KARE digital channel 11 is the NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota that serves the Minneapolis-St. Paul television market. The station is owned by Tegna, Inc. KARE's studios are located on Olson Memorial Hwy (MN 55) in Golden Valley and its transmitter is located in Shoreview, Minnesota.
Channel 11 signed on the air in 1953 with its broadcast hours split between WTCN-TV in Minneapolis and WMIN-TV in St. Paul; the WTCN-TV callsign was originally used by the Minneapolis-licensed channel 4 from that station's sign-on in 1949 to 1952; channel 4 changed to WCCO-TV when, in August 1952, Twin Cities Newspapers (a partnership between the Minneapolis Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch) divested its broadcast properties. The television station was sold to a new company, Midwest Radio and Television, which was created for the purchase, with CBS as a minority partner. CBS at the time owned WCCO radio; with the purchase of the TV station, channel 4's calls were unified with the radio station. Meanwhile, the Twin Cities Newspapers radio properties, WTCN-AM (1280) and WTCN-FM (97.1), were sold to the Minnesota Television Service Corporation headed by Saint Paul businessman Robert Butler, a former ambassador to Cuba and Australia. Soon afterward, Butler's group and the owners of WMIN 1400 AM both applied for the new channel 11 license. Because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had a backlog of contested licenses, the two stations worked out an agreement for a joint application.
The FCC approved this deal and WTCN-TV/WMIN-TV went on the air on September 1, 1953 as an ABC affiliate. The station also carried a secondary affiliation with DuMont. During the late 1950s, the station also was briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. Under the agreement, the stations shared a transmitter mounted atop the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, alternating use every two hours. WTCN's studios were in the Calhoun Beach Hotel in Minneapolis near Lake Calhoun, while WMIN-TV was based in the Hamm Building in downtown Saint Paul. On April 3, 1955, with FCC approval, WMIN sold its share of Channel 11, and WTCN-TV took over the frequency full-time. On the same day, the WTCN stations were sold to the Bitner Group. Two years later, the Bitner group merged with Time-Life.
The early draw of WTCN-TV was its children's programs that featured characters like J.P. Patches, Skipper Daryl, Captain 11 (originally played by Jim Lange), Sergeant Scotty, Wrangler Steve (Steve Cannon, who would later become one of WCCO radio's biggest draws) and the most popular of all, Casey Jones, a train engineer played by Roger Awsumb and accompanied by his sidekick, Joe the Cook (Chris Wedes), succeeded by Roundhouse Rodney (Lynn Dwyer). The "Lunch With Casey" show originated on WMIN-TV and was on the channel 11 schedule from 1954 until 1972.
In April 1961, KMSP-TV took the ABC affiliation job and WTCN-TV became an independent station. As a traditional general entertainment station, channel 11 offered cartoons, sitcoms, old movies, Minnesota Twins baseball, locally produced shows, news and drama series. It was also home to the Twin Cities' first prime-time newscast, with its 10:00 PM newscast moving to 9:00 PM. Chris-Craft Industries bought WTCN-TV in 1964; WTCN radio was sold later that year by Time-Life to Buckley Broadcasting and became WWTC. Under Chris-Craft, channel 11 modernized its newscasts; up to that time, they were still shot on film.
Metromedia purchased WTCN-TV in 1971 and made the station its fourth independent outlet, falling in line with the company's stations in WNEW-TV in New York City, KTTV in Los Angeles and WTTG in Washington, D.C.. After officially taking over the station in 1971-1972, channel 11 began using a new tower at the Telefarm site in Shoreview, Minnesota. The new transmitter increased the station's broadcasting range significantly, boosting its secondary coverage to 72 miles. In 1973, after 20 years at the Calhoun Beach Hotel, WTCN-TV moved to its current studio in Golden Valley. The address of the building was originally 441 Boone Avenue North, but is now known as 8811 Highway 55 (55427-4762) – the 11 corresponding to the station's channel position.
