KCTV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 24), is a CBS-affiliated television station serving Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas, United States. The station is owned by the Meredith Local Media subsidiary of the Meredith Corporation, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate KSMO-TV (channel 62). The two stations share studio facilities located on Shawnee Mission Parkway (U.S. 56/U.S. 169) in Fairway, Kansas; KCTV maintains transmitter facilities located on East 31st Street in the Union Hill section of Kansas City, Missouri (adjacent to the studios of PBS member station KCPT (channel 19)).
On cable, the station is available on Time Warner Cable, Comcast and SureWest channel 3, and Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse channel 5. KCTV also serves as a default affiliate for Saint Joseph, as that market (located to the immediate north) does not have a CBS affiliate of its own (KQTV (channel 2), which had originally served as that market's CBS affiliate beginning at its sign-on in September 1953, became a full-time ABC affiliate in June 1967); KCTV's transmitter produces a city-grade signal that reaches Saint Joseph proper, and the station is carried on cable and satellite providers in that market.
The station first signed on the air on September 27, 1953 as KCMO-TV (for Kansas City, MissOuri). Founded by the KCMO Broadcasting Corporation, owners of radio station KCMO (then at 810 AM, now at 710 AM), it originally served as a primary affiliate of ABC and a secondary affiliate of the DuMont Television Network, both of which had been affiliated with WDAF-TV (channel 4) on a part-time basis since that station signed on as the Kansas City market's first television station in October 1949. The station originally operated from studio facilities located on East 31st Street in Kansas City, Missouri's Union Hill neighborhood. On October 2, six days after its debut, Meredith Engineering purchased the KCMO radio and television stations from KCMO Broadcasting; the sale was completed less than two months later in December 1953.
In January 1955, Meredith signed a multi-year agreement with CBS to affiliate five of the television stations that the former owned at the time with the network. As part of the deal, Meredith agreed to affiliate KCMO-TV with CBS, as compensation for sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona losing its affiliation with the network (KPHO became an independent station after CBS moved its programming to KOOL-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KSAZ-TV), from which it would re-assume the network's Phoenix affiliation 39 years later in September 1994). CBS moved its Kansas City affiliation to channel 5 from KMBC-TV (channel 9) in September of that year; KMBC, meanwhile, would assume the ABC affiliation.
KCMO-TV retained its secondary DuMont affiliation until that network ceased operations on August 6, 1956. For most of its first decade on the air, KCMO-TV branded on-air as "Television 5"; in 1966, the station's branding was subsequently simplified to "TV 5", which remained in use until 1985 (around the time the latter brand was first adopted, it also began using a logo similar to that used at that period by NBC-affiliated sister station WNEM-TV in Bay City, Michigan).
Meredith sold KCMO-AM and sister radio station KCMO-FM (94.9) to Richard Fairbanks in 1983, but retained ownership of KCMO-TV. On March 7 of that year, the company changed the station's call letters to KCTV (standing for Kansas City's TeleVision, which also served as the station's on-air slogan from that year until 1994), based on the familiarity of the "TV 5" branding. It also relocated its operations from its studio facilities on East 31st Street to a new facility on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway, Kansas; the original facility in Union Hill is now occupied by PBS member station KCPT (channel 19), although KCTV continues to operate its transmitter from a tower located adjacent to the site (see below). The "TV 5" branding was discontinued in 1990; however, KCTV's logo has continued to subtly reference that brand, by changing the font of the "TV" (as done from 1990 to 1999), bolding the "TV" (as done from 1999 to 2002) or connecting the "T" and "V" (as done from 2002 to 2012).
