KAUT-TV, virtual channel 43 (UHF digital channel 19), is an independent television station licensed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Nexstar Media Group subsidiary of the Nexstar Broadcasting Inc, as part of a duopoly with NBC affiliate KFOR-TV (channel 4). The two stations share studios on East Britton Road (near U.S. 77) in the McCourry Heights section of northeast Oklahoma City; KAUT's transmitter is located further east on Britton Road, across from the studios of ABC affiliate KOCO-TV (channel 5).

On cable, KAUT is available on Cox Communications channel 16 (standard definition) and digital channel 716 (high definition), and AT&T U-verse channels 43 (standard definition) and 1043 (high definition) in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. (Cable channel assignments for KAUT elsewhere within the Oklahoma City DMA vary depending on the provider.)

History[edit | edit source]

Early history[edit | edit source]

The UHF channel 43 allocation in Oklahoma City was originally assigned to Christian Broadcasting of Oklahoma Inc. – a religious nonprofit corporation headed by George G. Teague, a local evangelist and co-founder of the Capitol Hill Assembly of God – which filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license and construction permit on April 4, 1977, proposing to sign on a non-commercial religious television station on the frequency. The FCC Broadcast Bureau granted the license to Christian Broadcasting of Oklahoma on November 17, 1978; two months later in January 1979, the group applied to use KFHC-TV as the planned station's callsign. On July 13, 1979, the Teague group announced it would sell the license to Golden West Broadcasters (a joint venture between actor/singer and Ravia, Oklahoma native Gene Autry and The Signal Companies that, at the time, also owned independent station KTLA [now a CW affiliate] in Los Angeles) for $60,000; the FCC granted approval of the transaction on January 24, 1980.

VEU[edit | edit source]

The station first signed on the air on October 15, 1980 as KAUT, initially operating as a pilot station for Golden West's subscription service Video Entertainment Unlimited (VEU). (The callsign, which references controlling group stakeholder Autry, was chosen by Golden West two months prior to sign-on; a "-TV" suffix would be added to the callsign on January 27, 1983.) KAUT – which originally operated from a 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) studio and office facility located at 11901 North Eastern Avenue (south of the John Kilpatrick Turnpike and southwest of the Burendale Heights North section) in northeastern Oklahoma City – was the sixth commercial television station to sign on in the Oklahoma City market and the fourth such station to operate on the UHF band.

The VEU service – which occupied the channel 43 signal weekdays from 7:00 p.m. until its 2:00 a.m. sign-off and weekends from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. – carried uncut theatrically released feature films, entertainment specials (including concerts and Vegas revues), sporting events (including college football and basketball games from the Oklahoma Sooners, football and basketball games as well as wrestling matches involving the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and NBA games featuring the Dallas Mavericks, some of which commenced play before 7:00 p.m., resulting in fans often missing the start of many contests) and, for an additional monthly fee, softcore versions of pornographic films (aired as part of Night VEU, an adult-oriented programming block that aired at or after 11:00 p.m., depending on the evening's film schedule, seven nights a week). VEU could be purchased for a fee of $22.50 per month (equivalent to $68.42 in 2018 adjusted for inflation). Prospective subscribers were required to rent a special set-top decoder box to unencrypt the channel 43 signal during hours when the station carried VEU programming in order to receive the service. (A special lockout device designed to restrict children from viewing R-rated and pornographic movies could be purchased for a one-time-only charge of $15.) The decoders were designed so that KAUT engineers could re-encrypt the signal from the station's studios if it became aware that a viewer (who figured out the technical simplicities of the VEU signal encryption) was receiving the service illegally by either rewiring the rented decoder boxes or devising their own.

As Golden West and KAUT was launching VEU, multichannel television franchises offering cable-originated premium services such as Home Box Office (HBO) and Showtime had already become widely available throughout central Oklahoma. Cable service was provided within Oklahoma City proper through Cox Cable (which commenced its Oklahoma City operations in April 1980, servicing the western half of the city [up to Western Avenue]) and Pan Oklahoma Communications (an African American-owned buildout venture that was majority owned by Cox that concurrently began serving northeastern Oklahoma City and nearby Forest Park; Cox would acquire Pan Oklahoma outright in December 1983), and in outer suburbs through Multimedia Cablevision (which covered cities such as Bethany, Choctaw, Del City, Edmond, Moore and Yukon) and American Cablevision (which served most of Midwest City outside of Tinker Air Force Base, the latter of which was part of the Multimedia-owned cluster that would take over the Midwest City system in May 1984). Wireless cable was also available area-wide via TVQ (which launched in October 1978 as a single-channel over-the-air distributor of HBO and Superstation WTBS, later to include supplementary sports content from [eventual KAUT sister station] WGN-TV in Chicago).

