Two CBS-owned stations changing calls to remove ‘CW’ letters

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Two of CBS’s television stations currently affiliated with The CW are poised to change their call signs to eliminate the network’s name as they drop CW affiliation, according to FCC filings.

WPCW in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which ostensibly is meant to stand for “Pittsburgh’s CW,” will change to WPKD on Sept. 1, 2023, according to a July 18, 2023, filing.

In this case, it appears the new call is meant to incorporate the “KD” from “KDKA,” the CBS affiliate in the market. The two stations are both owned and operated by the CBS Television Stations division.

“KD” is an abbreviation used by KDKA for various branding initiatives. KDKA is one of the few stations east of the Mississippi with a call sign starting with “K.” The four letters themselves don’t have a meaning; they were assigned as the next available combination in a sequence during a brief period when the “KD” prefix could be used for both ship-based radio transmitters and broadcasting. 

WPCW has a long history of call signs, with WNPA being its most recent before changing to WPCW. 

In addition, CBS filed to change KBCW in San Francisco, California, to KPYX on the same date.

KBCW could be seen as standing for “Bay Area’s CW” and the new calls, KPYX, appear to be an attempt as an alternate spelling of KPIX, the CBS-affiliated station in the market also owned by CBS.

In early 2022, CBS reached an agreement with Nexstar Media Group to sell a 75% stake in The CW network. Nexstar is the largest single owner of CW-affiliated stations after its acquisition of Tribune Media’s broadcast assets.

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A provision in the sale stated that CBS could yank The CW affiliation from stations it owned even if the affiliate agreements were not up for renewal, which CBS has announced it will do to all of its owned CW affiliates. 

Meanwhile, FTVLive has reported that CBS may be looking to switch most of its soon-to-be-independent stations to a news-heavy format like that used at KCAL, so the call sign changes could be a precursor to that.

In the same report, FTVLive reported that CBS also plans to drop the hybrid “Now” newscast concept launched in July 2022. Neither report has been confirmed by CBS.

In the early days of The CW, it was common for stations to incorporate the letters “CW” into call signs, often with another letter standing for the corresponding city or region name.

WPCW and KBCW are the only two full-power stations CBS owns that contain the letters “CW.” KCCW in Minneapolis contains “CW,” but it is a satellite of WCCO and does not carry CW programming (the CW affiliate in the market is Sinclair’s WUCW). The KCCW name is not widely used on-air and it also could be seen as being related to the “CC” in “WCCO.”

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