KCRA-TV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 35), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Sacramento, California, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate KQCA (channel 58). The two stations share studio facilities and offices located at 3 Television Circle in downtown Sacramento, KCRA's transmitter is located in Walnut Grove.
The station first signed on the air on September 3, 1955. It was founded by the Central Valley Broadcasting Company, a partnership of the Kelly and Hansen families of Sacramento. Central Valley Broadcasting also owned KCRA radio (1320 AM, now KIFM, and 96.1 FM, now KYMX); the AM station's call letters were intended to be KRCA, but the middle two letters were erroneously transposed by a typist at the Federal Communications Commission when that station's original license was drafted in 1945 and was never corrected. By the time KCRA-TV went on the air, the KRCA-TV call letters had already been taken the previous year by NBC's owned-and-operated television station in Los Angeles (originally KNBH, now KNBC). KCRA-TV inherited the NBC affiliation from KCCC-TV (channel 40, channel now occupied by KTXL), which became the Sacramento market's first television station when it signed on in September 1953, which had also carried affiliations with ABC, CBS and DuMont until other stations debuted in the market. However, it in turn also received the affiliation as a result of KCRA-AM's decade-long affiliation with the NBC Red Network.
In 1959, under the direction of then chief engineer, William Herbert Hartman, construction began on a new 1,549-foot transmission tower near Walnut Grove to transmit the signals of KCRA-TV, KXTV and KOVR; the tower was completed in 1961. Upon the death of KCRA co-founder Ewing C. Kelly in 1960, son Bob Kelly (who was KCRA's station manager, commercial manager and film buyer) became president of KCRA, Inc., while son Jon Kelly (who served as its local sales manager) was named general manager.
In January 1962, KCRA-TV began transmitting its signal from the Walnut Grove tower, which became the tallest structure in the state. In April of that year, the FCC approved the sale of the Hansen brothers' 50% share of the KCRA stations to Bob, Jon and their mother Nina Kelly; the company then changed its name to Kelly Broadcasting Company. In September 1968, KCRA-FM's call letters were changed to KCTC. The radio stations were sold to the Tribune Company in September 1977, with the sale being finalized in July 1978; KCRA-AM changed its calls to KGNR in August of that year.
In 1965, the station began using color film for use in its newscasts. A station press release at that time claimed that KCRA was the first station in Sacramento with videotape, the first NBC affiliate with "network color" programming, and the first station to utilize color film, slide and videotape footage. Starting in 1975, it began using remote cameras for live news reports. The station eventually began using helicopters and satellite remotes for newsgathering. On September 10, 1966, Bob Wilkins began hosting a Saturday night horror movie showcase called Seven Arts Theatre; Wilkins later moved his show to KTXL, and then to KTVU in Oakland in the 1970s.
Harry Geise was hired by KCRA as its main weatherman in the mid-1960s. While he used information coming out of a weather bureau in Suitland, Maryland; his forecasts were accurate enough that almost every farmer in the Sacramento Valley listened to his forecasts. Through his weathercasts, he taught viewers about weather from "upper level devils" to looking out the window. On the scantest of data (weather bureaus, out the window, smell in the air and nut gatherers) but prior to satellite, Doppler weather radar, space weather, home weather stations, and little local information – Giese could look globally and give weather forecasts as far out as six weeks or six months. By the mid-1970s, KCRA established news bureaus throughout the state, began producing its own public affairs programming, and initiated a consumer affairs division to answer the needs of concerned consumers.
From 1991 to 1993, KCRA (later to be joined by KRON-TV and KPIX in San Francisco) participated in an experiment in which primetime programming would air one hour earlier (from 7 to 10 p.m., mirroring typical network scheduling in the Central, Mountain and Hawaii Time Zones, instead of the standard 8 to 11 p.m. slot for Pacific Time Zone stations). The "early prime" idea led to only a slight decrease in KCRA's ratings, and its 10 p.m. newscast remained the highest-rated late local news program on the West Coast. A station survey showed that 63% of viewers thought a 10 p.m. newscast was a good idea. However, pressure from NBC, who threatened to yank the station's affiliation, forced KCRA to end the practice and revert to the time zone's standard primetime scheduling, announcing its demise a week after KRON-TV discontinued the experiment. KOVR (channel 13) would itself switch to an early primetime schedule two years later after switching to CBS.
Like other local stations, KCRA developed an in-house production facility, with local children's programming, newsmagazines and talk shows. By the beginning of the 21st century, KCRA became the first station in the Sacramento market to broadcast programming in high-definition. Kelly Broadcasting continued to own and operate KCRA-TV until January 1999, when it was purchased by Hearst-Argyle Television (which was renamed Hearst Television in 2009).
