KWTV-DT, virtual channel 9 (UHF digital channel 25), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. It serves as the flagship television property of locally based owner Griffin Communications, and is part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate KSBI (channel 52). The two stations share studios on Kelley Avenue and 74th Street (near North Lincoln Boulevard) in northeast Oklahoma City, adjacent to the studios and main offices of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) PBS member network; KWTV's transmitter is located near the John Kilpatrick Turnpike, also on the city's northeast side.
On cable, KWTV is available on Cox Communications channel 10 (standard definition) and digital channel 710 (high definition) and AT&T U-verse channels 9 (standard definition) and 1009 (high definition) in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and on either channel 9 on most cable systems elsewhere within the Oklahoma City DMA as well as on satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network.
John Toole "J. T." Griffin—owner and president of the Griffin Grocery Company, a Muskogee-based wholesaler and manufacturer of condiments and baking products that he inherited from his father, John Taylor Griffin, after the elder company co-founder died in 1944—became interested in television broadcasting around 1950, after noticing during one of his commutes that many homes in the Oklahoma City area had installed outdoor antennas to receive the signal of primary NBC affiliate WKY-TV (channel 4, now KFOR-TV), the first television station ever to sign on in Oklahoma, which began operation on June 6, 1949. In an effort to secure a grant to operate a television station in Oklahoma City, Griffin—who first entered the broadcasting industry in October 1938, when he purchased local radio station KOMA (1520 AM, now KOKC) from Hearst Radio for $315,000—filed competing construction permit/license applications to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under two separate companies in which he held ownership interests.
On September 5, 1951, the Oklahoma Television Corporation—a consortium led by Griffin (who, along with sister Marjory Griffin Leake and brother-in-law James C. Leake, became the company's majority owners in July 1952, with a collective 92.7% controlling interest) and investors that included former Oklahoma Governor Roy J. Turner, company executive vice president Edgar T. Bell (who would later serve as channel 9's first general manager), and Video Independent Theatres president Henry Griffing (who acted as a trustee on behalf of the regional movie theater operator)—filed an application for a construction permit to build and license to operate a television station on VHF channel 9. On June 27, 1952, KOMA Inc., a licensee corporation of KOMA radio that was largely owned by Griffin and the Leakes, filed a separate application. The Oklahoma Television Corporation was eventually granted the license on July 22, 1953, after the company struck an agreement with KOMA Inc. days before to merge their bids, in exchange for KOMA purchasing 50% of the shares in the former that were owned by Oklahoma Television's original principal investors. (Under FCC procedure, the Commission's Broadcast Bureau board decided on license proposals filed by "survivor" applicants at the next scheduled meeting following the withdrawal of a competing bid.) Instead of using the KOMA calls assigned to the radio station, the Griffin group chose instead to request KWTV (for "World's Tallest Video") as the television station's call letters, in reference to the transmission tower being constructed behind its studio facility (which was also under construction at the time) on a plot of land on Northeast 74th Street and North Kelley Avenue that KOMA had purchased in 1950, with the intention of developing it for a television broadcast facility. (KOMA would vacate its facilities at the now-demolished Biltmore Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City once the Kelley Avenue building was completed.)
After conducting initial test pattern transmissions twelve days earlier on December 8, KWTV officially signed on the air on December 20, 1953. The station's first broadcast was a special 30-minute ceremony inaugurating channel 9's launch at 7:00 p.m. that evening, respectively featuring speeches from Griffin, Bell and Turner, announcements of station policies, and an introduction of station stockholders and employees. KWTV was the third and last commercial television station to sign on in the Oklahoma City market during 1953: two UHF stations—KTVQ (channel 25, allocation now occupied by Fox affiliate KOKH-TV), which launched as an ABC affiliate on October 28, and KLPR-TV (channel 19, allocation now occupied by Cornerstone Television affiliate KUOT-CD), which debuted as a DuMont Television Network affiliate on November 8—would eventually cease operations within three years of their respective debuts. Originally broadcasting daily from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, channel 9 has been a CBS television affiliate since its debut, assuming the local programming rights from WKY-TV, which aired select network shows on a secondary basis since it signed on; it inherited its affiliation by way of KOMA radio's longtime partnership with the CBS Radio Network, which had been affiliated with its then-radio sister since 1929. KWTV also maintained a secondary affiliation with DuMont, from which WKY-TV had also carried selected programs, until the network discontinued operations in August 1956. In 1956, the station began carrying select programs from the NTA Film Network; KWTV became exclusively affiliated with CBS in 1961, after NTA Film ceased operations.
