WUPA, virtual channel 69 (UHF digital channel 36), is a CW owned-and-operated television station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of ViacomCBS. WUPA's studios are located on Northeast Expressway (I-85) in unincorporated DeKalb County (with an Atlanta mailing address), and its transmitter is located near Shepherds Lane and Arnold Avenue in the Woodland Hills section of northeastern Atlanta (near North Druid Hills).
On cable, WUPA is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 10 and Charter Spectrum channel 9.
As an independent station
The station first signed on the air on August 22, 1981, as an independent station under the call letters WVEU, and was originally owned by locally based BCG Communications. Initially, it ran the subscription television service "Superstar TV" during the evenings and on weekends; technical problems caused by interference to two-way radio transmissions initially kept WVEU from broadcasting during daytime hours. Superstar ceased operations the morning of July 23, 1983, with its operator, Subscription Television of Greater Atlanta, in bankruptcy proceedings. (Despite the call letters, WVEU never carried the VEU service.)
With Superstar closed, WVEU switched to a general entertainment format with a focus on music videos, branded as "Atlanta's Video Music Channel." VMC had launched as a cable-only channel in 1982, operating out of the basement of the Center Stage theater, and by 1984 had grown in popularity so much that WVEU decided to bring the programming operation up to broadcast. For 24 hours a day, VJs presented music videos and interviewed musicians both local and national, with more of a focus on independent artists than the more corporate fare that MTV was carrying. In 1985, WVEU started reducing the music programming from the 24-hour schedule coverage, gradually replacing it with various other material, and eventually the music video programming vanished altogether. In an interview decades later, production manager Tom Roche said "while Video Music Channel as an entity on cable came on with great fanfare and great excitement and burned white hot, it just flared out."The station ran low-budget syndicated shows, CBS and NBC programs that were preempted by WAGA-TV and WXIA-TV, respectively, and some older movies. However, better programming was difficult to come by, as longer-established competitors WTBS (now WPCH-TV) and WANX (now WGCL-TV) picked up the higher-profile programs. Another problem was the station's signal. It originally broadcast from a transmitter atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, the city's second tallest building. However, it was painfully weak at the time and did not reach very far outside of the I-285 corridor. Most viewers could only get an acceptable picture from the station via cable. Things became more difficult when WATL was sold to Outlet Broadcasting in 1984 and became more competitive in acquiring better syndicated programs and films. WANX, while running slightly more religious programming than normal but largely still maintaining a general entertainment format, also became a more aggressive competitor when it came to acquiring programming after the Christian Broadcasting Network sold the station to Tribune Broadcasting, changing its callsign to WGNX.
Atlanta was not large enough at the time to support four independent stations. Realizing this, in 1986, WVEU began running Home Shopping Network (HSN) programming for about 15 hours each day. HSN entered into discussions to buy the station, but the deal fell through in 1987. Instead, HSN arranged for WNGM-TV in Athens (channel 34, now Univision owned-and-operated station WUVG-DT) to become a full-time HSN affiliate. From 1989 to 1994, WVEU primarily aired programming from HSN's sister service Home Shopping Network II, but also aired some religious shows, infomercials, NBC and ABC programs preempted by WXIA and WSB-TV and a few syndicated shows. It barely registered in the ratings, but was profitable because it did not spend as much money on programming as the market's other independents.
On May 22, 1994, as a result of the network winning the rights to air NFC football games, New World Communications announced an affiliation deal with Fox to switch the affiliations of most of New World's stations to the network. One of the stations involved was WAGA, New World's flagship station at the time. Fox decided to sell its existing Atlanta O&O (and the market's original Fox affiliate), WATL. CBS approached WSB-TV, WXIA and WATL to become the network's new Atlanta affiliate, but neither of those stations were interested; WGNX was also not interested at first. The latter, then owned by Tribune Broadcasting, was slated to join The WB, which it co-owned with Time Warner. Meanwhile, WATL had been the likely candidate to become Atlanta's affiliate for Paramount Pictures and Chris-Craft Industries' jointly owned service, the United Paramount Network (UPN).
