KRON-TV (channel 4) is a television station licensed to San Francisco, California, United States, serving the San Francisco Bay Area as an affiliate of MyNetworkTV. Owned by Nexstar Media Group, KRON-TV maintains studios on Front Street immediately west of San Francisco's Embarcadero north of the city's Financial District, in the same building as ABC owned-and-operated station (O&O) KGO-TV, channel 7 (but with completely separate operations from that station). The transmitting antenna is located atop Sutro Tower in San Francisco.
San Francisco is the second-largest television market where the MyNetworkTV station is not owned and operated by the programming service's parent company, Fox Corporation (the largest being sister station WPHL-TV in Philadelphia).
As an NBC affiliate (1949–2001)
In the 1940s, when the channel 4 allocation in the Bay Area came open for bidding, it soon became obvious that the license would go to either NBC or the deYoung family, publishers of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. NBC wanted an owned-and-operated station (O&O) in the Bay Area alongside its West Coast flagship radio station, KNBC (680 AM, now KNBR). However, in an upset, the deYoungs won the license. They brought KRON-TV on the air on November 15, 1949 as a full-time NBC affiliate, operating it alongside co-owned radio station KRON-FM (96.5, now KOIT-FM). The station's call letters come from a modification of the Chronicle's nickname, "The Chron". It was the third television outlet in the Bay Area behind KGO-TV (channel 7) and KPIX-TV (channel 5) within a year, and the last license before the FCC placed a moratorium on new television station licenses that would last the next four years.
KRON-TV originally broadcast from studios located in the basement of the Chronicle building at Fifth and Mission streets. It originally maintained transmitter facilities, master control and a small insert studio on San Bruno Mountain; "NBC" lettering was placed near the summit of Radio Peak in huge white letters. In August 1959, the Chronicle reported that the tower was severely damaged by an unusually strong thunderstorm, requiring major repairs before KRON could return to the air. Newscasts benefited from the resources of the Chronicle and there was cooperation between KRON and the newspaper. In the 1950s and 1960s, local programs produced by KRON-TV included the award-winning documentary series Assignment Four, Fireman Frank with George Lemont (died October 1985 at the age of 63), and his puppets (including Scat the Cat, Rhode Island Red, and Karl the Karrot), and a live children's program hosted by Art Finley as Mayor Art. Bay Area kids, known as the "City Council", joined Mayor Art in the studio each day. The show featured Popeye cartoons mixed with science demonstrations, a newsreel feature entitled "Mayor Art's Almanac", games, prizes, and a sock puppet named "Ring-A-Ding."
Assignment Four was a documentary series that generally aired Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. through much of the 1960s (beginning in February 1960). A promotional brochure declared, "each ASSIGNMENT FOUR story is concerned with cultural and ethnic activities or perhaps some fascinating phase of life and living in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area." Subjects ranged from 'Skid Row' to 'The Single Girl,' the 'Green Intricate Country of Napa Valley' to 'No Deposit, No Return' (a study of garbage disposal that won a 1966 Emmy Award and Silver Medal Award in the 1966 New York International Film Festival). The documentary 'Not to Have Lived' (aired January 31, 1966) about mechanized society featured no dialogue or narration.
In 1965, KRON-TV began broadcasting most Oakland Raiders games, which were at first part of the American Football League, which had a contract with NBC from 1965 to 1969, and then the National Football League's American Football Conference, which inherited the AFL's deal with NBC from 1970 to 1997 (the Raiders relocated to Los Angeles in 1982, stripping KRON of its status as the team's home station until they returned to Oakland in 1995; the station then served as the unofficial home station until 1997). In addition, during those same years (1970-1997), KRON-TV also aired select San Francisco 49ers games whenever they played host to an AFC opponent at Candlestick Park. In 1967, KRON-FM-TV moved to a new studio at 1001 Van Ness Avenue in the Western Addition neighborhood (a location that formerly served as the site of the Roman Catholic cathedral of San Francisco), where channel 4 operated until 2014. The television transmitter was moved to Sutro Tower on July 4, 1973, while the FM transmitter remained on San Bruno Mountain.
Since the 1970s, KRON's logo has incorporated a stylized number "4" design that is based on the Golden Gate Bridge. The vertical component is a bridge tower, the horizontal component is a portion of the bridge deck, and the curve is a portion of a suspension cable (this logo was used as early as April 1974, during coverage of a Symbionese Liberation Army bank robbery). By about 1990-1991, this evolved into the "circle 4" logo in use to this day, with the "4" keeping the bridge design.
