WCCT (as WTXX) shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 20, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition VHF channel 12 to UHF channel 20 for post-transition operations; the digital signal's change in channel location was necessary to avoid interference with PBS member station WHYY-TV in Wilmington, Delaware.
The station commenced operations on September 10, 1953 as WATR-TV on channel 53, the second UHF station in Connecticut. It was owned by the Thomas and Gilmore families, along with WATR radio (1320 AM). The station's studios and transmitter were located on West Peak in Meriden. At the time, the station's signal only covered Waterbury, New Haven and the southern portion of the state.
WATR-TV was originally a dual secondary affiliate of both DuMont and ABC, sharing them with New Haven-based WNHC-TV (channel 8, now WTNH). DuMont ceased operations in 1956, and shortly afterward, WNHC-TV became an exclusive ABC affiliate. WATR-TV then became an independent station on paper, but picked up ABC shows turned down by WNHC-TV.
In 1962, the station relocated to UHF channel 20 and moved to a new studio and transmitter site in Prospect, south of Waterbury. Channel 53 was later occupied by WEDN, Connecticut Public Television's outlet in Norwich.
In August 1966, WATR-TV switched networks and joined NBC. At the time, the network's primary affiliate in Connecticut, WHNB-TV (channel 30) in New Britain, was hampered by a weak signal in New Haven and the southwestern portions of the state. In the 1970s, the station offered limited local news and instead aired older syndicated programs and religious shows such as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's The PTL Club when NBC programs were not offered. A notable local production was Journeys to the Mind, a half-hour talk show with host Joel Dobbin, which approached topics of the occult with a serious and sober tone. Journeys ran from 1976 to 1981.
The original Viacom bought WHNB in 1978 and changed its call letters to WVIT. Two years later, WVIT more than doubled its transmission power to cover New Haven. It became clear that WATR-TV's NBC affiliation was now in jeopardy. In 1981, the Thomas/Gilmore family opted to sell channel 20 to a joint venture of Odyssey Television Partners (later to become Renaissance Broadcasting) and Oppenheimer and Company. The sale was announced in May 1981 and approved that December.
The new owners of channel 20 ultimately opted to drop NBC and convert the station into an independent outlet (though NBC was considering ending its affiliation in any event). On March 22, 1982 - the same day the NBC affiliation ended - channel 20 changed its call letters to WTXX, and subsequently became Connecticut's first full-service independent station since Hartford's WHCT-TV (channel 18, now WUVN) served as an independent from 1957 to 1975. Soon after taking over, Odyssey replaced channel 20's tiny 250-foot tower with a more powerful transmitter that more than doubled its signal and gave it a coverage area comparable with the major network stations in the state. Programming consisted of the typical independent fare of cartoons, off-network series, and movies. WTXX also carried some sports, most notably New York Mets telecasts from WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) in New York City and Boston Celtics telecasts from WLVI-TV in Boston. WTXX prospered in its new status, and continued to do so even after WTIC-TV signed on in 1984 and took on the Fox affiliation two years later.
In October 1992, Renaissance Broadcasting sold WTXX to Counterpoint Communications, a nonprofit media firm with close ties to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. Renaissance had recently acquired several stations, including WTIC-TV, from Chase Broadcasting, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations of the time did not allow common ownership of two stations in the same market. However, Renaissance retained the rights to all the programming it bought for WTXX. WTIC-TV wanted to establish a full-time local marketing agreement (LMA) with WTXX, which basically amounted to channel 20 being programmed by its main competitor. Counterpoint balked, wanting only a part-time agreement. Renaissance then moved some of WTXX's stronger shows to WTIC-TV, leaving the station with a considerably weakened schedule.
Duopolies and new networks
Renaissance's sale of WTXX to Counterpoint, and Renaissance's subsequent acquisition of WTIC-TV, became official in March 1993. Under the terms of the sale to Counterpoint, WTXX retained few syndicated programs and some movies, and began airing programming from the Home Shopping Network for 15 hours a day (including daytime and prime time). In addition, channel 20 would air a daily Catholic Mass, along with other Catholic religious programs, for one hour per day. While trying to negotiate an LMA, WTXX continued to run some Renaissance-owned programming daily from 3 to 7 p.m. free of charge. These shows were the Disney Afternoon cartoon block, double runs of The Cosby Show and Growing Pains on weekdays, and some hour-long first-run syndicated dramas on weekends. Renaissance sold the ad time for the slot and WTXX paid nothing to run the programming during these hours. That July, after negotiations with WTIC collapsed, WTXX entered into a part-time LMA with WVIT. Its schedule now included cartoons and children's programs during the morning and afternoon hours, and syndicated shows whose local rights were owned by WVIT during the early evenings. Most of the cartoons were shows WTXX previously had on a barter basis that WTIC had no room for. The Disney Afternoon and other syndicated shows previously on WTXX moved to WTIC or stopped airing in the market. Home Shopping Network programming remained during middays, prime time, and the overnight hours.
WTXX became Connecticut's UPN affiliate on April 3, 1995; for the 2 and half months prior to that, Hartford viewers who wanted to watch UPN programming had to view it on cable, by way of WSBK-TV from Boston. Initially, it continued to run Home Shopping Network programs in prime time on nights without UPN programming. By Spring 1996, the station expanded its LMA with WVIT to cover the entire day, except for overnights and the hours when the Catholic Mass aired. By this point, WTXX upgraded its syndicated programming, and HSN was relegated to overnights before being dropped completely.
