KTVK, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 24), is an independent television station licensed to Phoenix, Arizona, United States. The station is owned by the Meredith Corporation, as part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate KPHO-TV (channel 5). The two stations share studios on North Seventh Avenue in Uptown Phoenix; KTVK's transmitter is located on South Mountain on the city's south side. The station's signal is relayed across northern Arizona on a network of translator stations.
As an ABC affiliate
Former U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland, author of the GI Bill, was awed by the new medium of television. With a few friends, he formed the Arizona Television Company and applied for a television station license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). KTVK signed on the air as Phoenix's fourth television station on February 28, 1955—shortly after McFarland was elected governor of Arizona—immediately becoming an ABC affiliate. McFarland quoted that he chose the KTVK call letters "because TV will be our middle name."
KTVK cleared most of ABC's network schedule with the exception of some lower-rated daytime shows, as well as an occasional program during prime time hours. It soon built a translator network stretching across the entire state of Arizona, including Tucson. Occasionally, the station preempted ABC programming so as not to interfere with Tucson's local ABC affiliate, KGUN-TV. Despite the preemptions, ABC was generally satisfied with KTVK, as the station was one of the network's strongest affiliates. Even so, KTVK's news programming was a very distant second to longtime leader KOOL-TV (channel 10, now KSAZ-TV) for many years, even when KTAR-TV (channel 12)'s 1979 sale to the Gannett Company (and subsequent call sign change to KPNX) made KTVK the only locally owned network affiliate in the market. McFarland died in 1985. His daughter, Jewell McFarland Lewis, inherited the station, and ran it alongside her husband Delbert.
The station's fortunes began to improve significantly after several members of channel 10's (by now KTSP) news management staff defected to KTVK in 1986. An aggressive marketing campaign, a new brand (NewsChannel 3, one of the earliest uses of the "NewsChannel" brand that became popular with television stations in the 1990s), and a popular new anchor team finally helped make KTVK a truly competitive player in local news. By the late 1980s, KTVK was the top-rated television station in Arizona. The station slowly expanded its news programming during the late 1980s and early 1990s, eventually adding weekend morning newscasts with the launch of a two-hour program on Saturday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m. in 1993. KTVK's atmosphere was somewhat different from that of a typical major market Big Three network affiliate. McFarland ran his station as a "mom and pop" business, and had an open-door policy which the Lewises continued when they took over the station. Employee turnover was very low, and hugs were very common in the newsroom. This was an outgrowth of what would become the station's longtime slogan, "Arizona's Family" (still used today through KTVK's newscasts, its website and reporter sign-offs).
On May 23, 1994, New World Communications announced an affiliation deal with Fox in which twelve of its stations—including Phoenix's longtime CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV—would defect from their affiliations with ABC, CBS and NBC to join Fox. CBS approached KTVK for an affiliation, but the Lewises turned the offer down, expecting a renewed pact with ABC. Much to the Lewises' surprise though, the E. W. Scripps Company forced ABC to move its Phoenix area affiliation to the company's then-Fox affiliate KNXV-TV (channel 15) as a condition of retaining ABC on the company's two biggest stations, WEWS in Cleveland and WXYZ-TV in Detroit, which were both approached by CBS themselves to replace stations that also switched to Fox in the New World deal. KTVK then approached CBS in an effort to secure that network affiliation, but Meredith Corporation, owner of then-independent future-sister station KPHO-TV (channel 5), convinced CBS to move its affiliation there as a condition of keeping the CBS affiliation on its Kansas City station KCTV.
The Lewises appealed to the FCC on grounds that Scripps had "abused its license power for anti-competitive purposes", but their appeal was denied. After nearly 40 years with ABC, the Lewises decided to turn KTVK into an independent station. Channel 3 immediately began purchasing more syndicated programming, increasing local news programming and gradually removed ABC network programs from its schedule. In August 1994, it dropped Good Morning America and launched Good Morning Arizona in the 6:00-9:00 a.m. slot (the 6:00–7:00 a.m. slot had previously been occupied by a more traditional newscast). KNXV would begin airing Good Morning America beginning that September.