On May 23, 1994, New World Communications signed a long-term affiliation agreement with Fox to switch thirteen television stations – five that New World had already owned and eight that the company was in the process of acquiring through separate deals with Great American Communications and Argyle Television Holdings (which New World purchased one week later in a purchase option-structured deal for $717 million) – to the network as part of an overall deal in which News Corporation also acquired a 20% equity interest in the group. The stations involved in the agreement – which was motivated by the December 18, 1993 announcement that the National Football League (NFL) would award the rights to the National Football Conference television package to Fox effective with the 1994 season, ending the NFC's 38-year relationship with CBS – would disaffiliate from either of the three major broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) and switch to Fox once individual affiliation contracts with their existing respective network partners expired. One of the stations involved in the deal was NBC affiliate WDAF-TV, which was among the four television stations that Great American Communications sold to New World – along with CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, and ABC affiliates WBRC in Birmingham and WGHP in High Point, North Carolina – two weeks earlier on May 5 for $350 million in cash and $10 million in share warrants;
NBC quickly approached other area stations to replace WDAF-TV as its Kansas City affiliate, as that station's contract with the network was set to expire in five months. It first entered into discussions with KCTV management about becoming an NBC affiliate; CBS – which lost several VHF affiliates in other markets through the New World deal – approached Meredith executives with a proposal to switch WNEM-TV and KPHO-TV to the network as a condition of keeping the CBS affiliation on channel 5. As KMBC-TV was in the middle of a long-term affiliation agreement between ABC and that station's owner, Hearst Broadcasting, NBC's only viable option was to affiliate with soon-to-be-former Fox station KSHB-TV (channel 41), which – through its owner, Scripps-Howard Broadcasting – agreed to affiliate with the network on August 1, 1994. In November 2004, Meredith purchased WB affiliate KSMO-TV (channel 62, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) from the Sinclair Broadcast Group, creating the third television station duopoly in the Kansas City market.
On September 8, 2015, Richmond, Virginia-based Media General announced that it would acquire the Meredith Corporation for $2.4 billion with the intention to name the combined group Meredith Media General once the sale was finalized. The sale would have marked the first change of ownership for the station since it was purchased by Meredith in 1953 and would have put KCTV and KSMO-TV under common ownership with Media General's existing virtual triopoly in the adjacent Topeka market between NBC affiliate KSNT, Fox affiliate KTMJ-CD and ABC affiliate KTKA-TV. However, on September 28, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group (owner of ABC affiliate KQTV (channel 2) in St. Joseph) made an unsolicited cash-and-stock merger offer for Media General, originally valued at $14.50 per share.
On November 16, following opposition to the merger with Meredith by minority shareholders Oppenheimer Holdings and Starboard Capital (primarily because Meredith's magazine properties were included in the deal, which would have re-entered Media General into publishing after it sold its newspapers to BH Media in 2012 to reduce debt) and the rejection of Nexstar's initial offer by company management, Media General agreed to enter into negotiations with Nexstar on a suitable counter deal, while the Meredith merger proposal remained active; the two eventually concluded negotiations on January 6, 2016, reaching a merger agreement for valued at $17.14 per share (an evaluation of $4.6 billion, plus the assumption of $2.3 billion in debt). On January 27, Meredith formally broke off the proposed merger with Media General and accepted the termination fee of $60 million previously negotiated under the original merger proposal; Media General subsequently signed an agreement to be acquired by Nexstar (with the combined company to be known as Nexstar Media Group), in exchange for giving Meredith right of first refusal to acquire any broadcast or digital properties that may be divested.
KCTV operates transmitter facilities on a 1,042-foot (318 m) transmission tower located at its former studio facility on East 31st Street on Union Hill (south of downtown). The tower has become a widely recognized Kansas City landmark, in large part because of the string lights that adorn the four corners of the structure's frame, which can be seen for miles around the immediate metropolitan area at night. It is so recognized that, in 1999, KCTV incorporated the "tall tower" – as the station referred to it on-air – into the logo it adopted that year (at which time, it also adopted the current KCTV 5 News as the title for its newscasts), which remained in use until 2002. The tower itself is similar in structure to the 750-foot (228.6 m) transmission tower on which ABC affiliate KQTV upstate in St. Joseph (which, coincidentally, also began broadcasting on September 27, 1953) maintains its transmitter antenna.
From the 1970s until 2001, the tower also served as a weather beacon to signal residents and visitors of inclement weather affecting Kansas City and its immediate surrounding communities. For this purpose, station engineers switched individual sets of lights on the tower to flash when a severe weather watch or warning was issued for any county in the immediate Kansas City area by the local National Weather Service Forecast Office or the National Severe Storms Forecast Center/Storm Prediction Center, activating them in descending order – in one or more of three sections – in pertinence to the specific weather situation:
- Flashing lights on the top third of the tower indicated that a severe thunderstorm watch, tornado watch or winter weather advisory was in effect
- Flashing lights on two thirds of the tower indicated that a severe thunderstorm warning or winter weather warning was in effect
- All lights flashing on the tower indicated that a tornado warning was in effect or that highly threatening weather would occur
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon on September 11, 2001, as symbols of American patriotism were re-embraced in their immediate aftermath, KCTV engineers installed LED lights on the tower to correspond to the colors of the United States flag, placing red lights on the top third, white lights on the middle third and blue lights on the bottom third of the structure.
