KTBC, virtual and VHF digital channel 7, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station licensed to Austin, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of Fox Corporation. KTBC's studios are located on East 10th Street near the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin, and its transmitter is based at the West Austin Antenna Farm on Mount Larson.
On cable, KTBC can be seen on Charter Spectrum, Suddenlink and Grande Communications channel 2.
KTBC-TV aired its first television broadcast on Thursday, November 27, 1952, becoming the first television station in Austin and Central Texas. It was originally owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company (from whom the call letters are taken), which was in turn owned by then-Senator and future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird, alongside KTBC radio (590 AM and 93.7 FM). Lady Bird Johnson used the money from her family inheritance to purchase KTBC-TV, she remained active with her radio station until she was in her eighties which led her to become the first president's wife to have become a millionaire on her own. It carried all four major networks at the time: ABC, CBS, NBC and the now-defunct DuMont Television Network. However, it was a primary CBS affiliate. In its early history, it carried roughly 65% of CBS's schedule; NBC and ABC roughly split the remaining coverage in half.
In 1960, the staff of channel 7 produced a film for the Texas Department of Public Safety, entitled Target Austin. The 20-minute film presents the scenario of a nuclear missile strike on the outskirts of Austin and follows the storylines of several characters from the CONELRAD broadcast to the announcement that it is safe to emerge from shelter. The film takes place in Austin, highlighting several iconic locations in the city, and featured an Austin-based cast and crew: including director Gordon Wilkison (of KTBC), narrator Cactus Pryor (also of KTBC), actress Coleen Hardin, and El Rancho restaurant owner Matt Martinez.
KTBC-TV benefited from a quirk in the FCC's plan for allocating stations. In the early days of broadcast television, there were twelve VHF channels available and 69 UHF channels (later reduced to 55 in 1983). The VHF bands were more desirable because they carried longer distances. Since there were only twelve VHF channels available, there were limitations as to how closely the stations could be spaced.
After the FCC's Sixth Report and Order ended the license freeze and opened the UHF band in 1952, it devised a plan for allocating VHF licenses. Under this plan, almost all of the country would be able to receive two commercial VHF channels plus one noncommercial channel. Most of the rest of the country ("1/2") would be able to receive a third VHF channel. Other areas would be designated as "UHF islands" since they were too close to larger cities for VHF service. The "2" networks became CBS and NBC, "+1" represented non-commercial educational stations, and "1/2" became ABC (which was the weakest network usually winding up with the UHF allocation where no VHF was available).
However, Austin is sandwiched between San Antonio (channels 4, 5, 9, and 12) to the south, Houston (channels 2, 8, 11, and 13) to the east, and Waco/Temple/Bryan (channels 3, 6, and 10) to the north. This created a large doughnut in central Texas where there could be only one VHF license, which became KTBC-TV. Additionally, UHF signals usually do not travel very far over long distances or over rugged terrain. Even though Austin was large enough on paper to support three full network affiliates as early as the 1950s, the technical limitations made several potential owners skittish about the prospects for UHF in a market that stretched from Mason in the west to La Grange in the east, and also included much of the Hill Country.
As a result, KTBC-TV was the only station in Austin until KHFI-TV (channel 42, now KXAN-TV on channel 36) signed on in February 1965. NBC programming continued to be broadcast solely on KTBC-TV for the next 18 months due to contractual obligations. Channel 7 became an exclusive CBS affiliate when all of ABC's programming moved to KVUE (channel 24) when that station first signed on in September 1971.
After Lyndon Johnson became President following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the networks established direct feed lines between KTBC and the various network affiliates in New York City, Dallas and Chicago. This facilitated news report relayed while the President was residing either in Austin or at his ranch in Johnson City. News reports were also relayed in the president Oval Office or in his private study at the White House. The Johnsons maintained a penthouse apartment on the fifth floor of the station, which was wired for camera and sound equipment, and used on occasion for local programming on occasions when the Johnsons were away.
