“Throughout our history, we have led the way in news, technical innovation and service to the community,” says John Idler, WLS’ GM.
During a time when milk was 34 cents a gallon, the average cost of a home was $1,250 and 1% of American households had televisions, ABC-owned station WENR-TV/Channel 7 made its television debut in Chicago on Sept. 17, 1948.
In 1968, the station changed its call letters to WLS-TV, an acronym for the “World’s Largest Store,” after its sister radio station’s previous owner, Sears, Roebuck & Co. The Walt Disney Co. purchased it in 1996.
“Throughout our history, we have led the way in news, technical innovation and service to the community,” says John Idler, WLS GM. “We are tremendously proud to be the No. 1 station in Chicago and look forward to another 75 years of excellence and community connection.”
The site of ABC 7’s State Street Studio stands in what was originally a vaudeville house built in 1919 by famous Chicago architects C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp. It was called the State-Lake Theater and featured live stage acts and movies.
By the early 1940s, stage shows disappeared from the State-Lake Theater and it just served as a movie palace until it closed on June 28, 1984. The theater space was then converted into TV studios for ABC 7 news and programming, including The Oprah Winfrey Show.
After 75 years, ABC 7 says it continues to be the most-watchedelevision station in Chicago. The station has also been the top choice for news in Chicago, boasting No. 1 ratings year after year for decades. ABC 7’s 10 p.m. news has captured the No. 1 spot for more than two decades and the station’s 4, 5, and 6 p.m. newscasts have retained their No. 1 ranking for an extraordinary 30-plus years.
Notable WLS highlights include the following:
1984 – Oprah Winfrey debuts as host of the station’s AM Chicago.
2004 – The first and only station to air the Chicago Pride Parade.
2007 – The first station to broadcast all of its local news and programming in HD.
2017 – The first Chicago television station with more than 2 million Facebook followers.
2022 – It launches 24/7 streaming with additional newscasts