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In 1957, WGN-TV became one of the first television stations in the Chicago market to broadcast live programming in color.

Notable WGN-TV productions during the 1960s through the 1980s included several incarnations of the immensely popular Bozo's Circus, Ray Rayner and His Friends, Garfield Goose and Friends (which was hosted by Frazier Thomas, who also hosted a popular family movie showcase on the station titled Family Classics), The Mulqueens, and the popular children's educational series The Space Explorers.

WGN-TV began to be distributed across the United States through cable television in October 1978, after Tulsa, Oklahoma-based United Video Satellite Group uplinked the station's signal via satellite.

This signal was picked up by many fledgling cable television providers, as well as directly to satellite dish owners, turning WGN-TV into one of the first superstations, alongside New York City's WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) and Atlanta's WTBS (now WPCH-TV).

A historic moment in Chicago television occurred when Sheldon Cooper launched The All-Time Hits, a musical variety show that ran for 13 weeks and featured The Buckinghams; the program was broadcast in color.

During the late 1950s, the station was briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.

In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) barred companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market; the FCC granted the Tribune Company permission to grandfather its combination of the Chicago Tribune, WGN-TV and WGN radio through a cross-ownership waiver.Channel 9 then spent much of the next two decades as the top-rated independent in Chicago, offering a variety of general entertainment programs including movies, sports, off-network reruns and children's programs.For much of its existence, WGN-TV produced a large number of its own programs at its studios.Even though its parent company would be a partner in The WB, WGN-TV had initially planned to remain an independent station due to concerns by station management with balancing a network affiliation and fulfilling the station's sports broadcast commitments.However, despite that reason, the station competed with WPWR-TV (channel 50) to become the Chicago charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN), another planned network founded by Chris-Craft/United Television in partnership with Paramount Television; UPN opted to sign an affiliation agreement with WPWR on November 10, 1993.

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