KATV, virtual channel 7 (UHF digital channel 22), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. KATV maintains studio facilities located on Main and East 4th Streets in Downtown Little Rock, and its transmitter facilities are located on Shinall Mountain, near the Chenal Valley neighborhood of Little Rock. On cable, KATV is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 8 in standard definition and digital channel 231 in high definition.
The station first signed on the air on December 19, 1953. Originally licensed to Pine Bluff, the station was a CBS affiliate with a secondary ABC affiliation. It became a full ABC affiliate in 1955 after KTHV signed on and took the CBS affiliation because of KTHS (now KAAY)'s long time relation with CBS Radio; during the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. KATV was founded by John T. Griffin and James C. Leake (who also founded sister station KTUL in Tulsa and original sister station KWTV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the company founded by the former of the two founders would later become the present-day Griffin Communications). KATV is Little Rock's oldest continually operating television station, beating NBC affiliate KARK-TV (channel 4) by almost five months. On-air personalities at KATV during its early years of operation included the station's first announcer, Don Curran; the first news director, Bill Hadley; and news announcer, Oscar Alagood. News cameramen included Bob Donaldson and Lou Oberste. Donaldson would later lead the film department at the University of Arkansas Medical School for many years, and Oberste would work at the Arkansas Department of Tourism.
Less than a year after its debut, KATV moved its operations from Pine Bluff to studio facilities located on North Beech Street, near Kavanaugh in the Pulaski Heights section of Little Rock that were formerly occupied by KRTV, a failed UHF station that had been the first television station to sign on in the state of Arkansas. The studios were damaged in a fire that occurred on October 31, 1957. KATV subsequently moved to a two-story building at 310 West 3rd Street; the first floor had been occupied by a furniture store, while the second floor served as studio facilities for a local radio station and also housed the offices of an insurance agency. The television station called the building home for about seven years; during this period, in 1959, Robert Doubleday became one of the youngest television station managers in the country at the age of 26. Under Doubleday, KATV became a major competitor in the Little Rock market. The fact that KATV now operated out of Little Rock instead of city of license Pine Bluff led to a major fight in federal court with the Federal Communications Commission and Pine Bluff area citizens, the station lost; until recently had maintained a major presence in Jefferson County. KATV originally transmitted its signal from a tower near Jefferson, until a taller tower was built farther north in Redfield in 1965.
The Leake family became sole owners of KATV and KTUL in 1968, when John Griffin sold his interest in KATV and KTUL to James Leake, in return for Leake's share of KWTV. The Leakes owned KATV and KTUL until 1983, when both stations were sold to Allbritton Communications. Doubleday remained as KATV's manager until 1968, when he was promoted to president of KATV and KTUL. Doubleday was replaced in his former position by general sales manager Thomas Goodgame, who would later move to Tulsa as general manager and would eventually become president of Westinghouse Broadcasting. The station moved its operations to the Worthen Bank building in downtown Little Rock in October 1970, after Worthen vacated the building and moved into a newly constructed building in downtown.
Arkansas political scientist and pollster Jim Ranchino, who had been appearing on the station as a commentator during elections since 1972, died of a heart attack as he was waiting to offer election commentary on KATV on November 7, 1978. Ranchino was a professor at Ouachita Baptist University and an ally of Bill Clinton, who was elected governor of Arkansas on the night that Ranchino collapsed and died in the studio.
KATV has used the Circle 7 logo since 1965, a logo that had traditionally been associated at the time with ABC owned-and-operated stations, and was one of the network's first affiliates to have used the logo (as designed by G. Dean Smith in 1962). KATV's use of the Circle 7 logo predates even the variant Circle 7 used by Allbritton flagship station WJLA-TV in Washington D.C. from 1977 until it switched to the standard version in 2001. However, unlike WJLA and most of the O&Os, prior to the Sinclair purchase KATV paired the ABC logo with the Circle 7 sparingly, usually in on-screen logo bugs in which the Circle 7 covers the standard ABC bug. KATV also first placed the Circle 7 inside a square in the 1990s; WJLA now uses this version as well, though neither station uses it consistently (KATV stopped placing the Circle 7 logo inside the square in September 2008).
In February 1999, KATV aired commercials for the Walt Disney Pictures animated film Doug's 1st Movie during an ABC network broadcast of Disney's Doug. Nearly eight years later, in 2007, the FCC levied a $8,000 fine against KATV for violating a provision in the Children's Television Act that classifies the broadcast of a commercial that features characters from a children's program being televised as a program-length commercial. KATV appealed the fine, claiming the error was due to a last-minute insertion order from ABC. However, it lost the appeal in April 2010.