Becoming a market leader
Until the late 1970s, KRON-TV was known for being very San Francisco-centric in its news coverage and audience targeting, an approach that would become costly to the station as population growth in areas outside San Francisco soared. Realizing this and refocusing on the entire market enabled KRON-TV to become the dominant station in the Bay Area. During the 1980s, KRON continued its dominance by airing top-rated syndicated programs, including the Merv Griffin-produced game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune (the original NBC daytime versions of both series also aired on KRON), as well as Entertainment Tonight. The game show pair would move to ABC-owned KGO-TV (channel 7) permanently in 1992 after KRON-TV experimented with its "early prime time" schedule that year, while ET also moved to KGO in 1988, before returning to KRON in 1992 (where the show has remained since).
In 1982, the deYoung family's Chronicle Publishing Company unit discussed a possible trade of KRON-TV (for $100 million) to the Gannett Company, in exchange for acquiring Gannett's Oklahoma City station KOCO-TV. The proposal ultimately fell apart by September 1983. In the late 1980s, KRON-TV was among the few local television stations in the United States that produced a game show: Claim to Fame was a weekly half-hour show hosted by Patrick Van Horn that usually ran on Saturday evenings. During that timeframe, KRON also produced a Saturday morning children's program called Buster and Me. From the 1970s into the late 1980s, the station used Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, Opus 50 as the music piece played during its nightly sign-off, alongside scenic rustic shots from around the Bay Area. KRON also produced Bay Area Backroads, a half-hour program (which ran from the mid-1980s to 2008) that profiled places and people in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and occasionally beyond. The program, which generally aired on Sunday evenings, featured hosts such as Jerry Graham and Doug McConnell.
For most of its tenure with NBC, KRON was the network's second-largest affiliate (behind only KYW-TV in Philadelphia) and its largest on the West Coast. Despite this, KRON occasionally preempted NBC programming. One such notable omission was Another World, which would eventually air on the station in the early 1990s; KRON's decision to drop the daytime soap opera in the summer of 1998 (leaving Days of Our Lives and the struggling Sunset Beach as the only network soaps on its schedule) is thought to have hastened NBC's decision to cancel it altogether a year later. Two NBC daytime game shows, 50 Grand Slam and Just Men!, were never seen in the Bay Area. KRON also did not air NBC's soap operas in pattern (for example, KRON-TV aired Days of Our Lives after Another World, rather than the standard slot for NBC affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone—at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. depending on the season and time slot). Channel 4 also preempted some of the network's prime time programs. Similar to fellow NBC station KCRA-TV in neighboring Sacramento, KRON-TV stopped airing the Saturday morning T-NBC lineup in the early 1990s. Historically, NBC was far less tolerant of preemptions than the other networks, but has recently eased its standards. The network would resort to purchasing stations for the sole purpose of switching or upgrading them to O&O status because of this (Miami's WTVJ and Salt Lake City's KUTV are such examples) or find independent stations to air NBC programs that the main affiliate did not air. In the case of KRON, many of the shows it preempted ended up on independent KICU-TV (channel 36). NBC had a somewhat contentious relationship with KRON, especially since it often lost valuable advertising in one of the nation's largest markets. However, it had little reason to complain about its ratings performance in the Bay Area, as channel 4 was one of NBC's strongest affiliates for the better part of a half-century. A shuffle of network affiliations around the country in the mid-1990s made channel 4 NBC's largest affiliate.
During the 1992–1993 season, KRON-TV (along with KCRA-TV) participated in the "Early Prime" experiment in which prime time programs aired one hour earlier (mirroring the scheduling of the network's primetime lineup in the Central and Mountain time zones), the half-hour late evening newscast also moved from 11:00 to 10:00 p.m. as a result. While KRON moved NBC's prime time programming back to the 8:00-11:00 p.m. timeslot in September 1993, CBS affiliate KPIX, who adopted the early primetime schedule at the same time as KRON, continued with the experiment until 1998–well after it had become owned by the network through CBS's 1994 acquisition by KPIX's then-owner Westinghouse. Though both KRON and KPIX ran hour-long newscasts at 10 p.m., neither were able to beat Fox affiliate KTVU (channel 2), due to that station's longtime dominance in the 10:00 hour that continues to this day.
In 1993, Channel 4 became the flagship station of the Oakland Athletics, after acquiring broadcast rights to the Major League Baseball team's games. This caused a problem in 1996, when the final day of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials conflicted with a scheduled Athletics broadcast. Since KRON-TV was contractually obligated to show the baseball game live, it rebroadcast the trials at midnight. KRON lost the Athletics' television rights following the team's 1998 season.
Young Broadcasting purchase and loss of NBC affiliation (1999–2001); independence (2001–2006)
On June 16, 1999, the deYoung family announced that it decided to liquidate Chronicle Publishing's assets. By this point, the deYoungs owned three television stations (including KRON) in large and mid-sized markets around the country, two of which were sold off to LIN TV (which traded KAKE-TV in Wichita and WOWT in Omaha to Benedek Broadcasting in turn). The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, was acquired by the Hearst Corporation in a $295 million deal in October of that year.
