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KIAH, virtual channel 39 (UHF digital channel 38), is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Houston, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company. KIAH maintains studio facilities adjacent to the Westpark Tollway on the southwest side of Houston, and its transmitter is located near Missouri City, in unincorporated Fort Bend County. The station is also available on Comcast Xfinity and AT&T U-verse channel 5.

HistoryEdit

OriginsEdit

The station first signed on the air on January 6, 1967 as an independent station under the callsign KHTV (standing for "Houston TeleVision"). Prior to its debut, the channel 39 allocation in Houston belonged to the now-defunct DuMont affiliate KNUZ-TV, which existed during the mid-1950s. Channel 39 was originally owned by the WKY Television System, a subsidiary of the Oklahoma Publishing Company, publishers of Oklahoma City's major daily newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman. After the company's namesake station, WKY-TV, was sold in 1976, the WKY Television System became Gaylord Broadcasting, named for the family that owned Oklahoma Publishing.

As Houston's first general entertainment independent station, KHTV ran a schedule of programs including children's shows, syndicated programs, movies, religious programs and some sporting events. One of its best known locally produced programs was Houston Wrestling, hosted by local promoter Paul Boesch, which aired on Saturday evenings (having been taped the night before at the weekly live shows in the Sam Houston Coliseum). From 1983 to 1985, the station was branded on-air as "KHTV 39 Gold". It was the leading independent station in Houston, even as competitors entered the market (including KVRL/KDOG (channel 26, now KRIV), when it launched in 1971). During this time, KHTV was distributed to cable providers as a regional superstation of sorts, with carriage on systems as far east as Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

As a WB affiliateEdit

On November 2, 1993, the Warner Bros. Television division of Time Warner and the Tribune Company announced the formation of The WB Television Network, one of two television networks scheduled to launch during the 1994–95 season to compete against Fox and, to a lesser extent, with ABC, NBC and CBS. Among the affiliation agreements it initially signed, which included the eight independent stations Tribune owned at the time, The WB reached an agreement with Gaylord Broadcasting in which KHTV and sister independents KTVT (now a CBS owned-and-operated station) in Dallas–Fort Worth, WVTV (now a CW affiliate) in Milwaukee and KSTW (now a CW owned-and-operated station) in Tacoma, Washington would become charter WB affiliates.

A wrench into that agreement was thrown in May 1994, after New World Communications signed a long-term agreement to affiliate its major network-affiliated stations with Fox, starting that September and as individual contractual agreements with the affected stations expired. Under the deal, Fox tapped longtime Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate KDFW (now a Fox owned-and-operated station) – which New World had recently acquired from Argyle Television Holdings – to switch to the network once its contract with the latter network expired in July 1995. CBS eventually approached Gaylord Broadcasting to negotiate an agreement for KTVT (the only viable option for it to retain a VHF affiliate in the Dallas–Fort Worth market); on July 22, 1994, the group asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to confirm that its Dallas, Houston and Seattle stations were not "legally obligated to 'affiliate'" with The WB, as none of the stations had signed a formal agreement even though Warner asserted that Gaylord's stations were legally bound to draft affiliation proposals for The WB.

Not pleased with Gaylord's about-face, on August 18, WB majority owner Time Warner filed several lawsuits in attempts to block the Gaylord-CBS affiliation deal under breach of contract and bad faith negotiation complaints, and enforce an alleged contract with Gaylord to affiliate with The WB. CBS and Gaylord came to a deal on September 14, when the two parties signed a ten-year agreement with CBS to affiliate with KTVT and KSTW (which would replace KIRO-TV, which would later return to the network in June 1997 after a two-year run as a UPN affiliate, as the Seattle market's CBS outlet). Because of the dispute between Time Warner and Gaylord, for six months after the network launched on January 11, 1995, Houston was the only top-10 television market in the U.S. that did not have a WB charter affiliate. (Dating to the network's January 1995 launch, The WB had been available locally on Prime Cable, Phonoscope Communications, and other local cable and satellite providers through the superstation feed of Chicago affiliate and Tribune television flagship WGN-TV [now conventional basic cable channel WGN America].) This status came to an end in the fall of 1995; on September 18, Gaylord announced it would sell KHTV to Tribune Broadcasting, the Chicago-based broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Company, for $95 million. Under the transactional terms, KHTV also signed an agreement to affiliate with The WB.

