KPNX, virtual and VHF digital channel 12, is an NBC-affiliated television station serving Phoenix, Arizona, United States that is licensed to Mesa. The station is owned by Tegna Inc. KPNX's studios are located at the Republic Media building on Van Buren Street in downtown Phoenix (which also houses formerly co-owned newspaper The Arizona Republic), and its transmitter is located atop South Mountain on the city's south side. The station's programming is simulcast on satellite station KNAZ-TV (channel 2) in Flagstaff, and is further relayed through a network of 14 low-power translators across northern and central Arizona.

History[edit | edit source]

The station first signed on the air on April 23, 1953, as KTYL-TV; it was originally owned by the Harkins Theatre Group, which also owned KTYL radio (1490 AM, now KIHP on 1310, and 104.7 FM, now KZZP). The station's original studios were located in the then-small town of Mesa. The station has been Phoenix's NBC affiliate since its sign-on. Previously, all four networks of the day were shoehorned on CBS primary affiliate KPHO-TV (channel 5). Channel 12 carried some programming from the DuMont Television Network (an affiliation that was shared with KPHO) until that network's demise in 1956.

John J. Louis, owner of KTAR radio (620 AM and 98.7 FM, now KMVP-FM), bought channel 12 in 1955 and changed its call letters to KVAR. It would have been KTAR-TV, but at the time Federal Communications Commission regulations did not allow a television station to have the same call letters as a sister radio station if they were licensed in different cities. When regulations were loosened in 1959, channel 12 changed its callsign again to KTAR-TV. Soon afterward, the station moved to a new studio on Central Avenue in Phoenix, after the FCC began permitting television stations to operate their studio facilities outside of their city of license. For much of the next half-century, the station identified as "Phoenix/Mesa," even though under FCC regulations it should have identified as "Mesa/Phoenix."

Over the years, the Louis family bought several other broadcasting outlets, including WQXI-TV (now WXIA-TV) in Atlanta and WPTA-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Eventually, the Louis family's broadcasting interests became known as Pacific & Southern Broadcasting, headquartered in Phoenix with KTAR-AM-FM-TV as the company's flagship stations.

Phoenix advertising mogul Karl Eller bought Pacific & Southern Broadcasting in 1968 and combined it with his existing business to form Combined Communications. Eller was also one of the original founding owners of the city's first major professional sports team, the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns. Channel 12 carried Suns games from the team's 1968 inception until the 1980s, when the game telecasts moved to then-independent station KNXV-TV (channel 15).

KTAR-TV was the Phoenix pioneer of the so-called "happy talk" news format when it reformatted its newscasts under the Action News format in late 1973, with longtime anchor Ray Thompson paired alongside Bob Hughes, weatherman Dewey Hopper (most recently with Air America Radio affiliate KPHX, and a longtime weather forecaster in Sacramento) and sportscaster Ted Brown.

Combined Communications merged with Gannett in 1979, in what was at that time the largest media merger in United States history. Combined's ownership of the KTAR stations had been grandfathered earlier in the decade, when the FCC forbade common ownership of television and radio stations in the same market. However, with the Gannett merger, the KTAR cluster lost its grandfathered protection. Gannett opted to keep channel 12 and sell off the radio stations. The station then changed its callsign to KPNX on June 4, 1979 since the radio properties had held the KTAR call letters first (the change was due to an FCC rule in effect then that prohibited TV and stations in the same city, but with different owners from sharing the same call letters).

The station had placed third in the Nielsen ratings for many years behind ABC affiliate KTVK (channel 3) and CBS affiliate KTSP (channel 10, now Fox owned-and-operated station KSAZ-TV). That soon changed in December 1994, when four of the major English-language commercial stations in Phoenix all changed their network affiliations. Coupled with a resurgent NBC, KPNX surged past KTVK to the top of the ratings, where it has remained ever since, only wavering as NBC experienced its own ratings troubles from 2004 to 2014. As it retained its NBC affiliation while KPHO, KTVK, KSAZ-TV and KNXV all swapped affiliations (ABC from KTVK to KNXV, CBS from KSAZ to KPHO and Fox from KNXV to KSAZ with KTVK becoming an independent station after a nominal affiliation with The WB), KPNX is the only major English-language commercial television station in Phoenix to have never changed its primary network affiliation.

In 2000, Gannett merged with Central Newspapers, owner of The Arizona Republic. As the FCC forbids the common ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market, Gannett would have been forced to sell off either KPNX or the Republic, however the FCC granted Gannett a "permanent" waiver to keep both media properties. Gannett's ownership of KPNX and the Republic was a factor in their acquisition of the Belo Corporation, owner of KTVK and KASW, in 2013; Belo's Phoenix properties had to be divested to the Meredith Corporation and SagamoreHill Broadcasting (KASW has since been sold to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group). With Gannett splitting its publishing and broadcasting interests, this will not be an issue in the future.

In January 2011, KPNX left its longtime home on Central Avenue and consolidated its operations with the Republic at the Republic Media Building on East Van Buren Street in downtown Phoenix, with the station's local newscasts broadcasting from a streetside studio. The Central Avenue facility was then significantly renovated and became the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness (in part via a major grant from local business entrepreneur Bob Parsons), the headquarters complex for the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS.

Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper DVRs. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting local advertising revenues for KPNX (and, to a lesser extent, the Republic). Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations (including KPNX) should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.

On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. KPNX was retained by the broadcasting company, which took the name Tegna.

TV stations in Arizona
KPNX/KNAZ, Mesa/Flagstaff

KVOA, Tucson

TV stations in Phoenix metropolitan area
KTVK 3 (Ind)
KAZT 7 (Ind)
KSAZ 10 (Fox)
KDTP 11 (Daystar)
KFPH 13 (UMas)
K18DD-D 18 (Evine)
K19FD 19 (Hope)
K18JL-D 25 (AFTV)
KKAX-LP 36 (Youtoo)
K38IZ-D 38 (Ind)
KPDF-CD 41 (Rel)
KDPH-LP 48 (Daystar)
KFPB-LD 50 (Nuestra)
KPPX 51 (Ion)
KASW 61 (CW)
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