KDAF, virtual channel 33 (UHF digital channel 32), is a CW-affiliated television station serving the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex that is licensed to Dallas, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media. KDAF maintains studio facilities located off the John W. Carpenter Freeway (State Highway 183) in northwest Dallas, and its transmitter is located south of Belt Line Road in Cedar Hill.
The UHF channel 33 allocation in Dallas-Fort Worth has been used by several companies over five decades of operation. The first television station to occupy the channel was KMEC, an independent station that signed on the air on October 1, 1967; it was the second UHF television station to sign on in the market, after KFWT-TV (channel 21, allocation now occupied by KTXA), which debuted two weeks earlier on September 19. Founded by Maxwell Electronics Corporation (owned by Carroll Maxwell, who also served as its general manager), the station aired a mix of syndicated and locally produced programming, among which included the public affairs program Dallas Speaks (hosted by Jim Underwood, who previously worked at CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (channel 4, now KDFW) as a reporter), and children's programs Bozo's Big Top (a localized version of the Bozo the Clown franchise) and Colonel Pembroke's Funtime. Due to financial losses incurred on the venture, the station ceased operations on October 25, 1968.
Maxwell sold the station's license to the Evans Co. on April 2, 1969. Evans paid the costs for the demolition of Channel 33's existing transmitter tower as well as the construction of a new tower facility to house its transmitter. The short-lived and ultimately aborted attempt by The Evans Co. at returning the station to the air led to sell the construction permit for the transmitter facilities to the locally based ministry Berean Fellowship International in the winter of 1971. Six months after being granted a license on September 1, 1971, Berean signed a new station on Channel 33, under the call letters KBFI, on February 21, 1972. It operated as a non-commercial independent station that maintained a format consisting of religious programming. But, like its predecessor, KBFI signed off after only ten months on the air on December 16, 1972.
The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) purchased the license, and returned Channel 33 to the air on April 16, 1973 as KXTX-TV (for "Christ (X) for TeXas"), becoming CBN's third television station (after WYAH-TV (now CW affiliate WGNT) in Virginia Beach, Virginia and WANX (now CBS affiliate WGCL-TV) in Atlanta, both of which would later be co-owned with KDAF under Tribune ownership). As was the structure of CBN's other independent stations, it maintained a format consisting primarily of religious programs as well as some general entertainment programming, with its slate of secular content being a mix of westerns, classic sitcoms and drama series.
However, CBN's stay on Channel 33 would not be a long one: Doubleday Broadcasting wanted to get rid of KDTV, a competing independent station on UHF channel 39 that served as the company's flagship television property, due to its constant struggles in attempting to make the station profitable. Doubleday attempted to donate it to three different non-profit interests – Area Education Television Foundation, Inc., the Dallas Independent School District (both of which owned PBS member station KERA-TV (channel 13) at the time) and Berean Fellowship International – with neither choosing to accept Doubleday's offer as the donation proposal would have resulted in the prospective owner agreeing to assume a large amount of the station's debt. Doubleday's attempts to find a willing licensee to donate the Channel 39 license and assets, led it to approach CBN about discussing such an acquisition; the ministry accepted Doubleday's proposal on November 9, 1973.
Four days after CBN acquired ownership of the license on November 14, it moved the KXTX call letters and associated programming to Channel 39. Meanwhile, Doubleday took over the Channel 33 license, assigning the KDTV calls and relocating some of its programming there; Doubleday Broadcasting operated the station for another nine weeks, before deciding to shut down the station early that December and turn over the license to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for cancellation on December 20, 1973 (the KDTV call letters are currently used by a Univision owned-and-operated station in San Francisco). The programming inventory held by KDTV was acquired by CBN, and combined with that of KXTX in January 1974, converting the latter surviving outlet into a full-time commercial independent station.
The Channel 33 allocation would remain dormant in Dallas-Fort Worth for the next 6½ years, until Hill Broadcasting – a locally based group operated by Nolanda Hill and Sheldon Turner (both of whom, who had previously successfully lobbied the Dallas City Council to have a cable television franchise established in the city, each owned a 40% interest), and other investors that included among others, radio broadcaster Gordon McLendon (who had made previous failed attempts to launch a UHF television station in the market, and served as a commentator for the station) – applied to the FCC for a new construction permit to launch a new station on that allocation, which it issued on June 13, 1977.
