KMSP-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 9, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. KMSP-TV is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of Fox Corporation, as part of a television duopoly with WFTC, the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area's MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station. The two outlets share studios on Viking Drive in Eden Prairie, and a transmission tower in Shoreview.
KMSP-TV is also carried in Canada on Shaw Cable's Thunder Bay, Ontario system and on Bell MTS Fibe TV in the province of Manitoba.
The Family Broadcasting Corporation in Minneapolis, owner of radio station KEYD (1440 AM, now KYCR), filed an application with the FCC for a construction permit for a new commercial television station to be operated on Channel 9 on November 24, 1953. WLOL and WDGY (now KTLK) also expressed interest, but withdrew their applications in 1954, assuring that the new station would go to KEYD and its owner, Family Broadcasting. KEYD-TV began broadcasting on January 9, 1955 and was affiliated with the DuMont Television Network. During this time, Harry Reasoner, a graduate of Minneapolis West High School and the University of Minnesota, was hired as the station's first news anchor and news director. However, DuMont shut down in late 1955, leaving the station as an independent outlet; on June 3, 1956, the KEYD stations were sold to United Television, whose principals at the time included several stockholders of Pittsburgh station WENS, for $1.5 million. The new owners immediately sold off KEYD radio, refocused KEYD-TV's programming on films and sports, and shut down the news department; Reasoner was hired by CBS News a few months later. Reasoner became a host for CBS's 60 Minutes when it launched in 1968.
Channel 9 changed its call letters to KMGM-TV on May 23, 1956. At the time, the station was in negotiations with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to acquire the Twin Cities television rights to the company's films, along with selling a 25 percent stake in KMGM-TV to the studio. Negotiations broke down later that month over the cost of the films; additionally, Loew's, MGM's parent company at the time, filed a petition with the FCC against the call sign change, claiming that the use of KMGM was unauthorized and a violation of MGM's trademark. The FCC ruled against Loew's that October, saying that its call sign assignment policies were limited to preventing confusion between stations in a given area. The agreements to lease MGM's pre-1949 films and sell 25 percent of the station to Loew's were both completed that November; KMGM was the third station, after future sister station KTTV in Los Angeles and KTVR in Denver, to enter into such an arrangement.
National Telefilm Associates, which later purchased WNTA-TV in the New York City area, purchased the 75 percent of United Television not owned by MGM for $650,000 in November 1957, joining it to the NTA Film Network until it ended in 1961. After taking control, NTA expanded KMGM-TV's hours of operation as part of an overhaul of channel 9's schedule that also included the addition of newscasts. A few months later, on February 10, 1958, NTA bought MGM's stake for $130,000 and announced that it would change channel 9's calls to KMSP-TV; the call sign change took effect that March over the objections of KSTP-TV (channel 5). National Theatres, a theater chain whose broadcast holdings already included WDAF AM-TV in Kansas City, began the process of acquiring NTA in November 1958; in April 1959, it purchased 88 percent of the company. 20th Century-Fox, the former parent company of National Theatres, bought KMSP-TV for $4.1 million on November 9, 1959, retaining the United Television corporate name. The KMSP call letters were featured on prop television cameras in the May 29, 1963 episode of the CBS sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, produced by 20th Century Fox Television; the show was loosely set in the Twin Cities area. The episode was titled "The Call of the, Like, Wild".
During its early years until 1972, the station's studios and offices were located in a lower level of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis; the transmitter was located on top of the tower, the tallest structure in the area until 1971, along with WCCO-TV (channel 4) and WTCN-TV (channel 11, now KARE).
As an ABC affiliate
KMSP-TV took over the ABC affiliation from WTCN-TV on April 16, 1961. Throughout its years with ABC, KMSP was notorious for having a sub-standard news department with large staff turnover. Ratings were dismal with KMSP obtaining only one-third of the viewing audience of each of their two competitors, CBS affiliate WCCO-TV and NBC affiliate KSTP-TV. The station's transmitter was moved in 1971 to a new tower constructed by KMSP in Shoreview, while the studios and offices relocated in 1972 to Edina on York Avenue South, across from Southdale Shopping Center.