On December 15, 1994, KTVK also dropped Mike and Maty (of which KTVK had aired for only 30 minutes daily), World News Now and Nightline, which were also picked up by KNXV. At that point, ABC's cartoons also moved to KNXV; KTVK then dropped its Saturday morning newscast and began running Fox Kids (which had been turned down by KSAZ) instead. By then, KTVK was only airing prime time programming, sports and popular soap operas from ABC. KTVK renewed its local syndication rights to Oprah and Inside Edition, and purchased all available syndicated shows distributed by King World such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! (which was not renewed by KSAZ, and later moved to KNXV; both game shows have since returned to KTVK), American Journal (which was not renewed by KPNX), Rolonda, Branded and The Little Rascals (the latter two were both selected to air on weekends).
As a WB affiliate
KNXV officially became Phoenix's ABC affiliate on January 9, 1995, after which KTVK transitioned to a news-intensive schedule that retained all existing newscasts, with a half-hour tacked onto its weekday 5:00 p.m. newscast. KTVK nominally became the market's WB affiliate when that network debuted two days later on January 11, but since The WB initially had only one night of programming each week, KTVK chose to tape delay the network's Wednesday prime time schedule to air on Saturday nights. The WB added a second night of programming on Sundays that September, shortly before it dropped the network, which KTVK aired in pattern.
With The WB only occupying two nights of programming, KTVK was still essentially a de facto independent station. It also continued to broadcast Fox Kids programming on weekend mornings. A quirk of KTVK's scheduling of the Fox Kids lineup was that the station aired Animaniacs and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Sunday evenings, after the 5:00 p.m. news and before feature films at 7:00 p.m. The station aired Wheel, Jeopardy!, Star Trek: The Next Generation and several off-network sitcoms during primetime, and ran classic sitcoms and movies on weekends.
As an independent station
KTVK owned a substantial programming inventory, but did not have enough room on its schedule to air it all, even after dropping ABC. As such, KTVK entered into an agreement with the Brooks family to program the soon-to-launch KASW (channel 61) under a local marketing agreement, with KTVK leasing the new station's entire broadcast day. KASW signed on the air and took over the WB affiliation on September 22, 1995, officially rendering channel 3 as a true independent station; Fox Kids programming moved to channel 61 soon afterwards as KTVK reinstated newscasts on Saturday mornings, as a result of KASW airing not only Fox Kids' hit shows, but also airing the rival Kids' WB block & syndicated animated programs, KASW had the same extensive children's programming lineup as Cleveland's WB affiliate WBNX. When KASW debuted, the Arizona Television Company officially changed its name to MAC America Communications, after its founder's nickname, "Mac." By this time, the company had grown to include two FM radio stations and a magazine; on November 4, 1996, MAC America launched Arizona NewsChannel, a cable news channel operated as a joint venture with Phoenix's major cable provider Cox Communications. KTVK ran talk shows during the late morning and afternoon hours between newscasts during this period, along with a mix of news magazines, game shows, sitcoms and drama series during prime time, and a mix of classic sitcoms, classic movies and talk show reruns in late night. Weekends had a lesser amount of newscasts, along with a mix of movies and classic sitcoms. Most of the older shows also ran on KASW at different times.
In 1998, when the team joined Major League Baseball's National League, KTVK became the original over-the-air broadcaster of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Television rights to the team's games remained with KTVK through the end of the 2007 season, when the team opted to move all of its English-language broadcasts (not counting national telecasts) to cable on regional sports network Fox Sports Arizona. In the fall of 1998, KTVK briefly aired The Howard Stern Radio Show; both KTVK (which aired the program after its 10 p.m. news) and Lubbock, Texas Fox affiliate KJTV-TV pulled the program from their schedules after two episodes.