VEU eventually expanded to KNBN-TV (now CW-affiliated sister KDAF) in Dallas–Fort Worth when that station debuted on November 1, and WVEU (now CW owned-and-operated station WUPA) in Atlanta when that station debuted on August 22, 1981. With Cox and Multimedia increasing their subscribership, offering up to 30 channels at close to the same price as VEU, the service less attractive to viewers; KAUT ceased carrying VEU programming on October 17, 1982. (The service continued to operate until September 30, 1984, when WVEU and its replacement Dallas outlet, KTWS-TV [now MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station KDFI] ceased carrying the service due to subscriber declines associated to the widespread presence of cable television in the Atlanta and Dallas–Fort Worth markets.)

Launch of rolling news format; transition to general entertainment format[edit | edit source]

KAUT commenced entertainment programming on November 3, 1980, three weeks after the VEU launch; at that time, it became the third independent station to sign on in the Oklahoma City market (after KOKH-TV [channel 25, now a Fox affiliate], which converted from a non-commercial educational independent into a commercial independent on October 1, 1979, and KGMC [channel 34, now CW affiliate KOCB], which signed on four weeks later on October 28). The station initially maintained a mixed information and entertainment schedule, running local news programming from sign-on at 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., and a limited schedule of first-run syndicated programs (initially consisting of only two shows, The Merv Griffin Show and game show Liar's Club) weekdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Later that month, KAUT reached an agreement with the Trinity Broadcasting Network to temporarily carry some of the Christian-oriented religious network's programs from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends until TBN's upstart owned-and-operated station KTBO-TV (channel 14) – which was originally scheduled to sign on in September – was able to correct technical issues with its transmitter facility; the agreement concluded when KTBO officially debuted over channel 14 on March 6, 1981.

On February 2, 1981, KAUT shifted its news block two hours later (from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.), which allowed for the station's news department to provide additional weather coverage during the late afternoon for that year's spring severe weather season; with that move, channel 43 carried a morning block of music videos from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. and a mix of syndicated talk and religious programs from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. After the station discontinued the daytime local news format in September 1981, KAUT began filling daytime slots with older feature film westerns – most of which had starred Autry – on a temporary basis, and also added some drama series, sitcoms and animated series to its schedule.

Concurrent with the cancellations of those shows, the station overhauled its lineup in September 1982, and expanded its schedule to 17 hours per day. At that time, channel 43 began offering a simulcast of the Financial News Network (which would merge with CNBC in 1989) each weekday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and, after the removal of VEU programming, from 9:30 to 10:00 p.m. The rest of the weekday schedule during this timeframe featured cartoons in the mid-afternoon, and a mix of "traditional family shows" from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. After channel 43 dropped VEU programming on October 17, nighttime hours began to be filled by classic series as well as the syndicated national evening newscast Independent Network News (which was distributed by eventual KAUT owner Tribune Broadcasting). The following year, FNN programming was dropped and replaced by additional comedy and drama series, while movies began airing in prime time. In 1984, cartoons were added to the station's morning lineup and an expanded inventory of sitcoms was added during the evening. KAUT ceased carrying FNN programming in 1985, as a result of the channel discontinuing its over-the-air affiliations to operate strictly as a cable-exclusive service.

On February 28, 1985, Golden West—whose assets had been technically been for sale under a divestiture order from the California state government since shortly after the May 1980 death of Autry's wife, Ina Mae—sold KAUT to Atlanta-based Rollins Communications (owned by O. Wayne Rollins, co-founder of pest control services company Rollins Inc.) for $5.5 million; the sale was finalized 4½ months later on June 11. Subsequently, in June 1986, Des Moines, Iowa-based Heritage Broadcasting acquired a controlling interest in Rollins Communications – with the combined company forming Heritage Media – in a two-tiered tender acquisition worth $260 million.