KHTV became a WB affiliate two days later on September 20, at which time, it began to identify as "Houston's WB39". However, because the network offered prime time programs only on Sunday and Wednesday evenings at the time (it would gradually evolve into offering a six-night-a-week schedule by September 1999), KHTV continued to fill the 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. time slot with feature films and some first-run syndicated programs on nights when the network did not offer programming. During this period, alongside WB prime time and Kids' WB children's programming, KHTV carried recent and some older off-network sitcoms and drama series, movies on weekends as well as in prime time on weekdays, some first-run syndicated shows, and a blend of animated and live-action syndicated children's shows. On September 20, 1999, the station changed its call letters to KHWB (for "Houston's WB") to reflect its affiliation. The station subsequently dropped on-air references to its over-the-air channel position in September 2003, opting to identify only as "Houston's WB".

As a CW affiliateEdit

On January 24, 2006, UPN parent company CBS Corporation (which split from Viacom in December 2005) and WB network parent Time Warner (through its Warner Bros. Entertainment division) announced that they would dissolve the two networks to create The CW, a joint network venture that initially featured a mix of original first-run series and programs that originated on The WB and UPN. The network signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Tribune Broadcasting for 16 of the 19 WB affiliates that the company owned at the time, including KIAH, to serve as charter outlets of the network.

Nearly one month after the CW launch announcement, on February 22, 2006, News Corporation subsidiaries Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television announced the launch of MyNetworkTV, a network created primarily to serve as a network programming option for UPN and WB stations that were left out of The CW's affiliation deals. That service committed all nine UPN-affiliated stations that corporate sister Fox Television Stations owned at the time, including KTXH, to serve as MyNetworkTV's charter affiliates. A few months later, the Federal Communications Commission approved a callsign change from KHWB to KHCW (standing for "Houston's CW"), which became official on April 27, 2006. On September 13, 2006, KHCW changed its on-air branding from "Houston's WB" to "CW 39", restoring the channel number to its branding. KHCW remained a WB affiliate until the network ceased operations on September 17, 2006; the station affiliated with The CW upon that network's debut on September 18. (KTXH joined MyNetworkTV upon that network's launch on September 5.)

On July 15, 2008, Channel 39 changed its call letters to KIAH as part of a branding campaign emphasizing the station's local orientation (KIAH also serves as the ICAO airport code for George Bush Intercontinental Airport). Due to The CW's sagging ratings, Tribune wanted its CW-affiliated stations (including KIAH) to change their on-air imaging and de-emphasize the network's branding. The station changed to the simplified "Channel 39" branding on August 29, 2008, although "Channel 39, The CW" was used during network promotions. However, it was simplified again to just "39" in January 2011 for regular programming, and the "CW 39" branding returned for use in network promotions (though retaining the numeric "39" introduced with the 2008 rebranding); the "CW 39" branding returned full-time on March 28, using the slogan "Real Houston" to continue to emphasize KIAH's local orientation.