The current television station that would become KDAF first signed on the air in September 1980 as KNBN-TV, the call letters standing for the "National Business Network", which served as the station's on-air branding. It operated from studio facilities located in a converted warehouse on 3333 Harry Hines Boulevard, near downtown Dallas (the building has since been torn down). The initial programming format consisted of business news programming during the daytime hours; evenings, meanwhile, were occupied by the subscription television service VEU (owned by Gene Autry's Golden West Broadcasters), featuring a mix of feature films, specials and, during the NBA season, Dallas Mavericks game telecasts. Again, this format was short-lived. Within a year-and-a-half of KNBN's sign-on, in the winter of 1981, the station discontinued its block of business news programs; the VEU affiliation had also moved to rival independent KTWS-TV (channel 27, now MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station KDFI). KNBN-TV then became an affiliate of the Spanish International Network (the forerunner to the present-day Univision).
Stability, then transition
In the fall of 1983, Hill Broadcasting sold KNBN to New York City-based Metromedia, which already owned independent stations in five of the six major U.S. cities where it owned television stations, for $15 million; the sale was finalized on November 8 of that year. Initially, KNBN remained a Spanish language station; however, it had drafted plans to eventually switch to an English language format. Around the time of its acquisition, the station added a couple of English language syndicated programs that were distributed by its Metromedia Pictures Corporation subsidiary, that were not already run by any other station in Dallas-Fort Worth. SIN programming would eventually be relegated to the late afternoon and nighttime, with some English language programming being added during the daytime hours.
On July 30, 1984, the station's call letters were changed to KRLD-TV – after radio station KRLD (1080 AM), which became a sister property to the television station after Metromedia successfully sought the FCC for a waiver of its cross-ownership regulations, which were in the process of being updated to allow common ownership of television and radio stations by a single company, to let it retain KRLD radio (incidentally, the KRLD-TV calls had previously been used from 1949 to 1970 by what is now KDFW, which was the original television sister of KRLD radio until the Times Mirror Company's 1970 sale of the latter station to Metromedia; the KNBN-TV call letters are currently used by an NBC-affiliated station in Rapid City, South Dakota). Its operations moved to studio facilities located next door to KRLD radio at the station's current facility on John W. Carpenter Freeway on the northwest side of Dallas. The new KRLD-TV was entering a very crowded marketplace – its competition included KTXA, KXTX-TV and KTVT, which was the leading independent in the market at the time.
The station adopted a general entertainment format, initially programming a schedule made primarily of adult-targeted fare such as first-run syndicated programs, plenty of off-network dramas, reruns of older game shows and some low-budget movies; the programming inventory incorporated very few cartoons at first, as most of these programs and shorts were already carried by other area stations. From 1984 to 1987, Channel 33 served as the broadcast home of the Dallas Sidekicks indoor soccer club. In the fall of 1985, with a huge abundance of barter cartoons now available on the market, KRLD-TV added two-hour blocks of these programs in the 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. timeslots, and also began phasing in more off-network sitcoms at that point. Under Metromedia's stewardship, its format began to increasingly resemble a traditional independent station for that time. Even still, the continued to underperform as most of the stronger programs available on the syndication market had been acquired by either its rival independents or by the market's network affiliates; the station also struggled to define a clear programming identity as it heavily incorporated movies, reruns and children's programs, while the shows it did air were repeatedly moved to different time slots in hopes of shoring up their ratings. The station attempted a coup to improve viewership by acquiring the local rights to reruns of Dallas and Dynasty for a reported fee of up to $38,000 per episode, only for neither show to pull decent ratings when they joined the station in September 1985.
As a Fox owned-and-operated station
In May 1985, Metromedia reached an agreement to sell KRLD-TV and its five sister independent stations – WNEW-TV (now WNYW) in New York City, KTTV in Los Angeles, WFLD-TV in Chicago, WTTG in Washington, D.C. and KRIV in Houston – to News Corporation for $2.55 billion (ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, the company's only network-affiliated station, would be sold to the Hearst Broadcasting subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation for $450 million in a separate, concurrent deal as part of a right of first refusal related to that station's 1982 sale to Metromedia). KRLD (AM) was sold to CBS Radio, to which Metromedia had previously attempted to sell the station in 1984, prior to its obtainment of the cross-ownership waiver for it and KRLD-TV (it is now co-owned with CBS owned-and-operated station KTVT (channel 11) through CBS Corporation).