NBC had made many offers for channel 4 over the years, but the deYoungs turned them down each time. It finally saw the opportunity to get an owned-and-operated station in what was then the United States' fifth-largest television market and quickly jumped into the bidding war for KRON. NBC was seen as the frontrunner to buy the station, until it was outbid at the last second by New York City-based Young Broadcasting, then-owner of Los Angeles independent station KCAL-TV and several other stations in medium to small markets, on November 16, 1999. Young's purchase price for the station ($750 million at the outset, rising to $820 million by closing) was a record price for a single station that stands to this day. To help finance the down payment, Young was forced to sell La Crosse, Wisconsin CBS affiliate WKBT to Morgan Murphy Media.
NBC president and chief executive officer Bob Wright had warned that if NBC did not succeed in buying KRON, it would require any prospective buyer to uphold specific terms if it wanted to retain the NBC affiliation. Wright did not rule out moving NBC's Bay Area affiliation elsewhere. When Young closed on its purchase of channel 4, NBC made good on these threats by demanding that Young operate KRON under the same conventions as an NBC owned-and-operated outlet. Among other things, it demanded that KRON change its on-air name to "NBC 4" and run the network's entire schedule in pattern (reducing primetime preemptions due to local programming from 20 hours to five hours a year), allowing preemptions only for extended breaking news or severe weather coverage. NBC also demanded yearly payments of $10 million from Young, a form of reverse compensation, flipping around the then-normal mode of networks paying their affiliates for their airtime (in turn, NBC would stop making annual payments to KRON of $7.5 million to carry the network's programming) as well as to give NBC the first option on programming of additional subchannels on the station's digital signal.
Rather than give in to NBC's demands, Young decided not to renew channel 4's affiliation contract, which was set to expire at the beginning of 2002. San Jose-based KNTV (channel 11)—which joined The WB (in conjunction with that network's existing Bay Area affiliate, then co-owned KBWB channel 20, now KOFY-TV) in 1999, after it agreed to drop its ABC affiliation at the behest of network-owned KGO-TV—later approached NBC with a proposal to pay $37 million annually for the rights to broadcast its programming. The network accepted the deal in February 2000. It did so primarily as a stopgap in case NBC failed in its bid to buy KRON from Young. However, Young's asking price for the station was $735 million, only a few dollars less than what it paid to buy the station from Chronicle. NBC felt that price was too high, and walked away from the deal when Young refused to lower it. In December 2001, NBC purchased KNTV from Granite Broadcasting for a fraction of KRON's sale price—$230 million—making NBC the only major broadcast network to have switched from one Bay Area station to another. The last NBC program to be broadcast by channel 4 was a repeat episode of Crossing Jordan, at 10:00 p.m. on December 31, 2001. KNTV officially joined NBC later that evening at 11:35 p.m. (the regular broadcast of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno), ending KRON-TV's 52-year affiliation with the network.
With ABC, CBS, UPN and now NBC carrying their programming locally on owned-and-operated stations (KGO-TV, KPIX, KBHK—channel 44, now KBCW—and KNTV respectively), and Fox and The WB under contract with KTVU and KBWB respectively, KRON-TV became an independent station by default; the station filled timeslots formerly occupied by NBC shows with syndicated programming and expanded newscasts. Without NBC programming (the network being near the top of the ratings nationally at the time of the disaffiliation, due to strong shows such as Friends, Frasier, Law & Order and ER), KRON's ratings started to decline, with viewership of its newscasts beginning to fall substantially by the time the station regained a network affiliation (a situation opposite that of Jacksonville, Florida's WJXT, which dumped CBS later that year for the same reasons as KRON with NBC, but remains a strong station as an independent).
MyNetworkTV affiliation (2006–present)
On February 22, 2006, News Corporation announced the launch of MyNetworkTV; the network was created partly in response to CBS Corporation and Time Warner's January 24 announcement that UPN and The WB would be shut down and replaced with the jointly-owned CW Television Network (CBS-owned UPN affiliate KBHK, whose callsign became KBCW by the network's launch, was named The CW's Bay Area affiliate; WB affiliate KBWB became an independent station). KRON-TV became a MyNetworkTV affiliate when it debuted on September 5, 2006 (it is currently one of the largest MyNetworkTV-affiliated stations not to previously have been an affiliate of either The WB or UPN, second only to the network's Dallas O&O KDFI). The station began branding itself as "MyKRON 4" for MyNetworkTV programming, although it continues to promote itself as "KRON 4" outside of the service's programming hours. After joining MyNetworkTV, the station moved its hour-long 9 p.m. newscast to 8 p.m., opting to run the fledgling network's programming from 9 to 11 p.m. (one hour later than MyNetworkTV's standard 8 to 10 p.m. scheduling in the Pacific Time Zone).
