KCPQ, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is a Fox-affiliated television station serving Seattle, Washington, United States that is licensed to Tacoma. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of the Fox Corporation, as part of a duopoly with Seattle-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate KZJO (channel 22). The two stations share studios on Westlake Avenue in Seattle's Westlake neighborhood; KCPQ's transmitter is located on Gold Mountain in Bremerton.
KCPQ is one of five local Seattle television stations seen in Canada on satellite providers Bell TV and Shaw Direct, as well as various cable systems across Canada (an alternate feed of this station exists for Canadian viewers on some providers with infomercials replacing programs like The Wendy Williams Show, The Steve Wilkos Show, TMZ Live and a rerun of Modern Family; fellow station KIRO-TV also has this). The station is also carried on several cable systems in southeastern Alaska.
Channel 13 signed on air on August 2, 1953 as KMO-TV, co-owned with KMO radio (AM 1360, now KKMO), initially owned by Carl Haymond. The station carried some NBC programming for its first year until Seattle-licensed KOMO-TV (channel 4) began broadcasting on December 11. Hampered by a poor signal from north of Tacoma and the lack of alternate sources of programming, Haymond was forced to declare bankruptcy and sell the station to J. Elroy McCaw, a colorful and eccentric radio and television station owner, and father of cellular phone magnate Craig McCaw.
Under the ownership of McCaw's Gotham Broadcasting, who changed Channel 13's call letters to KTVW, the station closed its studio in Tacoma's Roxy Theater and relocated to its transmitter building in North Tacoma overlooking Commencement Bay. McCaw operated the independent station on a shoestring budget. It limped along on a diet of a low-budget local programming, and older off-network syndicated programs and obscure movies. Its branding of the period featured a stylized black cat and the ironic tag line "Lucky 13." KTVW was opportunistic on occasion and picked up broadcast rights to Tacoma's minor league baseball team games and an occasional Seafair hydroplane race. During much of the 1960s, an afternoon children's show, Penny and Her Pals, was hosted by ventriloquist LaMoyne "Penny" Hreha.
An interesting note in channel 13's history is that for a very brief time in late 1957 and early 1958, it carried CBS network news. KTNT-TV (channel 11, now KSTW), which at that time was the local CBS affiliate, stopped carrying the then-15-minute CBS Evening News with Douglas Edwards sometime in late summer 1957, saying that it wanted to expand its local news show to 30 minutes. KTVW picked up the newscast on October 28, 1957, according to The Seattle Times. CBS, which wanted to see its newscasts remain on the air in Seattle–Tacoma, set up special telephone lines to permit channel 13 to carry Edwards as its first live network show under the KTVW name. Speculation is that when KTNT learned that it would eventually lose its CBS affiliation to KIRO-TV, which hit the airwaves in February 1958, it threw an on-air tantrum by dropping the Evening News and letting channel 13 pick it up.
In the mid to late 1960s, Stu Martin (also known as "Stu Baby" and "Stu Boo") was host of a locally produced in-studio B movie program on KTVW called Stu Martin's Double Date at the Movies. In addition to its host, it featured two women with beehive hairdos, "Miss Early Date" and "Miss Late Date". During breaks in the movie, in addition to commercials, the program featured a talent show. Viewers called Miss Early Date or Miss Late Date with their vote on the evening's top talent featuring local entertainers or those who thought they were entertaining. The station got a competitor in 1962, when KTNT-TV lost its CBS affiliation for good and became an independent.
In 1970, KTVW ran a weekday stock-market news program called Business Action Line; the show's producer, Rockwell Hammond, leased 6½ hours a day on KTVW and originated the program, which was broadcast live from the Northern Life Tower in Seattle from where it was microwaved to the station in Tacoma. Their financial-news studio later moved to West Seattle and was housed in a building with ample microwave line-of-sight to the Tacoma tower. The show was hosted by Merrill Mael; Dick Stokke and, later, Joe McCusker read the news. Despite the poor over-the-air reception of KTVW in Seattle, the program had a following in the business community, if only for the 15-minute delayed stock ticker and the real time display of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. However, expenses quickly overcame the income from what proved to be a limited commercial base, and the venture failed. Mael, a respected broadcaster for six decades, died in 2000. McCusker moved on to a career with the United Nations television operation, and retired in 2007.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, the station featured an on-air sports program and Swing Shift Theater movie host named Bob Corcoran, who hawked endless items from Tacoma's B & I Circus Store and Niagara recliners. He shared night-time television time with Stu Martin in airing B movies. Corcoran later forged a fledgling political career from his television late-night talk show (he died in February 2014). One of his early forays into politics was to enthusiastically support the candidacy of Seattle Chrysler/Plymouth dealer Ralph Williams for Washington Attorney General. Not long after waging a losing campaign, Williams was indicted for tax evasion.
