KCEN-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station for Central Texas including the cities of Waco, Temple and Killeen. Licensed to Temple, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 9 (virtual channel 6.1 via PSIP) Owned by Tegna, Inc., KCEN maintains studios and transmitter facilities on I-35 south of Eddy. It also operates a news studio and sales office in Killeen.
This station can also be seen on Time Warner Cable and Grande Communications channel 3. There is a high definition feed offered on Time Warner Cable digital channel 1003 and Grande Communications channel. KCEN operates a semi-satellite for the eastern half of the market, KAGS-LD in Bryan, which produces separate local newscasts and runs advertisements targeted to the Brazos Valley region.
KCEN-TV signed on the air for the first time on November 1, 1953, originally owned by Frank W. Mayborn, publisher of the Temple Daily Telegram and owner of KTEM radio (1400 AM) in Temple. Early on, Mayborn realized that Temple-Killeen and Waco were going to be a single television market (although, then as now, they are separate radio markets). To signify that his new station would serve all of Central Texas, Mayborn decided on the call letters KCEN-TV (the calls standing for "CENtral Texas"), rather than KTEM-TV (for TEMple), after his radio station property. He also built his studio near Eddy, roughly halfway between Temple and Waco.
It was the first television station to serve the Waco-Temple-Killeen market, and the second television station in Central Texas, signing on one year after Austin's KTBC. KCEN signed on with one of the tallest transmitter towers in the southwestern United States, operating at a height of 830 feet (250 m). The station originally carried programming from all four major networks at the time, but was a primary NBC affiliate. It lost the CBS affiliation to KWTX-TV when its signed on the air on April 3, 1955. The DuMont Television Network ceased operations later that year, leaving KCEN with a primary NBC affiliation and a secondary affiliation with ABC.
In 1981, KCEN's transmitter facilities were moved to a new 1,924-foot (586 m) tower, expanding its coverage area to almost 29,000 square miles (75,000 km2) – one of the largest television station broadcast radiuses in the nation. The station now provides at least secondary over-the-air coverage from the southern fringes of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to the northern fringes of the Austin market.
The station switched its primary affiliation to ABC in March 1984, while continuing to carry some NBC programs during off-hours. When KXXV signed on the air on March 22, 1985, that station took over the NBC affiliation. However, six months later in September, NBC programming returned full-time to KCEN, while KXXV picked up the ABC affiliation. KCEN was the first television station in Central Texas to provide closed captions in its programming in 1989.
KCEN, the Temple Daily Telegram and the Killeen Daily Herald remained under the Mayborn family's ownership after Frank Mayborn's death in 1987. In January 2009, the Mayborn family entered into an agreement to sell KCEN to Dallas-based London Broadcasting Company, with a purchase price of $26 million.
KCEN had operated a low-powered translator in the Brazos Valley on UHF channel 62 for many years. On January 20, 2003, this translator was upgraded to a Class A repeater, KMAY-LP on UHF channel 23, that station switched to digital on June 12, 2009. On July 3, 2011, London Broadcasting announced that KMAY would be converted to a semi-satellite of KCEN for the Bryan-College Station market under the new callsign KAGS-LD, with local news programming and commercial advertisements from KCEN replaced with newscasts and commercials targeted to the Brazos Valley area; the conversion of KAGS from a straight simulcast of KCEN a semi-satellite occurred in October of that year. On September 26, 2011, Azteca América programming on digital subchannel 6.3 was replaced with programming from classic television network MeTV.
On May 14, 2014, Gannett Company announced that it would acquire KCEN-TV and five other LBC stations for $215 million. Gannett's CEO Gracia Martore touted that the acquisition would give the company a presence in several fast-growing markets, and opportunities for local advertisers to leverage its digital marketing platform. The sale was completed on July 8, 2014. 13 months later, 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. KCEN was retained by the latter company, named TEGNA. However, KCEN still retains its London Broadcasting-era Website.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|6.1||720p||16:9||KCEN-HD||Main KCEN-TV programming / NBC|
KCEN-TV shut down its analog transmitter on February 17, 2009 – the original date of the analog television shutdown and digital transition in the United States – and continued to broadcast its digital signal on its pre-transition digital channel 9. Though most television stations typically map their PSIP virtual channels to that station's analog channel allocation pre-transition, digital television receivers displayed KCEN-TV's virtual channel following the transition as 9.1, instead of 6.1 with the station's on-air branding changing to "KCEN 9" in accordance. On February 1, 2010, the station remapped its PSIP channel number to virtual channel 6 (its on-air branding was changed to simply "KCEN-HD" as well).
KCEN-TV presently broadcasts a total of 21½ hours of local newscasts each week (with 3½ hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). On February 1, 2010, KCEN became the first television station in the Waco-Temple-Killeen market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.