KPRC-TV, virtual channel 2 (UHF digital channel 35), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Houston, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Graham Media Group subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company. KPRC-TV maintains studio facilities located on Southwest Freeway (Interstate 69/U.S. Route 59) in the Sharpstown district on the city's southwest side, and its transmitter is located in unincorporated northeastern Fort Bend County (near Missouri City).
Prior to the digital transition, KPRC was the only Houston station on the VHF dial whose cable channel position did not match its over-the-air analog channel, due to interference from the low-band VHF terrestrial signal; it was placed on Comcast cable 12, instead. Other cable systems on the outer edges of the Houston media market carried KPRC on cable channel 2. It is also available on cable in Lufkin-Nacogdoches, Victoria, and Bryan-College Station.
The station first signed on the air on January 1, 1949, as KLEE-TV. It was Houston's first television station and the second one to sign on in Texas, beating KBTV in Dallas (now WFAA) by more than eight months. It was originally owned by hotelier W. Albert Lee and carried programming from all four networks of the day - NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont. However, after a year of difficulty, Lee sold the station to the Hobby family, owners of the Houston Post and Houston's oldest radio station, KPRC (950 AM and 99.7 FM, now KODA at 99.1). The Hobbys took control on June 1, 1950, and changed the television station's call letters to match its radio sisters on July 3, 1950. Although the call letters appear to stand for Post Radio Company, they actually stand for Kotton Port Rail Center. After the Hobbys took over, channel 2 became a primary NBC affiliate due to KPRC-FM radio's longstanding affiliation with the NBC Blue Network, a link that remains today. Due to the Federal Communications Commission-imposed freeze on new station licenses, channel 2 remained the only television station in Houston for four more years. CBS moved to KGUL-TV (channel 11, now KHOU) in 1953 and KTRK-TV (channel 13) took over the ABC affiliation when it signed on one year later. DuMont ceased operations in 1956, though it was briefly affiliated with now-defunct KNUZ-TV (channel 39, frequency now occupied by KIAH). Because of its affiliation with NBC, KPRC was the first station in Houston to broadcast a program in color and was subsequently the first to broadcast its programming entirely in color.
The station originally operated from studios located on Post Oak Road, near what later became the Galleria shopping complex in Uptown Houston. KPRC was the first station in Houston to use weather radar, to use videotape for field reporting, to have a fully staffed news bureau in Austin, and to hire female and African American reporters. The station became the source of controversy after some television viewers in the United Kingdom claimed to receive its signal on September 14, 1953, three years after the original signal was transmitted. However, this was actually a hoax. Over the years, the Hobby family bought several other television stations, including KVOA-TV in Tucson, KCCI in Des Moines, WTVF in Nashville, WESH in Orlando, and KSAT-TV in San Antonio.
From 1969 to 1998, KPRC produced the longest-running syndicated television program in Texas, The Eyes of Texas, a lifestyle program which focused on segments relating to Texas culture and life (the program continues to air locally on PBS member station KUHT, channel 8). KPRC was also one of the first stations to air telethons, raising $28,000 for the American Cancer Society in 1950. It carried the MDA Labor Day Telethon every Labor Day from 1970 to 2012 (KPRC's status as an MDA "Love Network" affiliate in 2013, when the telethon discontinued its syndicated distribution model and moved to ABC, where it aired locally on KTRK-TV up to 2014). In March 1972, KPRC-TV moved into a new state-of-the-art studio facility in Houston's Sharpstown neighborhood, where its operations remain to this day; the three studios located within the building are suspended from the ground to reduce vibration.
In 1983, the Hobbys sold the Houston Post to MediaNews Group, while the family's broadcast holdings were reorganized as H&C Communications, with KPRC-AM-TV remaining as the flagship stations (KPRC-FM had been sold some years earlier). After 40 years under Hobby family ownership, KPRC was sold to The Washington Post Company in April 1994 (the Post was then bought by the Hearst Corporation and absorbed into its Houston Chronicle, with the last edition printed on 18 April 1995). In 2004, KPRC was rebranded "Local 2". In January 2015, KPRC dropped the "Local" and began calling themselves "Channel 2."
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|2.1||1080i||16:9||KPRC-HD||Main KPRC-TV programming / NBC|
|2.3||16:9||H&I||Heroes & Icons|
KPRC-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, 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 35, using PSIP to display KPRC-TV's virtual channel as 2 on digital television receivers. On that date, tropospheric ducting resulted in KPRC's digital signal being receivable as far away as Alexandria, Louisiana, where KPRC virtual channel 2.1 was seen in place of KALB-TV's virtual channel 5.1 on digital receivers (both channels transmit their digital signals on UHF channel 35).
