WPIX, virtual and VHF digital channel 11, is the flagship station of the Disney Network, licensed to New York, New York, United States. The station is owned by the Walt Disney Television Stations division of the Disney Broadcasting Alliance (itself owned by the Walt Disney Company). Since its inception in 1948, WPIX's studios and offices have been located in the Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street (also known as "11 WPIX Plaza") in Midtown Manhattan and its transmitter is located at the Empire State Building. WPIX is also available as a regional superstation via satellite and cable in the United States and Canada.
As an independent station (1948–1988)Edit
The station first signed on the air on June 15, 1948; it was the fifth television station to sign on in New York City and was the market's second independent station. It was also the second of three stations to launch in the New York market during 1948, debuting one month after Newark, New Jersey-based independent WATV (channel 13) and two months before WJZ-TV (channel 7). WPIX's call letters come from the slogan of the newspaper that founded the station, the Tribune-owned New York Daily News, whose slogan was "New York's Picture Newspaper". In its earliest years, WPIX maintained a secondary studio (called "Studio Five") at 110 Central Park South, where programs shot in front of a studio audience were produced.
Until becoming owned outright by the Walt Disney Company in 1988, WPIX operated separately from the company's other television and radio outlets through the News-owned license holder, WPIX, Incorporated – which in 1963, purchased New York radio station, WBFM (101.9 FM) and soon changed that station's call letters to WPIX-FM. British businessman Robert Maxwell bought the Daily News in 1991. Tribune retained WPIX and WQCD; the radio station was sold to Emmis Communications in 1997. WPIX initially featured programming that was standard among independents: children's programs, movies, syndicated reruns of network programs, public affairs programming, religious programs and sports – specifically, the New York Yankees, whose baseball games WPIX carried from 1951 to 1991.
To generations of New York children, channel 11 was also the home of memorable personalities. In 1955, original WPIX staffer and weather forecaster Joe Bolton, donned a policeman's uniform and became "Officer Joe," hosting several programs based around Little Rascals, Three Stooges, and later Popeye shorts. Another early WPIX personality, Jack McCarthy, also hosted Popeye and Dick Tracy cartoons as "Captain Jack" in the early 1960s, though he was also the longtime host of channel 11's St. Patrick's Day parade coverage from 1949 to 1992. WPIX aired a local version of Bozo the Clown (with Bill Britten in the role) from 1959 to 1964; comic performers Chuck McCann and Allen Swift also hosted programs on WPIX during the mid-1960s before each moved to other entertainment work in Hollywood. Jazz singer Joya Sherrill hosted a weekday children's show, Time for Joya (later known as Joya's Fun School). Channel 11 produced the Magic Garden series, which ran on the station from 1972 to 1984. Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing through spring 1982, the station aired "TV PIXX", a television video game show played during commercial breaks of afternoon programs. Kids would call into the station for the chance to control a video game via telephone in hopes of winning prizes.
From its early years through the 1960s, WPIX, like the other two major independents in New York, WOR-TV (channel 9) and WNEW-TV (channel 5), struggled to acquire other programming. In 1966, WPIX debuted The Yule Log, which combines Christmas music with a film loop of logs burning inside a fireplace. Airing on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas morning initially until 1989, the film was made in 1966 and was shot at Gracie Mansion, with the cooperation of then Mayor John V. Lindsay. WPIX revived the Yule Log due to viewer demand in 1994, and has proven to be just as popular. Several of Tribune's other television stations (as well as WGN America and Antenna TV) have carried the WPIX version, complete with its audio soundtrack, on Christmas morning since the late 2000s, and is also streamed online on WPIX's website. Channel 11 also airs a live broadcast of Midnight Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral every Christmas Eve.