In early 2004, KCRA opened an exhibit, "The KCRA 3 Experience", at the Arden Fair Mall, allowing visitors to see a KCRA newscast be produced live. KCRA's noon newscast was broadcast from the complex until late 2008 when production of the program was moved back to the 3 Television Circle studios.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||1080i||16:9||KCRA-TV||Main KCRA-TV programming / NBC|
In early 2005, KCRA debuted a localized version of NBC Weather Plus on digital subchannel 3.2. After NBC Weather Plus shut down in November 2008 (following NBCUniversal's purchase of The Weather Channel), the subchannel continued to use the Weather Plus branding as part of the successor NBC Plus automated weather service until late 2008.
On August 2, 2010, digital subchannel 3.2 was reformatted as "MoreTV Sacramento," a locally-programmed channel that featured second-runs of syndicated programs seen locally on KCRA and sister station KQCA; the "MoreTV" branding had previously been used by Tampa sister station WMOR-TV and KCWE in Kansas City during the early and mid-2000s. The channel ran a mix sitcoms (such as Roseanne, The Cosby Show and That 70's Show), dramas (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and talk shows (Maury, Jerry Springer and The Dr. Oz Show). It also aired select KCRA newscasts, including rebroadcasts KCRA's 6 p.m. newscast at 7 p.m. and KCRA's 10 p.m. and KQCA's 11 p.m. newscasts at midnight; as well as a simulcast of KCRA's noon newscast. Until October 15, 2010, KCRA continued to run Weather Plus programming during the early morning hours (Salinas sister station KSBW also carried a primetime syndicated programming lineup, branded as "KSBW PrimePLUS+", on its second digital subchannel from around the same time as the "MoreTV" launch until February 1, 2011).
On July 24, 2012, Hearst Television renewed its affiliation agreement with MeTV to maintain existing affiliations with eight Hearst-owned stations currently carrying the digital multicast network through 2015. As part of the renewal, Hearst also signed agreements to add the network as digital subchannels of KCRA and four other Hearst stations in Boston, Baltimore, Oklahoma City and Greensboro. Digital subchannel 3.2 assumed the MeTV affiliation on September 3, 2012, replacing the "MoreTV" format.
KCRA-TV shut down 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 35, using PSIP to display KCRA-TV's virtual channel as 3 on digital television receivers.
Over the years, KCRA has preempted some NBC programming, notably the soap opera Another World. That show would air on the station for a brief time, but was preempted again due to low ratings – this was the case with CBS station KOVR (channel 13), which did not run Guiding Light due to poor ratings, and had not aired at all in the market since KXTV (channel 10) dropped it in the early 1990s when it was a CBS affiliate. Given its format as a news-intensive station, KCRA also preempted the weekend edition of Today and the Saturday morning T-NBC lineup during the 1990s, to run a weekend morning newscast. It also aired a 4:30 p.m. newscast, pushing Days of Our Lives's start time back a half-hour earlier than the typical practice; that newscast ended after the station began airing The Oprah Winfrey Show; in September 2002; Days now airs the network-recommended 1 p.m. timeslot on weekdays. However, despite NBC's historically low tolerance towards program preemptions, the network has been more than satisfied with KCRA, given its near-total ratings dominance in the Sacramento market.
Currently, KCRA airs the third hour of Today on a one-hour delay due to Live! with Kelly and Michael airing in the 9 a.m. timeslot (until 1999, the show aired on KOVR, even back in its days as an ABC station); the fourth hour airs after Last Call with Carson Daly at 2:05 a.m. (when NBC rebroadcasts the fourth hour nationally as part of its late night schedule); sister stations KSBW-TV in Salinas, California, WXII-TV in Greensboro, North Carolina, WBAL-TV in Baltimore and WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina also opt to delay the fourth hour of Today until the late night hours. Other syndicated programming seen on KCRA includes Access Hollywood and its live counterpart, The Meredith Vieira Show, Steve Harvey, and The Dr. Oz Show. The first three are distributed by NBC's parent company.
Occasionally as time permits, sister station KQCA (channel 58) may air NBC network programs whenever KCRA is unable to in the event of extended breaking news coverage or scheduled special programming or run KCRA newscasts in their scheduled airtimes due to overruns or scheduled preemptions resulting from network sports coverage airing on channel 3.
KCRA has dominated the ratings in Sacramento for most of the time since records have been kept. It presently broadcasts 35½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and four hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). KCRA also produces 12½ hours a week of local newscasts for sister station KQCA with a two-hour extension of KCRA's weekday morning newscast from 7–9 a.m. and a nightly full-hour primetime broadcast at 10 p.m. The station's longtime slogan, "Where The News Comes First", has become a symbol for its news coverage. KCRA began using the slogan in December 1958 (Kelly filed to trademark the slogan in 1980) and has been used under license by other television stations. In the May 2010 sweeps period, KCRA had the highest-rated 11 p.m. newscast but trailed KOVR's 10 p.m. newscast in total households.
