WBKO, channel 13 (virtual), is the ABC-affiliated television station for South Central Kentucky licensed to Bowling Green. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 13 from a transmitter along KY 185/Richardsville Road in unincorporated Northern Warren County. Owned by Gray Television, WBKO has studios on Russellville Road (US 68/KY 80) along the William H. Natcher Parkway in Bowling Green.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|13.1||720p||16:9||WBKO-HD||Main WBKO programming / ABC|
|13.2||480i||WBKO-FX||WBKO-DT2 / Fox & Jewelry TV|
|13.3||WBKO-CW||South Central Kentucky CW|
The early years
The station signed-on June 3, 1962 with the call letters WLTV (standing for Wonderful Live Television). It was the first commercial outlet to launch in Bowling Green and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 13. Joe Walters (a former RCA engineer) and Mr. & Mrs. George Brown (local sales people) owned the station. It was an Independent owned by Argus Broadcasting and originally had studios at its transmitter in rural Warren County.
On March 6, 1967, WLTV became affiliated with ABC and aired all of its shows. After affiliating with ABC, the station moved to mew studios in downtown Bowling Green. After spending some time off the air in late 1969 due to an explosion destroying its transmitter, the station changed hands to Professional Telecasting Systems on June 11, 1970. The "explosion" was due to an estimated 48 sticks of dynamite being placed on the bottom of the tower. It is suspected that a local bootlegger at the time did not appreciate the news spotlighting his operation. This did not collapse the tower although is still stood with a bow in it, the transmission line on the lower section of the tower was destroyed and the tower was unsafe. A temporary tower with a temporary antenna was erected at the site and station continued operation with diminished coverage a few months later. This heralded the relocation of the transmitter to the site where it now operates.
The new owner, Professional Telecasting, adopted the current WBKO (meaning Bowling Green, Kentucky's Own) call sign and instituted color telecasting for local in-studio programming and newscasts in 1971. Also by this time, the station had moved to studios in Downtown Bowling Green. Five years later in 1976, a local group known as Bluegrass Media bought WBKO from Professional Telecasting. It remained in Bluegrass's hands until 1983 when broadcaster A. Richard Benedek took over. Under Benedek's management, WBKO built its present studios on Russellville Road in 1985. The station was one of the few ABC stations nationwide that refused to broadcast NYPD Blue in its first season in 1993. That program's first season was instead broadcast on Fox affiliate WKNT (now NBC affiliate WNKY). 
In September 1998, an agreement between this station and the area's cable provider allowed WBKO to launch cable-exclusive WB affiliate "WBWG". The arrangement was established during a period The WB deployed various network stations outside the top 100 markets as cable-only channels. "WBWG" was programmed through The WB 100+ as the Bowling Green market had a rank of 183. Since it was a cable-exclusive outlet, the call sign was not officially recognized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). WBKO provided sales and promotional opportunities to "WBWG".
In 2000, the station began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 33. In 2002, Benedek sold most of his stations (including WBKO) to current owner Gray Television. Due to its fairly close proximity to Nashville, Tennessee (about sixty miles), WBKO has often competed with that market's ABC affiliate WKRN for viewing allegiances.
WBKO-DT2 and DT3
On January 24, 2006, UPN and The WB announced the two networks would cease broadcasting and merge. The new combined service would be called The CW. The letters would represent the first initial of corporate parents "C"BS (the parent company of UPN) and the "W"arner Bros. unit of Time Warner.
On September 5, 2006, WBKO signed-on a new second digital subchannel, under the callsign WBKO-DT2, to serve as a Fox affiliate. This filled a gap created in 2001 when WNKY dropped its Fox affiliation and switched to NBC. The CW launched on September 18 and WBWG became affiliated with The CW via The CW Plus (a similar operation to The WB 100+). After becoming available on a new third digital subchannel of WBKO, it dropped the faux calls in favor of official WBKO-DT3. As a result of adding Fox, and WNKY launching their second digital subchannel to carry CBS in February 2007, the Bowling Green DMA was closer to becoming a complete television market. In early 2014, WCZU-LD signed on the air as a primary Antenna TV affiliate, but also bears a secondary MyNetworkTV affiliation, thus making Bowling Green a "complete" television market without relying on an out-of-market station for a network except for the ION Television programming service. All cable and satellite television providers carry ION Television's national feed, and the default over-the-air ION affiliate is ION's Nashville-based owned-and-operated station WNPX-TV (licensed to Cookeville).
Digital TV transition and post-transition
On December 8, 2008 at 1:15 in the morning, the station turned off its analog transmitter in a flash-cut procedure. This allowed the station to begin the process of installing a new digital antenna and other equipment. Originally, its digital signal was scheduled to return to VHF channel 13 on or immediately after December 22. However, due to inclement weather and the holiday season, the construction took longer than anticipated with eight more days of construction resuming on January 3, 2009. Due to the installation of the equipment at the transmitter site, the digital signal (on UHF channel 33) was off-the-air during daytime hours so that installation work could be completed. Until the completion of the over-the-air transition, WBKO was seen non-stop on several area cable systems.
According to Weather Director Chris Allen's official Facebook page on May 20, 2010, he posted Dish Network was in the process of adding WBKO's main signal and Fox subchannel to its system (the actual addition occurred June 3). Viewers living in Warren, Butler, Hart, Edmonson, Barren, and Metcalfe Counties in South Central Kentucky, which would make up the entire Bowling Green DMA, are eligible to switch to Bowling Green local stations. This was made possible by the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 signed into law by President Barack Obama the week prior. WBKO and other local Bowling Green stations are still unavailable on DirecTV at this time.