Channel 9—which is one of the few television stations in the United States to have had the same callsign, ownership, primary network affiliation and over-the-air channel allocation throughout its history—temporarily transmitted its signal from KOMA's 300-foot (91 m) broadcast tower near the television station's Kelley Avenue studios. KWTV activated its permanent transmission facility in September 1954; at 1,572 feet (479 m), the tower—which cost $650,000 to construct and weighed 525 short tons (476 t)—became the tallest man-made structure and the tallest free-standing broadcast tower in the world at that time. (It would be surpassed for the title in December 1956, when Roswell, New Mexico-based KSWS-TV [now KOBR] activated a 1,610-foot [490 m] guy-wired tower in Caprock, New Mexico.) To commemorate the new tower, an event that KWTV management estimated had 5,000 attendees, an amateur photography competition was held in which the winning pictures of the tower (and also awarded the finalists photography equipment donated by local camera stores) would be chosen for inclusion in station publicity advertisements. A young Johnny Carson, then the host of the CBS game show Earn Your Vacation, served as master of ceremonies for the tower's dedication. The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA)—which was granted free use of the land near the KWTV studio and transmitter under an agreement with the Oklahoma Television Corporation—became a tenant on the tower in April 1956, when flagship station KETA-TV (channel 13) had its transmitter activated. (The tower was decommissioned following the transition of KWTV and KETA to digital-only broadcasts in 2009, as their digital transmitters were located on a separate tower; the antenna and the upper half of the tower were disassembled by crane during the summer of 2014, and its remnant sections were imploded that October.) The station relocated its operations into its new Kelley Avenue studio facility on October 17, 1954.
Some of the local programs that channel 9 produced over the years included the children's program Miss Fran from Storyland, in which host Fran Morris—who hosted the show from 1958 to 1967, during her tenure as KWTV's director of educational programming—told children's stories, conducted arts and crafts demonstrations, a "storyboard" on which viewer-submitted artwork was shown and occasional Davey and Goliath animated shorts (Morris subsequently hosted a similar program on WKY-TV/KTVY for an additional 17 years); The Gaylon Stacy Show, a half-hour morning talk-variety program that ran from 1960 to 1970, which featured live guests and on-location celebrity interviews (Stacy also hosted a Saturday morning children's show, Junior Auction, as well as a variety-game show, You Name It during his tenure at KWTV); and Foods 'n Focus, a five-minute-long, Oklahoma Natural Gas-produced cooking show hosted by Jane Frye that ran from 1973 to 1977. The Griffin-Leake interests sold KOMA (which, as of 2018, is now owned by Oklahoma City-based Tyler Media) to Radio Oklahoma, Inc.—an investor-owned group led by radio executive Burton Levine—for $342,500 in November 1956, but retained ownership of KWTV.
Over the years, the Griffin family owned other television stations in Oklahoma and Arkansas. On December 15, 1953 (five days before KWTV's sign-on), the Griffin-Leake partnership launched their first television station, ABC affiliate KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas; the group would later sign on ABC affiliate KTVX (now Tulsa-based KTUL) in Muskogee, on September 18, 1954. Post-split from Leake, Griffin bought KPOM-TV (now Fox affiliate KFTA-TV) in Fort Smith from Ozark Broadcasting Co. in September 1985, and later signed on a satellite station in Rogers, KFAA (now KNWA-TV), in October 1989 to relay the signal of KPOM—both of which were owned by the Griffins until 2004, when it sold the NBC affiliates to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group—into Fayetteville and areas of northwest Arkansas not covered by the parent signal. Griffin Communications re-entered the Tulsa market with its purchase of fellow CBS affiliate KOTV from the Belo Corporation in October 2000, and later purchased Muskogee-based WB affiliate KWBT (now CW affiliate KQCW-DT) from Cascade Broadcasting Group in October 2005.
Sole ownership by Griffin
In April 1961, RKO General subsidiary Triarko Ltd. purchased a controlling stake in Video Independent Theatres from the estate of the late Henry Griffing. The 12.5% interest in KWTV included in the deal gave RKO its fifth VHF television station, putting it at the maximum then allowed under FCC ownership rules (alongside those which the company had wholly owned in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Memphis as well as a controlling stake in a Canadian station dually serving the Detroit market). This created issues for a then-ongoing station swap in which RKO was to acquire WRC-TV and WRC-AM-FM (now WTEM and WKYS) in Washington, D.C. from NBC, swap WNAC-TV (now defunct; former channel allocation now occupied by WHDH), WNAC-AM (now WRKO) and WRKO-FM (now WWBX) in Boston to NBC in exchange for the WRCV television and radio stations (now KYW-TV and KYW (AM)) in Philadelphia, and sell the Washington-based WGMS radio stations (the surviving AM station is now WWRC) to Crowell-Collier Broadcasting. After Philco (which protested the 1957 license renewal of WRCV-TV-AM to NBC amid questions over the legality of its acquisition of the stations from Westinghouse in exchange for WTAM-AM-FM and WNBK television (now WKYC) in Cleveland the year before) took issue with whether RKO's interest in KWTV violated FCC ownership rules, in August 1962, RKO agreed to sell its stake to minority stockholders Roy Turner and Luther Dulaney, increasing their individual interests in the station to 18.75%.