That October, News Corporation – which had purchased a 50% interest in 20th Century Fox corporate parent TCF Holdings for $250 million in March 1985 – announced its intentions to create a fourth television network that would use the resources of 20th Century Fox Television to both produce and distribute programming, intending to compete with ABC, CBS and NBC. The company formally announced the launch of the new network, the Fox Broadcasting Company, on May 7, 1986, with the former Metromedia stations serving as its nuclei. The purchase of the Metromedia stations was approved by the FCC and finalized on March 6, 1986, with News Corporation creating a new broadcasting unit, the Fox Television Stations, to oversee the six television stations. On March 6, 1986, the station's call letters were changed to KDAF (representing the two cities it served, Dallas and Fort Worth," but would later take on an unofficial secondary meaning as "Dallas Area Fox").
KDAF became one of the charter owned-and-operated stations of the Fox Broadcasting Company at the network's launch seven months later on October 6, making it the first network-owned television station (commercial or non-commercial) in the Metroplex. Although it was now part of a network, Channel 33, for all intents and purposes, continued to be programmed as a de facto independent station as Fox's initial programming consisted solely of a late-night talk show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers; even when Fox launched its prime time lineup in April 1987, the network only aired programs during that daypart on weekends early on, adding additional nights of programming until it adopted a seven-night-a-week schedule in September 1993.
Until Fox began airing prime time programming on a daily basis, KDAF aired a movie at 8:00 p.m. on nights when network programs did not air. The station, which began identifying as "Fox 33," remained unprofitable well into the early 1990s. However, with Fox's growth in the early part of that decade, the station was turning modest profits by 1994.
Renaissance Broadcasting ownership and WB affiliation
On December 18, 1993, the National Football League (NFL) accepted a $1.58 billion bid by Fox to acquire the television rights to the National Football Conference (NFC) for four years, beginning with the 1994 NFL season. The deal resulted in Fox assuming the NFC rights from CBS, which had carried the conference's games since 1956, fourteen years before the NFL merged with the American Football League (with their respective teams being split into the NFC and the American Football Conference). In order to raise the network's profile in advance of the start of the contract, Fox strategized to strengthen its affiliate portfolio by recruiting more VHF stations, especially those located in markets with an NFC franchise; at the time, Fox's stations were mostly UHF outlets that had limited to no prior history as major network affiliates, although it owned VHF outlets in a few markets (among them, three of KDAF's sister stations at the time, WNYW, KTTV and WTTG).
On May 23, 1994, News Corporation – as part of a deal that included its acquisition of a 20% equity interest in the latter company – signed a long-term affiliation agreement with New World Communications, in which Fox would affiliate with heritage "Big Three" network stations that New World either owned outright or were in the process of purchasing in twelve markets. Under the initial agreement, nine television stations affiliated with either CBS, ABC or NBC – five out of seven that New World acquired through its 1992 purchase of SCI Television, and four others that it acquired on May 5 from Great American Communications (in a separate deal for $350 million in cash and $10 million in share warrants) – would become Fox affiliates once their existing respective affiliation contracts expired.
Subsequently on May 26, New World bought four stations owned by Argyle Television Holdings for $717 million, in a purchase option-structured deal. Under the terms, New World included CBS affiliate KDFW-TV – along with two of its sister stations, fellow CBS affiliate KTBC in Austin and ABC affiliate KTVI in St. Louis – in the group's affiliation agreement with Fox (NBC affiliate WVTM-TV in Birmingham was exempted as New World chose to transfer that market's ABC affiliate WBRC as well as ABC affiliate WGHP in High Point, North Carolina into a trust company for later sale to Fox Television Stations to comply with FCC restrictions at the time that prohibited broadcasting companies from owning more than twelve television stations nationwide and, in the case of Birmingham, barred television station duopolies). Although the network already owned KDAF, Fox sought the opportunity of affiliating with a VHF station in what was then the nation's seventh-largest market as KDFW had much stronger ratings than Channel 33 (placing second, behind ABC affiliate WFAA (channel 8), in total day and news viewership at the time) and maintained a news department; as a result, Fox Television Stations announced that it would place KDAF up for sale in early June 1994 (the agreement with New World resulted in Fox also placing Atlanta sister station WATL (now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) up for sale, in order for the network to affiliate with CBS affiliate WAGA-TV, with the former being sold to Qwest Broadcasting).