WBKO clears the entire ABC television network schedule. Outside of ABC programming, Syndicated programming run on the station on weekdays include Live! With Kelly and Michael, The Steve Harvey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Dr. Oz Show, Wheel of Fortune. Inside Edition is run on the station at 12:37 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Dr. Oz Show and The Steve Harvey Show is replayed on WBKO-DT2. WBKO's weekend lineup includes The Andy Griffith Show (often shared with WBKO-DT2 and DT3), Castle, Scandal, Blue Bloods, and The Closer. In addition live coverage of worship services from the First Baptist Church in Bowling Green is aired at 11:00 a.m. CT on Sundays.
WBKO has been the home to Southeastern Conference football and basketball games from Jefferson-Pilot (now Raycom Sports) from the 1980s until 2009  (although WNKY aired most SEC football games in the 1990s). After Raycom lost the rights to the SEC in 2009, WBKO ran SEC games syndicated through ESPN Plus-oriented SEC TV (formerly SEC Network) from 2009 to the end of the 2013-14 basketball season. This ended in 2014 because of the inception of the then-new cable-exclusive SEC Network that launched in August 2014. That was part of a new contract between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN to launch that new network. The UK IMG Sports Network also provided programming related to the University of Kentucky's football and men's basketball programs. They also provided early season Kentucky Wildcats basketball games until the SEC Network launched. As a result, the only sports programming available on WBKO is from ABC's exclusive ESPN on ABC package, including any NBA and college football games that air on ABC.
As the first commercial television station to launch in Bowling Green, WBKO has been a longtime leader according to Nielsen ratings. Even after the sign-on of WQQB (now WNKY) in 1989, the station has remained the dominant outlet for South Central Kentucky. However, it has also competed with Nashville stations transmitting rimshot signals into parts of the Bowling Green area. WBKO's first newscasts were branded as Channel 13 News Report and began airing in 1963. In the 1970s, the news operation was known as 13 News. Most recently, the broadcasts were re-branded to WBKO 13 News.
As the area's original Fox affiliate in the mid-1990s, WNKY established its own news department. Unable to gain consistent viewership and ratings against WBKO, that station's short lived full news operation was eventually shut down. In the early-2000s, WNKY slowly re-entered the market with an unusual weather-only approach. Instead of full newscasts, it offers weekday morning and nightly local weather forecast cut-ins provided through AccuWeather of State College, Pennsylvania.
In late-January 2009 in an attempt to increase its presence against WBKO, WNKY launched a weekday morning show. Airing for a half-hour at 6:30, the broadcast is produced in partnership with the Bowling Green Daily News. The newspaper provides short local news updates and WNKY produces traditional weather segments. The show is replayed at 9 in the morning on WNKY's CBS-affiliated second subchannel.
On October 21, 2007, current Fox affiliate WBKO-DT2 began airing a thirty-minute prime time newscast on weeknights known as WBKO Fox News at 9. Sarah Goebel originally anchored the show until early-2008 when she was promoted to WBKO's main weeknight broadcasts. After this, Daniel Kemp was the news anchor until early-June when he moved to the weekend newscasts on the main channel. Julie Talley would host the prime time broadcast for a short time in mid-2008 after which reporter and internet producer Sam Provenzano anchored the show until its cancellation. WBKO Fox News at 9 stopped airing on November 28, 2008 as a result of financial issues. WBKO-DT2 continues to replay MidDay Live tape-delayed weekdays at noon.
Unlike most ABC affiliates, the station does not air a full two-hour weekday morning show and/or early evening news on weekends.
WBKO has always had a long-standing policy to preempt regular programming for wall-to-wall, uninterrupted severe weather coverage in the event that the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for any county within its viewing area. The station operates their very own doppler weather radar, the "First Alert Live Doppler", launched in 1998. It is a real time doppler radar that was majorly used from its launch until late 2004 when the station began utilizing NWS nexrad doppler radars from Nashville (Old Hickory), Paducah, Louisville, and (starting in 2013) Fort Campbell for better resolution in tracking storms. Weather forecasts from this station can be heard on WKLX FM 100.7, WOVO 106.3, and WPTQ FM 105.3, all of which simulcasts audio of wall-to-wall severe weather coverage during a tornado warning situation.
WBKO's home market area is very small, so WBKO's terrestrial signal covers all of the Bowling Green media market, and spills into nearby portions of three neighboring market areas. The signal can be picked up as far west as Hopkinsville, as far north as the Rough River Lake areas, Owensboro and Elizabethtown, as far east as Columbia, and as far south as the far northern suburbs of Nashville. People with over-the-air receivers in the northeast side of Clarksville, Tennessee can also pick up WBKO's signal.
WBKO is carried on several cable systems outside the Bowling Green market. Only the station's main channel is carried on these out-of-market cable systems, including the Suddenlink cable system in Logan County, the Time Warner Cable system in Hopkinsville, the South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative (SCRTC)'s cable customers in Allen and Monroe Counties (in addition to their customers in Barren, Hart, and Metcalfe counties), as well as some cable carriers in the Elizabethtown area. The SCRTC also provides WBKO's main channel to their customers in Green and Larue Counties in the Louisville market, but it is subject to blackout of ABC programming by WHAS in coordinance with Syndex rules. WBKO's main channel is also carried on Comcast channel 13 in Elizabethtown and Campbellsville.
Duo County Telecom also carries WBKO's main channel for its customers in Adair, Cumberland, and Russell counties, but under syndex rules, ABC programming from WHAS-TV is substituted during the primetime hours in Adair and Cumberland counties (despite Cumberland Co. being part of the Nashville market), while WTVQ's ABC programming from Lexington is substituted during the primetime hours in Russell County on account of that area considered to be in the Lexington DMA.