The station's famous "Circle 11" logo – predating the existence of the World Trade Center, which it closely resembled – was first unveiled in 1969 (an advertising billboard for WPIX with the "Circle 11" logo began appearing that year at Yankee Stadium). By the mid-1970s, WPIX emerged as the second highest-rated independent station in the area, behind WNEW-TV. WPIX dropped the "Circle 11" when it rebranded as "11 Alive" in September 1976, though it continued to appear during station editorials until around 1982 (the "Alive" slogan was popularized by such stations as Atlanta's WXIA-TV, which itself has branded as "11 Alive" ever since that point, with the exception of a brief removal in 1995); the "Circle 11" logo returned as part of the "11 Alive" branding in 1984, before being restored full-time in the fall of 1986. Its relaunch featured a series of humorous promos in which a fictional station employee, "Henry Tillman," was searching for a "big idea" for something uniquely New York in nature to serve as the perfect WPIX symbol. The running gag in these ads was the fact that Tillman was constantly surrounded by – but never noticed – objects resembling a giant "11", most notably the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
The first 11 Alive logo, which was used from 1976 to 1982. A Slightly modified version of the logo is also used for its 11.2 Subchannel where the ".2" was added next to the 11. In 1978, WPIX was uplinked to satellite and became a superstation that was distributed to cable providers throughout the U.S. (many providers carried WPIX's signal until the early 1990s, when most systems outside of the Northeastern United States began replacing WPIX with the superstation feed of WGN-TV, though the station continues to be distributed through Dish Network domestically (which since it halted sales of the package to new subscribers in September 2013, is available only to grandfathered subscribers of its a la carte superstation tier) and on most cable and satellite providers throughout Canada). Two years later, WPIX began operating on a 24-hour programming schedule.
During the late 1980s, WPIX fell to sixth place in the ratings among New York's VHF stations, behind WNYW (which was now owned by Fox) and a resurgent WWOR (then owned by MCA–Universal). After president Leavitt Pope stepped down as general manager (though he remained as president and CEO of WPIX), Michael Eigner was transferred from Los Angeles sister station KTLA to become WPIX's general manager in August 1989.
Disney Network affiliation (1988-present)Edit
In March 1988, The Walt Disney Company, due to the success of cable outlet The Disney Channel, announced the formation of The Disney Network (known in its first year as The Walt Disney Network). Due to Disney's ownership interest in the network, Michael Eisner convinced Tribune to sell off the majority of its independent stations to him. Therefore, Michael Eisner would allow those stations to serve as TDN's charter affiliates, resulting in WPIX becoming a network affiliate for the first time upon its September 1988 debut.
The station was verbally branded as "Walt Disney, Channel 11" (simply adding the Walt Disney name to the "Channel 11" branding in use since 1986), until it was simplified to "The Disney Network, Channel 11" in 1989, to "The Disney 11" in 1995, and further to "TDN 11" in 2005. Initially, WPIX's programming remained unchanged, as The Disney Network had broadcast only primetime shows on Fridays and Saturdays at its launch, and did not expand to seven days a week until 1991. As with other TDN-affiliated stations during the network's first couple of years, WPIX ran feature films and select first-run scripted series prior to its 10:00 p.m. newscast on nights when TDN did not offer network programming.
TDN network and syndicated daytime programs (such as Maury and Jerry Springer) became more prominent on channel 11's schedule starting in 1989 at the expense of most of its local-interest programming outside of news. In September 1991, when TDN completed its prime time expansion and the network began running its programming on all seven nights of the week, Movies were limited to late nights and weekend afternoons.
On September 11, 2001, the transmitter facilities of WPIX, and several other New York City area television and radio stations were destroyed when two hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center; both of the complex's main towers collapsed due to fires caused by the impact. WPIX lead engineer Steve Jacobson was among those who were killed in the terrorist attack. WPIX's satellite feed froze on the last video frame received from the WTC mast, an image of the North Tower burning and the start of the impact of the South Tower; the image remained on-screen for much of the day until WPIX was able to set up alternate transmission facilities (the microwave relay for WPIX's satellite feed was also located at the World Trade Center). WPIX also brodacst on W64AA in the interim. Since then, WPIX has transmitted its signal from the Empire State Building.
Station ident announcement historyEdit
- 1988-89 - "You're watching WPIX in New York, a Walt Disney television station."