Fox affiliation and aborted sale to OETA[edit | edit source]

On July 25, 1986, in advance of the network's launch, News Corporation announced that it had reached an agreement with Rollins Communications, in which KAUT was named the Oklahoma City charter affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company. Even though KOKH-TV was the leading independent in the market, Reliance Capital Group – which assumed ownership of KOKH's parent company at the time, Blair Broadcasting, to stave off a hostile takeover by minority stockholders – had turned down Fox's offer to affiliate with channel 25, due to disagreements over scheduling of the network's inaugural program, late-night talk show The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, in concern of potential disruption to its movie lineup. KAUT-TV affiliated with Fox when the fledgling network inaugurated programming on October 9, 1986. Though it was technically a network affiliate, Channel 43 continued to be programmed as a de facto independent station. Even after the network's programming expanded with the launch of a three-hour Sunday night lineup in April 1987, Fox offered prime time programs exclusively on weekends until September 1989, when it began a five-year expansion towards a nightly prime time schedule (Fox would not air prime time programs on all seven nights of the week until January 1993, after KOKH assumed the local affiliation rights to the network). KAUT – which, in compliance with Fox's stricter branding requirements, began phasing out its original "TV-43" branding in favor of identifying as "KAUT Fox 43" in September 1989 – continued to air a movie at 7:00 p.m. on nights when the network did not offer any programming. Around that time, the station acquired more cartoons for its weekday afternoon lineup, and launched Midnight Shopper, a home shopping program produced by locally based production company Snyder & Co. that aired weekend late nights.

Despite just barely ranking as a top-40 Nielsen market at the time, the Oklahoma City market did not have enough television-viewing households to support what were essentially three independent stations, nor was there a supply of programming on the syndication market that could sufficiently fill their respective schedules. In the summer of 1988, Visalia, California-based Pappas Telecasting Companies proposed a deal with Busse Broadcast Holdings (a trust company created independently of Gillett Holdings in the name of broadcasting executive George N. Gillett Jr.'s children, and which had recently acquired channel 25 at the time) to purchase KOKH, which would have resulted in programming changes at KAUT and its independent competitors. Under the complex $30-million asset transfer proposal, Pappas would acquire the programming inventories of both KGMC and KAUT (including channel 43's Fox affiliation rights) and integrate many of their acquired programs onto channel 25's schedule, solidifying KOKH's status as the market's dominant independent. Simultaneously, Heritage Media would sell KAUT to a religious broadcaster, which would convert that station to a non-commercial religious format. Seraphim Media would in turn donate the license and certain intellectual assets of KGMC to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) – with the intent of converting it into a PBS member station – for $1 million, with Pappas acquiring equipment and property assets owned by the station for an additional $1 million.

Governor Henry Bellmon voiced concerns with OETA's involvement in the transaction, suggesting that the purchase of a second Oklahoma City station would result in the authority, which had limited appropriations to adequately operate its existing state network as it stood, constantly requesting additional state funding. On August 17, 1988, OETA submitted an FCC application to purchase KGMC, after, in advance of a fundraising deadline set for that date, Pappas offered to provide a $1 million contribution toward purchasing the station, contingent upon the company completing the KOKH purchase. After its Board of Directors voted against the KGMC proposal that September, OETA decided to change course: on November 1, 1988, Heritage Media announced it would sell KAUT to the OETA for $1 million (along with assets worth $7.75 million and a non-compete agreement worth $500.000). Pappas would also lease the KAUT transmitter facility to OETA for 25 years for an annual operating fee of $1, and contribute an additional $1 million should the acquisition be completed. Concurrently, General Media announced it would sell KGMC to Cleveland, Ohio-based Maddox Broadcasting Corp. (an African American-owned group run by media executive Chesley Maddox, which intended to refocus that station to primarily feature a mix of religious and Home Shopping Network [HSN] programming) for $3.6 million, including certain intellectual assets that Pappas Telecasting would not acquire under the asset proposal (such as transmitter facilities, studio equipment and licenses) worth $2.6 million.