In 2004, the lights on the tower were turned off entirely until all of the bulbs could be replaced; the lights on the tower were reactivated on July 1, 2006, with white lights having been installed on all of its sections, as had originally been standard until the 1970s. Since then, the lights have not flashed for the purpose of being a notifier of inclement weather conditions as they did prior to September 11, 2001. In June 2010, the analog antenna was disassembled from the tower structure to allow the installation of a new top-mounted digital antenna, which would transmit at 1,000 kilowatts to improve the coverage of KCTV's digital signal in the outer edges of the market.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||KCTV-HD||Main KCTV programming / CBS|
From 2005 to 2008, KCTV operated digital subchannels on virtual channels 5.2 and 5.3 on a part-time basis, which it used to act as overflow game feeds during the early rounds of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. In 2008, when CBS restricted its stations to operate only one multicast feed for overflow telecasts, the station aired the additional game over KCTV-DT2. The need for CBS stations to carry early-round tournament games on multicast feeds ended in 2011, as CBS began sharing the broadcast rights to the tournament with the Turner Broadcasting System (through three of its cable channels, TBS, TNT and TruTV). KCTV has not operated any subchannels since then (the use of subchannels previously varied among Meredith's stations, often either being used only for a local weather service or not being used at all; however since 2015, Meredith-owned stations in several markets now carry subchannels affiliated with traditional and subchannel-exclusive networks, among them sister station KSMO-TV, which carries Spanish-language network MundoMax on virtual channel 62.2).
KCTV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, at 9:00 a.m. on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 24. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
Syndicated programs broadcast on KCTV (as of September 2015) include Dr. Phil, Inside Edition, Dish Nation, Blue Bloods and The Good Wife (the latter two of which also air first-run episodes on the station through CBS). KCTV currently carries all CBS network programming, although it is one of several CBS affiliates that airs Face the Nation in separate half-hour blocks, with the second half-hour of the program airing on Sunday late nights due to its Sunday morning newscast (sister station KSMO-TV rebroadcasts the full hour-long edition on Sunday late-evenings, although KCTV also rebroadcasts the program in its entirety in late-night during the NFL season when it is pre-empted by Kansas City Chiefs team programs); it is also one of several CBS affiliates that splits the CBS Dream Team educational programming block over both Saturdays and Sundays, airing one hour of the lineup on Sunday mornings before CBS News Sunday Morning. Over the years, KCTV preempted moderate amounts of CBS programming such as some morning daytime as well as some late night shows prior to the 1993 launch of the Late Show with David Letterman, a couple of Saturday morning cartoons, the entire Sunday morning cartoon block and an occasional prime time show.
One of the most common copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special comes from KCTV, and can be found as first to third generation bootleg copies. During the 1970s and 1980s, KCTV produced several locally produced shows such as Saturday Science Fiction Theatre, a weekly late-night showcase of science fiction films. During the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Hyatt Regency walkway collapse, one of the station's most popular shows, the horror film showcase Friday Fright Night, was preempted out of fear of further traumatization of viewers already in shock over the disaster; the program was known for an opening sequence featuring a skull, with an announcer giving the lead-in of the program with both a spooky tone of voice and dialogue only to leave the shot with a prolonged sequence including a sound bite of hysterical laughter. At least two other shows competed in the genre with Friday Fright Night by the early 1980s including KSHB's Creature Features with Crematia Mortem and All Night Live! with Edward Musacare (a.k.a. Uncle Ed) and "Caffeina the Cat", and later Dick Wilson. However, "Uncle Ed" had various spook-shows dating back to the 1960s, albeit in other markets.
In September 2012, KCTV debuted the hour-long lifestyle program Better Kansas City, which is produced independently from the station's news department. The program, which airs at 9:00 a.m. weekdays, is formatted similarly to the Meredith-distributed syndicated lifestyle program Better, which aired locally on sister station KSMO-TV from 2006 until its cancellation in 2015. The program was placed on a summer hiatus on June 6, 2013 for "retooling", with the national Better program filling the timeslot in the interim.