Young Broadcasting bankruptcy
On January 10, 2008, Young Broadcasting announced it would sell KRON-TV. The company had been encountering difficulties in meeting interest payments on its outstanding debt and Young's stock, which had been trading for a few cents per share, would ultimately be delisted from NASDAQ in January 2009, after failing to meet the minimum standards for being on the exchange. One month later on February 13, Young made a filing to place the company under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Debt incurred from its 1999 purchase of KRON was believed to be one key factor behind the company's cash problems. Young originally hoped to close a sale of the station by the end of the first quarter of 2008, but no buyer emerged.
On February 13, 2009, the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Young cancelled a planned auction of all 10 of its stations five months later on July 14 at the last minute, a move believed to have been made due to a lack of suitable bids. Instead of auctioning off the stations, Young and its secured lenders reached a deal where the lenders (among them Wachovia and Credit Suisse) would take control of the company, and Gray Television would manage seven of Young's ten stations. KRON, WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee and WLNS-TV in Lansing, Michigan (the latter two, unlike KRON, compete with Gray-owned stations in their respective markets) were the only stations not included in the management deal.
In February 2010, Young discussed the possibility of entering into a shared services agreement with KNTV's owner NBCUniversal. That year, KRON informally reunited with NBC as it began to carry network programs during sports programming and breaking news events that force their preemptions on KNTV (this responsibility as a backup NBC affiliate was assumed by KICU in 2012).
Station management announced at a November 2011 meeting that no such agreement would take place, and that the station would instead relocate to a smaller, state-of-the-art facility within the next year to year-and-a-half. A week later, it was also announced the station's master control operations would be operated remotely from Atlanta beginning in mid-January 2012. The move to new studios, and plans to operate master control from Atlanta, were scrapped by June 2012.
Acquisition by Media General
On June 6, 2013, Media General announced it would acquire Young Broadcasting in an all-stock deal — the merger was completed on November 12, 2013. The move made KRON-TV the largest station by market size owned by Media General as well as the company's only station located west of the Rocky Mountains (most of Media General's television stations were in the Southeastern, Midwestern and Northeastern United States).
On February 10, 2014, Media General announced that KRON-TV would move into leased space on the third floor of the KGO-TV building (ABC Broadcast Center) at 900 Front Street, in space formerly occupied by radio stations KGO and KSFO. KRON-TV's studios at 1001 Van Ness Avenue would be put up for sale. Despite the co-location, KRON-TV maintains separate broadcast facilities within the KGO-TV building and employs its own staff completely separate from that of KGO-TV, with each station's staff restricted by keycards from entering the other's facilities.
In June 2014, Fox Television Stations announced it would acquire KTVU and KICU-TV (channel 36) in a trade with Cox Media Group in exchange for that company's stations in Boston and Memphis. Prior to the announcement it was rumored that Fox had considered buying KRON-TV and moving Fox network programming to channel 4 (had Fox actually acquired KRON-TV, this would have made it one of the two major networks in the Bay Area [the other being channel 4's former network partner NBC] to switch from one station to another). Fox completed its acquisition of KTVU and KICU-TV on October 8, 2014. Fox has made no announcement on whether or not they plan to move the MyNetworkTV affiliation to KICU, which would make KRON an independent once again. For the time being, however, KRON-TV remains affiliated with MyNetworkTV.
Sale to Nexstar
On January 27, 2016, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Media General. The transaction was consummated on January 17, 2017, and with it, KRON became part of the newly-minted Nexstar Media Group.
|TV stations in California|
|KCOP, Los Angeles|
KEYT-DT2, Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/San Luis Obispo
|Broadcast television in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose|
|English stations||Spanish stations|
|KAXT-CD 1 (Decades)||KDTV-DT 14 (UNI)|
|KTVU 2 (Fox)||KCNZ-CD 28 (LATV)|
|KURK-LD 3 (CMC)||KSTS 48 (TLM)|
|KRON 4 (MNTV)||KEMO 50 (Estrell)|
|KPIX 5 (CBS)||KFSF-DT 66 (UMas)|
|KGO 7 (ABC)|
|KNTV 11 (NBC)|
|KQTA-LD 15 (Jewelry)|
|KOFY 20 (Grit)|
|KICU 36 (Ind)|
|KCNS 38 (ShopHQ)|
|KBCW 44 (CW)|
|KKPX 65 (ION)|
|KTLN 68 (H&I)|
|Public television stations|
|KQED 9 (PBS)|
|KRCB 22 (PBS)|
|KQEH 54 (PBS)|
|KPJK 60 (Ind)|
|KQSL-LD 17 (RDI)|
|KDTS-LD 52 (Daystar)|