CBS, meanwhile, had a thirteen-month leeway to find a new Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate, as its contract with KDFW did not expire until July 1, 1995. In the interim, for the first year of the network's contract with the NFC, KDAF assumed the local broadcast rights to the Dallas Cowboys – which previously had most of their games that were carried on broadcast television air on KDFW starting in 1962 through the NFC's contract with CBS, with the telecasts often drawing high ratings for that station – as a lame-duck O&O, when Fox formally began airing NFL telecasts on September 12, 1994. After approaching longtime NBC affiliate KXAS-TV (channel 5) and later being turned down by its then-owner LIN Broadcasting for an affiliation deal, on September 14, 1994, Gaylord Broadcasting reached an agreement to affiliate KTVT with CBS, in exchange for also switching its sister independent station in Tacoma, Washington, KSTW (now a CW owned-and-operated station), to the network.
Fox Television Stations announced that it would sell KDAF to Greenwich, Connecticut-based Renaissance Communications on November 15, 1994 for $100 million; in exchange, Renaissance would sell existing Fox affiliate KDVR in Denver and its Fort Collins satellite station KFCT to Fox Television Stations for $70 million. Under the terms of the deal, Renaissance also reached an agreement with Time Warner in which KDAF would become an affiliate of The WB once the Fox affiliation moved to KDFW. Initially, KTVT was to become the network's charter affiliate for the Dallas-Fort Worth market; however, Gaylord Broadcasting's pact with CBS for KTVT and KSTW effectively nullified that agreement, resulting in Time Warner filing an injunction in an attempt to dissolve The WB's affiliation agreement for those two stations and KHTV (now CW-affiliated sister station KIAH) in Houston, the latter of which would ultimately join the network at its launch. Since KDAF could not join the network until KDFW's contract with CBS expired and Fox moved its programming to that station, The WB entered into a temporary affiliation arrangement with KXTX-TV, in which it would serve as the network's Metroplex charter affiliate in the interim.
However the de facto trade hit a potential roadblock, when on January 15, 1995, NBC filed a petition to the FCC that urged it to reject approval of the KDVR purchase, alleging that News Corporation was in violation of FCC rules prohibiting foreign companies from holding more than a 25% ownership interest in an American television station (News Corporation founder and then-CEO Rupert Murdoch was born in Australia, where the company was founded before moving its operations to New York City in 1988, but became an American citizen in early 1986); Fox structured the KDVR-for-KDAF deal as two separate sales rather than as a trade with a cash exchange in likely anticipation of NBC trying to appeal the transaction and to ensure that Renaissance would continue on with its purchase of KDAF in either event. NBC withdrew the petition – as well as others it filed regarding Fox's concurring purchases of WFXT in Boston and WTXF-TV in Philadelphia, and News Corporation's ownership interest in SF Broadcasting – on February 17, 1995. New World, meanwhile, took over the operations of KDFW and the other Argyle Television stations through time brokerage agreements on January 19, 1995, three months before the group's purchase of the four stations was finalized on April 14.
Fox's prime time and sports programming moved from KDAF to KDFW-TV on July 2, 1995, with the CBS affiliation concurrently moving to KTVT. Although it lost the rights to most of Fox's programming, KDAF retained the rights to Fox Kids, as KDFW station management declined to carry the network's children's programming block (a move which had become standard practice for the other New World stations that had joined Fox since September 1994). KDAF took over the WB affiliation three days later on July 5, at which time, the station changed its branding to "WB 33"; KXTX simultaneously reverted into an independent station. The sales of KDAF to Renaissance Broadcasting and KDVR to Fox were finalized on July 9.
