XHRIO-TDT, virtual channel 15 (UHF digital channel 26), is a CW-affiliated television station located in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico serving the Rio Grande Valley area in southern Texas, United States. The station is 98%-owned by Mexican-based Televisora Alco, a 40%-owned subsidiary of station operator Entravision Communications; XHRIO is a sister station to Entravision's duopoly of McAllen-licensed Univision affiliate KNVO (channel 48) and Harlingen-licensed Fox affiliate KFXV (channel 60), as well as three low-powered stations, all licensed to McAllen: Class A UniMás affiliate KTFV-CD (channel 32), KMBH-LD (channel 67, and its Brownsville-licensed translator Class A KXFX-CD), and KCWT-CD (channel 21, also a CW Plus affiliate). XHRIO-TDT maintains its basic concession-compliant studios in Matamoros, with a second studio facility across the border (shared with Entravision's other stations) on North Jackson Road in McAllen housing master control and other internal operations. XHRIO-TDT's transmitter is located near El Control, Tamaulipas.
Previously, XHRIO had served as a primary Fox affiliate from 2005 to 2012 and of MundoFox/MundoMax between 2012 and 2016.
The concession for channel 2 was awarded in 1964, receiving the call sign of XHCR-TV and owned by Cadena Radiotelevisora del Norte, S.A. de C.V., a company owned by respected broadcaster Clemente Serna Alvear of Mexico City. In 1973, the name of the concessionaire was changed to Televisoras del Bajo Bravo, S.A.
In 1977, a joint venture was formed between the owners of KRIO (910 AM) in McAllen and KRIX (99.5 FM; now KKPS) in Brownsville and Serna Alvear. The venture brought channel 2 to the air on January 12, 1979 as XHRIO-TV (with callsign authorized on March 16 of that year), an English language independent station. It branded as XRIO-TV-2, running primarily reruns of older American shows and recent feature films. The studios were co-located in McAllen with KRIO. The transmitter was eight miles (13 km) south of the Rio Grande and the Harlingen antenna farm. Since XHRIO-TV was perceived by its American competitors (KRGV-TV and KGBT-TV) as a "border blaster" or pirate station, both being unfounded, they set about to block live delivery of programming across the U.S. border.
First stint as XHRIO-TV
Although XHRIO-TV had a broadcast signal superior to its U.S. counterparts, it suffered from serious underfunding and mismanagement by the ownership of the studio facility. During its first year, the technical staff which had created the facility against incredible odds slowly departed. Power to the transmitter site was sporadic and replacement technical people were not up to the task. Thus, XHRIO-TV was never able to establish an advertising base in the English market, despite extremely successful initial ratings. In 1981, the owners of the Mexican concession ended the delivery of programming tapes across the border to the channel 2 transmitter and converted XHRIO to a Spanish language independent station aimed at Matamoros viewers.
In November 1988, the station became the Lower Rio Grande Valley's Telemundo affiliate. The concessionaire became known as Telegrande, S.A. XHRIO's Telemundo affiliation ended on May 1, 1999 due to low ratings (in part because TCI had dropped the station from its lineup in 1997); as a result, the station reverted to English-language programming by becoming a UPN affiliate. Prior to XHRIO joining UPN, the network's programming was seen in the area through secondary affiliations with KRGV-TV (channel 5) and KVEO (channel 23). Telemundo programming returned to the market that August, when KTLM (channel 40) went on the air. To reflect its affiliation, the station changed its callsign to XHHUPN-TV in 2001. In 2005, the station reverted to the XHRIO-TV calls and dropped UPN for Fox.
As a Fox affiliate
Fox programming had previously been seen on XHFOX-TV (channel 17) from September 1994 until February 2002, when station owner Televisa dumped the Fox affiliation and flipped that channel to a XEW-TV repeater as XHTAM-TV. Prior to XHFOX's arrival and before XHRIO took Fox, Lower Rio Grande viewers on the American side received the network from the nationwide Foxnet channel.
In 2007, XHRIO began broadcasting digitally on sister station KNVO's subchannel 48.3, but three years later, after KNVO began airing Univision in HD, XHRIO moved to its own digital channel 2.1.
In 2011, low-powered sister station KSFE-LD began airing a simulcast of XHRIO on its main channel 67.1, with KSFE's previous CW programming being moved to 67.2. In early 2012, KSFE's calls were changed to KFXV-LD and on-air identification heavily emphasized the new call letters as well as channel 67.1. This could potentially lead to confusion as the station was branding itself as channel 2 while identifying itself as channel 67. Although the station was available on both channels, the XHRIO calls were reduced to small print beneath the KFXV calls on station identifications.
In 2012, it was announced a full power Entravision-owned station in the Rio Grande Valley would become a charter affiliate of the new Spanish-language MundoFox station. This caused speculation that the Fox network would be removed from XHRIO in favor of MundoFox, although there was no confirmation. On August 7, 2012, Fox programming was interrupted so that XHRIO could air what they labeled a "señal de prueba" or "test signal" feed of MundoFox on 2.1. After numerous unconfirmed rumors that MundoFox would be on 2.1, Valley residents were finally given confirmation on August 8, 2012, when the station's official Twitter feed announced that XHRIO would join MundoFox and Fox would remain on KFXV-LD, effectively splitting them off into two separate and distinctive channels. On August 13, 2012, MundoFox was launched on XHRIO, effectively ending their affiliation with the Fox network. Less than a week after dropping the Fox affiliation from channel 2 altogether, KFXV's standard definition feed was re-added to XHRIO on channel 2.2.
On October 1, 2016, XHRIO switched from MundoMax to The CW, an affiliation held by Entravision and already aired on KCWT-CD. MundoMax shut down entirely on November 30, 2016.
After San Diego sister station XHDTV-TDT switched from MyNetworkTV to Milenio Television in September 2018, XHRIO became the only Mexican-licensed, English-language station serving an American audience.
In releasing its third-quarter 2019 earnings, Entravision announced that it had elected not to pay the 20-year lump sum renewal for XHRIO's concession; the station will thus leave the air at the expiration of its concession on December 31, 2021.