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East St. Louis, Illinois/St. Louis, Missouri
United States
City of license East St. Louis, Illinois
Branding Ion Television
Slogan Positively Entertaining
Channels Digital: 47 (UHF)
Virtual: 46 (PSIP)
Subchannels 46.1 Ion Television
46.2 Qubo
46.3 Ion Life
46.4 Ion Shop
46.5 QVC
46.6 HSN
Affiliations Ion Television
Owner Gary Chapman (as trustee)
(Operated by Ion Media Networks; sale to Cedar Creek Broadcasting pending; to remain operated by Ion thereafter)
(Broadcast Trust)
First air date September 11, 1989 (1989-09-11)
Call letters' meaning Roberts
(former owner)
UHF (channel position) or UPN (former affiliation)
Former callsigns WHSL (1989-2003)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
46 (UHF, 1989–2009)
Former affiliations HSN (1989-2003 as primary)
UPN (2003–2006)
MyNetworkTV (2006–2014)
Me-TV (DT2, 2011–2013)
Transmitter power 109.4 kW
Height 318 m
Facility ID 57221
Transmitter coordinates
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile

WRBU, virtual channel 46 (UHF digital channel 47), is a Ion Television owned-and-operated television station serving St. Louis, Missouri, United States that is licensed to East St. Louis, Illinois. The station is owned by a broadcast trust with Gary Chapman as trustee[1] and Ion Media Networks as its beneficiary. WRBU maintains studio facilities in the Victor Roberts Building located on North Kingshighway Boulevard on the northwest side of St. Louis, and its transmitter is located near House Springs.


  • History 1
  • Digital television 2
    • Digital channels 2.1
    • Analog-to-digital conversion 2.2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The station first signed on the air on September 11, 1989 as WHSL; at the outset, it was a straight simulcast of the Home Shopping Network. It was founded by Roberts Broadcasting and was its first television station (Roberts would sign on two other stations, WRBJ in Jackson, Mississippi and WZRB in Columbia, South Carolina; and acquire WAZE-TV in Evansville, Indiana during 2005 and 2006). In June 2001, the station announced plans to become a commercial network affiliate when it signed a deal to join UPN starting in 2003.[2] However, WHSL began a temporary secondary affiliation with UPN in September 2002 to carry Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Enterprise,[3] which had been dropped by UPN's previous secondary affiliate, WB affiliate KPLR-TV (channel 11);[4] this required getting permission from HSN to preempt two hours of its programming.[3]

On January 17, 2003, the station changed its call sign to the present-day WRBU.[5] Three months later on April 1, 2003,[4] the station dropped HSN in favor of a full UPN affiliation, becoming the only major-network affiliate in St. Louis that was licensed on the Illinois side of the market. It added sitcoms, syndicated talk shows and reality shows to fill out the schedule. Until this switch, St. Louis had been the largest city in the United States by market size that did not have a full-time UPN affiliate. Prior to channel 46 aligning with the network, its programming had been seen through secondary affiliations with KPLR from 2000 to 2002 and even earlier on ABC affiliate KDNL-TV (channel 30) from 1995 to 1998, with both stations carrying UPN programs after primetime hours. UPN had also affiliated with KNLC (channel 24) from 1999 to 2000; however, outside of network programming, KNLC remained a religious independent station and thus turned down most UPN programs that its owner, Larry Rice, deemed inappropriate.

On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation (which split from Viacom in December 2005) announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW.[6][7] The network signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Tribune Broadcasting for 13 of the 16 WB affiliates that the company owned at the time, with KPLR-TV named as the St. Louis affiliate of the new network.[8] It was not likely that WRBU would have been considered for a CW affiliation in any event; CW executives were on record as wanting the "strongest" WB and UPN stations for their network, and KPLR had been one of the strongest WB affiliates in the nation for nearly all of The WB's run.

Nearly one month later on February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of MyNetworkTV, a competing network which would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television.[9][10] In March 2006, Channel 46 announced that it would affiliate with MyNetworkTV;[11] the network launched on September 5 of that year. The station serves as a backup NBC affiliate in the event that KSDK (channel 5) preempts the network's programming due to special programming, breaking news or severe weather coverage.

