Charleston–Huntington, West Virginia
|Channels||Digital: 15 (UHF)|
|Branding||Tri-State's CW (general)|
WSAZ NewsChannel 3 (newscasts)
|Affiliations||30.1: The CW|
30.2: Heroes & Icons
30.3: Start TV
|Owner||Gray Television |
(Gray Television Licensee, LLC)
|Founded||December 5, 1984|
First air date
|October 5, 1998|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|HAAT||385.7 m (1,265 ft)|
Public license information
WQCW, virtual channel 30 (UHF digital channel 15), branded on air as Tri-State's CW, is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Portsmouth, Ohio, United States and serving the Charleston–Huntington, West Virginia market. It is one of two commercial television stations in the market licensed outside West Virginia (alongside WTSF, channel 61, in Ashland, Kentucky). Owned by Atlanta-based Gray Television, WQCW is part of a duopoly with Huntington-licensed NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV (channel 3). Both stations share studios on 5th Avenue in Huntington, while WQCW's transmitter is located on Barker Ridge near Milton.
Although a construction permit was issued for channel 30 in 1984 under the calls WUXA, no station signed on this channel until October 5, 1998, when WHCP signed on as an affiliate of The WB. It added UPN programming in 2000 after that network was dropped from Fox affiliate WVAH-TV, airing it off-pattern on weekends and after WB network time.
The station's analog transmitter, despite its over 2 million-watt ERP, was not strong enough to cover the entire Huntington–Charleston market, even though it identifies itself on-air as "Portsmouth/Charleston." The market, the largest geographic market east of the Mississippi River, covers 61 counties in central West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. Most of this territory is a very rugged dissected plateau, making UHF reception difficult. WVAH faced similar problems when it originally signed on in 1982 on channel 23, forcing it to move to channel 11 in 1988. WHCP did not have that recourse, and could not increase their analog station's power due to probable interference with digital television stations in Roanoke, Virginia and Knoxville, Tennessee. Shortly after going on the air, it signed on two low-power translators—WBWV-LP channel 69 in Huntington and WOWB-LP channel 53 in Charleston. The station effectively depended on cable and satellite for most of its viewership, which is all but essential for acceptable television in much of this vast market, even in today's digital era—especially in Eastern Kentucky. Dish Network had carried the station since it began offering a local Huntington–Charleston feed, with DirecTV following suit on January 25, 2006. The station began to be carried in high definition on DirecTV on November 9, 2010, with Dish following on March 7, 2012.
When UPN and The WB shut down and merged to form The CW in 2006, WHCP joined the new network more or less by default. On May 26, WOWB and WBWV became WOCW-LP channel 21 and WVCW-LP channel 45, respectively, in preparation for the new affiliation. WHCP followed suit on May 31, changing its calls to WQCW. It initially rebranded itself as "The Q," with a logo showing The CW's logo turning into a capital "Q", but eventually followed the network's generic regional branding style as "Tri-State's CW."
On January 20, 2007, longtime owner Commonwealth Broadcasting sold the station to Lockwood Broadcast Group. The deal closed on May 21, 2007.
The WVCW-LP license was surrendered to the FCC on June 1, 2012 as Lockwood did not intend to convert the translator to digital. In the digital transition, WQCW's transmitter was moved to the WOWK tower near Huntington. At the same time, the station's power was boosted to a full million watts, equivalent to five million watts in analog. This gave the station a coverage area comparable to those of the other stations in the market.
On November 15, 2013, Lockwood announced that it would sell WQCW and WOCW-LP to Excalibur Broadcasting for $5.5 million. Had the purchase been approved by the FCC, WQCW would have entered into a shared services agreement (SSA) with Gray Television, owner of NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV. Excalibur's president Don Ray was a former general manager at WSAZ. However, in February 2014, this deal was abandoned in favor of selling WQCW and WOCW to Gray outright for that same $5.5 million; Gray noted in the updated filing with the FCC that WQCW is not among the four highest-rated stations in the market and that there would still be eight unique station owners upon the completion of the WQCW purchase, and in a statement said that "it made more sense to own the stations outright." In the interim, Gray took over WQCW and WOCW through a local marketing agreement on February 1. The sale was completed on April 1.
On January 14, 2015, the low power repeater WOCW was sold to DTV America Corporation for a token payment of $100; WQCW's move to the WOWK tower made the repeater redundant.
The station's local programming efforts have been mostly high school sports and local professional wrestling promotions such as the Portsmouth-based Revolutionary Championship Wrestling. Under Lockwood's ownership, the station did not produce much local content, and served mostly as a "pass-through" for automated programming.
The station, under the WHCP call letters, attempted a local news operation between November 7, 2005 and February 21, 2006, with longtime local anchor Tom McGee as the station's main anchor and news director for weeknight shows at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The program was done on a very low budget; it didn't have teleprompters or an IFB system, and its presentation style was very crude even by small-market standards. The station also did not subscribe to Associated Press newswires. As a result, it never seriously competed with the major stations in the market at 6 p.m., nor WVAH's 10 p.m. show.
McGee was forced from the station on February 21, 2006 over claims the station refused to provide health insurance to his reporters, and because of low revenues allegedly paid some employees with discounted and/or free food from station advertisers, and a dispute over the addition of a news helicopter. The news department was shuttered altogether two days later.
On March 31, 2014, concurrent with Gray's purchase of WQCW, WSAZ-TV moved its 10 p.m. newscast from WSAZ-DT2, its second digital subchannel, to WQCW. The newscast was also expanded from thirty minutes to one hour, putting it in direct competition with the 10 p.m. newscast on WVAH that is produced by ABC affiliate WCHS-TV (channel 8).
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|30.1||1080i||16:9||WQCW||Main WQCW programming / The CW|
|30.2||480i||H & I||Heroes & Icons|
WQCW shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 30, 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 remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 17. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 30.