When McCaw died in 1969, the McCaw estate sold KTVW to Seattle-based Blaidon Mutual Investors Corporation in 1971 for $1.1 million. Blaidon tried to turn KTVW around by boosting the station's signal strength, acquiring first-run syndicated programming and color-capable broadcast equipment (the station had broadcast exclusively in black-and-white until 1972). Channel 13 premiered its new programming lineup with The Tony Visco Show, its flagship effort. The talk/entertainment show was an attempt to recreate a Tonight Show-style program hosted by Las Vegas lounge entertainer/singer Tony Visco. It was taped at a Seattle night spot called the Cirque Dinner Theatre. Blaidon brought in a Los Angeles producer/director to develop the show, which featured a live band on-set, and had hopes of flying in show-business guests from L.A. and later syndicating the program nationwide. After two months on-air, the high production costs forced Blaidon to relocate the program to the station's Tacoma studios. Channel 13 cancelled The Tony Visco Show after it completed its 13-week run because of poor advertising sponsorship and high production costs.
KTVW launched an afternoon cartoon show hosted by a "superhero" for whom viewers were asked to suggest a name. The winning entry was "Flash Blaidon" and the host frequently made his entrance "flying" onto the set by jumping off a ladder whose shadow was often visible on the back wall of the cramped studio. KTVW introduced an evening movie program that included a puzzle contest offering $1,000 to the call-in winner. During the program's first week on the air, an overwhelming number of phone calls overloaded the station's phone system and put it out of order. A cult favorite program, Dr. ZinGRR's Astro-Projections, aired on Saturday nights and into the wee hours of Sunday. "Dr. ZinGRR" was played by popular Seattle–Tacoma radio disc jockey Robert O. Smith. He introduced Z-grade horror movies and performed satirical, comedic segments during movie breaks.
Despite KTVW's improved and sometimes innovative programming, national advertisers failed to materialize and the station quickly lost momentum in the market. Channel 13's over-the-air signal, still spotty in many parts of the Seattle–Tacoma market, along with a weak Puget Sound economy and Blaidon's under-capitalized organization, rendered the station a money-losing proposition. Even though Seattle–Tacoma was big enough on paper to support two independent stations, channel 13 increasingly lost ground to KTNT-TV, which had a stronger signal and much wealthier ownership that could afford stronger programming.
Plagued by numerous lawsuits from unpaid syndication suppliers who reclaimed most of their programming from the station, KTVW's ratings plummeted and remaining advertisers deserted the operation. Blaidon was forced into bankruptcy protection. Program suppliers had asked a district court judge to place the station in receivership. Blaidon president Donald Wolfstone had attempted to sell the station to then-unknown televangelist Pat Robertson and his fledgling Christian Broadcasting Network, but a court-appointed trustee canceled the deal. For a brief time under the court-appointed trusteeship, Len Sampson, a former KOMO-TV talk show host and personality, served as station manager and revised the schedule with a variety of syndicated programs and old network reruns as well as hosting some broadcasts himself. Another sale to Suburban Broadcasting, a Long Island television broadcast company, also fell through when the potential buyers failed to agree to assume the station's $4 million in liabilities. A bankruptcy judge then forced KTVW to cease operations at the end of a Batman rerun at 5 p.m. on December 12, 1974.
The station's remaining assets were bought in bankruptcy court bidding by the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, for $378,000. Clover Park outbid the Trinity Broadcasting Network and a local group to acquire the station. The call letters were changed to KCPQ, replacing Clover Park's UHF channel 56 transmitter which had operated under the name KPEC-TV. The station went back on the air as the third PBS member station in the Seattle/Tacoma market (after KCTS and KTPS-TV [now KBTC-TV]), airing secondary PBS and educational programs. The Channel 56 license would return to the air in 2000 as KWDK.
