KCRG-TV, channel 9, is a television station, operating as an ABC network affiliate for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa metropolitan area and the nearby cities of Waterloo, Dubuque, and Iowa City. The station is owned by Gray Television.

The station broadcasts on VHF digital channel 9 and is the primary ABC broadcaster for the northeast quarter of Iowa.

History

During the late 1940s, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, previously owners of KCRG-AM 1600, filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for a TV station license. At the time, the FCC had a backlog of over 200 applications and had decided not to proceed with action on further applications until the backlogged requests could be filled.

After the backlog was cleared, many applications were filed for licenses. The Gazette Company didn't want to compete for a license and decided to withdraw the initial application. It joined with a number of other investors as Cedar Rapids Television Company (CRTV), which was granted a license for channel 9. The station began broadcasting October 15, 1953.

Initially, the station was known as KCRI because the other investors didn't want the new television station so closely identified with the Gazette newspaper. The radio station also took the KCRI call sign because one of the television station's managers suggested that every mention of "KCRG" on-air was a promotion for the newspaper—one for which the Gazette would have to pay each time. After about a year of operation, the Gazette bought out the remaining investors in CRTV and the station was renamed KCRG-TV in 1954.

From 1954 to 2015, the station remained under the ownership of Gazette Communications, which was renamed the SourceMedia Group in mid-2010. After the 1996 sale of WHO-TV in Des Moines, KCRG-TV was the only locally owned and operated television station left in Iowa. KCRG started broadcasting in high definition television in January 2003. The station also had the first news helicopter in Iowa, "NewsCopter 9". In September 2015, Atlanta, Georgia based Gray Television and Gazette Communications announced they had an agreement where Gray Television would buy KCRG-TV for $100 million, with the transfer taking place on October 1.[2][3] The sale was completed on November 1.[4]

Analog-to-digital transition

KCRG's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009. The station had attempted to convert on February 17, 2009 with the majority of other Cedar Rapids stations, but the FCC requested they maintain one analog commercial network signal for the market for the remaining four months. Upon KCRG-TV's digital transition completion in June 2009, the "KCRG-TV" callsign was legally transferred from the now-defunct analog channel 9 to the new digital channel 9 with the "KCRG-DT" callsign being permanently discontinued.

Programming

KCRG airs America This Morning at 4 a.m. due to the 4:30 a.m. start of their newscasts. Syndicated programs on KCRG include Live! with Kelly and Michael, The Big Bang Theory, The Dr. Oz Show, Steve Harvey, and Rachael Ray.

The station also produces PowerHouse TV, a program about energy efficiency and safety, for local utility Alliant Energy, which airs on KCRG and stations throughout Alliant's service area in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and small portions of Illinois and Missouri.[5]

News operation

Currently, KCRG-TV broadcasts a total of 31 hours of local newscasts each week (with 5 hours on weekdays, three hours on Saturdays, and three hours on Sundays). In addition to its main newsroom at its Cedar Rapids studios, the station also operates satellite newsrooms in Dubuque and Iowa City. It previously operated a news bureau in Waterloo.

KCRG-TV is one of three remaining broadcast television stations in the United States employing the "24 Hour News Source" format, which it began using in 1990. The other stations are, as of November 2014: NBC affiliate WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan and CW affiliate WISH-TV in Indianapolis.

Meteorologist Denny Frary was the station's longest-running on-air personality, working for KCRG from 1974 until he retired November 17, 2006. Sports director John Campbell, who had also been with the station since the 1970s, retired in 2012. News reporter Dave Franzman also has been with the station since the 1970s, while Bruce Aune started anchoring at KCRG in 1986.

KCRG's first use of a satellite to broadcast 'live' (local) news was December 31, 1982 when Sports Director John Campbell reported the University of Iowa Hawkeyes had defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 28-22 to win the 1982 Peach Bowl at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Use of satellite 'air time' was reported to be $3,000.00 a minute.

On January 3, 2011, KCRG-TV expanded its weekday morning newscast by one half-hour, moving it to 4:30 a.m., creating a 2½ hour block of news each weekday morning.[6]

On January 21, 2012, KCRG-TV became the second station in the Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Dubuque-Iowa City market to broadcast its newscasts in high definition. The switch to HD came with brand-new logo, graphics, news set and a new 113-inch interactive touch screen that will be used for weather and other interactive storytelling. It is the largest interactive touch screen of its kind in the U.S.A. and third largest in the world.[7]

Digital television

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming [8]
9.1720p16:9KCRG-D1Main KCRG programming / ABC
9.2480iKCRG-D2MyNetworkTV
9.3KCRG-D3Antenna TV

KCRG has a digital subchannel called "KCRG 9.2" at channel 9.2, which originally aired a wheel schedule of local news, weather and features. The remainder of the screen had a news ticker, current weather conditions, rotating weather images and program listings. Over time, syndicated and locally produced programs were added, culminating in the addition of MyNetworkTV to the subchannels in October 2011, one month after KWKB dropped the service and became a sole CW affiliate. However, MyNetworkTV's programming runs as a late night offering on 9.2, airing from 12:05–2:05 a.m., five hours later than its usual primetime running time. Subchannel 9.2 is also used to air ABC network programming pre-empted on the main signal for breaking news coverage; a prime example was during the Great Iowa Flood of June 2008, when 9.2 carried ABC's coverage of the NBA Finals while 9.1 devoted full coverage of the disaster.

The schedule of 9.2 prominently features live and taped local sports coverage, including regular season and state championship coverage of volleyball, wrestling, soccer, baseball, football, and basketball (the latter two sports are broadcast on Friday evenings). Also featured are coverage of the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL hockey), Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League baseball), and University of Northern Iowa athletics. The subchannel also airs Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox telecasts originating from WGN-TV. Ancillary sports programming includes the discussion show On Iowa Live and the Zach Johnson Foundation pro-am golf tournament.

In late August 2011, KCRG added a third subchannel, 9.3, branded "WXNow" and featuring local forecasts and looping conditions originated locally from station weather computers. On October 1, 2013, the WXNow loop was moved to an on the station's website and replaced on 9.3 by the lifestyle-oriented Live Well Network. With Live Well slated to discontinue programming in January 2015,[9] subchannel 9.3 joined Antenna TV that month, taking over the network's Eastern Iowa affiliation from KWKB (subchannel 20.2).[10]

Notable former on-air staff