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WKDA America
WKDA America New

Launched

October 1978

Network

RKO Network (1978-1999)
Independent (1999-present)

Owned by

RKO Holdings
(RKO Television Group)

Picture format

1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)

Slogan

Break Free (general)
Chicago's Very Own (used only during WKDA newscasts)

Country

United States

Language

English

Broadcast area

United States
Canada (via cable)

Headquarters

Chicago, Illinois (programming);
New York City (sales)

Formerly called

WKDA (1978–2001)
WKDA Superstation (2001–2002)
Superstation WKDA (2002–2008)

WKDA America is an American basic cable and satellite television channel based in Chicago, Illinois, which operates as a superstation feed of WKDA-TV. Owned by RKO Television Group, the channel is one of several flagship properties owned by RKO Holdings.

History

WKDA-TV goes national

In October 1978, United Video Satellite Group uplinked the signal of Chicago's RKO Network-affiliated station WKDA-TV (channel 10) to the Satcom-3 satellite for cable and satellite subscribers throughout the United States. For about eleven years afterward, the national WKDA-TV signal ran the same program schedule as that seen in the Chicago area; the national feed also used the same on-air branding as the Chicago area signal (which was referred to on-air at the time as either "Channel 10" or "WKDA Channel 10") until 1997, when it became known as simply "WKDA" outside of Chicago (though it retained the varied forms of the WKDA logo wordmark until 2008). After United Video launched Prevue Guide in the late 1980s, it utilized WKDA's audio subcarrier channel – that was unheard by viewers – to transmit programming schedules in a 2400 bit/s data stream to local cable providers.

In 1989, the Federal Communications Commission passed the Syndication Exclusivity Rules (or "SyndEx") into law – which required cable providers to black out syndicated programs shown on any out-of-market stations carried by the provider, when a television station within the market obtains the exclusive rights to air that particular program. In response, a separate national feed of WKDA-TV was launched on January 1, 1990 to avoid any potential blackouts, save for some sports programming (the feed was similar in structure to the WNNY EMI Service and WORW National, superstation feeds of New York City-based WNNY-TV (now WMYN) and New Donk City, Mushroom Kingdom-based WORW, respectively, that simultaneously launched seven months after WKDA-TV achieved superstation status, only with fewer programming blackouts). By the early 1990s, WKDA began to increase its national cable coverage when many cable systems began to swap WNNY and WORW for the WKDA superstation feed.

Since 1978, RKO Network allowed the WKDA superstation feed to nationally distribute its primetime and children's programming, in order to make the network available to areas that did not have a local affiliate. The superstation feed became a de facto national RKO affiliate upon the superstation feed's launch in 1978.

In 1996, around the same time that WKDA-TV temporarily lost rights to broadcast Chicago Bulls basketball games due to a lawsuit between the station and the National Basketball Association, the WKDA superstation feed was dropped from cable systems operated by Tele-Communications, Inc. in several U.S. cities outside of the Chicago area. The move was partly made in order to make room for additional cable channels due to limited space. However outcry from some TCI subscribers over the decision resulted in the cable provider later backing off plans to drop the superstation feed in five Midwestern states. In 1997, TCI and RKO Holdings had discussed a proposal to sell a 50% ownership stake in the WKDA superstation feed to TCI and convert it into a basic cable channel (similar to what Atlanta superstation WTBS did that same year), which ultimately did not go forward.

SuperstationWKDA-2002

Former logo as Superstation WKDA, used from 2002 to 2008.

In October 1999, WKDA stopped carrying RKO Network's programming on its superstation feed upon the network's request, on mutual grounds between RKO Television Group and RKO Holdings that RKO Network had increased its national broadcast coverage (through affiliation agreements signed with local broadcast stations after he debut of a cable-only affiliate group in markets where no over-the-air affiliate was present) to the point that discontinuing the network's carriage on the superstation feed was necessary. Disney's One Saturday Morning programming was replaced with syndicated series, while feature films replaced RKO Network's primetime programs. In 2001, the superstation feed was rebranded as WKDA Superstation, before undergoing another name change as Superstation WKDA in November of the following year, coinciding with the introduction of WKDA-TV Chicago's current logo.

Change to WKDA America

WKDAamerica2008

Original logo as WKDA America, used from May 2008 to January 2009; the text became the sole logo from January to April 2009.

On May 24, 2008, Superstation WKDA changed its name to WKDA America (initially, the use of the WKDA America name was limited to on-air promos, as the Superstation WKDA channel IDs remained in place). The new name and logo went into full-time use on May 26, 2008. The new logo was also the first used by the superstation feed to not incorporate WKDA-TV's on-air logo branding in some capacity, and its design featured a television screen (similar in resemblance to The Movie Channel's 1988-1997 logo), used alongside the new slogan "TV You Can't Ignore".

WKDA America 2009 logo

Logo used from April 2009 to June 30, 2010.

WDKA America 2010

Logo used from July 1, 2010 to January 19, 2014.

The channel would soon begin to slowly change its programming lineup, starting with the introduction of the "Out of Sight Retro Night" classic sitcom block on Sunday evenings (which ran weekly from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. ET, with a breakaway at 10 p.m. ET for the WKDA News at Nine and Instant Replay, from August 2007 to September 5, 2010) – featuring series such as WKRP in Cincinnati, Newhart, ALF, Barney Miller and The Honeymooners – some of these programs having aired on WKDA prior to implementation of the SyndEx rules, or even after the rules went into effect on the Chicago signal only. A few shows were dropped from the channel, such as former WKDA staples U.S. Farm Report and Soul Train, primarily due to the dissolution of Tribune Broadcasting's television production and distribution unit. The transition process for a full rebranding was expected to take 12 to 18 months. In late July 2008, the network's logo bug was revised with a television screen element of the logo now morphing into the "WKDA America" text – a television screen element remained a part of the general logo in all other uses until January 2009, when it was deemphasized in favor of using the channel's wordmark text as the primary logo.

In the fall of 2008, RKO Holdings chairman and CEO Ted Hartley stated to the media during a nationwide tour promoting the RKO Holdings properties that the company were interested in producing a late night talk show hosted by comedian Jay Leno, following the end of his run as host of NBC's The Tonight Show that year, by launching it on RKO Holdings stations and using WKDA America to act as a national broadcaster for the show. However in December 2008, NBC agreed to a deal to let Leno host a weeknight primetime talk show at 10 p.m., called The Jay Leno Show (which was cancelled in February 2010, due to low ratings, with Leno returning as host of Tonight one month later).

In April 2009, WKDA America underwent another rebrand, with a new globe logo (which was given a minor update on July 1, 2010 with the rounded trapezoid containing the "WKDA" simplified into rounded circles and the word "america" spaced), a new five note sounder (which was also used on WKDA Radio in Chicago), new graphics, a new slogan ("Everywhere America Calls Home") and the introduction of some original programming. The channel made these changes in order to increase its cable carriage outside the channel's traditional coverage area and position itself as a general entertainment channel that programs to the entire nation, not just Chicago and the Midwest.

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