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WLFI-TV, virtual channel 18 VHF digital channel 11, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Lafayette, Indiana, United States. Heartland Media owns the station. WLFI-TVs studios are located on Yeager Road in West Lafayette, and its transmitter is located on County Road 700 in rural northwestern Clinton County southwest of Rossville. WLFI-TV is available on cable, on Comcast Xfinity channel 8 and Metronet channel 18 in standard definition, and on Xfinity digital channel 1018 and Metronet channel 818 in high definition.
The station first signed on the air at 600 p.m. on June 15, 1953, as WFAM-TV, broadcasting on UHF channel 59. It was founded by O.E. Richardson, owner of radio station WASK 1450 AM. The station originally operated as a primary CBS and DuMont affiliate. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
WFAM-TVs transmitter had originally broadcast at low power, making it unreceivable in parts of west-central Indiana outside of the immediate Lafayette area. Out of its original 20-person staff, only one person had any television experience; the rest were radio personalities who pulled double duty.
In 1957, the station was sold to WASK to assistant general manager Henry Rosenthal, who filed with the Federal Communications Commission FCC to move WFAM-TV to channel 18. Still, the station instead went dark in May 1959. Rosenthal sold the station to Sarkes Tarzian, a radio manufacturer based in Bloomington, which also owned primary NBC/secondary ABC and DuMont affiliate WTTV now a CBS affiliate in Indianapolis and ABC affiliate WPTA in Fort Wayne.
Tarzian finished the relocation to channel 18, returning WFAM-TV to the air on that channel on November 15 of that year. The channel 59 allocation remained dormant until the FCC later reassigned the allotment to Indianapolis used by WPDS-TV -- now Fox affiliate WXIN -- in February 1984. The station changed its call letters to WLFI-TV in 1967. In 1979, the station was purchased by Block Communications. In 2000, LIN TV Corporation acquired WLFI from Block in exchange for a 67% ownership interest in ABC affiliate WAND, now an NBC affiliate in Decatur, Illinois. LIN TV later sold off its remaining 33% interest in WAND to Block Communications.
WLFIs broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.
On March 21, 2014, Media General announced that it would merge with LIN Media in a $1.6 billion deal. The merger was completed on December 19. 9 Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced on January 27, 2016, that it would merge with Media General in a $4.6 billion acquisition; it then announced on June 13, 2016, that it would sell WLFI-TV and four other stations to Heartland Media, through its USA Television MidAmerica Holdings joint venture with MSouth Equity Partners, for $115 million, to comply with FCC ownership caps following the merger.
WLFI was the Lafayette area's only commercial network television broadcaster from its 1953 start until the 2016 launch of WPBI-LD, a Fox and NBC affiliate. Cable providers have long supplemented the area with stations from Indianapolis. Comcast Xfinity dropped the Indianapolis stations from its lineup on March 7, 2018, but resumed carriage of NBC affiliate WTHR and ABC affiliate WRTV two days later.
WLFI formerly carried TheCoolTV on digital subchannel 18.2 from 2011 to 2013, when LIN Media terminated its affiliation agreement with the music video network.16 The live feed of "Storm Team 18 Live Doppler Radar" moved from digital subchannel 18.3 to 18.2 in the fall of 2013. Sony Pictures Televisions GetTV network, which features classic movies, replaced the weather radar channel on WLFI-DT2 in early 2015. In Fall 2015, WLFI-DT3 was launched to serve as an Ion Television affiliate.
The CW Plus began to be broadcast over WLFI-DT2 in 720p HD in August 2017, moving GetTV to a new DT4 subchannel and leading to the CBS feed on their main channel being downscaled into 720p for the time being presumably due to bandwidth limitations resulting from their current encoding equipment, which are only capable of utilizing a "Constant" Bitrate Allocation, versus "Variable." WLFI-DT2 is being identified on-air as "Lafayettes CW18".
WLFI-TV presently broadcasts 22½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week with four hours each weekday, 1½ hours on Saturdays, and one hour on Sundays; unlike most CBS affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, the stations early evening newscast at 500 p.m. runs only for a half-hour, with the station opting to run syndicated programs during the 530 p.m. half-hour.
Even after cable systems began piping in Indianapolis stations in the 1970s, the station's newscasts have performed well in the ratings; its success was largely attributed to the longevity of most of its news staff, some of whom had been at the station for over 20 years, including former anchors Jeff Smith and Chris Morisse, sports anchor Larry Clisby and meteorologist Steve Scherer.
In September 2012, WLFI became the third television station in Central Indiana to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; as part of the upgrade, the station unveiled a new graphics package, a modified version of the package used by CBS owned-and-operated station WBBM-TV in Chicago from when it upgraded its newscasts to high definition in 2008 until 2010 and a new set for its newscasts.