KDLH is the CW-affiliated television station for Northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range area, that is licensed to Duluth. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 33 from a transmitter west of downtown in Hilltop Park.
Owned by the SagamoreHill Broadcasting, the station was formerly operated as a CBS affiliate through a shared services agreement by Quincy Media, making it sister to NBC affiliate KBJR-TV and its semi-satellite KRII. Following the end of KDLH's SSA on August 1, 2016 (resulting from the station's sale from Malara Broadcast Group), CBS programming was moved to KBJR-DT2 and KDLH switched exclusively to The CW.
In addition to its main signal, KDLH may be viewed through the following translators in northern Minnesota. All of the stations broadcast in digital and relay KRII.
|Call sign||Channel||City of license||Licensee||Transmitter location|
|K18JM-D||18||Northome||Koochiching County||south of town|
|K23KZ-D||23||Bigfork||EZ-TV, Inc.||south of town along MN 38|
|K27LL-D||27||Big Falls||Koochiching County||center of town|
|K34LJ-D||34||Kabetogama||Koochiching County||between Koochiching County line and U.S. 53 in Saint Louis County|
|K38MJ-D||38||Max||EZ-TV, Inc.||southwest of town|
|K42KV-D||42||Birchdale||Koochiching County||southwest of Loman|
|K47NW-D||47||International Falls||Koochiching County||southeast of city|
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||720P||16:9||CW2||The CW Plus|
KDLH discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 33, using PSIP to display KDLH's virtual channel as 3 on digital television receivers.
KDLH began broadcasting on March 14, 1954 as KDAL-TV (for Dalton Alexander LeMasurier) and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 3. The station was affiliated with NBC and was owned by Dalton LeMasurier along with KDAL-AM 610. It switched affiliations with WDSM-TV (now KBJR) in 1955 and joined CBS. It also aired some ABC programs sharing them with WDSM until WDIO-TV signed-on in 1966. The station's original studio facilities were located on West Superior Street in Downtown Duluth. During the late-1950s, KDAL was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. The LeMasurier family sold KDAL-AM-TV to what eventually became Tribune Broadcasting in 1960. KDAL began broadcasting in color in 1965. Tribune sold the station to Palmer Broadcasting in 1979 who changed the call letters to the current KDLH-TV. Palmer Broadcasting then sold KDLH to Benedek Broadcasting in 1985. The station dropped the -TV suffix in 1991.
In March 2005, the Malara Broadcast Group purchased channel 3 from New Vision and outsourced most of the station's functions to longtime rival KBJR who was owned by the Granite Broadcasting Corporation. Under this agreement, KDLH laid-off most of its staff and KBJR began to handle nearly all of KDLH's operations. Filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) showed Malara could operate KDLH with as few as two people on the payroll.
KDLH's digital transmitter had been operating at reduced power with a substitute side-mounted antenna after a May 18, 2008 fire that severely damaged its main digital antenna. It returned to full power on UHF channel 33 by June 2009. In February 2009, Malara Broadcasting announced that KDLH would not make the switch to all digital later in the month due to the fire. With that announcement, the station was the only one in the area still broadcasting in analog after February 19 as KBJR, WDSE, WDIO, and KQDS-TV all went digital-only on that date. On June 12 at around 7 p.m., KDLH ceased normal broadcasting operations on its analog signal. At that time, the analog station began a nightlight signal consisting of a ten-minute digital television informational video on a constant loop.
On June 26 two weeks after regular broadcasts were stopped, the nightlight signal was terminated with the help of Bob Peterson (a former engineer at the station who helped launch KDLH in 1954) bringing an end to all full-power analog broadcasting in the area. In November 2009, the station re-branded from "CBS 3" to "KDLH 3". This brought a new logo to the station for the first time since it merged with KBJR.
On February 11, 2014, it was announced that Quincy Newspapers would acquire KBJR-TV and KRII from Granite Broadcasting. Malara initially planned to concurrently sell KDLH to SagamoreHill Broadcasting; however, that November, the deal was reworked to remove SagamoreHill from the transaction, and as a result KDLH would remain with Malara. Quincy would continue to provide services to KDLH.
In July 2015, the deal was reworked yet again; it returned to its previous structure, with SagamoreHill acquiring KDLH and being operated under an SSA by Quincy. However, the SSA was wound down on August 1, 2016: at this time, CBS programming was moved to a subchannel of KBJR, and KDLH began operating independently as a CW affiliate. The sale was completed on November 2.
While operating its own news department, KDLH was the last of the big three stations in Duluth to have a weeknight 5 o'clock broadcast. It aired Judge Judy in the time slot instead. In 2004, it debuted a 5 p.m. show that featured anchor Amy Rutledge and meteorologist Phil Johnson. This was replaced along with its 6 o'clock show with the current one at 5:30 when KDLH merged with KBJR in March 2005. Jeopardy has since reclaimed the 5 o'clock spot on channel 3 and the CBS Evening News airs at 6.
After the buyout, the station had its news department closed and merged with KBJR. To maintain a separate identity, there were some channel 6 personalities that were also seen on KDLH. However, due to KBJR's existing newscasts not all of that station's personnel were seen on channel 3.
KDLH's Northland's NewsCenter at 5:30 had been anchored by Pat Kelly who was the only channel 3 news team member remaining after the KDLH sellout. Its weeknight 10 o'clock newscast, which continues to be a separate production, was known as Northland's NewsCenter Express and consisted of a ten-minute news "capsule". The other 25 minutes was a Seinfeld rerun. After thirteen months of mediocre ratings, KDLH changed the 10 o'clock show to the traditional 35 minutes and re-branded it to Northland's NewsCenter Tonight.
KDLH and KBJR began broadcasting their local newscasts in 16x9 widescreen on May 4, 2009. They were the first television stations in the market to do so. Although not true high definition, the format matches the ratio of HD televisions. As of November, this station has now began to brand its separate weeknight shows as KDLH 3 News. These broadcasts air from a secondary set. On January 11, 2010, KDLH beggan airing the area's only weeknight 6:30 o'clock newscast.
In the fall of 2014, KDLH 3 partnered with Midwest Communications' station KDAL-AM to produce a unique simulcast broadcast airing KDAL AM's "Cadigan and Kelly". KDLH 3 installed cameras and switching gear so each member of the KDAL team could be seen on air.
KDLH's intellectual unit was re-located to KBJR-DT2 on August 1, 2016.