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WKOW, virtual channel 27 (UHF digital channel 26), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Madison, Wisconsin, United States. The station is owned by Quincy Media. WKOW's studios are located on Tokay Boulevard on Madison's west side, and its transmitter is located in the city's Middleton Junction section. On cable, the station is available on Charter Spectrum channel 7.

Wkow metv.png
Madison, Wisconsin
United States
BrandingWKOW 27 (general)
27 News (newscasts)
MeTV 27.2 Madison (on DT2)
SloganWe've Got You Covered
ChannelsDigital: 26 (UHF)
Virtual: 27 (PSIP)
Affiliations27.1: ABC (1956–present)
27.2: MeTV
27.3: Decades
27.4: Court TV
27.5: Justice Network
OwnerQuincy Media
(WKOW Television, Inc.)
First air dateJune 30, 1953; 66 years ago (1953-06-30)
Call letters' meaningK(C)OW (for Wisconsin's dairy industry)
Sister station(s)WXOW/WQOW
Former callsignsWKOW-TV (1953–2009)
Former channel number(s)Analog:
27 (UHF, 1953–2009)
Former affiliationsAnalog/DT1:
CBS (1953–1956)
RTV (2008–2011)
This TV (2009–2015)
Transmitter power800 kW
Height455 m (1,493 ft)
Facility ID64545
Transmitter coordinates43°3′21″N 89°32′6″W / 43.05583°N 89.53500°W / 43.05583; -89.53500
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license informationProfile

WKOW serves as the hub for Quincy's six-station network of ABC affiliates throughout western and northern Wisconsin.



WKOW-TV (the suffix was dropped from the call sign in 2009) was launched on June 30, 1953 as Madison's first television station. The station was originally aligned with CBS and owned by the Monona Broadcasting Company, led by a group of local area businessmen along with WKOW radio (AM 1070, now WTSO). The WKOW call sign was an acknowledgment to Wisconsin's dairy industry, and featured a smiling bovine (or cow) alongside the emphasized "K-O-W" of the call sign.

WKOW-AM-TV shared studios on Tokay Boulevard on Madison's west side beginning in 1953. WKOW-TV remained with CBS until 1956, when CBS moved to the new WISC-TV. WKOW-TV subsequently joined ABC (who had been with WMTV on a secondary basis), while WKOW radio remained with CBS Radio. From January to August 1958, WKOW was part of the short-lived, Wisconsin-oriented Badger Television Network, alongside Milwaukee's WISN-TV and Green Bay's WFRV-TV.[1] In 1960, Monona Broadcasting sold the station to Midcontinent Broadcasting. Midcontinent Broadcasting sold both WKOW and WAOW in Wausau to Horizon Communications in September 1970.

In 1974, Terry Shockley became manager of WKOW and its fellow sister stations that were part of the Wisconsin Television Network (which included WAOW in Wausau and WXOW in La Crosse). Horizon sold its stations, along with WKOW to Liberty Communications in 1978. Also during the 1970s, Horizon sold the radio stations in accordance with the FCC's "one to market" policy of that era. Despite the separate ownership, the renamed WTSO would remain at Tokay Boulevard alongside WKOW-TV through the 1980s and 1990s until becoming part of the Clear Channel Communications cluster, where it is today an all-sports station. (For a time in the 2000s, WKOW-TV supplied weather updates to the Clear Channel stations. As of October 2010, however, the station is no longer involved with WTSO or other Madison Clear Channel stations in any way.)

In January 1985, Liberty Television sold WKOW and its Wausau and La Crosse sister stations to Tak Communications, which would later purchase KITV in Honolulu, Hawaii and WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, New York. Tak filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991 and later went into receivership. As part of Tak Communications' bankruptcy sale, Shockley purchased the four Wisconsin stations in 1995 (WKOW, WAOW, WXOW, and Eau Claire's WQOW) for his newly formed company, Shockley Communications. In June 2001, WKOW and its Wisconsin sister stations were acquired by Quincy Newspapers from Shockley.

Digital televisionEdit

Digital channelsEdit

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[2]
27.1 720p 16:9 WKOWABC Main WKOW programming / ABC
27.3 WKOWDEC Decades
27.4 480i CourtTV Court TV
27.5 Justice Justice Network

WKOW has been a pioneer of sorts in the world of digital terrestrial television. When the station launched high-definition broadcasts on October 29, 1998 (on digital channel 26), it became at the time the smallest United States television station to launch digital HD broadcasts. WKOW is still regularly used for digital television experiments, including an October 2014 test involving one of the competitors for the ATSC 3.0 standard in 4K resolution, backed by LG and Zenith.[3]

In the late 2000s, WKOW would launch two digital subchannels alongside primary channel 27.1. Subchannel 27.2 was originally affiliated with the Retro Television Network, which was replaced on July 1, 2011 by the similarly-formatted MeTV. Subchannel 27.3 launched in March 2009 with the movie network This TV, which was replaced on September 2, 2015 at 12 noon by MeTV's sister network, Decades. 27.2 clears any ABC programming preempted on 27.1 for local sports and breaking news coverage.

Analog-to-digital conversionEdit

WKOW shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 27, at 1 p.m. on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 26.[4][5] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 27.


Syndicated programming on WKOW includes The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Live with Kelly and Ryan, The Doctors, and Dr. Phil.

WKOW also serves as the originating station for broadcasts of Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) championship events. WKOW, its Quincy-owned sister stations in Central and Western Wisconsin, and affiliates in the Milwaukee and Green Bay markets air WIAA boys' and girls' hockey and basketball state championships each March. (The hockey and boys' basketball tournaments are staged in Madison, the girls' basketball tournament in Green Bay.) It is also an affiliate of the Green Bay Packers television network along with its Quincy sisters, carrying the team's pre-season games and in-season programming.

News operationEdit

WKOW debuted a news department on the first day of its broadcasting in summer 1953. Local news, weather, and sports were seen in the initial shows. From 1999 to 2011, the station produced, through a news share agreement, the market's first nightly prime time newscast on Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WMSN-TV (Fox 47 News at 9); the newscast originated from a secondary studio at WKOW, and although it featured WKOW personnel in the broadcasts, WMSN maintained separate weeknight news and sports anchors, as well as using theme music and graphics packages that are found on other Sinclair stations and that are different from that on WKOW's newscasts. (WISC-TV subchannel TVW had aired a prime-time newscast from 2004 to 2011; a third station, WBUW, had its own 9 p.m. newscast from 2003 until 2005.) WISC-TV took over the production of the WMSN newscast at the beginning of 2012.

On October 26, 2010, WKOW became the third station in Madison to upgrade newscasts to high definition, following WISC-TV and WMTV. The WMSN broadcasts, however, were still in 4:3 standard definition, as the station didn't have the necessary equipment to air local or syndicated HD programming.


  1. ^ Golembiewski, Dick (2008). Milwaukee Television History: The Analog Years. Marquette University Press. pp. 213–270. ISBN 0-87462-055-4.
  2. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WKOW
  3. ^ Winslow, George (22 October 2014). "Futurecast Broadcast System Tested at WKOW". Broadcasting and Cable. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  4. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  5. ^ "WKOW-TV ends its analog signal, becomes WKOW-DT", from, February 17, 2009. The link includes a 4-minute video of its analog shutdown.

External linksEdit