As it did for most of its tenure as a Fox O&O, KDAF once again filled the 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. time slot with feature films as The WB only maintained a prime time lineup on Wednesday nights at the time its programming moved to Channel 33; this would become less of an issue as the network launched additional nights of programming over the next four years, adopting a six-night weekly schedule in September 1999 (running Sunday through Fridays). In addition, the station's inventory of children's programming expanded when The WB launched a competitor to Fox Kids, Kids' WB, in September 1995; the station carried Kids' WB's weekday morning and afternoon blocks together on Monday through Friday mornings, while the Saturday morning block aired on Sundays as it aired the Fox Kids weekend block in its standard Saturday time slot. Alongside WB prime time programming and a blend of cartoons from both Fox Kids and Kids' WB, KDAF initially carried some syndicated cartoons, older and recent off-network sitcoms, and some first-run syndicated shows, including some series that KTVT dropped from its schedule to make room for the heavy amount of network programming brought on by its new CBS affiliation.
Tribune Broadcasting ownership
On July 1, 1996, Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting announced that it would acquire Renaissance Communications for $1.13 billion. At the time, Tribune held a partial ownership interest in The WB, however KDAF could not technically be considered an owned-and-operated station of the network since Time Warner held a 87.5% majority stake in the network – which eventually decreased to 78%, when Tribune purchased a portion of its equity interest. Two weeks later on July 17, News Corporation – which separated most of its entertainment holdings into 21st Century Fox in July 2013 – announced that it would acquire New World in an all-stock transaction worth $2.48 billion; the purchase by News Corporation was finalized on January 22, 1997, folding New World's ten Fox affiliates into the Fox Television Stations subsidiary, making KDFW the second television station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to have served as a Fox owned-and-operated station.
KDAF's programming focus gradually shifted under Tribune ownership; the station reduced its children's programming inventory to that provided by Kids' WB and acquired via syndication in September 1997, when the local rights to the Fox Kids block moved to independent station KDFI, which at the time was operated alongside KDFW through a local marketing agreement. KDAF gradually evolved its programming slate from the mid-1990s to about 2002, shifting focus away from older programs towards a lineup consisting primarily of first-run talk shows, reality series and court shows during the daytime hours, and recent off-network comedy and drama series at night. By September 2002, the only animated programs that were carried on KDAF came from Kids' WB and became the last station in the market that continued to run cartoons on weekday afternoons until the weekday edition of the block was discontinued by The WB in January 2006, replacing it with the Daytime WB rerun block (which would evolve into The CW Daytime). In January 2005, the station changed its on-air branding to "Dallas-Fort Worth's WB," de-emphasizing the station's Channel 33 allocation; it reverted to the "WB 33" brand and the previous accompanying logo (which it adopted upon the July 1995 switch to the network) by January 2006.
On January 24, 2006, Time Warner's Warner Bros. unit and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN. In their place, the companies would combine the respective programming of the two networks to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. On that date, The CW also signed a ten-year affiliation agreement with Tribune Broadcasting, under which sixteen of the group's eighteen WB-affiliated stations would serve as the network's charter stations.
One of the stations included in the agreement was KDAF, which was announced as the network's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate over UPN affiliate KTXA, one of five stations owned by CBS Television Stations that was excluded from a separate affiliation deal between that group and The CW in markets where Tribune owned a WB affiliate and CBS owned either a UPN affiliate or independent station; although since the network chose its affiliates based on which television station among The WB and UPN's respective affiliate bodies was the highest-rated in each market, it is likely that KDAF would have been chosen over KTXA in any event, as it had been the higher-rated of the two stations dating back to its tenure as a Fox owned-and-operated station. In preparation for the launch, the station unveiled its new on-air branding as "CW 33" in July 2006, primarily for promotions for The CW's programming and other related station imaging. KDAF officially joined The CW upon that network's launch on September 18 of that year, at which point, the new brand was applied full-time.
On April 2, 2007, Chicago-based investor Sam Zell announced plans to purchase the Tribune Company, with intentions to take the publicly traded firm private; the deal was completed on December 20, 2007. Tribune subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008, due to the $12 billion in debt accrued from Zell's leveraged buyout and costs from the privatization of the company; Tribune emerged from bankruptcy in December 2012 under the control of its senior debt holders Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase.