Since CBS acquired the broadcast rights to televise games from the NFL's American Football Conference (AFC) in 1998, KCTV has served as the flagship station for the Kansas City Chiefs. Channel 5 airs most of the team's regular season games through CBS's contract with the AFC, and also carries select Chiefs preseason games that are not televised nationally by a broadcast or cable network. In addition, through an exclusive broadcast partnership with the team, it airs various team-related programs (including the weekly analysis shows Chiefs Insider and Chiefs Rewind, and the pre-game show Game Day and the coach's show Chiefs Kingdom). In January 1970, as KCMO-TV, the station broadcast the Chiefs' lone Super Bowl victory, when the team defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
KCTV presently broadcasts 34 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the second-highest newscast output among the Kansas City market's television stations, well behind the 59½ hours that are broadcast each week by Fox affiliate WDAF-TV. KCTV also produces seven hours a week of local newscasts for sister station KSMO-TV (consisting of half-hour evening broadcasts at 6:30 and 9:00 p.m., which air seven nights a week). In addition, the station also produces the sports discussion program Off the Bench With Michael Coleman on Sundays after the 10:00 p.m. newscast.
From 1979 to 1994, the team of Anne Peterson and Wendall Anschutz – who both served as main anchors of KCTV's evening newscasts – led the station's newscasts to first place in the Kansas City market. During the 1980s and early 1990s, KCTV was engaged in very competitive race with KMBC and WDAF-TV for first place in news viewership, frequently trading places with both stations in certain time periods; in total viewership, KCTV battled WDAF for first place during this period. Viewership for the station's newscasts fell to third place following WDAF's switch to Fox in September 1994 and the concurrent resurgence of KMBC to overtake both for the most watched television news operation in Kansas City. In the mid-1990s, KCTV briefly operated a helicopter, branded as "NewsHawk 5", to provide aerial coverage of breaking news and weather events; the station acquired a new helicopter for aerial newsgathering, branded as "Chopper 5", in May 2006.
KCTV's news presentation underwent a major overhaul under Regent Ducas, who was hired by Meredith to serve as the station's news director in April 2002. During the 2000s, KCTV and Ducas came under fire for incorporating a perceived tabloid style of journalism to the market, with a particular emphasis on crime stories and sensationalized feature reports, although the station also placed an emphasis on investigative journalism during this period. As part of this shift, six months after Ducas's hiring, KCTV adopted "Live. Latebreaking. Investigative." (which was also used by Phoenix sister station KPHO) as its new slogan in September 2002. Another radical change occurred in November 2003, when the station shut down its in-house sports department and entered into an outsourcing agreement with local sports cable channel Metro Sports (now Time Warner Cable Sports Channel) to produce sports segments for the station's morning and evening newscasts and use its staff to provide coverage of local sporting events; most of the former KCTV sports department personnel was subsequently hired by Metro Sports.
As a result of the station's "new direction," several high-profile anchors and reporters – with some of the affected main personalities having been with KCTV since the late 1960s – left the station including Anne Peterson, Russell Kinsaul (now working at CBS-affiliated sister station KMOV across the state in St. Louis) and Dave Helling. A May 26, 2007 Kansas City Star article revealed the turbulence behind KCTV's move to become the #1 news station in the market. A lawsuit filed that same year by a longtime newscast director alleged that the Meredith Corporation engaged in systematic harassment and dismissal of older employees. A judge denied KCTV's move to dismiss the suit; station management later reached a settlement with the plaintiff. In the midst of the turmoil going on within the news department, though, the emphasis on investigative reporting helped KCTV win the coveted 10:00 p.m. news slot during the November 2004 sweeps period, unseating KMBC-TV in late news for the first time in a decade. However, in November 2006, KCTV dropped back to second place at 10:00, whilst remaining in third place at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. behind KMBC and WDAF. In February 2007, KCTV regained the #1 spot at 10:00 p.m., with ratings also increasing for most of its other newscasts that month.
In September 2005, KCTV began producing newscasts for recently acquied sister station KSMO-TV, launching a nightly half-hour prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m. to compete with WDAF-TV's in-house newscast in the same timeslot. On October 20, 2008, beginning with its 4:00 p.m. newscast, KCTV became the third television station in the Kansas City market (after KSHB-TV and KMBC-TV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition; the KSMO newscasts were included in the upgrade. After discontinuing its outsourcing agreement with Metro Sports in 2009, resulting in the station not maintaining any sports reporting operations for a year, KCTV returned the production of sports segments in-house when it restored an in-house sports department on March 25, 2010.
