KPLR-TV, virtual channel 11 (UHF digital channel 26), is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to St. Louis, Missouri, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company, as part of a duopoly with Fox affiliate KTVI (channel 2). The two stations share studios on Ball Drive in the northwestern St. Louis County community of Maryland Heights (though with a St. Louis city postal address); KPLR's transmitter is located in Lemay. On cable, the station is available on Charter Spectrum channels 11 (standard definition) and 711 (high definition), and on AT&T U-verse channels 11 (SD) and 1011 (HD).
As an independent stationEdit
The station first signed on the air on April 28, 1959, as the first independent station in Missouri. The station's call letters were derived from the name of its founding owner, St. Louis real estate developer and hotelier Harold Koplar. Despite losing in his quest to build the station from the ground up, Koplar acquired the station's license in 1958 through controversial circumstances.
CBS was originally granted a construction permit by the Federal Communications Commission to build channel 11 in January 1957, prevailing over three other locally based competitors. But eight months later, CBS decided instead to purchase its existing St. Louis affiliate, KWK-TV (channel 4). As a condition of the channel 4 purchase, the FCC required CBS to relinquish the channel 11 license and construction permit. CBS did so by transferring it to the Koplar group, known as "220 Television, Incorporated", for no financial consideration. Almost immediately, the three-way deal was held up after the St. Louis Amusement Company, one of the original applicants for channel 11, protested to the United States Court of Appeals in January 1958. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld the decision in November 1958, but CBS had already consummated its deal for channel 4 several months earlier, changing the station's call letters to KMOX-TV – which were intended for channel 11 – and operated it for 28 years (it is now Meredith Corporation-owned KMOV). Meanwhile, Koplar went to work building channel 11 on its own, no longer in the face of opposition.
KPLR originally operated from studios within the Koplar-owned Chase Park Plaza Hotel, located on Maryland Plaza in St. Louis' Central West End district. Channel 11 would move into a separate facility adjacent to the hotel several years later. Starting in the mid-1960s, Harold's son Edward J. "Ted" Koplar began working behind the scenes at KPLR, producing sports programming and developing the station's first regular local newscast. Ted Koplar became president and chief executive officer of channel 11 in 1979, and gained complete control of the station upon his father's death in 1985.
For most of its existence, KPLR was a traditional independent station featuring cartoons, sitcoms, movies, drama series and locally produced newscasts. The station was also available on many cable systems in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas as a regional superstation until the late 1980s. Locally, channel 11's first and only competitor came in 1969, when Evans Broadcasting launched KDNL-TV (channel 30). Although it was one of the strongest independent stations in the nation, KPLR turned down an offer to affiliate with the upstart Fox network in 1986. This may have been because most of the markets in channel 11's cable footprint had enough stations to provide Fox affiliates at the outset, making the prospect of KPLR as a multistate Fox affiliate unattractive to the Koplars. The Fox affiliation for the market went to KDNL when that network launched on October 9 of that year. On January 17, 1994, the station began airing the Action Pack syndication block; the block's inaugural broadcast, the made-for-TV movie TekWar, earned locally an 11.2 rating/16 share, a 129% increase over that same time period during November 1993.
In the summer of 1994, the station also approached by ABC to negotiate an affiliation agreement with the network to replace KTVI (channel 2) – which had been affiliated with ABC since it signed on as Belleville, Illinois-licensed WTVI on August 10, 1953 (when the station, then broadcasting on UHF channel 54, also maintained a primary CBS affiliation) – as its St. Louis affiliate. KTVI was among the thirteen "Big Three" network-affiliated television stations already owned or in the process of being acquired by New World Communications (and one of three out of the four stations that the group was acquiring from Argyle Television Holdings at the time) that were slated to switch to Fox under a long-term affiliation agreement announced between New World and then-Fox network parent News Corporation on May 23, 1994. Channel 11 station management would later turn the offer down; ABC instead reached an agreement with River City Broadcasting in August 1994 to shift the affiliation to outgoing Fox affiliate KDNL, which swapped network affiliations with KTVI on August 7, 1995.
