KMBC-TV, virtual channel 9 (UHF digital channel 29), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Kansas City, Missouri, United States and serving the Kansas City metropolitan area. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications, as part of a duopoly with CW affiliate KCWE (channel 29). The two stations share studios on Winchester Avenue (along I-435, near Swope Park) in the Ridge-Winchester section of Kansas City, Missouri, and transmitter facilities at the intersection of East 23rd Street and Topping Avenue in the city's Blue Valley section. On cable, KMBC-TV is available on Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity and Consolidated Communications channel 12, and Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse channel 9. There is a high definition feed provided on Spectrum digital channel 1200, Xfinity channel 812, Consolidated channel 610 and U-verse channel 1009.
KMBC also serves as an alternate ABC affiliate for the St. Joseph market (which borders the northern portions of the Kansas City Designated Market Area), as its transmitter also produces a city-grade signal that reaches St. Joseph proper and rural areas in the market's central and southern counties. The station is also available in that market on select cable providers (including Suddenlink Communications) as a secondary ABC outlet to KQTV (channel 2), which has served as the network's official St. Joseph station since it became a full-time affiliate in June 1967; KMBC's near-ubiquitous cable distribution in St. Joseph dates back to KQTV's former status as a primary CBS affiliate from its September 1953 sign-on until the former KFEQ-TV disaffiliated from that network in 1967, a period in which the station supplemented its CBS offerings with a limited selection of ABC programs.
Early years: from two stations to one
The third and last VHF television allocation in the Kansas City market was hotly contested between two locally based companies which had each competed to become the granted holder of the construction permit to build the new station on VHF channel 9. The prospective licensees in question were the Cook Paint and Varnish Company and the Midland Broadcasting Company, which had respectively owned two of the area's AM radio stations – Cook was the operator of WHB (then at 710 AM, now at 810 AM), while Midland owned KMBC (980 AM, now KMBZ). Eventually, the companies reached an agreement to combine their individual inquiries for the permit and jointly bid for the license. Under the proposed deal, Cook Paint and Varnish and Midland Broadcasting agreed to an arrangement in which the two licensees would share the channel 9 allocation as well as a transmitter facility; although each company would structure their common television property as two separate stations, individually maintaining operational stewardship of their respective stations and operating from different studio facilities within the metropolitan area.
In June 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the proposal made by the Cook/Midland venture, and awarded the individual licenses for which the two companies had applied. Channel 9 first signed on the air as a shared operation on August 2 of that year. The licensees borrowed the call letters of their shared television station from their respective radio properties: the Midland-owned station was assigned the call letters KMBC-TV and the Cook-owned station was assigned the calls WHB-TV. The combined operation shared the local affiliation rights to CBS, which had moved its programming from WDAF-TV (channel 4, now a Fox affiliate), a station that had carried the network on a part-time basis since it signed on as Kansas City's first television station in October 1949. Similar to the split-station arrangement that WHB radio had maintained three decades earlier with WDAF radio (610 AM, now KCSP; the WDAF calls on radio now reside on 106.5 FM), KMBC-TV and WHB-TV would each maintain 90 minutes of programming airtime on an alternating basis throughout its broadcast day, which initially ran daily from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. (the WHB/WDAF radio sharing arrangement originated in 1922, when both stations transmitted on 730 AM and transferred frequencies when both moved to 680 AM in 1924; the timeshare ended when WHB radio moved to 710 AM in 1927).
With the KMBC/WHB operation having been on the air for only eight months, one of the licensees had negotiated a deal that would result in it buying out its partner in channel 9 and dissolving the split-station arrangement. In April 1954, Cook Paint and Varnish purchased Midland Broadcasting's television and radio holdings—KMBC-TV, KMBC radio and sister radio station KFRM (550 AM) in Concordia, Kansas—in a deal that transferred the rights to Midland's lease to the Victoria Theatre, at the intersection of East 18th Street and Central Avenue in Downtown Kansas City, to Cook. After Cook formally assumed ownership of the station on June 14 of that year, KMBC-TV began occupying channel 9 full-time, absorbing WHB-TV's share of the operation and the lease to the Victoria Theatre, wherein Midland had rented space in the lower floors beneath the building's performance stage since it purchased the facility in 1947 to house the operations of KMBC radio and later KMBC-TV. Cook Paint and Varnish subsequently sold WHB radio to Storz Broadcasting in order to comply with FCC rules of the time period that restricted a broadcasting company from owning more than two radio stations in a single media market.
In January 1955, the Meredith Corporation signed a multi-year agreement with CBS to affiliate five of television stations that the company owned at the time with the network. As part of the deal, Meredith agreed to affiliate KCMO-TV (channel 5, now KCTV) with CBS, as compensation for sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona (which rejoined CBS in September 1994) losing its affiliation with the network to KOOL-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KSAZ-TV). KMBC-TV subsequently signed an affiliation agreement with ABC, granting it assumption of the Kansas City affiliation rights to that network from KCMO-TV, which had carried the network since its September 1953 sign-on in a dual-affiliation arrangement (KCMO also initially carried select programs from the DuMont Television Network on a part-time basis until the network ceased operations in August 1956). Channel 9 formally switched to ABC, becoming the market's first full-time affiliate of that network, in September of that year. During the late 1950s, the station also briefly maintained an affiliation with the NTA Film Network programming service.