With only a few months before WAGA was slated to join Fox, CBS faced the prospect of having to pipe in WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, WDEF-TV in Chattanooga, WRBL-TV in Columbus and WMAZ-TV in Macon for cable subscribers. Almost out of desperation, CBS agreed to buy WVEU that October, even though the station had the lowest ratings and the weakest signal out of Atlanta's full-power stations. However, late in November, Tribune agreed to affiliate WGNX with CBS, while WATL would become a WB affiliate. As a result, channel 69 acquired most of WGNX's syndicated programming inventory, including syndicated cartoons and off-network sitcoms. By the time of the affiliation switch in December, WVEU finally had a decent slate of programming.
WVEU became a charter affiliate of UPN upon the network's January 16, 1995 debut. Having no need for the station, CBS turned around and sold WVEU to the Paramount Stations Group (a subsidiary of the original Viacom); the new owners subsequently changed its call letters to the present WUPA. Viacom gave the station a significant on-air facelift befitting its new status, along with a new on-air name, "UPN 69". It also built a new tower in North Druid Hills with the maximum five million watts of power, giving WUPA a coverage area comparable to the other major Atlanta stations. Viacom acquired a half-stake in UPN in 1996, making it the second network O&O in Atlanta, after Fox owned WATL from 1993 to 1995. Viacom later became the sole owner of UPN in 2000 when it bought out the stake owned by Chris-Craft Industries/United Television.
The affiliation with UPN ushered in a new era for WUPA. With a stronger signal and the syndicated shows it had acquired from WGNX, the station became a factor in the Atlanta ratings for the first time ever. The station's viewership would surpass that of WATL and even WTBS. For most of UPN's run, WUPA was the network's fourth strongest station (tied with Charlotte, North Carolina's WJZY by the end of the network's run).
Viacom merged with CBS in 2000. However, the station remained affiliated with UPN (due to WGNX/WGCL having higher ratings and a better channel position than WUPA). Over the years, more first-run syndicated shows were added to the station's schedule. When the Disney cartoon block ended in 2003, WUPA stopped running kids programming on weekdays; it picked up the Fox Box (later 4Kids TV) children's lineup from WHOT-TV (now WUVG-DT) in 2002, when that station was sold to Univision. Channel 69 continued to air Fox's Saturday morning children's block until just before The CW began airing, by then it was replaced by Kids WB. Thereafter, 4Kids TV was not carried on any Atlanta station until it was discontinued in December 2008 (the successor to 4Kids TV, the infomercial block Weekend Marketplace, currently airs on WATL). In 2006, Viacom changed its name to CBS Corporation and spun off its movie interests and most of its cable assets (except for Showtime Networks, which CBS kept) into a new Viacom. WUPA remained under CBS ownership, along with the company's other broadcasting interests. It is also co-owned with its corporate radio cousins WVEE, WZGC-FM and WAOK, which are all located separately from WUPA in midtown.
The CW (2006-present)
On January 24, 2006, WUPA parent CBS and Time Warner announced they were merging the UPN and WB networks into a new service featuring a mix of programs from both networks and new first-run programs called The CW Television Network, which was set for a September 18, 2006 launch. The new network subsequently signed a 10-year affiliation deal with 11 of CBS Corporation's UPN stations, including WUPA. It would not have been an upset had WATL been chosen as Atlanta's CW affiliate, however. The network's representatives were on record as preferring the "strongest" UPN and The WB affiliates for their new network, and Atlanta was one of the few markets where The WB and UPN affiliates were both relatively strong ratings performers. In August 2006, WUPA began branding itself as "The CW Atlanta"; however, the station retained its call letters—which refer to its former affiliation with UPN.
