It was teased in early January by Anne Schelle, Managing Director of the Pearl TV group, in the Winter 2024 RBR+TVBR magazine. Now, it’s finally happened: Chicago television viewers who have the equipment needed to enjoy NEXTGEN TV broadcast signals can tune to programming from one of five local channels.
Participating in the debut of the ATSC 3.0-powered signals in the nation’s third-largest market are CBS News & Stations’ WBBM-2; FOX O&O WFLD-32; NBCUniversal’s WMAQ-5; TelevisaUnivision’s Univision-flagged WGBO-66; and Nexstar Media Group’s WGN-9.
Notably, WLS-7, the ABC O&O, is not participating, nor are Weigel Broadcasting-owned stations in Chicago. A Pearl TV spokesperson tells RBR+TVBR that The Walt Disney Co. property opted not to participate, hinting that its own NEXTGEN TV facility is forthcoming.
The host station for the new NEXTGEN TV signals is WBBM, the Paramount-owned TV property. To accomplish this, as is very common in these transitions, other TV stations in Chicago are transmitting WBBM’s ATSC 1.0 broadcasts.
Over-the-air viewers will need to rescan their televisions in order to receive WBBM-TV. The television will recognize the brand name, but it will be based on another signal.
Asked why not all stations are participating, including PBS, a spokesperson for Pearl TV says, “As is common in some market, you don’t have all of the network broadcasters and all of the owners, and in not every market you have PBS either. This is still fantastic news … this is 4% of the country.”