By 1980, the Seattle/Tacoma market was large enough that it could now sustain another VHF commercial television station. Kelly Broadcasting, owners of KCRA-TV in its home city of Sacramento, California, purchased KCPQ from the Clover Park School District for $6.25 million, outbidding Roadrunner Television from Tucson, Arizona, which then owned KZAZ in Tucson (the current-day KMSB, a fellow Fox affiliate). Channel 13 temporarily went silent on February 28, 1980 to facilitate changes in studio facilities and the transmitter. KCPQ's transmitter was relocated to Gold Mountain, a peak located west of Bremerton, where the station erected a new tower to more effectively reach as much the Seattle market as they could under their FCC license to maintain primary service to Tacoma. While the move greatly increased the station's signal footprint across western Washington, it resulted in a somewhat weaker signal in the northern and eastern portions of the market. In promotional advertisements that aired on the station during the early 1980s, popular local celebrities (such as then-Seattle Seahawks player Steve Raible) encouraged KCPQ viewers in these areas to "aim towards Bremerton" with their TV antennas in order to get the best reception from the new transmitter.
The station relaunched on November 4, 1980 under its now-familiar "Q13" branding (although for the first several months on the air, it was referred to as "The NEW 13"), as well as another slogan: "The Northwest's Movie Channel". (It would also be occasionally be referred to on-air as "Puget Sound Television", with an alternate ident featuring a drawing of a boat within the green "Q" portion of the logo.) It used a logo similar to that of sister station KCRA, but with the square converted into a stylized "Q." Channel 13 ran movies during the midday hours, late nights and weekends, and chose to counter-program the network shows during primetime with uncut versions of feature films, with "limited interruptions". The first film to be shown uncut on KCPQ was The Deer Hunter, with only two commercial breaks. The station also ran CBS and NBC shows that KIRO-TV and KING-TV respectively preempted, including CBS Late Night, NBC's Saturday morning cartoons and select game shows from both networks. For a short time after the relaunch, the station had an afternoon children's program, "Captain Sea-Tac", featuring a friendly boat captain. But eventually, other than Saturdays, KCPQ did not run children's programming during the week. The station also did not carry many off-network sitcoms, choosing instead to air first-run syndicated talk and game shows, off-network dramas, and some early morning religious programs.
On October 9, 1986, KCPQ joined the newly-established Fox network as a charter affiliate. In 1987, with the children's television business growing, KCPQ began running cartoons weekday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m., and afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m. Channel 13 added sitcoms as well, and continued airing first-run syndicated shows and movies. In February 1990, KCPQ signed a three-year deal with Buena Vista Television to carry The Disney Afternoon, spurning Fox's own children's lineup until 1993.
KCPQ was in danger of losing its Fox affiliation in February 1997, when Fox Television Stations was reported to be in negotiations to acquire then-UPN affiliate KIRO-TV from Belo Corporation (the then-owners of NBC affiliate KING-TV, whose acquisition necessitated KIRO's sale). Fox was reportedly dissatisfied with KCPQ, as it was described by one observer as being "recalcitrant." At the time, KCPQ was one of the few large-market Fox stations without a full-scale news department (which it would not start up for another year). However, KIRO was ultimately sold to Cox Broadcasting (and with it, returned to CBS), and KCPQ retains its Fox affiliation to this day.
The Tribune Company acquired KCPQ in August 1998, as part of Kelly Broadcasting's exit from the television business. The deal was structured as a three-way transaction, in which Kelly sold the station to the Meredith Corporation, which then swapped it to Tribune in exchange for its Atlanta station WGNX (now WGCL-TV). Following the purchase of channel 13, Tribune merged KCPQ's operations with those of KTWB-TV (channel 22, now KZJO), which Tribune had acquired earlier in 1998. The two stations became co-owned in 1999, after the FCC began to allow same-market duopolies.
Averted loss of Fox affiliation
As Seattle was, for a period, the second-largest NFC market where the Fox affiliate was not owned and operated by the network, Fox has repeatedly attempted to acquire a station in the region so that it could take advantage of the local revenue generated by Seahawks games, on top of that generated by Fox's NFL coverage as a whole. In June 2014, Fox reached a deal with Cox to trade its San Francisco Fox affiliate KTVU and sister independent KICU to Fox in exchange for its owned-and-operated stations in Boston and Memphis. Fox was also, reportedly, considering a deal to acquire KIRO, which would have displaced the Fox affiliation from KCPQ. In 2013, Fox made a similar move in Charlotte, North Carolina (home market of the Carolina Panthers), terminating the Fox affiliation of WCCB and acquiring WJZY to convert it into a Fox O&O.