Although OETA planned to fund the conversion of channel 43 partly through start-up grants (including a $75,000 award by management at ABC affiliate KOCO-TV [channel 5]), in a move that hamstrung its attempt to acquire KAUT, the Oklahoma Legislature incorporated stipulations into the bill appropriating OETA's funding for FY1990 that prohibited the use of state funds "for any operational or capital expense of the proposed second educational television channel in Oklahoma City" and from proposing any additional funding to finance the acquisition if it did not obtain sufficient funding from private sources. In late January 1989, Busse management denied Pappas's request to extend the completion deadline for the purchase past its scheduled January 31 deadline. The entire transaction fell through on February 3, when Busse formally terminated the purchase agreement with Pappas. Just three days earlier, the FCC had also dismissed the respective transfer applications for KGMC and KAUT. The in-limbo license donation created uncertainty over the station's future, resulting in the departures of 16 KAUT employees (all of whom sought work at other Heritage-owned television stations), and a reduction in advertising sales.

OETA ownership and PBS membership[edit | edit source]

On April 23, 1991, three years after the first sale proposal involving the public broadcaster fell through, Heritage Media announced that it would donate the KAUT license and certain non-license assets (including transmitter facilities and master control equipment) to OETA. The agreement—which partially mirrored the aborted Pappas proposal, and stipulated that the donation be contingent on the approval of Heritage's acquisition of KOKH—also included a two-year option for the authority to purchase the station's remaining assets for $1.5 million. Heritage concurrently announced that it would buy KOKH from the Gillett-controlled Busse Broadcast Holdings, with the intent to move some of KAUT's programming to channel 25. Post-acquisition, OETA planned to increase the authority's telecourse programming by 250%, largely through programs that would fill the KAUT lineup (at that time, Oklahoma had the highest total of students who obtained their college credit through telecourses). Under the 1987 proposal by Pappas, OETA had planned to air 22 additional hours of college telecourse programs over KAUT each week to supplement the 8½ weekly hours offered by the state network. OETA solicited private funds totaling $300,000 to pay for educational programming that would be shown on the restructured channel 43. Other operational assumptions and acquisition of the KAUT's North Eastern Avenue studios and transmission tower would require additional funding by the Oklahoma Legislature, which was now more receptive of the authority acquiring KAUT. The sale received FCC approval on June 27, 1991.

Channel 43 became a PBS member station on August 15, 1991—becoming the city's second non-commercial educational station, after OETA flagship station KETA-TV (channel 13)—while much of its syndication inventory and Fox affiliation migrated to channel 25. Thirty employees (among them, KAUT general manager Harlan Reams, who took over that same position at KOKH), and other equipment and intellectual property held by channel 43, were also included in the transfer. The station's programming conversion was part of a national education demonstration initiative formed between OETA's Board of Directors, the OETA Foundation Board of Trustees, and Heritage Media; PBS senior vice president for education services Sandy Welch, and management with the Children's Television Workshop collaborated with the consortium in the development of the station's new format, which OETA and PBS intended to use as a model for instructional and educational programming on a national level. Under OETA ownership, Channel 43 reduced its schedule to 14 hours per day initially (from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.), mirroring the OETA network's programming hours on Sunday through Thursdays during that timeframe. To fill the vacated programming time, cable providers throughout central and western Oklahoma designated KTLC's assigned channel slot as a timeshare feed, running other networks over its space during the station's off-hours. Among the providers that did so was Cox Cable's Oklahoma City area system, which carried QVC on channel 13 during KTLC's off-time from January 1992 until channel 43 dismembered from PBS. (The station's Cox channel slot suffered from direct pickup interference by, ironically, the VHF analog signal of sister station KETA-TV, an issue that Cox's move of KAUT/KTLC to channel 13 in January 1987 was claimed to address; these issues eventually resulted in Cox moving KAUT's basic tier slot from channel 13 to channel 16 in 2007.)