Upon that network's launch, on January 11, 1995, KPLR-TV became a charter affiliate of The WB (a venture between Time Warner and Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting), marking the first time it maintained an affiliation with a broadcast television network. The WB offered prime time programs only on Wednesday evenings during its first half-season of operation, but would gradually evolve into offering a six-night-a-week schedule by September 1999; as such, for its first few years as a WB affiliate, KPLR 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 programming and eventually animated series from the Kids' WB children's program block, KPLR 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 children's shows (including shows acquired via the syndication market as well as The Disney Afternoon block). For many years, even after joining The WB, KPLR was branded on-air as "St. Louis 11", often using a logo with the "O" in "St. Louis" converted into its "circle 11" numeric logo.
On September 26, 1997, Koplar Communications announced it would sell KPLR to ACME Communications (owned by Jamie Kellner, who then also served as the chief executive officer of The WB) for $146 million. Five days later, on October 1, ACME assumed operational responsibilities for the station under a local marketing agreement with Koplar. The sale was finalized on March 1, 1998, ending 38 years of local, family ownership and earning a handsome return on their original investment. As part of the sale agreement, Ted Koplar signed a three-year contract to remain with KPLR-TV as the station's CEO, along with serving as a consultant to ACME, for an annual salary of $1 million. However, Koplar resigned from KPLR/ACME in October 1999 after one year, citing an irreconcilable rift with ACME management.
In September 1998, KPLR changed its branding to "WB11". In 1999, KPLR began carrying UPN programming in off-hours, running select primetime shows and cartoons from the network's children's program block, Disney's One Too. UPN programs had previously run on KDNL during overnight and weekend timeslots and then on KNLC (channel 24, which subjected the network to several program preemptions due to content objections by owner, Larry Rice). St. Louis was one of the few top-50 markets without a UPN affiliate. The station continued carrying UPN in off-hours until WRBU (channel 46) disaffiliated from Home Shopping Network to join UPN in April 2003.
On December 30, 2002, Tribune Broadcasting announced it would purchase KPLR-TV and its Portland, Oregon sister station KWBP from ACME Communications for $275 million; the sale was finalized on March 21, 2003. Also in 2003, KPLR moved its studios from the Chase Park Plaza (which by that time, went from a gutted complex where the station had been the only major tenant into a boutique hotel) to a new purpose-built studio facility in Maryland Heights.
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 KPLR.
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. Three weeks later, on March 9, WRBU was confirmed to be the St. Louis market's MyNetworkTV affiliate. KPLR-TV remained a WB affiliate until the network ceased operations on September 17, 2006; when the station affiliated with The CW upon that network's debut on September 18, KPLR began branding as "CW 11". (WRBU joined MyNetworkTV upon that network's launch on September 5.)
On September 17, 2008, Tribune announced that it would enter KPLR into a local marketing agreement with Fox affiliate KTVI effective October 1, as a result of the formation of a "broadcast management company" that was created to provide management services to stations owned by both Tribune Broadcasting and KTVI owner Local TV. Although KTVI was the senior partner in the deal, it vacated its longtime studios in the Clayton-Tamm/Dogtown neighborhood on St. Louis' west side and moved its operations to KPLR's Maryland Heights facility. The LMA resulted in both stations combining their news departments and sharing certain syndicated programs. On November 1, 2008, the station changed its on-air branding from "CW11" to "KPLR 11" as several Tribune-owned CW affiliates began shifting away from using references to the network within their station branding, and reincorporated the Gateway Arch into its logo (essentially, a revision of the logo that KPLR used following the Tribune purchase as a WB affiliate).
Tribune bought KTVI outright on July 1, 2013, as part of its $2.75 billion acquisition of Local TV; the sale received FCC approval on December 20, and was completed on December 27, creating the first legal station duopoly in the St. Louis market between KTVI and KPLR. Tribune's direct purchase of KTVI to form a duopoly with KPLR was possible as, in recent years, KPLR and KDNL have rotated between fourth and fifth place in total day viewership due to the weaker viewership of KDNL's programming since its news department was shut down by Sinclair in 2001 (KPLR ranked in fifth place in total day ratings at the time of the purchase, with KDNL ranking in fourth place).