Sale to Belo
After pressure trying to compete with the major giant corporate owned affiliates, MAC America decided to sell off most of its media assets, including KTVK, in 1999, but was very selective about a buyer. It wanted to sell to a company that would continue to keep a local presence at the station (particularly important to the Lewises, as KTVK was the last locally owned station in the market) and allow the station to continue its growth of the last decade. In the end, it sold KTVK, the LMA with KASW and its share of the Arizona NewsChannel to the Belo Corporation in 1999, ending 44 years of McFarland-Lewis ownership (Belo would buy KASW outright in 2001). In 2000, Belo and Cox partnered to create a new Spanish-language channel, ¡Más! Arizona, that launched on October 16 of that year. In recent years, KTVK has further expanded its newscasts, added more talk shows and completely moved away from older shows. KASW made similar gradual changes as well. In 2003, KTVK's airings of Oprah were ranked as the top-rated syndicated program in the market. That year, KTVK declined to renew its syndication rights to Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! (both shows then moved to KNXV, before returning to KTVK in September 2012).
On July 27, 2007, KTVK's news helicopter "News Chopper 3" was involved in a mid-air collision when another news helicopter, belonging to KNXV-TV, struck it from behind. The collision occurred above Steele Indian School Park (near Third Street and Indian School Road), while both aircraft were covering a police pursuit in downtown Phoenix. All four people aboard both helicopters were killed, including KTVK pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox. An investigation conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the accident was caused by both pilots' inability to see one another and avoid a collision with the other helicopter.
Sale to Meredith
On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company, the owner of KPNX and the Arizona Republic, acquired Belo. As FCC rules restrict one company from owning more than two television stations in the same market, Gannett announced that it would spin off KTVK and KASW to Sander Media, LLC (operated by former Belo executive Jack Sander). While Gannett intended to provide services to the stations through a shared services agreement, KTVK and KASW's operations would have remained largely separate from KPNX and the Republic. Despite objections to the Gannett-Belo merger by anti-consolidation groups (such as the Free Press) and pay television providers (due to ownership conflicts involving television stations and newspapers both companies owned in other markets, the use of Sander as a third-party licensee to buy stations that would be operated by the owner of a same-market competitor, concerns over any future operational consolidation of the stations involved in the deal, and the Gannett and Sander stations colluding in retransmission consent negotiations), the FCC granted approval of the deal on December 20.
As the sale was completed on December 23, 2013, Sander/Gannett then sold KTVK to the Meredith Corporation, owner of CBS affiliate KPHO-TV. The license assets of KASW were sold to SagamoreHill Broadcasting, with Meredith to operate that station through a shared services agreement. However, as a voluntary condition of the transaction's approval, that station was instead sold off to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. The sale was approved on June 16, 2014, and completed on June 19. On August 7, 2014, Meredith bought the station's studio, with an intent to re-locate KPHO into the larger facilities of KTVK.
|TV stations in Arizona|
|KPCE-LP, Green Valley||K19FD, Camp Verde||KPAZ, Phoenix||KTVK, Phoenix||K35OU-D, Tucson|
|KDTP/KDPH-LP, Holbrook/Phoenix||KAZT, Prescott|
|TV stations in Phoenix metropolitan area|
|KNAZ 2 (NBC) |
KTVK 3 (Ind)
KPHO 5 (CBS)
KMOH 6 (AZA)
KAZT 7 (Ind)
KAET 8 (PBS)
KSAZ 10 (Fox)
KDTP 11 (Daystar)
KPNX 12 (NBC)
KFPH 13 (UMas)
KNXV 15 (ABC)
K18DD-D 18 (Evine)
K19FD 19 (Hope)
KPAZ 21 (TBN)
KTVP-LD 22 (3ABN/Hope/LLBN)
K18JL-D 25 (AFTV)
KTVW 33 (UNI)
KKAX-LP 36 (Youtoo)
K38IZ-D 38 (Ind)
KTAZ 39 (TLM)
KEJR-LD 40 (AZA)
KPDF-CD 41 (Rel)
KVPA-LD 42 (ESTRELLA)
KPHE-LD 44 (LATV)
KUTP 45 (MNTV)
KDPH-LP 48 (Daystar)
KFPB-LD 50 (Nuestra)
KPPX 51 (Ion)
KASW 61 (CW)