In the mid-1970s, ABC – then enjoying its first run as America's top-rated television network – began looking for stronger affiliates across the country, and largely did so at the expense of third-place NBC. ABC surprised the industry in August 1978 by announcing it had signed an affiliation deal with KSTP-TV, ending that station's 30-year relationship with NBC. NBC then chose to affiliate with WTCN-TV after rejecting an offer from former ABC affiliate KMSP-TV. The three-way switch occurred on March 5, 1979. Metromedia sold about half of its cartoons and syndicated programming inventory to KMSP-TV, which replaced WTCN-TV as the Twin Cities' largest independent station and one of the most prominent in the upper Midwest. WTCN-TV was Metromedia's first (and only) station affiliated with the NBC network.
In 1983, Metromedia sold channel 11 to its new owner, the Gannett Company. Gannett made a significant investment into the station's news department. The anchor team of Paul Magers and Diana Pierce was hired that September and led the station's 10:00 PM newscasts for 20 years, which is a record among Twin Cities news anchors. The station's "Backyard" weather studio was also launched in 1983, coinciding with the arrival of meteorologist Paul Douglas in May.
On July 4, 1985, Gannett rechristened Channel 11 as WUSA, but after the company purchased WDVM-TV in Washington, D.C. the same year, it transferred the call letters to that station on July 4, 1986 and changed channel 11's call sign on the same day to the current KARE that sounds like "care".
On April 27, 2006, KARE became the first station in the Twin Cities to broadcast its local newscasts in high definition. As part of this transition, the station completely replaced its news set, originally built in 1986 and updated in the 1990s, with a new state-of-the-art backdrop. All newscasts continued to be presented in 4:3 (standard definition) until the federally mandated digital transition on June 12, 2009.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for KARE. Gannett threatened to suspend KARE's contact with the satellite provider should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. KARE was retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.
As the NBC affiliate for the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, KARE 11 clears NBC programming on 11.1. A locally produced children's program, Lunchtime with Casey, is remembered as being one of the unique contributions of the station. The show, featuring Roger Awsumb as Casey Jones, ran from 1954 until the end of 1972, with a brief reappearance in 1974. Sidekicks on the show included Joe the Cook, played by Chris Wedes, and Roundhouse Rodney, played by Lynn Dwyer. Wedes went on to play the clown J.P. Patches in Seattle, Washington, credited as partial inspiration (along with Portland, Oregon's Rusty Nails) for Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons.
The short-lived game show Let's Bowl (filmed in the Twin Cities) had some episodes air on the station in the late '90s before it was remade for Comedy Central. In January 2005, a local public access cable television program debuted called The Show to Be Named Later...; it is described as "The first (and only) sports talk, comedy, and variety show", somewhat of a cross between Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Fox Sports Net's The Best Damn Sports Show Period. A weekly show for teenagers called The Whatever Show (or simply Whatever) and an outdoors program known as Minnesota Bound have both aired on the station for about a decade. Former Minnesota Twin Kent Hrbek also has hosted his own outdoors show Kent Hrbek Outdoors on the station since 2004, but in the fall of 2008, Kent Hrbek Outdoors was moved over to rival Fox affiliate KMSP.
For decades, both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune aired on rival station WCCO-TV. However, in 1994, WCCO shifted Jeopardy! from 9:30 a.m. (where it was airing for the past ten years) to an undesired 1:37 a.m. time slot, which prompted KingWorld (the former distributor for both game shows) to move the game show to a 4:30 p.m. time slot at KARE, where the show still remains. During an episode of the show that aired early during the show's first season on the station, there was a category dedicated to the Twin Cities where Alex Trebek says right after presenting the category name, "Where we are now airing on television station KARE in the daytime, I'm very happy to say!"
KARE presently broadcasts more than 30 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5 hours each weekday, 4 hours Saturdays and an hour on Sundays). The 10:00 p.m. newscast features a "KARE 11 News Extra", an extended in-depth news story, and the station produces special sports shows on a periodic basis. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has awarded KARE its "Station of the Year" honor (for large market stations) in 1985, 1995, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2015.