As a PBS station, much of KAUT/KTLC's programming consisted of same-day rebroadcasts of programs featured on the OETA network, alongside some programs from American Public Television and other syndicators that OETA had granted the exclusive local broadcast rights to channel 43. The station's initial format as a PBS member featured instructional, informational and fitness programs (such as Body Electric, Homestretch, A.M. Weather and Sit and Be Fit) each weekday from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., and instructional programs and select PBS news, science and documentary series (including among others, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour [later retitled The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in 1995], which, until 1993, originally aired on a one-hour delay from its initial OETA early evening broadcast) from 9:00 p.m. until sign-off. Afternoons and late evenings on Saturdays and Sundays as well as Sunday mornings featured discussion series (such as Tony Brown's Journal and Firing Line) and instructional programs for high school and college credit; weekends in prime time featured mostly repeats of PBS arts and documentary programs that were first aired on OETA during the previous week. The majority of its lineup, however, consisted of children's programming sourced from PBS and other distributors; atypical of most PBS stations (which usually only air such programs during the daytime hours), children's shows made up the bulk of the station's weekday schedule from mid-morning to early evening, with occasional breakaways for PBS programming aimed at older audiences. In what would become a gradual expansion of its children's program offerings, in December 1991, the station began carrying shows aimed at a preschooler to preteen audience (such as Reading Rainbow, Shining Time Station, Long Ago and Far Away and Degrassi Junior High) between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.

The station's call letters were changed to KTLC on January 17, 1992, in reflection of the branding it adopted upon the August 1991 format change, "The Literacy Channel," a relatively contradictory moniker as the station's programming, while educational in form, was not entirely focused on literacy. Within three years under the "Literacy Channel" format, channel 43 began altering its program schedule due partly to financial difficulties tied to reductions in the OETA's budget appropriations. On July 3, 1993, KTLC cut its weekday and weekend morning schedules (from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.), which had largely been ceded to instructional programs and, on weekday mornings, also included some children's programming; the move was originally intended to last until the end of August 1993, in a cost-saving effort intended to save about $4,000 per month during that summer amid a 17.9% reduction in the OETA's state funding for FY1993, but continued past its intended timespan. At that time, the OETA board requested for permission by the OETA Foundation for KTLC to conduct two on-air fund raisers during the fall and winter of 1993. KTLC launched its first on-air fundraising event, "Celebration '93," on September 11 of that year, which earned only $2,000 in public donations over the eight-day-long event.

On July 2, 1994, KTLC dropped five additional hours of programming on weekend afternoons (from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.), reducing its broadcast schedule on Saturday and Sundays to between 4:00 p.m. and midnight. Concurrently on July 4, it added morning children's and instructional programs as part of a re-expanded 16-hour weekday schedule (running from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.; the weekday 6:00 a.m. hour was subsequently restored six months later on January 2, 1995). By 1995, channel 43 had expanded its children's programming to encompass the vast majority of its weekday schedule (from its 6:00 a.m. sign-on until 9:00 p.m.) and half of its weekend schedule (from its 5:00 p.m. sign-on until 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays); KTLC also moved its fitness programs to the 11:00 a.m. hour on weekdays (later moved to between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. by September 1997), and phased out most of weekday instructional programming. The remainder of its schedule during that period consisted of select PBS news, science and documentary series from late evening until sign-off and a broad mix of adult education programs (such as Learn to Read, Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish, Computer Chronicles, GED on TV and Literary Visions) during the late evening hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

As a UPN affiliate[edit | edit source]

OETA eventually ran into difficulties trying to fund and operate two stations in the Oklahoma City market. In the fall of 1997, the authority announced it would put channel 43 up for sale, finding its eventual buyer as a result of the displacement of a network affiliation by a prior rival of KTLC during its initial run as a commercial station. On July 21, 1997, the Sinclair Broadcast Group signed an agreement with Time Warner, in which KOCB and four other Sinclair-operated stations – WPTT-TV (now MyNetworkTV affiliate WPNT) in Pittsburgh, WNUV (now a CW affiliate) in Baltimore, WSTR-TV (now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) in Cincinnati, and KRRT (now CW affiliate KMYS) in San Antonio – that were affiliates of the United Paramount Network (UPN) would become affiliates of The WB. UPN attempted to block the affiliation deal through lawsuits, claiming that Sinclair struck the deal without giving the network any required written notice that it would terminate its contracts with the affected stations; a summary judgment issued by the Baltimore City Circuit Court on December 8, 1997, ruled in favor of Sinclair. As the order now allowed the affected Sinclair stations to begin switching to The WB starting on January 15, 1998, UPN began scrambling to find a new affiliate in the market.