The station's transmitter tower in Redfield collapsed on January 11, 2008, while workers were adjusting guy wires (the tower was also used by the Arkansas Educational Television Network for the analog signal of flagship station KETS (channel 2), whose analog signal remained off-air until June 13, 2008, when a temporary analog antenna was installed at the Clear Channel Broadcasting Tower Redfield, where its digital transmitter had already originated). KATV's analog signal remained off the air for two weeks, until it built temporary transmitter facilities from an auxiliary tower on Shinall Mountain used by CBS affiliate KTHV (channel 11). Now-defunct Little Rock-based Equity Media Holdings initially helped restore KATV's signal to area cable and satellite providers by relaying its digital signal over the third digital subchannel of KWBF (channel 42, now KARZ-TV and owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group) – originally as digital channel 42.3 in standard definition, later remapped as digital channel 7.1 and upgraded to high definition.
KATV's analog signal remained on Comcast in the Little Rock area after the collapse as it received the station through a direct feed from KATV's Main Street studios, although the HD feed was initially interrupted; Comcast also delivered KATV's signal to other cable and satellite providers. KATV eventually received FCC approval to build a new tower on Shinall Mountain, where Little Rock's other major network affiliates (and both of KATV's present backup signals) are located. The license for the station's analog signal continued to reference the Redfield tower as its transmitter site while the station was broadcasting in analog from the temporary site on Shinall Mountain, as well as in digital over a subchannel of KWBF. KATV began transmitter its digital signal from the new facility located on Shinall Mountain on February 1, 2009.
On July 29, 2013, Allbritton announced that it would sell its entire television group, including KATV, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million, in an attempt to shift its focus toward its co-owned website, Politico.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|7.1||720p||16:9||KATV-DT||Main KATV programming / ABC|
In 2005, KATV launched KATV News Now, a 24-hour news and weather channel which aired rebroadcasts and simulcasts of KATV's news programming; it competed directly with KTHV's similar "THV2" service. Until the collapse of KATV's Redfield tower, KATV News Now was carried on digital subchannel 7.2; the service continues to be available for streaming on , having remained online even after the tower collapse, and has since been restored on Comcast's digital cable service in Little Rock.
KATV later launched a 24-hour weather channel called "AccuWeather 24/7" on digital subchannel 7.3 in 2010, which was affiliated with The Local AccuWeather Channel. On August 23, 2011, the Disney-ABC Television Group announced an affiliation agreement with KATV to carry the lifestyle-oriented digital broadcast network Live Well Network; the network replaced AccuWeather 24/7 on digital subchannel 7.3. In turn, male-oriented Grit took its place in late 2014/early 2015.
KATV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 7, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 22. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 7.
KATV primarily serves the central portion of Arkansas. During the analog era, many sections of the state as well as western sections of Bolivar and Coahoma Counties in west-central Mississippi were able to receive KATV's signal. KATV was also carried on cable systems in those areas, including Greenville, Cleveland, Clarksdale, Drew and Harrison.
KATV presently broadcasts 31½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays, three hours on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays); in addition, the station produces the Sunday morning business and political discussion program Talk Business and Politics, hosted by Roby Brock (the program previously aired on Fox affiliate KLRT-TV (channel 16) from its debut in 2000 until its move to KATV on March 2, 2014). KATV is currently one of only two television stations in the Little Rock market (alongside CBS affiliate KTHV, which debuted a Saturday morning newscast in April 2010) that carries a newscast on weekend mornings, the station has produced a Saturday edition of Channel 7 News Daybreak since 1992; KATV does not currently air news programming on Sunday mornings.
From 2001 to June 30, 2005, KATV rebroadcast its weeknight 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on Pax TV affiliate KYPX (channel 49, now Me-TV affiliate KMYA-DT) under a news share agreement, which was discontinued as a result of a decision by Paxson Communications (now Ion Media Networks) to terminate news share agreements with major network affiliates in the markets it had a Pax station, due to financial troubles as well as its rebranding as i: Independent Television (now Ion Television). KATV was one of a few television stations affiliated with a network other than NBC to participate in a news share agreement with a Pax TV station.
On September 20, 2010, KATV expanded its weekday morning newscast to 2½ hours, moving the start time to 4:30 a.m. On September 10, 2011, KATV became the fourth (and final) television station in the Little Rock market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (KTHV became the first station in the market to produce its newscasts in high definition in December 2010, and KARK and KLRT both began producing its newscasts in HD in April 2011, making the transition within five days of one another).
Notable former on-air staff
- Paul Eells - sports director and "Voice of the Razorbacks" (1978–2006; died on July 31, 2006, likely due to injuries sustained from an automobile accident on Interstate 40 near Russellville)
- Greg Hurst - anchor/reporter (later at WABC and now at KHOU)
- Missy Irvin - former news editor; current Republican member of the Arkansas State Senate
- Julie Mayberry - co-host of Daybreak morning news show; Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives since 2015 from Pulaski and Saline counties
- Anne Pressly - news anchor/reporter (died in October 2008 of injuries sustained from an attack by an intruder in her Little Rock home; the killer was caught and sentenced to life in prison without parole)
- Susan Roesgen - anchor/reporter (1990s–2000s)
- David Shuster - reporter (1994–1996)
- Nancy Snyderman - medical reporter (1984)
- Kate Sullivan - anchor/reporter (2000–2006)