In the late 1970s, ABC steadily rose to first place in the network ratings. Accordingly, the network sought to upgrade its slate of affiliates, which were made up of some stations that either had poor signals or poorly performing local programming. In December 1977, ABC warned KMSP that it would yank its affiliation unless improvements were made and fast. In early 1978, to cash in on ABC's improved ratings, KMSP re-branded itself "ABC9" (approximately 20 years before the use of a network's name in a station's on-air branding became commonplace among U.S. affiliates), and retooled its newscast. Despite the changes, KMSP's news department remained a distant third behind WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV.
Becoming an independent once again
On August 29, 1978, ABC announced that KSTP-TV would become the network's new Twin Cities affiliate the following spring. The signing of channel 5 made nationwide news, as it had been an NBC affiliate for three decades. KSTP-TV looked forward to affiliating with the top network, as third-place NBC had been in a long ratings slump. In retaliation for losing ABC, KMSP-TV immediately removed all ABC branding and regularly preempted network programming. Channel 9 then attempted to affiliate with NBC, thinking The Tonight Show would be a good lead-out from their 10 p.m. newscast, despite low prime time ratings. However, NBC, miffed at losing one of its strongest affiliates, and not wanting to pick up ABC's rejects, turned down KMSP's offer almost immediately and signed an affiliation agreement with independent station WTCN-TV. As a result of being rejected by both ABC and NBC, KMSP-TV prepared to become an independent station. Although it now faced having to buy an additional 19 hours of programming per day, it also would not have to invest nearly as much into its news department. Most of the on-air and off-air staffers resigned, not wanting to work for a down-scaled independent operation.
The affiliation switch occurred on March 5, 1979, and KMSP debuted its new independent schedule featuring cartoons, syndicated shows and even the locally based American Wrestling Association, with much of the station's programming having been acquired from WTCN-TV. To emphasize that the station's programming decisions would be influenced by viewers instead of a network, KMSP rebranded itself as "Receptive Channel 9", and an antenna was shown atop the station's logo in station identifications. The station became quite aggressive in acquiring programming, obtaining broadcast rights to several state high school sports championships from the MSHSL, the NHL's Minnesota North Stars and the Minnesota Twins baseball team.
As it turned out, KMSP's transition into an independent station turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was far more successful than the station ever had been as an ABC affiliate. It became a regional superstation, available on nearly every cable system in Minnesota as well as large portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Over time, it became one of the most successful and profitable independent stations in the country.
KMSP went through another ownership change on June 9, 1981, when 20th Century-Fox spun off United Television as an independent company owned by Fox shareholders; the transaction was approved alongside the $700 million sale of 20th Century-Fox to Marvin Davis. Chris-Craft Industries, which in 1977 had acquired an interest in 20th Century-Fox that by 1981 comprised 22 percent of Fox's stock, received a 19 percent stake in United Television; later in June, it filed with the FCC for control of United, as it now owned 32 percent of its stock. Two years later, Chris-Craft, though its BHC subsidiary, increased its stake in United Television to 50.1 percent and gained majority control of the company.
First Fox affiliation, then back to independent
KMSP-TV remained an independent station through 1986, when it became one of the original charter affiliates of the newly launched Fox network. This suited channel 9, as it wanted the prestige of being a network affiliate without being tied down to a network-dominated program schedule; at the time, Fox only programmed a nightly talk show and, starting in 1987, two nights of prime time programming; the network would start its full-week programming schedule in 1993. For its first few years with Fox, the station served as the de facto Fox affiliate for nearly all of Minnesota and South Dakota.
However, the station did not remain a Fox affiliate for long. By 1988, KMSP was one of several Fox affiliates nationwide that were disappointed with the network's weak programming offerings, particularly on Saturday nights, which were bogging down KMSP's otherwise successful independent lineup. That January, channel 9 dropped Fox's Saturday night lineup; the move did not sit well with Fox, and in July 1988 the network announced that it would not renew its affiliations with KMSP and Chris-Craft sister station KPTV in Portland, Oregon. Fox then signed an agreement with KITN (channel 29, now WFTC) to become its new Twin Cities affiliate, and KMSP reverted to being an independent station full-time. In 1992, the station relocated to its current studio facilities on Viking Drive in Eden Prairie. Along with the other United Television stations, KMSP carried programming from the Prime Time Entertainment Network from 1993 to 1995.
