WFTC, virtual and UHF digital channel 29, is an independent television station licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States and serving the Twin Cities television market. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of News Corporation, as part of a duopoly with Fox owned-and-operated station KMSP-TV (channel 9). The two stations share studios on Viking Drive in Eden Prairie, and a transmission tower in Shoreview.
WFTC rebroadcasts its signal on full-power satellite station KFTC (virtual and UHF digital channel 26) in Bemidji (with transmitter near Lake Bemidji State Park) and several low-power repeaters across Minnesota, including the Mankato market (via K23MF-D in nearby St. James through the local municipal-operated Cooperative TV (CTV) network of translators).
The station signed on air in October 1982 as WFBT (for "Family Bible Television"). Channel 29 originally maintained a schedule offering reruns of classic family-oriented series and Christian-based religious programming. The station was started by a group led by Danny Koker, a gospel musician and father of Danny Koker II, star of History's Counting Cars. It first operated from studio facilities located on Aspen Lane North in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. On May 6, 1984, the station was sold to the Beverly Hills Hotel Corporation, headed by prominent arbitrageur Ivan Boesky, who changed its call letters to KITN-TV (which although it actually stood for "Independent Twenty-Nine", colloquially meant "Kitten" as in, "The KITN That Roars!"). At that time, it transitioned into the market's second mainstream independent station, airing syndicated programs such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Batman and Star Trek: The Original Series. It also acquired broadcast rights to the NHL's Minnesota North Stars, as well as University of Minnesota college football games. In 1985, BHHC sold the station to Nationwide Communications, the broadcasting subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance.
As a Fox affiliate, then becoming a UPN stationEdit
In 1988, KMSP-TV ended its affiliation with Fox, disappointed with the network's weak programming offerings that were bogging down the station's otherwise successful general entertainment lineup. Fox then shifted its affiliation to KITN, which adopted the moniker "Fox 29". The station again changed its call sign to WFTC on October 1, 1994 (for "We're Fox Twin Cities"), with the additional change using the "W" first-letter identifier over the "K", allowed for by its transmitter location on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. The station later relocated its operations to a new studio located on Broadway Street Northeast in Minneapolis. With the Fox network gaining rights to NFL games (NFC games, and with it, Minnesota Vikings games) in 1994 season, channel 29 succeeded WCCO-TV as the unofficial home station of the team. It would hold this role until the end of the 2001 season (since 2002, most games are broadcast on KMSP-TV). Until 1998, it served as the de facto Fox affiliate for almost all of Minnesota; the state's other two markets, Duluth and Rochester, did not have Fox affiliates of their own until KXLT-TV signed on in Rochester in 1998, and KQDS-TV debuted in Duluth one year later. Most areas in western Minnesota received Fox programming from Fargo, North Dakota's KVRR or Sioux Falls, South Dakota's KTTW.
As part of its liquidation of its broadcasting interests, Nationwide Communications sold the station to Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) in 1993 (it was the last remaining television station under Nationwide's ownership, the company having sold its other three stations, all of which were affiliated with ABC, to Young Broadcasting the year before). In 2001, Clear Channel traded the station to Fox Television Stations for KMOL-TV (now WOAI-TV) in San Antonio and KTVX in Salt Lake City. Both stations were acquired by Fox through its purchase of Chris-Craft Industries' broadcast properties, which included then-UPN affiliate KMSP-TV. WFTC became the third station in the area to be owned-and-operated by a major network, but since KMSP had higher ratings and a stronger signal than WFTC, Fox switched the affiliations of the two stations on September 8, 2002: Fox programming returned to KMSP, while WFTC affiliated with UPN.