KCRA-TV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 35), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Sacramento, California, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications, as part of a duopoly with Stockton-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate KQCA (channel 58). The two stations share studios on Television Circle in downtown Sacramento and transmitter facilities in Walnut Grove.
The station first signed on the air on September 3, 1955. It was founded by the Central Valley Broadcasting Company, a partnership of the Kelly and Hansen families of Sacramento. Central Valley Broadcasting also owned KCRA radio (1320 AM, now KIFM, and 96.1 FM, now KYMX); the AM station's call letters were intended to be KRCA, but the middle two letters were erroneously transposed by a typist at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when that station's original license was drafted in 1945 and was never corrected. By the time KCRA-TV went on the air, the KRCA-TV call letters had already been taken the previous year by NBC's owned-and-operated station in Los Angeles (originally KNBH, now KNBC). The station's longtime original studios were located at 310 10th Street in Sacramento. KCRA-TV inherited the NBC affiliation from KCCC-TV (channel 40, channel now occupied by Fox affiliate KTXL), which became the Sacramento market's first television station when it signed on in September 1953, which had also carried affiliations with ABC, CBS and DuMont until other stations debuted in the market. However, it in turn also received the affiliation as a result of KCRA-AM's decade-long affiliation with the NBC Red Network. KCRA was the third of Sacramento's VHF stations to sign on exactly within a year behind KXTV and KOVR—all signing on in six-month increments.
In 1959, under the direction of then chief engineer, William Herbert Hartman, construction began on a new 1,549-foot (472 m) transmission tower near Walnut Grove to transmit the signals of KCRA-TV, KXTV and KOVR; the tower was completed in 1961. Upon the death of KCRA co-founder Ewing C. Kelly in 1960, son Bob Kelly (who was KCRA's station manager, commercial manager and film buyer) became president of KCRA, Inc., while son Jon Kelly (who served as its local sales manager) was named general manager.
In January 1962, KCRA-TV began transmitting its signal from the Walnut Grove tower, which became the tallest structure in the state. In April of that year, the FCC approved the sale of the Hansen brothers' 50% share of the KCRA stations to Bob, Jon and their mother Nina Kelly; the company then changed its name to Kelly Broadcasting Company. In September 1968, KCRA-FM's call letters were changed to KCTC. The radio stations were sold to the Tribune Company in September 1977, with the sale being finalized in July 1978; KCRA-AM changed its calls to KGNR in August of that year.
In 1965, the station began using color film for use in its newscasts. A station press release at that time claimed that KCRA was the first station in Sacramento with videotape, the first NBC affiliate with "network color" programming, and the first station to utilize color film, slide and videotape footage. Starting in 1975, it began using remote cameras for live news reports. The station eventually began using helicopters and satellite remotes for newsgathering. On September 10, 1966, Bob Wilkins began hosting a Saturday night horror movie showcase called Seven Arts Theatre; Wilkins later moved his show to KTXL, and then to KTVU in Oakland in the 1970s.
Like other local stations, KCRA developed an in-house production facility, with local children's programming, newsmagazines and talk shows. By the beginning of the 21st century, KCRA became the first station in the Sacramento market to broadcast programming in high-definition. Kelly Broadcasting continued to own and operate KCRA-TV until January 1999, when it was purchased by Hearst-Argyle Television (which was renamed Hearst Television in 2009).
In early 2004, KCRA opened an exhibit, "The KCRA 3 Experience", at the Arden Fair Mall, allowing visitors to see a KCRA newscast be produced live. KCRA's noon newscast was broadcast from the complex until late 2008 when production of the program was moved back to the 3 Television Circle studios.
KCRA, along with Fox affiliate KTXL, are the only Sacramento television stations to have never changed their network affiliations, as they were unaffected by affiliation swaps in 1995 (when KXTV acquired the ABC affiliation from KOVR, which in turn, switched to CBS) and 1998 (when KMAX-TV—channel 31—took UPN from now-sister station KQCA, which switched from UPN to The WB).
|TV stations in California|
| KNBC, Los Angeles|
KSBY, Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/San Luis Obispo
|TV stations in Northern California, including Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto|
| KCRA 3 (NBC)|
KVIE 6 (PBS)