As a UPN affiliate
By the early 1990s, Fox had exploded in popularity; it had begun carrying strong shows that were starting to rival the program offerings of the "Big Three" networks, and had just picked up the broadcast rights to the NFL's National Football Conference. In response to this, in October 1993, Chris-Craft/United Television partnered with Paramount Pictures (which was acquired by Viacom in 1994) to form the United Paramount Network (UPN) and both companies made independent stations that both companies respectively owned in several large and mid-sized U.S. cities charter stations of the new network.
UPN launched on January 16, 1995 (with the two-hour premiere of Star Trek: Voyager), with channel 9 becoming a UPN owned-and-operated station due to Chris-Craft/United's ownership stake in the network—making it the second network-owned station in the Twin Cities (alongside CBS-owned WCCO-TV). Over time, KMSP became one of UPN's most successful affiliates in terms of viewership. In addition, the station was still enjoying success with local sports programming featuring the Minnesota Twins, as well as the MSHSL championships. KMSP was stripped of its status as a UPN owned-and-operated station in 2000, after Viacom exercised a contractual clause to buy out Chris-Craft's stake in the network, although the station remained with UPN as an affiliate for another two years. Around this time, Viacom bought CBS.
Return to Fox as an owned-and-operated station
News Corporation, through its Fox Television Stations subsidiary, agreed to purchase Chris-Craft Industries and its stations, including KMSP-TV, for $5.35 billion in August 2000 (this brought KMSP, along with San Antonio's KMOL-TV and Salt Lake City's KTVX, back under common ownership with 20th Century Fox); the deal followed a bidding war with Viacom. The sale was completed on July 31, 2001. While Fox pledged to retain the Chris-Craft stations' UPN affiliations through at least the 2000–01 season, and Chris-Craft agreed to an 18-month renewal for its UPN affiliates in January 2001, an affiliation swap was expected once KMSP's affiliation agreement with UPN ran out in 2002, given Fox's presumed preference to have its programming on a station that it already owned. Additionally, KMSP's signal was much stronger than that of WFTC, it was a VHF station that had been on the air much longer than UHF outlet WFTC. Most importantly, Fox had been aggressively expanding local news programming on its stations, and KMSP had an established news department whereas WFTC's news department did not begin operations until April 2001. The move was made easier when, in July 2001, Fox agreed to trade KTVX and KMOL (now WOAI-TV) to Clear Channel Communications in exchange for WFTC, a transaction completed that October.
The affiliation switch, officially announced in May 2002, occurred on September 8, 2002 (accompanied by a "Make the Switch" ad campaign that was seen on both stations), as Fox programming returned to KMSP-TV after a 14-year absence, while WFTC took the UPN affiliation; KMSP was the only former Chris-Craft station that was acquired and kept by Fox that did not retain its UPN affiliation. The station began carrying Fox's entire programming schedule at that time, including the Fox Box children's block (which later returned to WFTC as 4KidsTV, until the block was discontinued by Fox in December 2008 due to a dispute with 4Kids Entertainment). The affiliation swap coincided with the start of the 2002 NFL season; KMSP effectively became the "home" station for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings as a result of Fox holding the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference (from 1994 to 2001, most Vikings games were aired on WFTC). Finally, in 2014, with the launch of Xploration Station which replaced Weekend Marketplace which WFTC carried, KMSP-TV began clearing the entire Fox network schedule for good.
Since Fox has affiliates in most media markets and the Federal Communications Commission's syndication exclusivity regulations normally require cable systems to only carry a given network's local affiliate, and Fox prefers only an area's affiliate be carried as opposed to a distant station for ratings tabulation purposes, KMSP was eventually removed from most cable providers outside the Twin Cities. By this time, these areas had enough stations to provide local Fox affiliates. KMSP thus effectively lost the "regional superstation" status it had held for almost a quarter-century, dating back to when it was an independent station. Due to the advent of digital television, many stations in smaller markets previously served by KMSP began operating UPN-affiliated digital subchannels towards the end of the network's run to replace that network's programming in those markets, which in turn became MyNetworkTV or CW affiliates.
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