There have long been rumors that ABC has considered moving its affiliation to KPLR, in part because KDNL-TV has been one of the network's weakest affiliates since joining the network in 1995 (in stark contrast to KTVI's former status as one of ABC's strongest affiliates). However, on March 26, 2010, KDNL owner Sinclair Broadcast Group extended its affiliation agreement with ABC to retain the network's affiliation on KDNL and the eight other ABC affiliates that Sinclair owned at the time for five years through August 2015.
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair—which has owned KDNL-TV since 1996, when it acquired that station's previous corporate parent, River City Broadcasting—entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune, pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. The market conditions that allowed for Tribune to form a duopoly between KTVI and KPLR in 2013, ironically, precluded Sinclair from acquiring KPLR directly as, at the time of the merger announcement, channel 11 ranked in fourth place and KDNL ranked fifth among the St. Louis market's television stations in total day viewership. As the FCC prohibits common ownership of two of the four highest-rated television stations in a single market, Sinclair was required to sell KPLR to a third-party group in order to comply with those rules and alleviate potential antitrust issues preceding approval of the acquisition (Sinclair CEO Christopher Ripley cited St. Louis as one of three markets, out of fourteen where ownership conflicts existed between the two groups, where the proposed acquisition would likely result in divestitures).
Sinclair originally planned to retain operational stewardship of KPLR-TV through a local marketing agreement (possibly involving one of its partner companies); however, in an amendment to the Sinclair-Tribune merger submitted on February 21, 2018, the group announced that it would keep KDNL, purchase KTVI's license and assets, and sell KPLR-TV to an independent third party. On April 24, 2018, Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corporation announced that it would purchase KPLR-TV for $65 million; the deal would have created a new duopoly between KPLR-TV and KMOV, the latter of which Meredith has owned since February 2014. The sale was canceled on May 15, amid objections by the Justice Department, likely due to similar viewership and advertising market conditions that led the agency to reject the Gannett Company's 2013 proposal to operate KMOV under an LMA with KSDK (now owned by Gannett broadcasting spinoff Tegna) and sell the former's license to Tucker Operating Company LLC; in a revised filing, Sinclair said it would instead put KPLR into a divestiture trust administered by Rafamedia LLC, led by media broker Richard A. Foreman, for sale to an independent third party that does not already own a television station in St. Louis. However, such a sale has so far been hampered because the owner would operate KPLR as a standalone CW affiliate (the majority of The CW's affiliates operate as part of duopolies with "Big Four" network affiliates as those stations tend to fall outside the "top-four" ratings threshold) and potential local programming issues related to its news operations being integrated with those of KTVI.
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.
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. 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 put KTVI and KPLR-TV under common ownership with Nexstar's existing properties in Champaign–Springfield–Decatur (CBS affiliate WCIA and MyNetworkTV affiliate WCIX), Peoria–Bloomington (CBS affiliate WMBD-TV and Fox-affiliated SSA partner WYZZ-TV), Rockford (Fox affiliate WQRF-TV and ABC-affiliated SSA partner WTVO) as well as its properties in Southwestern Missouri (NBC affiliate KSNF and ABC affiliate KODE-TV in Joplin and Fox affiliate KRBK, MyNetworkTV affiliate KOZL-TV and CBS-affiliated SSA partner KOLR-TV in Springfield).
|TV stations in Missouri|
| KPLR, St. Louis|
|TV stations in the Greater St. Louis and Metro East Illinois areas|
| KTVI 2 (Fox) |
KMOV 4 (CBS)
KSDK 5 (NBC)
KPTN-LD 7 (HSN)
KETC 9 (PBS)
KPLR 11 (CW)
WPXS 13 (Daystar)
KDTL-LD 16 (RTV)
KEFN-CD 20 (EWTN)
KNLC 24 (MeTV)
K25NG-D 25 (3ABN)
W29CI-D 29 (3ABN)
KDNL 30 (ABC)
KBGU-LP 33 (Buzzr)
K38HD-D 38 (HSN)
WODK-LD 45 (Cozi TV)
WRBU 46 (Ion)
W50CH 50 (Ind)