As part of the SAFER Act, KPRC kept its analog signal on the air until July 12 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
In addition to clearing most of NBC's programming schedule, KPRC-TV broadcasts mostly syndicated programming during the daytime hours such as Dr. Phil, The Insider, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, and The Meredith Vieira Show.
Beginning in 1965, the American Football League signed a broadcast deal with NBC. As a result, KPRC became the primary station for the Houston Oilers, one of the league's eight founding teams. This continued after the AFL became the American Football Conference of the National Football League in 1970; Oilers broadcasts ended after the 1996 NFL season, when the team relocated to Nashville and became the Tennessee Titans. During the team's final years in Houston, the Oilers failed to sell out many home games, subjecting them to in-market television blackouts under league rules.
KPRC had been notorious in recent years for its share of pre-emptions. When Passions debuted on NBC in 1999, KPRC (along with Detroit sister station WDIV-TV) were the only NBC affiliates that preempted the soap opera until 2002; both stations had also previously preempted Sunset Beach (though UPN stations in both cities carried that program). Maury aired in place of Passions, until it moved to KHWB after KPRC cleared the latter show in its normal network timeslot. Initially, it aired for a short time on KNWS-TV (channel 51, now KYAZ) in 2001, before moving to KPRC the following year airing at 3 am. While NBC has become more tolerant of preemptions than in previous years, it prefers that its affiliates clear the entire schedule whenever possible. As a result, KPRC placed Passions in its normal 2 pm timeslot in August 2004, but this matter became moot when the program ended in September 2007.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien also did not air in Houston from 1994 to 1996; KPRC opted to air reruns of The Jenny Jones Show in its place. Late Night returned to KPRC in 1996, although it was subjected to delayed scheduling in later years to air various programs such as Ricki Lake at 11:35 pm, followed by Access Hollywood, a repeat of the 10 pm newscast and Jenny Jones, which delayed Late Night to 2:40 am. This fact was not lost on O'Brien, who visited Houston (including visits at the main Houston Bus Terminal and the Astrodome) to watch an episode of his own show with Houstonians in a classic skit; KPRC's mail servers were flooded with emails in response. KPRC moved the show to 12:35 am in 1998, and finally to its network-recommended 11:35 pm slot in 2005, where Late Night, now hosted by Seth Meyers, continues to air; however, the station still delays Last Call with Carson Daly until 2:05, showing infomercials in the show's network timeslot of 12:35 am. KPRC was among a handful of NBC affiliates that did not air Poker After Dark during its entire run, and likewise did not carry the short-lived Face the Ace in August 2009 (along with WDIV and Milwaukee's WTMJ-TV), pre-empting both primetime airings with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital programs. As of January 2013, NBC's current overnight lineup (a rebroadcast of the fourth hour of Today and Mad Money on weekdays; LXTV 1st Look and Open House NYC on weekends) does not air in Houston (as with sister station WDIV).
KPRC was also known for motorsports pre-emptions: in 2001, a contract with the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant which did not allow it to be rescheduled resulted in the pre-emption of the Firecracker 400, then televised on NBC under an alternating basis with Fox (Fox and NBC alternated the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 400). In 2013, KPRC pre-empted coverage of NBC's inaugural Formula 1 telecast of the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix (which aired locally at 6:30 am due to time differences between the U.S. and Monaco) with infomercials and local news.
2007 NFL season opener
In September 2007, the first half-hour of the NFL Kickoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts was shown on KPRC with default audio in Spanish rather than English. KPRC inadvertently aired the secondary audio program feed provided by Telemundo (owned by NBC parent company NBCUniversal).
KPRC-TV presently broadcasts 39½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays, and three hours on Sundays). In its early years under the stewardship of news director Ray Miller, KPRC typically placed first in the local news ratings, a situation not surprising given its roots in the Post. In 1972, the station hired two key personalities from KHOU for its evening newscasts: anchor Ron Stone and sportscaster Ron Franklin. From 1985 to 1992, the station's newscasts were branded as Channel Two News, and it broadcast round-the-clock news updates throughout the day, including during NBC primetime shows. For several years during the early 1990s, updates also aired during the overnight hours with producers and other newsroom personnel serving as anchors.
With anchors such as Ron Stone, Bill Balleza, Jan Carson, Linda Lorelle, Dan O'Rourke, and Bob Nicholas, weatherman Doug Johnson, and sports anchors Ron Franklin and Craig Roberts, the station's newscasts – while usually in second place behind long-dominant KTRK – often competed for and even placed first at times. In 1995, shortly after Post-Newsweek Stations bought KPRC, its newscasts were retitled News 2 Houston. Three years later, KPRC constructed a new set using the newsroom as a backdrop that was similar to the "newsplex" set used by Miami's WSVN. This set was referred to as the "News Center" and was used on-air until 2006, though the physical newsroom still exists in the same area. In 1996, KPRC debuted a half-hour 4 pm newscast. During this time, KPRC won more awards and continued to avidly compete with KHOU and KTRK in the ratings, even occasionally beating KTRK at 10 pm. By this point, KPRC's newscasts adopted a tabloid-style format similar to that of WSVN; its newscasts prior to the Post-Newsweek buyout were more traditional in comparison.