On January 8, 1998, two weeks before KOCB assumed the WB affiliation, the Paramount Stations Group (a subsidiary of UPN co-parent Viacom) reached an agreement to purchase KTLC from the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority for $23.5 million. OETA planned to use the proceeds from the sale to Paramount – which was made possible because OETA maintained the commercial classification of the channel 43 broadcast license after the Heritage Media donation – to fund the construction and sign-on of the digital broadcast transmitters of KETA-TV and its repeaters, which the network was mandated to complete by December 2003 under an FCC directive to public television stations. KOCB became the Oklahoma City affiliate of The WB on January 18, 1998; from the network's January 1995 launch until the switch, The WB had been available in the market through the superstation feed of the network's Chicago affiliate, WGN-TV (which was carried on Cox Communications, Multimedia Cablevision, and other local cable and satellite providers). While the switch gave The WB an over-the-air presence in the Oklahoma City market, it consequently resulted in many area residents that did not have either an outdoor antenna that could receive UPN affiliates from Tulsa (KTFO-TV [now MyNetworkTV affiliate KMYT-TV) or Sulphur (KOKT-LP, now defunct) or a subscription to satellite provider Dish Network (which carried New York City owned-and-operated station WWOR-TV [now MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station] as a default UPN feed) being unable to view UPN programs within the market for the next six months.

Paramount took over the operations of channel 43 on June 15, 1998. The station – which also adopted the callsign KPSG, in reference to its new owner (which had earlier applied the base "PSG" call letters on channel 43's new Philadelphia sister station, WPSG [now a CW owned-and-operated station]) – reverted into a general entertainment outlet as the market's new UPN affiliate at 5:00 a.m. on June 20. The conversion was originally scheduled to occur on June 1, but was twice postponed – first until June 13, then to June 15 and finally to June 20 – because of technical difficulties and delays in finalizing the sale to Paramount (the issues leading to the second postponement were unrelated to a tornado outbreak that hit central Oklahoma on the evening of the 13th). Through Viacom's ownership stake in UPN, channel 43 became the first television station in Oklahoma to serve as an owned-and-operated station of a major commercial broadcast network (preceding the conversion of KOPX-TV [channel 62] and its Tulsa sister, KTPX-TV, into charter O&Os of Pax TV by two months). Most of channel 43's schedule during this time consisted of off-network sitcoms originally aired between the 1950s and the 1980s, select first-run syndicated talk shows and drama series, cartoons and feature films. Under conditions included by OETA in the sale agreement, Paramount/Viacom also was required to allow OETA to lease airtime on KPSG after the station joined UPN, under a five-year agreement which included requirements to air PBS educational shows supplied by the member network each weekday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., along with simulcast blocks of OETA's "Festival" and "AugustFest" programming for eight hours each weekend during the duration of the March and August pledge drives. (KPSG would cease airing OETA-leased children's programs on May 28, 1999.)

On December 12, 1998, the station re-adopted its former KAUT-TV call letters in tribute to founder Gene Autry, who had died from lymphoma at age 90 on October 2. In addition, the station also several of Autry's feature films during the week of December 6 (including among others his debut film, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, The Phantom Empire, and Bells of Capistrano). A weekend-long afternoon marathon of several of Autry's films that aired on December 12 and 13, was capped by an hour-long tribute special hosted by longtime friend, veteran Los Angeles radio personality Johnny Grant. Channel 43 culled all remaining PBS programming from its lineup in the fall of 2001, at which point it became a general entertainment station full-time. KAUT-TV gradually replaced many of the classic sitcoms featured during its weekday afternoon and evening lineup with talk shows and court shows. Cartoons were phased out by August 2003, after UPN ceased offering children's programs with the dissolution of the Disney's One Too block; the station would retain some children's programming in the form of live-action educational series compliant with Children's Television Act regulations on weekdays until September 2008 (when it relegated such programs to Saturday and Sunday mornings).