Aborted sale to Sinclair; pending sale to NexstarEdit

On May 8, 2017, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. In its earlier structures, the deal would have resulted in channel 39 gaining new sister stations in the adjacent markets of San Antonio (the virtual triopoly of NBC affiliate WOAI-TV, Fox affiliate KABB and CW affiliate KMYS) and Beaumont–Port Arthur (the virtual duopoly of Fox affiliate KBTV-TV and CBS-CW affiliate KFDM). On April 24, 2018, Sinclair announced that KIAH and Dallas–Fort Worth sister station and fellow CW affiliate KDAF would be acquired by Baltimore-based Cunningham Broadcasting (whose majority non-voting stock is held by the estate of the late Carolyn Smith, widow of Sinclair founder Julian S. Smith and mother of David Smith, which was also majority owner of Cunningham until January 2018) for $60 million. Sinclair originally planned to retain operational stewardship of KIAH through a shared services agreement with Cunningham. (Sinclair concurrently proposed selling sister CW affiliate WPIX in New York City to Cunningham, intending to operate it under a master services agreement (MSA); however, FCC and Department of Justice scrutiny over that proposal led Sinclair to seek to directly acquire WPIX on April 24.)

In a revised filing submitted on July 18, Sinclair disclosed it would instead sell KIAH as well as KDAF to an independent third party in order to address concerns expressed by FCC chairman Ajit Pai two days before, concerning the partner licensees Sinclair proposed using to allow it to operate certain Tribune stations while materially reducing Sinclair's national ownership cap space short of the 39% limit. (For this reason, Sinclair also proposed directly acquiring independent station WGN-TV/Chicago, rescinding a proposed sale of that station to WGN-TV LLC – a limited liability company to have been owned by Steven Fader, a Maryland automotive dealer and business associate of David Smith – which was to have leased WGN's operations to Sinclair under an MSA.) Despite this, that same day, the FCC Commissioners' Board voted unanimously, 4-0, to send the Sinclair-Tribune acquisition proposal to an evidentiary review hearing before an administrative law judge, a move largely seen among media analysts as a potential downfall for the deal. On August 9, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, and concurrently 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, 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.

On December 3, 2018, Irving-based Nexstar Media Group announced it would acquire Tribune's assets for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. 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 give KIAH additional sister stations nearby markets including Austin (NBC affiliate KXAN-TV, MyNetworkTV affiliate KBVO and CW-affiliated SSA partner KNVA), Waco–Bryan–College Station (Fox affiliate KWKT-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate KYLE-TV) and Tyler–Longview (NBC affiliate KETK-TV and SSA partners KFXK-TV [Fox] and KTPN-LD [MyNetworkTV]).


TV stations in Texas
KIAH, Houston

KMYS, Kerrville
KNVA, Austin
KDAF, Dallas–Fort Worth
KAUZ-DT2, Wichita Falls
KNCT, Belton
KBTX-DT2, Bryan
KFDM-DT2, Beaumont
KVII-DT2, Amarillo
KYTX-DT2, Nacogdoches
KLCW, Lubbock
KYLX-LD2, Laredo
KTXS-DT2, Sweetwater
KRIS-DT2, Corpus Christi
KCWT-CD/XHRIO-TDT, La Feria/Matamoros
KCWO, Big Spring
KVIA-DT3, El Paso

TV stations in Greater Houston
KPRC 2 (NBC)
KUHT 8 (PBS)
KUVM-LD 10 (Ind)
KHOU 11 (CBS)
KTRK 13 (ABC)
KETH 14 (TBN)
KVVV-LD 15 (Word)
KTXH 20 (MNTV)
KVQT-LD 21 (Ind)
KLTJ 22 (Daystar)
KRIV 26 (Fox)
KUGB-CD 28 (GEB)
KCVH-LD 30 (REL)
KEHO-LD 32 (FESTIVA)
KUVM-CD 34 (LATV)
KZHO-LD 38 (VCL)
KIAH 39 (CW)
KHLM-LD 43 (MULTIMEDIOS)
KXLN 45 (UNI)
KBPX-LD 46 (NV)
KTMD 47 (TLM)
KPXB 49 (Ion)
KDHU-LD 50 (Daystar)
KYAZ 51 (AZA)
KTBU 55 (QUEST)
KUBE 57 (Ind)
KZJL 61 (ESTRELLA)
KFTH 67 (UMas)
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