On June 15, 1948, WPIX signed on as the second independent television station in the city from studios in the Daily News Building on 42nd Street. (The first, WATV signed on a month earlier and eventually became WNET in 1961.) Like stations in many other cities, it was owned by a newspaper, in this case the Daily News and its then corporate parent the Tribune Company (the paper was sold off in 1991). The call sign WPIX was a play on the newspaper’s longtime slogan "New York's Picture Newspaper".
Throughout most of its history, the station broadcast the standard independent station fare – reruns, old movies, horror movies (complete with host), kids shows (like a local Bozo the Clown), local programming and sports. Among the most beloved of local programs was the Yule Log introduced on Christmas Day in 1966. And it wasn’t just people in the tri-state area who saw the station, since it was a superstation from the 80s into the 90s and seen in many parts of the US and Canada on cable.
The reruns (most notably The Honeymooners and Star Trek) and movies were a staple for decades until cheaper first run syndication programs (think judge and talk shows) pushed them out of the station’s weekday lineup. Although the first run syndication wasn’t all bad with the station providing the home for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine for their entire runs. The primetime movies lasted until the WB Network debut on the station in 1995.
Although now it now is the free TV home for the Mets, the station is probably best known for being the TV home of the Yankees for over 40 years until MSG came along with buckets of cash. But the Bombers weren’t the only sports on the station with the station hosting everything from football to the New York City Marathon.
Of course there was also news from the start, something you would expect from a station owned by a newspaper (natch). However, in the 1960’s the station did have some problems with a bit of embellishment of news stories using file footage and people pretending to call in from the scene. That notoriety was overcome the 1970s with the station’s award winning Action News (featuring the likes of Pat Harper and Bill Jorgensen) and in the 1980s when it produced Independent Network News, a nationally distributed newscast for independent stations which lasted a decade. And eight years ago they launched a morning newscast the WB11 Morning News
Today the station is still owned by Tribune and on its second network, the CW. Instead of movies and Yankee games making up the evening schedule it is network shows Gossip Girl and Smallville.
If you want to get an idea of what the station once was or relive some memories, tune in Saturday starting at Noon when they will be broadcasting nine hours of classic programming followed by a look back at the station’s history hosted by the stations lead anchors Kaity Tong and Jim Watkins. The station also has a nice timeline on their website.