Under Hearst ownership, KCRA has either hosted or co-hosted many gubernatorial debates within California, often with political reporter Kevin Riggs serving as moderator and one other personality hosting the debate. Many of those debates are simulcasted on sister station KSBW in Salinas. A notable example of such is the debate between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown.
Like many stations that have long dominated their markets, KCRA has tended to take an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to its news product. From about 1960 until the late 1980s, its logo was a roman "3" inside a green square with rounded corners and convex sides (to represent the shape of a TV tube). The current logo, a partially modified version of the original design, was adopted in the late 1980s. Also, it referred to its newscasts as Channel 3 Reports rather than Channel 3 News. The branding was slightly modified after the Hearst purchase to KCRA 3 Reports, even as its newscasts on KQCA began to be titled as KCRA 3 News. However in August 2009, KCRA retitled its 11 p.m. newscast as the KCRA 3 Night Team. In July 2011, the Reports branding was phased out from the station's news branding, which changed to KCRA 3 News.
In late December 2005, KCRA began using a new "Triple Doppler" system for weather reports. In addition to KCRA's own Doppler weather radar system at Walnut Grove, range and accuracy were increased by adding data from NEXRAD sites operated by the National Weather Service located north of Reno on Virginia Peak, south of San Jose on Mt. Umunuhm, and at Beale Air Force Base.
On February 12, 2007, KCRA became the first television station in the Sacramento market and the first among Hearst-Argyle's station portfolio to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high-definition; this came with the introduction of a new news set designed by FX Group and upgrades to its news helicopter, LiveCopter 3. Upon the conversion to HD, the KCRA logo was modified to include the NBC peacock logo and an "HD" lettering. Only in-studio cameras record in HD, while the helicopter's camera, field cameras and other station camera feeds are in standard definition and are upconverted to a 16:9 widescreen format in the control room. In September 2008, KCRA began using a new "Triple Doppler" system with high-definition graphics. As of August 25, 2010, with KSBW upgrading its newscasts to HD, both KCRA and KSBW now share resources in this format when covering news stories from their respective markets.
On December 21, 2015, KCRA announced the addition of a new 4pm newscast, anchored by Lisa Gonzales and Brian Heap. The newscast premiered on January 25, 2016.
Notable current on-air staff
Notable former on-air staff
- Miguel Almaguer – reporter (2003–2006; now Los Angeles-based correspondent for NBC News)
- Stan Atkinson – anchor (1959–1963, 1976–1994; later moved to KOVR in Sacramento, now retired)
- Joan Lunden (1970s as first television job; she later changed her surname to Lunden, moved to ABC's Good Morning America)
- Maurice DuBois – anchor/reporter (now at WCBS-TV in New York City)
- Jim Finnerty – host of local talk show Finnerty and Company (later renamed Look Who's Talking)
- Gary Gerould – sports anchor (now radio play-by-play for the Sacramento Kings)
- John Gibson – Bay Area correspondent (now at Fox News Channel)
- David Gregory (moderator of Meet the Press from 2008–2014)
- Kristine Hanson – sports anchor/weather anchor/entertainment reporter (1980s; former Playboy Playmate)
- Lois Hart – 5 and 6:30 p.m. anchor (1990–2008; retired)
- Bob Hogue – sports director (early 1980s, former Hawaiian State Senator)
- Joe Lizura – meteorologist (1997–1989, moved to WLWT in Cincinnati, then KNSD and KUSI-TV in San Diego, now CEO at Allowance Media Group)
- Rob Mayeda – meteorologist/anchor/reporter (1999–2000; now at KNTV in San Jose-San Francisco)
- Byron Miranda – Meteorologist (now with WMAQ-TV In Chicago)
- Leyna Nguyen – anchor/reporter (now at KCAL in Los Angeles)
- Jeff Ranieri – meteorologist (2000–2005; later at MSNBC/NBC Weather Plus, now chief meteorologist at KNTV in San Jose-San Francisco)
- Bianca Solorzano – weekend morning anchor/reporter (1999–2003; now a CBS News correspondent in New York City)
- Kaity Tong – anchor/reporter (1979–1981; now at WPIX in New York City)
- David Walker – 5 and 6:30 p.m. anchor (1990–2008; retired)
- Pamela Wu – weekend anchor/reporter (2001–2009; now director of marketing and communications at the University of California, Davis School of Law (King Hall)