In November 1963, the Griffin-Leake interests purchased Turner and Dulaney's 25% interests in KWTV for $200,000 and title rights to the equipment used by KWTV, KTUL and KATV. Turner and Dulaney would then sell the equipment, valued at $2.3 million, to First National Bank of Oklahoma City executives C.A. Voss and James Kite for $3 million. Griffin-Leake's Oklahoma stations would then be folded into KATV parent licensee KATV Inc. (subsequently rechristened as Griffin-Leake TV), which would enter into a ten-year, $4.5 million (or $37,500 per month) agreement with Voss and Kite to lease the equipment. Griffin and the Leakes would own approximately all of the common voting stock and collectively own 84% of nonvoting common shares in KATV Inc. post-merger, with 10% of the remaining nonvoting interest held by Edgar Bell (who would remain KWTV's executive vice president and general manager).
In early 1964, KWTV's Kelley Avenue facility was expanded to include a new 72-by-76-foot (22 m × 23 m) soundstage on the building's west end (which would incorporate transistorized broadcasting and recording equipment), and a separate control room and production facilities. In April 1969, Griffin-Leake TV announced that it would split into two separate companies. Griffin retained ownership of KWTV under the rechristened Griffin Television Inc. (which was renamed Griffin Communications in 2000), while Leake retained ownership of KATV, KTUL, Ponca City-based cable television operator Cable TV Co. and a controlling 80% interest in the construction permit for Fajardo, Puerto Rico television station WSTE (now WORO-DT) through the spin-off Leake TV, Inc. In 1982, with the launch of the overnight news program CBS News Nightwatch, KWTV became the first television station in the Oklahoma City market to maintain a 24-hour programming schedule on weekdays (KTVY had begun maintaining a 24-hour schedule on Fridays and Saturdays in 1978); the station would not adopt a 24-hour schedule regularly until the launch of CBS News Up to the Minute in 1992.
Ownership of KWTV would transfer to the familial heirs of John Griffin—widow Martha Watson Griffin (who also assumed her husband's post as KWTV board chairman), and sons John W. and David Griffin (both of whom would become KWTV executives in 1990, with David taking over as Griffin Communications's president in 2001)—after he died on July 26, 1985 at the age of 62. That year, KWTV began producing Bingomania (a co-production with Dayton, Ohio-based Prijatel Productions), a half-hour bingo game show that was briefly available in limited national syndication through licensing deals with individual stations; the program was cancelled in 1987, after a two-year run. On February 3, 1997, the station—which had branded itself as "TV-9" since 1981—modified its general branding to "KWTV 9" full-time and retitled its newscasts from Newsline 9 to simply News 9, which would be extended to a full-time generalized brand in May 2001.
On October 25, 2010, KWTV became the first television station in the Oklahoma City market to carry syndicated programming and advertisements inserted during local commercial breaks (including station and network promos) in high definition. On September 29, 2014, Griffin purchased MyNetworkTV affiliate KSBI (channel 52) from Oklahoma City-based Family Broadcasting Group (owned by a consortium led by former KWTV weekend evening meteorologist Brady Brus, which—under its former name, Christian Media Group—outbid Griffin to purchase KSBI in 2001) for $33.5 million. The transaction was finalized on December 1, 2014, making KWTV and KSBI became the fourth commercial television station duopoly in the Oklahoma City market. KSBI subsequently migrated its operations from its studio facility in Yukon, into KWTV's Kelley Avenue studios on December 6 of that year. On March 1, 2017, Griffin reformatted KSBI as an extension brand of KWTV under the "News 9 Plus" brand, which Griffin Communications CEO David Griffin said was designed to "help create a more inclusive and consistent identity for all of our programming".
|TV stations in Oklahoma|
|KWTV, Oklahoma City|
|TV stations in Central, Northwestern and West-central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City|
|KFOR 4 (NBC) |
KOCO 5 (ABC)
KWTV 9 (CBS)
KWET 12 (PBS)
KETA 13 (PBS)
KTBO 14 (TBN)
KUOT-CD 21 (CTV)
KTOU-LD 22 (HSN)
KOMI-CD 24 (Youtoo)
KOKH 25 (Fox)
KTUZ 30 (TLM)
KLHO-LD 31 (TVALA)
KOCB 34 (CW)
KUOK 35 (UNI)
KUOK-CD 36 (UNI)
KBZC-LD 42 (OnTV4U)
KAUT 43 (Ind.)
KOHC-CD 45 (AZA)
KOCM 46 (Daystar)
KOCY-LP 48 (ESTRELLA)
KUOC-LD 48 (BUZZR)
KSBI 52 (MNTV)
KOPX 62 (Ion)