However, a group of local investors obtained a new channel 17 license. The new station debuted on September 17, 1965 as independent station WPHL-TV. It was the third UHF independent to sign-on in Philadelphia that year, two and-a-half weeks behind WKBS-TV (channel 48) and four months later than WIBF-TV (channel 29, later WTAF and now WTXF-TV). During its early years WPHL went through a string of owners, most notably as an owned-and-operated station of the short-lived United Network.
In the summer of 1975 WPHL-TV moved from its studios in the suburb of Wyndmoor to its current studio in Wynnefield. The building had once been an A&P supermarket. The station offered a schedule of off network drama shows, sitcoms, old movies, sports and religious shows. During most of the 1970s, channel 17 also offered Japanese live action shows and cartoons dubbed in English, including Ultraman, Marine Boy, Space Giants, Speed Racer, King Kong , Johnny Sokko, Astro Boy, 8 Man, Prince Planet and Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero. It also ran NBC programs that were pre-empted by KYW-TV until the fall of 1976 and again from the fall of 1977 to the summer of 1983. The Providence Journal Company bought channel 17 in 1979.
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, WPHL was known on-air as "The Great Entertainer", with voiceovers from Sid Doherty. The station positioned itself as an alternative to both WTAF and WKBS, as it programmed more towards adults with movies and other syndicated programs, while its competitors were heavy on sitcoms and children's cartoons. WPHL was also a station heavy on sports, as it aired contests featuring Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.
From September 1981 to August 1987, the WPHL studios hosted a Monday-through-Friday afternoon dance show, Dancin' On Air as well as a spin-off on the USA Network called Dance Party USA with the latter hosted by Dave Raymond, who was better known as the man in the Phillie Phanatic costume. Those shows marked the on-air debut of a young girl from nearby Voorhees, New Jersey named Kelly Ripa.
In 1983, WKBS went on the market after its owner, Field Communications, decided to exit broadcasting. The Providence Journal Company was among those who were bidding for channel 48's license. Had it emerged victorious, Providence Journal would have merged WPHL and WKBS' schedules under the WKBS license and channel allocation, while selling the channel 17 license to a religious broadcaster. However, Field rejected the Journal Company's bid as too low. With no takers, WKBS-TV ceased operations ("went dark" in television terminology) that August, and channel 17 picked up various syndicated programs, movies, and production equipment from channel 48. This move marked the return of cartoons to channel 17's lineup.
In 1987, the Providence Journal Company sold WPHL-TV to a consortium headed by Dudley S. Taft Jr., the former president of the Cincinnati-based Taft Television and Radio Company, the longtime owners of rival WTAF-TV. Dudley Taft had left his family's namesake company following a corporate restructuring which resulted in the firm changing its name to Great American Broadcasting. He also brought along key personnel from WTAF (which Taft had sold to TVX Broadcast Group in early 1987), including general manager Randy Smith. The new ownership scrapped the "Great Entertainer" slogan and related logo for a new identity as PHL 17, in an apparent attempt to counter WGBS-TV's (channel 57, now WPSG) Philly 57 branding. In 1991, the Taft group sold channel 17 to the Tribune Company. The station, along with most of Tribune's independent stations, affiliated with the WB Television Network (of which Tribune was part-owner) in January 1995, and in September of that year changed its on-air identity to WB 17.
Throughout the station's first three decades of service, WPHL had a tremendous professional sports presence -- at various points holding the broadcast rights to the Phillies (1971-82 and 1990-98), the Flyers (1991-98), and the 76ers (1986-95), as well as covering local college basketball and football, with games featuring teams from the Philadelphia Big 5 (LaSalle University, University of Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph's University, Villanova University and Temple University). After the station took on WB programming, it let go of many of its sports contracts in order to concentrate on its network obligations. Currently, the station does air syndicated college football and basketball games from the syndication arm of ESPN involving the Mid-American Conference (football) and Big East Conference (basketball). Until 2006, it aired Big Ten Conference games. It has also aired preseason games of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
On January 24, 2006, the WB and UPN networks announced that they would merge into a new network called The CW. On the same day the new network was announced, it signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with most of Tribune's WB stations. However, in the case of Philadelphia, the new network's affiliation went to the city's UPN station, WPSG. It would not have been an upset had WPHL been chosen, however. CW officials were on record as preferring the "strongest" WB and UPN stations for their new network, and Philadelphia was one of the few markets where the WB and UPN stations were both relatively strong.
WPHL-TV was slated to return to its previous independent status, but on May 15, 2006, Tribune announced that it would affiliate channel 17 (and two other WB stations not included in the CW affiliation deal) with MyNetworkTV, making it the largest station (in terms of market size) affiliated with MNTV that is not owned by News Corporation, MNTV's parent company. In July, WPHL rebranded itself as myphl17, which partially revived the station's former PHL 17 moniker. WPHL began airing My Network TV programming on September 5, 2006, the day the new service was launched. As a result, it did not air the final two weeks of WB programming.
Coming out of a slump: broadcast, cable and MLB are scoring big with advertisers this season.(Major League Baseball)(Baseball '97)(includes related article on Fox Sports and Liberty Media's joint venture to air baseball games)(Cover Story)
Mar 31, 1997; Broadcast, cable and MLB are scoring big with advertisers this season The players' strike is past and interleague play lies...