On September 13, 2010, KCTV expanded its weekday morning newscast to 2½ hours, with the addition of a half-hour at 4:30 a.m. One month later on October 12, KCTV announced that it would begin airing obituaries during its noon newscast as well as its (now-defunct) 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. newscast on KSMO-TV, citing concerns caused by the decline of newspaper circulation in recent years. KCTV and corporate parent Meredith Corporation also launched two websites, ObitMissouri.com and ObitKansas.com, to provide detailed online obituaries and memorial service information to Kansas City-area residents.
In 2005, the Columbia Journalism Review chastised KCTV for a 2004 report about purchasing 500 pounds of "ammonium nitrate" from a local fertilizer seller, a product used in making home-made improvised explosive devices. However, KCTV reporter Dave Helling had actually bought 20-10-10 fertilizer. The 20-10-10 indicates the fertilizer is a common blend containing ammonium nitrate, phosphorus and potash. Helling insinuated he had bought pure ammoniume nitrate, despite the fact that he had in fact purchased a far less dangerous product. The story received international attention, and the store owner was encouraged to take legal action against KCTV. It is unclear whether the reporter or KCTV ever corrected the story and/or apologized to the store owner, though the controversy did receive local backlash.
On January 4, 2011, KCTV entered into a multi-year content partnership with The Kansas City Star – replacing an existing news share agreement that the newspaper had with KSHB-TV until the announcement – to collaborate on coverage of local news stories and investigative reports, and to also provide forecasts compiled by KCTV meteorologists that would appear in the Star's weather page (incidentally, the Star founded rival WDAF-TV in 1949 and owned it until 1958). In the February 2011 sweeps period, while KCTV beat WDAF-TV in the noon timeslot, the station placed second at 10:00 p.m. behind KMBC-TV, and dropped to third place overall behind WDAF-TV. In February 2011, KCTV debuted an hour-long extension of its morning newscast at 7:00 a.m. for KSMO-TV; the program was cancelled that December. On August 4, 2014, KCTV began producing a half-hour newscast at 6:30 p.m. for KSMO.
KCTV's news department has not shied away from reporting on controversial topics, two of which were featured nationally by CBS. In February 2004, Channel 5 aired a seven-part series that exposed the dangers that children can face on internet chat rooms. A group called Perverted Justice (which NBC News later partnered with as the basis for Dateline NBC's To Catch A Predator series) partnered with KCTV to conduct a sting, in which several of its staffers posed as minors in chat rooms and waited for adult men to proposition them to engage in sexual acts or intercourse. The "minors" then invited the men to meet them at a house where a KCTV news crew had set up to wait on the men who were baited. After the series aired, local law enforcement officials concerted a new effort to police chat rooms and prosecute men who attempt to meet minors for sex through the internet. None of the people "stung" by KCTV could be charged in these cases because the operation was done without police involvement.
In June 2005, KCTV exposed a doctor's negligent handling of private medical records. A scavenger gave the station a computer found at the curb of a Mission Hills, Kansas home owned by a plastic surgeon who claimed that he had erased the patients' information from it. However, only the computer's random access memory was removed and its hard drive was intact, containing photographs and files on many patients. KCTV attempted to contact several of the patients whose information was found on the discarded computer. The surgeon filed a lawsuit citing that interviewing the patients was a violation of medical confidentiality laws; the judge presiding over the suit ruled in favor of the doctor, although KCTV management took the case to a federal district court in Kansas City, Kansas. The doctor later withdrew the suit, with the story airing on June 30. As a result of the findings, several of the surgeon's patients filed a class action lawsuit against him for negligent handling of their confidential records.
In early 2010 under new management, it was rumored that KCTV would shut down its entire investigative reporting unit. However, in March of that year, the station hired Stacey Cameron (who left KCTV in 2014), a former attorney and reporter who had joined the station from fellow CBS affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, as its lead investigative reporter. Later that same month, the KCTV investigative unit received several awards for its reporting. KCTV's news team has been honored with the Mid-America Emmy award for overall news excellence, the Edward R. Murrow Award for overall news excellence, and multiple awards for its investigative reporting.