KBTV-TV, channel 4, is the Fox affiliated television station serving the Beaumont / Port Arthur, Texas designated market area, and is licensed to Port Arthur. Owned by Deerfield Media and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, KBTV is the sister station to CBS affiliate, KFDM. KBTV's studios are located at KFDM's studios in Beaumont. The station broadcasts its digital signal on UHF channel 40 from a transmitter in Vidor, Texas, using its former analog assignment of channel 4 as its virtual digital channel via PSIP. It airs on channel 2 on cable systems in the immediate portion of the market. KBTV's high definition digital simulcast is now available on area cable systems and DirecTV and Dish Network.
Channel 4 signed on October 22, 1957 as KPAC-TV, an NBC affiliate owned by Texas Gulfcoast Television, Inc., itself jointly owned by Port Arthur College, owner of KPAC radio (1250 AM, now KDEI; and 98.5 FM, now KTJM), and the Jefferson Amusement Company. Port Arthur College sold its stake in the station to the Jefferson Amusement Company in 1965; as Port Arthur College retained the radio stations, channel 4 changed its call letters to KJAC-TV.
The station was the first in the area to broadcast in color, use video tape, and air live coverage of area high school football games. Among the original programming that originated at KPAC/KJAC's studios were wrestling, the kid's western show Cowboy John, afternoon Bingo, and the Circle 4 Club. During the 1950s, KPAC also had the only local teen dance program, Jive At Five. Both The Cowboy John Show and Jive At Five had "colored days", in which African-Americans were permitted to participate.
Jefferson Entertainment Company sold KJAC to Clay Communications in 1973; Clay, in turn, sold its television stations to Price Communications in 1987. Price sold most of its television stations (except for WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) to USA Broadcast Group in 1995; USA soon renamed itself U.S. Broadcast Group after a complaint from USA Network.
Nexstar Broadcasting purchased KJAC from U.S. Broadcast Group in 1998. The following year, the station took its present KBTV-TV callsign to align itself more with Beaumont, even though it is still licensed to Port Arthur. The call letters had previously been used by channel 9 in Denver, Colorado (now KUSA) and channel 8 in Dallas (now WFAA). KBTV-TV also shares its call letters with KBTV-CD channel 51 in Sacramento, California. To go along with the call change, KBTV moved from its Port Arthur studios to studios inside Parkdale Mall in Beaumont, where it remained until April 2013. The station was one of the few television stations in the country to have studios located inside a major shopping center.
In October 2008, Nexstar reached an agreement with Fox in which KBTV would become the new Fox affiliate for the Beaumont market. The move was made because Nexstar wanted to increase KBTV's news output. The affiliation switch took effect on January 1, 2009, ending KBTV's 51-year affiliation with NBC. This caused a shakeup in the market as NBC went to a digital subchannel of ABC affiliate KBMT, while KUIL-LP, which lost Fox, went independent at that time. The now-KUIL-LD has since become operated by KBMT and affiliated with MyNetworkTV.
On February 2, 2009 at 2 p.m., a fire destroyed KBTV's old studios in Port Arthur at 2900 17th Street, a mere 12 hours from giving control to Nexstar's master control hub in Little Rock, Arkansas. ATF investigated and no suspect has ever been found. Originally the station's home from its 1957 sign-on until 1999, the building primarily served after the move as a storage facility, though the station's doppler weather radar was still based there. The building was demolished a few months later.
Nexstar filed to sell KBTV-TV to Deerfield Media on August 22, 2012, making this Nexstar's first divestiture in the company's history. Upon the deal's completion, the station entered into a joint sales agreement and a shared services agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group, making it a sister station to CBS affiliate KFDM.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|4.1||720p||16:9||KBTV-HD||Main KBTV-TV programming / Fox|
KBTV-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, 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 40. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 4.
Currently, KBTV carries a total of 23.5 hours of local newscasts each week (4½ hours on weekdays, a half-hour on Saturdays and a half-hour Sundays).
After KBTV affiliated with Fox, news was expanded from 1½ to three hours on weekday mornings, and the half-hour 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts were cancelled and replaced with an hour-long 4 p.m. newscast. KBTV is also one of (at least) six Fox affiliate stations that carries a 4 p.m. newscast (along with WSVN in Miami, WTIC-TV in Hartford, Connecticut, KPTV in Portland, Oregon, WXIN in Indianapolis, Indiana and WDRB in Louisville, Kentucky). It also discontinued its 10 p.m. newscast, and moved it to 9 p.m. (and expanding it to one hour on weeknights), although some Fox affiliates in other markets maintain newscasts at both 9 and 10 p.m. KBTV has the distinction of being one of the smallest, if not the smallest Fox affiliate (in terms of market size) to carry late afternoon newscasts.
In September 2010, the 4 p.m. newscast was changed to a news/lifestyle format called Southeast Texas Live and a 5:30 p.m. newscast also debuted.