In the 1980s, the station experimented with a 40-minute newscast at 10 p.m., before 35-minute nightly newscasts – now the standard – became common (being in the Central Time Zone, Minnesota stations generally broadcast news at 5, 6, and 10 p.m.). The station made weather history on July 18, 1986 when helicopter pilot Max Messmer was flying out to cover a news story and noticed a funnel cloud forming over the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley. Photojournalist Tom Empey was on board the chopper and shot amazing and unprecedented video of the twister. The images were broadcast live on that day's 5 p.m. newscast. The funnel soon formed into a full-fledged tornado as it touched the ground, and KARE broadcast images of the funnel for 30 minutes. In the years to come, this first aerial video of a tornado was heavily studied by meteorologists, and contributed significantly to what is known about tornado formation. It was moderate in intensity, with winds of 113–157 mph (an F2 on the original Fujita Scale), and caused $650,000 damage.
On January 10, 2011, Showcase Minnesota at 11 am weekday was replaced by KARE 11 Today, hosted by its 4 PM anchors Diana Pierce and Pat Evans. Besides news, Today includes lifestyle segments.
KARE affiliate a subchannel with NBC Weather Plus, which ran as NBC Plus after the announcement of its planned shut down. In mid-June 2009, KARE launched its Weather Now subchannel on .2 using WeatherNation (now AerisWeather) outsourcing company. KARE affiliated the subchannel in 2012 with the WeatherNation TV network and renewed in 2014.
KARE has won the coveted demographic of viewers 25 to 54 years old in almost every Nielsen Ratings sweeps period since the late 1980s. The station has been able to build on NBC's primetime lead-ins, which are the lowest in the market. However, KARE has placed second overall in households at 5, 6, and 10 p.m since May 2006, trailing rival CBS affiliate WCCO. The station slipped from its top spot among women in 2007 for the first time in two decades, and factoring in KMSP-TV's 9 p.m. newscast, KARE tumbled to third place overall in February 2008.
In November 2010, KARE suffered its first loss in the target 25-54 demographic during its 10 p.m. newscast since 1986, with longtime runner-up WCCO-TV gaining the upper hand. However, WCCO likely benefited from a series of heavily-promoted newscasts to mark the retirement of the station's longtime evening anchor involving the return of former on-air personalities during the sweeps period, leading at least one media critic to question the durability of WCCO's edge. The November 2010 numbers also showed KARE had regained second place in overall viewership. In the May 2012 ratings KARE 11 was the most watched news station in the key demographic of Adults 25-54 throughout the day, finishing #1 at 10 p.m., 6 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Notable current on-air staff
- Julie Nelson – weeknights anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Asha Blake – news reporter/news anchor (now with America Now)
- Dennis Bounds - weekend news anchor. Last worked for KING-TV in Seattle. Now retired
- Steve Cannon – children's show host "Wrangler Steve" (1950s); deceased
- Paul Douglas – meteorologist (1983–94)
- Bernie Grace – crime news reporter (1979–2006)
- Jack Horner – sportscaster (1960s)
- Mike Pomeranz – news anchor (now host for San Diego Padres shows on Fox Sports San Diego)
KARE-TV broadcasting facilities
In addition to the main transmitter in Shoreview, KARE's signal is relayed to outlying parts of central and southern Minnesota through a network of translators; all but one broadcasts in digital:
|City of license||Callsign||Channel|
|Redwood Falls||36 (analog)|
KARE formerly had a translator serving Breezy Point and Brainerd, KLKS-LP (channel 14). The repeater signed on in 1995 and operated until July 16, 2011, when its use as a repeater of KARE was discontinued due to a corporate decision made by Gannett management. The repeater was owned locally by the Lakes Broadcasting Group, owner of KLKS radio.
KARE, along with WCCO-TV, is also carried in Canada on most cable systems in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. The stations do not make any attempt to cater to this audience, other than their inclusion on regional weather maps.
KARE's 11.2 digital subchannel (branded as KARE WX NOW), originally ran programming from NBC Weather Plus from 2005 until the network shut down in November 2008, and then ran an automated version of the network called NBC Plus until it became an affiliate of WeatherNation TV in 2011.