Because of the consistent relative weakness in the ratings for The CW's programs, both locally and nationally (the national average total viewership of the network's programs ranges from just under one million to around three million viewers), most of Tribune Broadcasting's CW-affiliated stations – with the exception of WPIX in New York City, KTLA in Los Angeles and flagship station WGN-TV in Chicago, all of which already used limited network branding – adopted revised on-air brands beginning in 2008 that de-emphasized their ties to the network. In July 2008, the station changed its branding to the simplified "KDAF 33", before rebranding as "The 33" that September as part of a corporate effort by Tribune to strengthen the local branding of its stations and reduce the dependence on the use of references to The CW in its stations' branding in part due to the network's weak national ratings. The "CW 33" name eventually returned full-time in September 2011, as Tribune's CW stations began restoring network references in their branding.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|33.1||1080i||16:9||KDAF-DT||Main KDAF programming / The CW|
|33.3||This TV||This TV|
KDAF first launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 33.2 as a charter affiliate of The Tube in July 2006; it carried The Tube until parent company Tube Music Network, LLC shut down the network's operations on October 1, 2007. The subchannel remained in operation without programming until November 1, 2007, when it became an affiliate of the Spanish language network LATV; that network was dropped by KDAF in June 2010. The 33.2 subchannel was later reactivated as a charter affiliate of Antenna TV upon the Tribune-owned network's launch on January 1, 2011.
KDAF launched a tertiary digital subchannel on virtual channel 33.3 on December 7, 2010 as an affiliate of This TV, through the film-focused network's affiliation agreement with Tribune (which would eventually acquire Weigel Broadcasting's 50% equity share of the network in November 2013). This TV had previously been carried by ABC affiliate WFAA, which had earlier replaced it on the station's 8.2 subchannel with the lifestyle-focused Live Well Network on November 8, 2010.
KDAF shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 33, at 8:00 a.m. on June 12, 2009, to conclude the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its transition period UHF channel 32, using PSIP to display KDAF's virtual channel as its former analog allocation, channel 33, on digital television receivers.
KDAF currently carries the entire CW programming schedule; however like many Tribune Broadcasting stations affiliated with the network have done since September 2013, it airs The CW Daytime block two hours earlier (at 1:00 p.m.) than The CW's other Central Time Zone affiliates. Syndicated programs broadcast by KDAF (as of September 2015) include Springer, Crime Watch Daily, The Steve Wilkos Show, Seinfeld, Celebrity Name Game, and The Simpsons.
As of February 2016, KDAF presently broadcasts 32 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays).
After the station was sold to Metromedia, KDAF (as KRLD-TV) heavily invested in the creation of a news department, acquiring modernized technology (including a computer system and several Sony Betacams) for production and newsgathering resources. The station's news staff was based in a small trailer parked within the Harry Hines Boulevard studios, before moving into the larger Carpenter Freeway facility shortly before the newscast's launch. On July 30, 1984, Channel 33 debuted the first prime time newscast ever attempted on a commercial television station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, a nightly hour-long program at 7:00 p.m. (it was the first prime time newscast to air in the market overall since PBS member station KERA-TV (channel 13) cancelled its evening newscast, the 13 Report, in 1977). However, its debut was less than auspicious, earning at .7 rating (amounting to less than seven-tenths of 1% of all households in the Dallas-Fort Worth market that watched the premiere broadcast), eventually rising to a peak of 2.0; although its ratings peak still well below the 4.0 target share that was promised to advertisers, Dallas Morning News television critic Ed Bark later noted that the program suffered from the lack of a strong lead-in, even though it performed better than many of the station's syndicated programs. The program, however, would earn two United Press International awards in 1985 for "Best Newscast in Texas" and "Best Spot News" (for its coverage of the 1985 Mesquite tornado). In an effort to increase viewership for the 7:00 p.m. newscast, KRLD-TV launched an extensive promotional campaign that included billboards with such taglines as "Hey [name of anchor], now you too can watch the news/weather/sports" (incorporating the names of popular anchors at its competitors, including KDFW evening anchor Clarice Tinsley, WFAA evening anchor Tracy Rowlett and sports director Dale Hansen, and KXAS chief meteorologist Harold Taft).
