What do WPWR, WBBS, WEHS, & WYIN all have in common? If you knew the name Fred Eychaner, you'd know the answer. The above stations all were part of a series of shrewd and sometimes lucky transactions that made Eychaner a very wealthy man.
The station we know today as WPWR, channel 50, a UPN network affiliate since 1995, began life a few notches up the dial at channel 60 in 1982. Eychaner's Metrowest Corporation had actually applied for the license in 1978 but the FCC didn't approve until then. In April of that year, WPWR- channel 60 premiered with a large percentage of it's broadcast schedule dedicated to a new pay television service called Sportsvision, which Eychaner had developed in a deal with White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. Like ON-TV on WSNS and Spectrum pay service on WFBN, viewers would have to shell out for a set top converter and pay subscription fees to watch their favorite baseball team. But Sportsvision was not a success and would not be until it moved to cable in January of 1983. Eychaner then filled out his schedule with syndicated reruns of older yet still popular sitcoms and cult series like The Prisoner.
WPWR was something of an oddity, especially for a market like Chicago. It was a split licensed station. WPWR aired from 2:30 am to 7 pm seven days a week. At 7 pm, Spanish language WBBS signed on. WBBS, owned by Chicagoan Marcelino Miyares doing business as Hatco-60, once had high hopes to win a permanent place in Chicago's large Hispanic community.
At this point in Chicago's television history, the market will bear only two Spanish language stations. Three were on the air. WCIU (going Spanish at 5 pm weekdays), WSNS (less than a year after its near fatal ON-TV experience) and WBBS. Though ratings were good for WBBS (sometimes beating out rival WCIU), it was the 1985 WSNS announcement of an affiliation with The Spanish International Network (SIN) that pretty much sealed the station's fate.
Eychaner, a 1966 graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, spent $1.5 million for WGMI, a channel 56 construction permit that had been held by a group of Indiana businessmen since 1976 but was never built. Then in exchange for a hefty donation, he acquired the educational broadcast license for WCAE, channel 50. He then swapped the licenses and channel 56 became WYIN, a popular alternate PBS affiliate to Chicago's WTTW. Channel 50 became a commercial license and was re-dubbed WPWR.
Meanwhile, Miyares, seeing WBBS in a downward spiral since the WSNS affiliation with SIN, wanted out. Eychaner bought WBBS for $11 million and then turned around and sold it to The Home Shopping Network (HSN) for $25 million. HSN changed the calls to WEHS and on January 17, 1987 went on the air right in the middle of a sale! At the same time, WPWR signed off channel 60 and reappeared on channel 50 with an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery called "Green Fingers." Certainly, Eychaner did.
In July 2002 The Chicago Sun-Times' Robert Feder reported that Eychaner sold WPWR to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television for $425 million. Nice little return on a original $1.5 million investment.
ALSO FEATURED IN THE MEN OF UHF
JERRY ROSE- WCFC CHANNEL 38 BOB LEWANDOWSKI- WCIU CHANNEL 26 JOHN WEIGEL- CHANNEL 26 EDWARD L. MORRIS- WSNS CHANNEL 44
ALSO IN SECTION TWO OF THE VIDEO VETERAN-
All content copyright 2000 Steve Jajkowski