After he became President, President Johnson and his family's ownership of KTBC-TV was the source of investigative journalism and reporting, including a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal in March 1964 written by reporter Louis M. Kohlmeier. With a headline that included "How President's Wife Built $17,500 Into Big Fortune in Television," Kohlmeier's reporting and the work done by other reporters and journalists at the time raised questions regarding the former Vice President and then President's influence on behalf of the Austin station.
This multi-network capability was first demonstrated live on August 1, 1966, following the UT Tower sniper incident. After Charles Whitman's sniper rampage had been stopped, the primary newsman on the scene, Neal Spelce, presented a wrap-up of the event that was carried on all three networks live later that evening. Although the connections were later replaced by satellite uplink technology, the lines were maintained for contingency usage for several years.
The Johnsons sold KTBC-TV to the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company in 1973, making it a sister station to KDFW-TV in Dallas. The Johnsons kept the KTBC radio properties, and under then-FCC guidelines changed the stations' call letters to KLBJ-AM-FM. In 1994, Times Mirror sold KTBC-TV to Argyle Television.
In January 1994, KTBC began to manage low-powered independent station K13VC (known as "KVC 13" on-air) under a local marketing agreement with that station's owner, Global Information Technologies. The LMA allowed KTBC to cross-promote its programming with K13VC for the next nine years until March 29, 2003 when K13VC was shut down due to the channel 13 allocation being utilized for the digital signal for Univision owned-and-operated station KAKW.
As a Fox station
In December 1993, Fox outbid CBS to obtain the broadcast rights to football games from the National Football Conference of the NFL. In 1994, New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation deal with Fox, which was establishing itself as a major network and was looking for more VHF stations. In late 1994, most New World-owned stations (except for two) dropped their longtime "Big Three" affiliations and switched to Fox. On January 19, 1995, New World took over operations of the Argyle stations through time brokerage agreements. Nearly three months later, New World completed its merger with Argyle.
On July 1, 1995, KTBC ended its 43-year affiliation with CBS and became a Fox affiliate; the CBS affiliation went to former Fox station KBVO (channel 42), which changed its call letters to KEYE-TV. As the new Fox affiliate, channel 7 was able to continue as Austin's unofficial "home" of the Dallas Cowboys, because of Fox's rights to the NFC. KTBC had carried most Cowboys games since the team's inception in 1960 by virtue of CBS winning television rights to the NFL in 1956. For many years, it also carried Cowboys preseason games, though those telecasts moved to KEYE in 2006. In its early years as a Fox station, KTBC filled its daytime lineup with talk shows and the nighttime schedule with off-network sitcoms.
The station came under ownership of Fox when New World merged with Fox Television Stations in 1996; this made KTBC the first owned-and-operated network station in the Austin market (KEYE was subsequently purchased by CBS in 2000; KTBC became the only English-language network O&O in the market after CBS sold KEYE to Four Points Media Group in 2007). In the spring of 1997, a rumor that KTBC and Phoenix's KSAZ-TV would be traded to the Belo Corporation in exchange for Seattle's KIRO-TV circulated, but this deal never came to fruition. Belo would acquire rival KVUE and Phoenix's KTVK two years later. In recent years, the station's daytime lineup has leaned away from talk shows in favor of running mostly court shows.
|TV stations in Texas|
KABB, San Antonio
|TV stations in Austin/Hill Country region|
|KTBC 7 (Fox) |
KBVO 14 (MNTV)
KADT-LD 16 (Daystar)
KVAT-LD 17 (AZA)
KLRU 18 (PBS)
KGBS-CD 19 (Stadium)
KADF-LP 20 (ANTENNA)
KVUE 24 (ABC)
K29HW-D 29 (Ind)
KTFO-CD 31 (UMas)
K34FM-D 34 (TBN)
KXAN 36 (NBC)
KXLK-CD 40 (Justice)
KEYE 42 (CBS)
KNVA 54 (CW)
KAKW 62 (UNI)