In celebration of The CW coming to WUPA, the network produced a one-hour fashion and music program in partnership with Macy's and VIBE, Beats, Style, & Flavor. The program was hosted by former America's Next Top Model winner Eva Pigford and V-103 radio host Greg Street. The program first aired on September 7, 2006, and re-aired on September 17, the eve of The CW's launch. In November 2006, FTVLive revealed that master control operations of WUPA and Tampa's WTOG would be hubbed out of Norfolk, Virginia sister station WGNT. This was later confirmed by CBS Corporation management, which originally denied that such a move would happen. On January 29, 2008, WUPA changed its on-air branding from "The CW Atlanta" to "CW69". In August 2010, CBS Television Stations began winding down operations at the Norfolk master control hub as WGNT was sold to Local TV (which owned that market's CBS affiliate WTKR), resulting in WUPA and WTOG handling their own master control operations in-house.
WUPA sponsors a local theater venue in a promotional partnership with Rival Entertainment at 17th and West Peachtree Streets in downtown Atlanta. Called The CW Midtown Music Complex, it features three performance spaces within the same space; "Center Stage", "The Loft", and "Vinyl". As a CBS-owned station, WUPA's website uses the standard "CBS (city) branding"; the site's domain name uses ".net" to prevent confusion with WGCL's "CBS Atlanta.com" (all other CBS-owned stations use ".com" on their site mastheads), but the site itself uses the CBS standard cbslocal.com address.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
WUPA previously used virtual channel 43.1 as its PSIP virtual channel, atypical of most stations that operate digital signals, which usually have a virtual channel that matches their former analog-era allocation; in June 2008, the station's PSIP channel moved to 69.1. The station shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 69, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 43, using PSIP to display WUPA's virtual channel as 69 on digital television receivers, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.
Syndicated programming broadcast by WUPA currently includes Two and a Half Men, 2 Broke Girls, The People's Court, Judge Mathis, and Family Feud among others.
Newscasts and other locally produced programming
On April 5, 2004, Gannett-owned NBC affiliate WXIA-TV began producing a half-hour primetime newscast at 10 p.m. for WUPA called UPN Atlanta News at Ten, through a news share agreement. This program was accompanied by a live half-hour talk program at 10:30 p.m. titled Atlanta Tonight. The two competed against the longer-established 10 p.m. newscast that had aired on WAGA-TV since that station switched to Fox in December 1994; partly as a result, both programs seen on channel 69 suffered in the ratings, and the 10 p.m. newscast and Atlanta Tonight were cancelled on August 28, 2005. WXIA began producing a 10 p.m. newscast once again, after it purchased WATL from Tribune Broadcasting in 2006. The station currently produces a local public affairs program featuring topics of community interest called Focus Atlanta, which airs on Sunday mornings and is hosted by Keisha Williams.
In 2014, WUPA became the official television station of the Atlanta Falcons, gaining rights to its preseason games, and introducing weekly programs dedicated to the team. The preseason broadcasts were initially produced by CBS Sports, but have been produced by Tupelo Raycom since 2017.As part of a broadcasting deal with the city's new Major League Soccer franchise Atlanta United FC and Fox Sports Networks, WUPA will air the team's overflow games.On January 17, 2020, CBS Television Stations announced that it would be introducing a nightly 10 p.m. newscast for WUPA, produced by New York City sister station WCBS-TV; the program debuted February 17. In March 2020, following the temporary shutdown of the CBS Broadcast Center during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, WUPA began simulcasting the 10 p.m. newscast produced by Boston sister station WBZ-TV for WSBK-TV; during this period, Atlanta-specific content, outside of national reports from the area provided by CBS News, was limited to WUPA's news ticker and brief weather forecasts supplied by Detroit sister stations WWJ-TV/WKBD-TV (which aired in addition to the Boston weather segments included in the simulcast). The WBZ newscast remained on WUPA for five months, with ratings identical to the WCBS-produced newscast; on August 11, 2020, the Atlanta-oriented newscast was relaunched, with production shifted to Dallas–Fort Worth sister station KTVT.