In the winter of late 1958, Cook Paint and Varnish purchased KDRO-TV (channel 6) in Sedalia; the company subsequently changed that station's call letters to KMOS-TV on January 28, 1959. During that time, KDRO-TV had been serving the ABC affiliate for the far eastern portion of the Kansas City market as well as portions of north-central Missouri. However, the network refused to provide KDRO direct access to its programming feed in order to protect KMBC-TV, with which KDRO's signal overlapped in the western portions of the latter station's coverage area; this forced engineers at that station to have to switch to and from channel 9's broadcast signal whenever KDRO aired ABC network programming.
In December 1960, Cook Paint and Varnish sold the KMBC television and radio stations, KMOS-TV and KFRM to New York City-based Metropolitan Broadcasting (later renamed Metromedia) for $9.65 million; Metropolitan subsequently spun off KMOS-TV and KFRM. In 1962, Metropolitan signed on a companion station on the radio side, KMBC-FM (99.7 FM, now KZPT); Metromedia would sell both of the KMBC radio stations to Bonneville International, the broadcasting arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1967 (although its former radio sisters had changed their call letters decades earlier, KMBC-TV has retained the "-TV" suffix in its legal call sign to this day).
Metromedia eventually took over management of the building housing KMBC's operations in 1974, after being granted a change to the terms of its lease, although the group honored the lease signed by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 1970—around which time it was renamed from Capri Theatre to the Lyric Theatre—that gave the repertory company permission to perform at the theatre.
Hearst Corporation ownership
In September 1981, Metromedia sold KMBC-TV and the lease to the Lyric Theatre to New York City-based Hearst Broadcasting in a deal worth $79 million for the television station alone. Under Hearst ownership, the station heavily invested in its news department and expanded its local news programming, which increased from seven hours per week at the time of the purchase to 20 hours by 1990. In 1988, it also built a 343-metre (1,125 ft) high guyed mast broadcast tower in eastern Kansas City, located on a hill overlooking the Blue River.
Hearst sold the Lyric Theatre to the Lyric Opera in 1989, in order to allow repairs to the building that commenced after a piece of plaster fell onto the performance stage during a rehearsal session by the Kansas City Symphony to continue due to the expensive cost. After selling the building, in 1990, Hearst weighed plans to move KMBC-TV's operations to a new studio space elsewhere in the Kansas City metropolitan area; however, company management eventually decided to continue to operate the station out of the Lyric Theatre, with which the station entered into a leasing agreement after Hearst turned over ownership of the building.
Channel 9 would gain a sister television station in 1997, when Hearst Broadcasting—which was renamed Hearst-Argyle Television after Argyle Television Holdings II merged with Hearst's broadcasting unit (now named Hearst Television) that year—entered into a local marketing agreement to manage the operations of KCWB (channel 29, now CW affiliate KCWE), which signed on the air in September 1996 as the market's original affiliate of The WB (it would later assume the UPN affiliation from KSMO-TV (channel 62, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) in August 1998, as part of a swap that resulted from then-owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's multi-station affiliation agreement with The WB). Hearst-Argyle Television continued to maintain operational responsibilities for KCWE until 2001, when its parent company, the Hearst Corporation, bought the channel 29 license outright by way of an indirect subsidiary (doing business as "KCWE-TV Company") separate from its broadcasting division.
In July 2005, Hearst-Argyle announced plans to construct a new 53,000-square-foot (4,900 m2) facility at the Winchester Business Center (located at 6455 Winchester Avenue, near Swope Park) in southeastern Kansas City, Missouri to house the operations of KMBC and KCWE. Construction of the facility—which was designed in the mold of the Spanish-inspired architectural style of Country Club Plaza, and built by Oklahoma City-based architecture firm Rees and Associates, which also designed the studio facilities of sister stations WDSU in New Orleans and WESH in Orlando—began later that month, and was completed in early August 2007. The modern purpose-built concrete and glass studio facility incorporates a master control facility with digital and high definition transmission processing equipment; a two-story 4,500-square-foot (420 m2) production studio; an expanded 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) newsroom; a satellite management center supporting downlink and uplink capabilities; a helistop for the station's "NewsChopper 9" helicopter; and surface parking for station employees and guests. The operations of KMBC and KCWE formally migrated to the Winchester Avenue studio on August 23, 2007, ending KMBC's 54-year tenure at the Lyric Theatre, which had earlier been sold by the Lyric Opera to real estate firm DST Realty.
In late March 2010, Hearst filed an application with the FCC to transfer the KCWE license from the KCWE-TV Company subsidiary to the Hearst Television unit; the transfer was completed on May 1 of that year, officially making KMBC-TV and KCWE directly owned sister stations. Although "KMBC Hearst Television Inc." remained the name of the licensing purpose corporation for KMBC-TV, "Hearst Stations Inc."—the licensee name for KCWE—is used instead for the copyright tag seen at the end of its newscasts (the KMBC-TV license was transferred to Hearst Stations Inc. on December 31, 2016).
|TV stations in Missouri|
|KDNL, St. Louis|
|TV stations in Kansas City|
|WDAF 4 (Fox) |
KCTV 5 (CBS)
KMBC 9 (ABC)
KCPT 19 (PBS)
KCWE 29 (CW)
KCDN-LD 35 (Daystar)
KMCI 38 (Ind.)
KSHB 41 (NBC)
KCMN-LD 42 (Decades)
K45IO-D 45 (HSN)
KUKC-LD 48 (UNI)
KPXE 50 (Ion)
KSMO 62 (MNTV)