In 1998, WVIT was sold to NBC and WTIC (now owned by Tribune Broadcasting) replaced WVIT as WTXX's LMA partner. As part of the deal, some of the shows previously owned by WVIT were kept by WTXX and WTIC. The LMA change caused no impact on WTXX's daily broadcasts of the Catholic Mass, which continues to the present day. Around this time, the station changed its on-air name from "UPN 20" to "Connecticut's 20". It also picked up Boston Red Sox baseball games; the station's feed (with the "Connecticut's 20" bug) was carried during Red Sox highlights airing on ESPN for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1999, WTXX and WTIC consolidated their operations in a new facility at One Corporate Center on Church Street in Downtown Hartford.
On January 1, 2001, WTXX and WBNE (channel 59, now WCTX) swapped affiliations, with WTXX joining The WB and rebranding as "Connecticut's WB". Later that year, Tribune purchased WTXX outright, creating a duopoly with WTIC. Tribune, having already received a temporary waiver from FCC rules barring common ownership of a newspaper and a television station in the same area when it purchased the Hartford Courant a year earlier, received an additional waiver for its purchase of WTXX. Tribune had been seeking a waiver in anticipation of the FCC relaxing its rules to allow such media combinations to exist with the agency's blessing, which would include television duopolies. In March 2005, the FCC requested that Tribune sell WTXX to a new owner. In late 2007, the FCC loosened its restrictions on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership perhaps creating an opening for Tribune (which was purchased by investor Sam Zell in December 2007) to retain WTXX without a waiver.
Switch to The CW
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner announced that the company would merge the operations of The WB with CBS Corporation's UPN (which CBS acquired one month earlier in December 2005 following its split from Viacom), to form a 50/50 joint venture called The CW Television Network. The network signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Tribune Broadcasting for 16 of the 19 WB affiliates that the company owned at the time, including WTXX.
In August 2008, the station changed its branding from "CW 20" to "txx" in a corporate effort by Tribune to strengthen its CW affiliates' local identities and reduce the dependence on the use of network branding. In June 2009, after 56 years of transmitting from various locations in New Haven County, WTXX shut down its transmitter in Prospect and moved to space on WTIC-TV's tower in Farmington. On March 2, 2010, the station changed its branding again to "The CT"; to go along with this branding, the station changed its call letters to WCCT-TV on June 18. In March 2012, the station changed its logo and began to use its calls, WCCT-TV, as its branding, though the station remains a CW affiliate.
On July 10, 2013, Tribune announced plans to spin off its publishing division into a separate company, with the split finalized in 2014. WTIC-TV and WCCT-TV remained with the Tribune Company (which also retained all non-publishing assets, including the broadcasting, digital media and Media Services units), while its newspapers (including the Hartford Courant) became part of the similarly named Tribune Publishing Company.
WCCT holds the local broadcast television rights to the WNBA's Connecticut Sun. The station also simulcasts some New York Mets games aired by New York City sister station WPIX.
In July 1993, WTXX debuted a nightly 10 p.m. newscast produced by NBC station WVIT, called Connecticut News Live at 10. The news team consisted of WVIT's evening news team (anchors Gerry Brooks and Joanne Nesti, weather from Brad Field, Beasley Reece with sports), along with reporters from WVIT. In 1998, when WTIC replaced WVIT as WTXX's LMA partner, the WVIT-produced broadcasts were replaced with a simulcast of the first half-hour of WTIC's nightly 10 p.m. newscast; on April 24, 2006, the station began simulcasting the entire newscast. The station did not use a separate news open for the broadcasts; however when Fox entertainment or sports programming delays the newscast on WTIC, it was aired on WTXX under the title News at Ten and used a News at Ten logo bug in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen in place of WTIC's news branding.
On December 12, 2009; WTIC, WCCT (then WTXX), and the Hartford Courant moved into new combined newsroom facilities in downtown Hartford, and WTIC rebranded from Fox 61 to Fox CT (a transition completed in July 2010); in addition, WTIC became the second station in the market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. The news simulcasts on WCCT were included in the transition.
In June 2010, the station ended the simulcast of WTIC's 10 p.m. newscast. It now airs a rebroadcast of WTIC's 11 p.m. newscast at 1 a.m. weeknights, while the 10 p.m. newscast is re-aired on weekends; these rebroadcasts include a sports highlight program called Comcast Sports Desk at 1:45 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights. Originally, this was not simulcast on WTXX but has since been added (the 10 p.m. newscast continues to be shown live on WCCT, if it is preempted on WTIC due to sports programming overruns). The station also carries the 8 a.m. hour of WTIC's morning newscast (a previous simulcast of Fox 61 Morning News had aired at one point, but was later dropped). WTIC also produces a weekly public affairs show called The Real Story, which airs Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. with a repeat on WCCT at 11 a.m.
Other than simulcasts and default carriage of WTIC's newscasts in the event of Fox Sports programming delays, WCCT does not carry traditional local newscasts produced specifically for the station; as such, the station is one of only five Tribune-owned stations not carrying their own daily newscasts (alongside WNOL/New Orleans, WDCW/Washington, D.C., WTTV/Indianapolis and WSFL/Miami).