On June 14, 2005, citing the company's stagnating stock price, Viacom announced that it would split its assets into two separate companies; CBS, UPN and their owned-and-operated stations, Showtime Networks and other "slow-growth" businesses owned by Viacom became part of the new CBS Corporation, with most of its other assets (most notably, Paramount Pictures, and the MTV Networks and BET Networks cable television units) became part of a newly incorporated company that assumed the Viacom name. In the meantime, CBS – which renamed its broadcast television subsidiary, by then known as Viacom Television Stations Group, to CBS Television Stations following the split – chose to sell KAUT to The New York Times Company for an undisclosed price. The sale was finalized on November 4, 2005, creating a duopoly with NBC affiliate KFOR-TV (channel 4); KAUT subsequently migrated its operations to KFOR's existing facility on Britton Road and Northeast 93rd Street in northeast Oklahoma City. (The former Eastern Avenue studio building is now occupied by local construction firm Wynn Construction Company.)

As a MyNetworkTV affiliate[edit | edit source]

On January 24, 2006, UPN parent company CBS Corporation and WB network parent Time Warner (through its Warner Bros. Entertainment division) announced that they would dissolve the two networks to create The CW Television Network, a joint venture between the two media companies that initially featured programs from its two predecessor networks as well as original first-run series developed for The CW. Subsequently, on February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of MyNetworkTV, a network operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television that was created to primarily serve as a network programming option (in lieu of converting to a general entertainment independent format) for UPN and WB stations that were not chosen to affiliate with The CW.

When the network released its initial list of stations, The CW erroneously identified KAUT-TV as its Oklahoma City charter affiliate, despite the fact that CBS had already sold the station to The New York Times Company. On May 2, in a joint announcement by the network and Sinclair Broadcast Group, KOCB was confirmed as The CW's Oklahoma City affiliate. Since the network chose its charter stations based on which of them among The WB and UPN's respective affiliate bodies was the highest-rated in each market, KOCB was chosen to join The CW over KAUT as it had been the higher-rated of the two stations at the time of the agreement's signing. The day prior, KAUT became one of a handful of UPN-affiliated stations not owned by Fox Television Stations to remove on-air brand references to UPN—rebranding as simply "43"—and cease promotion of the network's programs. For three months, it was unclear whether KAUT would become an independent station once again or join MyNetworkTV. In an email sent by station management on August 22, just two weeks before the network launched, KAUT was confirmed to be Oklahoma City's MyNetworkTV affiliate.

KAUT-TV remained a UPN affiliate until September 4, 2006, with the network's Sunday late-night repeat block as the final UPN offering carried by the station. Channel 43 officially joined MyNetworkTV when that network launched the following day (September 5), at which point KAUT changed its branding to "OK 43"—instead of following the "My (channel number)" branding conventions that MyNetworkTV outlined for its affiliates or using a modification of the network's multi-pattern "blue TV" logo—a change that was accompanied by a marketing campaign focusing on the station's history and origins with Gene Autry; KOCB remained a WB affiliate until September 17, before affiliating with The CW when that network debuted a day later (September 18). With the new network affiliation, KAUT became one of the few stations in the United States to have been affiliated with both Fox and MyNetworkTV (both now operated by the Fox Corporation).

On January 4, 2007, The New York Times Company sold its nine television stations (including KAUT and KFOR-TV) to Local TV, a holding company operated by private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners, for $530 million; the sale was finalized on May 7.[87] On April 11, 2011, KAUT rebranded as "[KAUT] Freedom 43 TV", an approach made to cater to, according to a statement by then-KFOR/KAUT president and general manager Jim Boyer, "all Oklahomans who believe in faith, freedom and patriotism," specifically the large military population in the Oklahoma City market. Newscasts that KFOR produced for the station were altered to include stories and profiles of interest to conservatives and the military community.

Return to independence[edit | edit source]

On June 20, 2012, independent station KSBI (channel 52) – via its YouTube channel – announced in a promo for its fall 2012 programming slate that it would join MyNetworkTV on September 17. The last MyNetworkTV program to air on KAUT-TV was a repeat of Monk on September 14, 2012. When KAUT-TV formally reverted to an independent on September 17, MyNetworkTV programs were replaced with off-network syndicated sitcoms during the 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. timeslot. On September 16, KAUT began carrying select classic television programs provided by Antenna TV, which airs mainly on digital subchannels in most of the network's markets (including locally on the DT2 feed of sister station KFOR, which remained a full-time affiliate), in certain timeslots. (Weekday programs from the network were relegated from daytime to the overnight hours in November 2012, and were then cut to weekends only in late December 2013.) In KAUT's case, until the arrangement was discontinued in May 2014, the programs were simulcast from Antenna TV's national feed to compensate for current-day syndication rights.