From February 2003[12] until March 2010,[13] WRBU was owned by St. Louis/Denver LLC, a joint venture of Roberts and the TeleFutura subsidiary of Univision Communications; Roberts continued to operate the station through a time brokerage agreement during this time, and appointed the directors of WRBU's licensee. Roberts also transferred its station in Denver, KTVJ (the operations of which were taken over by Univision, becoming TeleFutura affiliate KTFD-TV), to St. Louis/Denver LLC.[12] In March 2010, St. Louis/Denver LLC was dissolved; Roberts then retook full ownership of WRBU, and Univision took full ownership of KTFD.[13]

On December 4, 2013, Roberts, facing serious financial trouble, filed to sell WRBU to Tri-State Christian Television;[14] however, on December 11, the United States bankruptcy court gave initial approval for a plan by Roberts' creditors to instead transfer WRBU and its sister stations, WZRB and WAZE-LP (WRBJ had been sold off to the Trinity Broadcasting Network a year earlier), to a trust with Ion Media Networks (a creditor in Roberts' chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings) as its beneficiary, with Roberts' attorney subsequently stating that Ion would purchase the three stations.[15][16] The deal marks a return to an over-the-air presence for Ion Television in the St. Louis market, the network had been available through KUMO-LP (channel 51), a low-power repeater of Mount Vernon, Illinois-based WPXS from 1998 to 2008 which had spare cable coverage; Ion had only been available in the market for most viewers via the network's national feed on cable and satellite providers. The FCC approved the deal on February 2, 2014 and the station changed its affiliation to Ion Television on February 10 with all syndicated and network carriage agreements voided upon the sale to Ion. This affiliation switch from MyNetworkTV to Ion Television made St. Louis at the time the largest television market without a MyNetworkTV affiliate,[17] The network would eventually return to the market when KMOV-DT3 was re-launched in mid-November 2014, with much of WRBU's former syndicated programming also returning to the air via that station. On January 29, 2015, Cedar Creek Broadcasting (a company controlled by Brian Brady, who also owns several other broadcasting companies such as Northwest Broadcasting) agreed to purchase WRBU and WZRB from the trust for $6 million; following the deal's completion, Ion will provide services to the stations, which will remain Ion affiliates.[18]

Digital television

Digital channels

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Network
46.1 720p 16:9 ION Ion Television
46.2 480i 4:3 qubo Qubo
46.3 IONLife Ion Life
46.4 Shop Ion Shop
46.5 QVC QVC
46.6 HSN HSN

WRBU previously did not broadcast its primary digital channel in high definition, making it one of the few network-affiliated stations in the United States not to operate an HD feed on its digital signal, though internal promos for the station's website and Facebook in the MyNetworkTV era were presented in HD form. Soon after the station went under Ion ownership, on March 10, 2014, WRBU began carrying the five subchannel services carried on other Ion Television owned-and-operated stations, including the Home Shopping Network's over-the-air service (WRBU's original primary affiliation). In May 2014, the station began broadcasting the main channel in 720p HD format.

Analog-to-digital conversion

WRBU shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 46, on January 21, 2009 (just over five months before the federally-mandated June 12 transition to digital broadcasts for U.S. full-power television stations; the official date was pushed back to June 12). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 47.[19][20] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 46.


  1. ^ Ownership Report for Commercial Stations - Federal Communications Commission
  2. ^ "WHSL, UPN sign long-term agreement". St. Louis Business Journal. June 8, 2001. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Pennington, Gail (September 15, 2002). "WHSL (channel 46) comes to the rescue of "Buffy" and "Enterprise" TV fanatics".  
  4. ^ a b Pennington, Gail (July 14, 2002). "Can't see TV: "Buffy," "Enterprise" will disappear locally while WHSL awaits UPN affiliation". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  5. ^ "WHSL-TV becomes WRBU-TV on Friday". St. Louis Business Journal. January 16, 2003. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  6. ^ 'Gilmore Girls' meet 'Smackdown'; CW Network to combine WB, UPN in CBS-Warner venture beginning in September,, January 24, 2006.
  7. ^ UPN and WB to Combine, Forming New TV Network, The New York Times, January 24, 2006.
  8. ^ Tribune TV Stations to Lead Affiliate Group of New Network, Tribune Company corporate website, January 24, 2006.
  9. ^ "News Corp. to launch new mini-network for UPN stations".  
  10. ^ News Corp. Unveils MyNetworkTV, Broadcasting & Cable, February 22, 2006.
  11. ^ Romano, Allison (March 9, 2006). "My Network TV Signs Six Affils".  
  15. ^ Mueller, Angela (December 11, 2013). "Judge approves creditors’ proposal the network's in Roberts Broadcasting bankruptcy". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  16. ^ Brown, Lisa (December 11, 2013). "Roberts' TV stations to be sold".  
  17. ^ Pennington, Gail (February 11, 2014). "WRBU becomes Ion in St. Louis".  
  19. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  20. ^ List of Broadcast Stations (A-I) Going Digital On February 17, 2009,

External links

  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WRBU
  • BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WRBU-TV
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