From there, the station had its ratings slip dramatically. The station's 5 pm newscast at one time even reportedly finished in fifth place, behind newscasts on rivals KHOU and KTRK-TV, syndicated reruns of The Simpsons on Fox station KRIV (channel 26), and a Spanish-language newscast on Univision station KXLN (channel 45). The station also had ratings declines in the morning and at 4 and 10 pm. KPRC was also hit with a boycott by civil rights activist Quanell X and others following the demotion of two African American anchors. During the controversy, KPRC hired longtime KHOU anchor Jerome Gray, who is African American, and moved former anchor Khambrel Marshall to executive producer. In May 2008, KPRC announced Marshall would move back on-air as a weekend meteorologist.
Overall, by early 2008, KPRC was in third place behind KHOU and KTRK. KPRC's morning and late-evening newscasts made the most gains in 2007, competing for second place. However, the station consistently ranks #1 among young males between 25 and 35 years of age. Since Nielsen Media Research began using Local People Meters in the Houston market in October 2007, KPRC has seen gains in the morning and at night, while the competition has dropped. KPRC began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition on July 19, 2008, during its 6 pm newscast. On August 24, 2009, KPRC-TV expanded its morning newscast to begin at 4:30 am. By 2012, the station's 6 pm newscast had ratings gains, boasting its highest viewership in November and December, as well as significant increases in all other time periods; the 10 pm broadcast also grew, besting KTRK for first in the timeslot for several consecutive months that year.
Notable former on-air staff
- Gayle Anderson - "2 On Your Side" reporter/midday anchor (1986–1991; now at KTLA in Los Angeles)
- Ron Franklin - sports director (1980–1987; formerly play-by-play announcer for ESPN)
- Daniella Guzman - weekend anchor and general assignment reporter (2006-2012; now an weekday morning anchor at KNBC in Los Angeles)
- Wes Hohenstein - weekday morning meteorologist (2003–2006; now at WNCN in Raleigh)
- Kay Bailey Hutchison - known on-air as Kay Bailey, Channel 2's first female reporter (1967–1972; later a Republican United States Senator from Texas)
- Tom Jarriel - worked behind the scenes in the news department as a reporter for a number of years (formerly of ABC News, now retired)
- Tony Kovaleski - investigative reporter (1997–2001; now an investigative reporter at KNTV in San Jose/San Francisco; 2010 Alfred I. duPont Columbia Silver Baton award winner)
- Tim Lake-weekend anchor and reporter (1987-1992; later went to WCAU-TV and was that station's 6 and 11 pm anchor; now at WTEN in Albany)
- Linda Lorelle - anchor (1989–2006, recently freelancing at KRIV, now working in real estate)
- Ray Miller - news director (1950s–1979) and original host of The Eyes of Texas (died in 2008)
- Byron Miranda - Meteorologist (now with WMAQ-TV in Chicago)
- Sylvia Perez - reporter/anchor (?-1989; formerly with WLS-TV)
- John Quiñones - reporter/anchor (1975–1978; now a correspondent with ABC News)
- Jacque Reid - reporter/anchor (1997–2000, now on WNBC as host of "New York Live")
- Janet Shamlian - weekend anchor (1995–1997; now correspondent for NBC News)
- Ron Stone - anchor (1972–1992, deceased)
- Spencer Tillman - sports reporter/anchor (1987–1997; first hired during the offseason period when he was playing with the Houston Oilers, later moved to WABC-TV in New York and now at CBS Sports)
- Charlie Van Dyke - announcer (1982-1993)
- Chris Wragge - sports director (1998–2004; also covered sports for NBC and USA Network simultaneously, later anchor of CBS's The Early Show, now news anchor at WCBS-TV in New York City)
- Paula Zahn - anchor (1981–1983, formerly with CNN and CBS News)
- Marvin Zindler - reporter (1950–1954; later investigative reporter at KTRK-TV, deceased)
- In the 1980–1982 NBC soap opera Texas, which set primarily in Houston, the series made several mentions of fictional television station "KVIK", run by one of the show's characters. A brief view of the exterior of KPRC's studio facility, which was marked with a "KVIK" sign out front, can be seen during a later version of the show's sequence. One episode of the series features a scene in which two characters are conversing while walking down a second-floor hallway at "KVIK" (which was filmed at the KPRC building) that overlooks the first-floor lobby.