly in Washington, WTTG's news may run on WDCA if live sporting events run over on WTTG. As of 2022, WDCA airs half-hour 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. newscasts on weeknights, an hour-long 7 p.m. newscast on Saturdays, and a half-hour 7 p.m. newscast on Sundays.
In February 2022, WDCA began simulcasting programming from Fox Weather. This programming airs from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekdays, with an extra hour from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. With the activation of a fourth subchannel, Fox Weather was added to WDCA on August 31, 2022.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|20.1||720p||16:9||WDCA||Main WDCA programming / MyNetworkTV|
|20.3||HEROES||Heroes & Icons|
((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
(A)mong the assets that will remain behind as part of Fox Corp.: MyNetworkTV.