In September 2014, the New York Post reported that Fox was planning to acquire KCPQ in exchange for its Chicago MyNetworkTV station WPWR—which would have given Tribune a sister station to its then-CW affiliate and flagship station WGN-TV (WGN has since dropped the CW affiliation in favor of WPWR). On September 23, Tribune announced that it had been notified by Fox that its affiliation with KCPQ would be terminated as of January 17, 2015, but that discussions between the two companies were still ongoing. The affiliation would have been terminated one day before the 2014–15 NFC Championship Game (which ended up with the Seahawks winning against the Green Bay Packers at home). Days earlier, on September 19, Fox struck a deal to buy KBCB, a station in Bellingham, for $10 million; the purchase, submitted for FCC approval on October 3, was described as a "strategic option" for Fox by an insider. Naming KBCB as Fox's Seattle affiliate would have had immediate complications for Fox's distribution in the market, as KBCB's transmitter on Orcas Island was much closer to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, and provides a marginal signal to Seattle proper. By the time the KBCB purchase was disclosed, talks between Tribune and Fox had deteriorated; a Wall Street Journal report on October 7 stated that Fox no longer planned to include WPWR in a potential swap for KCPQ.
On October 17, 2014, Fox announced that Tribune had agreed to extend its affiliation agreement for KCPQ through July 2018, and that it had agreed to pay increased reverse compensation fees to Fox for the broadcasting of its programming beginning in January 2015. Shortly thereafter, Fox's purchase of KBCB was abandoned, and was dismissed by the FCC on November 20, 2014.
Aborted sale to Sinclair; pending sale to Nexstar; possible sale to Fox
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group—which has owned ABC affiliate KOMO-TV (channel 4) and Univision affiliate KUNS-TV (channel 51) since it acquired the duopoly from Seattle-based Fisher Communications in 2013—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. As KOMO and KCPQ rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Seattle−Tacoma market in total day viewership and broadcasters are not currently allowed to legally own more than two full-power television stations in a single market, it is likely that the companies may be required to sell either the KCPQ/KZJO or the KOMO/KUNS duopolies to another station group in order to comply with FCC ownership rules preceding approval of the acquisition to alleviate potential antitrust issues; however, a sale of either station to an independent buyer is dependent on later decisions by the FCC regarding local ownership of broadcast television stations and future acts by Congress. Sinclair later announced that it planned to sell one of its top-four stations in the market to a third party to be determined later; on April 24, 2018, it announced that KCPQ would be one of 23 stations sold to obtain approval for the merger, though it was one of seven stations for which a buyer was not disclosed (KUNS-TV will concurrently be acquired by Howard Stirk Holdings). On May 9, 2018, confirming the speculation of most analysts, Fox Television Stations announced that it would buy KCPQ, as part of a $910-million deal that also involved six other Tribune-owned stations (Fox affiliates KTXL/Sacramento, KSWB-TV/San Diego, KDVR/Denver, WJW/Cleveland and KSTU/Salt Lake City, and CW affiliate WSFL-TV/Miami). Upon the consummation of the Sinclair/Tribune deal and related acquisitions, the sale would make KCPQ a Fox owned-and-operated station.
Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote 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 U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties, 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. The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Fox's purchases of KCPQ and the other six Tribune stations included in that deal, which were predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. Should Nexstar choose to acquire the duopoly, the deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected closure late in the third quarter of 2019—would result in KCPQ and KZJO becoming Nexstar's first television station properties located within Washington State. (The group's closest station to Seattle is CBS affiliate KOIN in Portland, Oregon, whose associated media market includes portions of southwestern Washington, including the Portland suburb of Vancouver.) However, reports preceding the purchase announcement stated that, as it did during the group's failed purchase by Sinclair, Fox Television Stations may seek to acquire certain Fox-affiliated stations owned by Tribune—with KCPQ potentially being a candidate for resale—from the eventual buyer of that group, which would also ease the issue of Nexstar exceeding the national ownership cap with the deal.
|TV stations in Washington|
|TV stations in the Puget Sound Region, including Seattle, Tacoma and Everett|
|KOMO 4 (ABC) |
KING 5 (NBC)
KIRO 7 (CBS)
K08OU-D 8 (3ABN)
KCTS 9 (PBS)
KSTW 11 (CW)
KVOS 12 (H&I)
KCPQ 13 (Fox)
KCKA 15 (PBS)
KONG 16 (Ind)
KTBW 20 (TBN)
KZJO 22 (MNTV)
KBCB 24 (SBN)
KRUM-LD 24 (Ind)
KBTC 28 (PBS)
KWPX 33 (Ion)
KFFV 44 (Ind)
KUSE-LD 46 (AAT TV)
KUNS 51 (UNI)
KWDK 56 (Daystar)