On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its nineteen television stations (including KFOR and KAUT) would be acquired by the Chicago-based Tribune Company for $2.75 billion. Upon the sale's December 27 completion, KAUT became the first independent station to be operated by Tribune Broadcasting since the January 1995 launch of The WB (it would later be joined by Tribune's Chicago flagship WGN-TV, when that station disaffiliated from The CW in September 2016); the acquisition also reunited KAUT with former sister station KTLA, which Golden West sold in 1983 to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which in turn sold that station to Tribune in 1985.

Aborted sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group[edit | edit source]

On May 8, 2017, Sinclair – owner of Fox affiliate KOKH-TV and CW affiliate KOCB – entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion and the assumption of $2.7 billion in Tribune-held debt, pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. Because Sinclair and Tribune each owned two television stations in the Oklahoma City market, with KFOR and KOKH both ranking among the market's four highest-rated stations in total day viewership, the companies were required to sell either KFOR or KOKH (and optionally, KAUT and KOCB) to another station owner in order to comply with FCC local ownership rules. On April 24, 2018, in an amendment to the Tribune acquisition through which it proposed the sale of certain stations to both independent and affiliated third-party companies to curry the DOJ's approval, Sinclair announced that it would sell KAUT-TV to affiliate company Howard Stirk Holdings for $750,000. Under the terms of the transaction, Sinclair would have assumed control of KAUT through shared services and joint sales agreements with Stirk Holdings following the sale's closure. The sale, along with that of KOKH (which Standard Media Group – a broadcast holding company being formed by private equity firm Standard General to assume ownership of and absolve ownership conflicts involving Sinclair- and Tribune-owned stations in nine property conflict markets – purchased on that date in a $441.1-million group deal), would have put Sinclair in compliance with FCC rules that prohibit common ownership of more than two full-power stations in a single market. (Sinclair would have concurrently directly acquire KFOR-TV and retain ownership of KOCB, which would have migrated its operations into KFOR/KAUT's Britton Road studios during a six-month agreement in which Sinclair's operational responsibilities for KOKH would have been transitioned over to Standard Media.)

Less than one month after the FCC voted to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities. Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the DOJ over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties (such as KAUT-TV), and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell.

Pending sale to Nexstar Media Group[edit | edit source]

On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group announced it would acquire Tribune in an all-cash deal valued at $6.4 billion, including the assumption of Tribune-held outstanding debt. The deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected completion late in the third quarter of 2019—would give the KFOR-KAUT duopoly additional sister stations in Lawton–Wichita Falls (NBC affiliate KFDX-TV and SSA partners KJTL [Fox] and KJBO-LP [MyNetworkTV]), Wichita (the Kansas State Network group of NBC affiliates, led by flagship KSNW), Fort Smith–Fayetteville (NBC affiliate KNWA-TV and Fox affiliate KFTA-TV, which is part of an ownership conflict with Tribune-owned CBS affiliate KFSM-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate KXNW), Joplin–Pittsburg (NBC affiliate KSNF and ABC-affiliated SSA partner KODE-TV), Amarillo (NBC affiliate KAMR-TV and SSA partners KCIT [Fox] and KCPN-LP [MyNetworkTV]) and Shreveport–Texarkana (NBC affiliate KTAL-TV and SSA partners KMSS-TV [Fox] and KSHV-TV [MyNetworkTV]).

TV stations in Oklahoma
Digital multicast services: Independent: Religious stations: Non-commercial educational stations: Home shopping stations:
KUOC-LD, Enid/Tulsa KOMI-CD, Woodward KAUT, Oklahoma City K21MP-D, Lawton KOCM, Norman KTBO, Oklahoma City KUOT-CD, Oklahoma City KRSU, Claremore KTOU-LD, Oklahoma City
KCYH-LD, Ardmore KTZT-CD, Tulsa KDOR, Bartlesville K43LK-D, Lawton
KWHB, Tulsa
KGEB, Tulsa
TV stations in Central, Northwestern and West-central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City
KOMI-CD 24 (Youtoo)
KOKH 25 (Fox)
KOCB 34 (CW)
KAUT 43 (Ind.)
KOCM 46 (Daystar)
KOPX 62 (Ion)
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