The news department underwent tumultuous changes in 1986; after original news director Tony deHaro (who previously served as news director at KRLD radio prior to Metromedia's purchase of Channel 33) was fired by the station, he wrote a scathing letter to D Magazine criticizing the news department and KRLD-TV general manager Ray Schonbak, stating that Schonbak insisted on implementing "sensationalis[tic] and inflammatory" journalism techniques. At the time, station management acquired a state-of-the-art microwave live truck for newsgathering and drafted plans to open a bureau in Fort Worth. On May 10, 1986, shortly after News Corporation assumed control of the station following the completion of its merger with Metromedia, Schonbak announced Channel 33's news department would shut down, stating to staff that the move was his decision; in an August 1986 article that he wrote for D Magazine, former anchor Quin Mathews (who joined KRLD from KDFW in 1984 and later became anchor at WFAA after Channel 33's news department folded) questioned whether the move was solely that of Schonbak or a directive by News Corporation management, despite the company's efforts to expand news programming on its soon-to-be Fox O&Os, noting that Schonbak had given Fox executives five different options for the news department to improve revenue and ratings, all of which were considered by the board to be unacceptable.
With an increase in revenues by the early 1990s, Fox Television Stations announced plans to re-establish KDAF's news department and launch a prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m., later setting August 1, 1994 as the program's premiere date. Then-general manager Lisa Gregorisch (now a television producer at Telepictures) began hiring a "dream team" of reporters, editors, producers and photographers to staff the news operation, which she stated in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram "would have 'shaken up this news market like never before'." These plans were shelved when Fox decided to affiliate with KDFW – which already had a functioning news department and a sizeable amount of local news programming that would be expanded upon following the switch – as part of its affiliation agreement with New World Communications, and sell KDAF in turn; Fox was already beginning to phase in news departments on most of its stations, with the New World stations becoming among the first to take on a news-intensive format (which mixed newscasts in both common time slots, and time slots normally ceded to morning and early-evening national news programs, and late prime time shows on CBS, ABC and NBC). Most of those hired as part of the aborted operation – around 20 people that were already hired and several others, including some on-air personalities, that made commitments to join the staff – either were able to re-sign in their previous positions at other stations or were placed by the group in positions at other Fox Television Stations properties.
Plans to re-establish a news department for KDAF were revived under Tribune Broadcasting ownership later in the decade, as part of the company's efforts to launch in-house newscasts on the group's WB affiliates. In January 1999, the station began producing a half-hour newscast at 9:00 p.m. that initially aired only on weeknights. Debuting as WB 33 News @ Nine, it was first anchored by Patrick Greenlaw and Crystal Thornton, alongside chief meteorologist Steve LaNore and sports director Bob Irzyk. The program was expanded to seven days a week in January 2000, with Dawn Tongish as weekend anchor; the Monday through Friday editions were then expanded to one hour in January 2001, with the weekend newscasts following suit by 2003. The KDAF 9:00 p.m. newscast continually placed a very distant second behind KDFW's established hour-long prime time newscast, which had grown to become the ratings leader in that time slot since its debut upon Channel 4's July 1995 switch to Fox. In September 2005, the station debuted DFW Close-Up, a half-hour public affairs program which aired on Sunday mornings until September 2013.
In late February 2009, anchors Tom Crespo and Terri Chappell – who had served as main anchors since 2004 and 2003, respectively – were replaced on the weeknight newscasts by existing general assignment reporter Amanda Salinas (later Fitzpatrick) and Walt Maciborski (the latter of whom joined KDAF from ABC affiliate WFTS in Tampa). On September 21, 2009, KDAF debuted a nightly half-hour newscast at 5:30 p.m. to compete with part of KDFW's hour-long 5:00 newscast as well as the network newscasts on KTVT, KXAS-TV and WFAA; the program utilized a different format that featured former station interns as full-time reporters, as well as some new feature segments that would be considered irrelevant for the 9:00 p.m. broadcast.
On March 1, 2010, KDAF expanded the early evening newscast to a full hour on weekdays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. (the weekend editions continued to air for a half-hour at 5:30, competing against national newscasts on WFAA, KXAS and KTVT on Saturdays as an earlier local news alternative, and local newscasts on KTVT, WFAA and KDFW and a national network newscast on KXAS on Sundays). The weekday editions of that newscast was subsequently reduced to a half-hour on May 3, now solely competing against local newscasts on KDFW, WFAA, KXAS and KTVT; the 5:30 p.m. half-hour of the broadcast was replaced by off-network syndicated sitcoms. On May 22, 2010, KDAF became the last remaining English language television station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Unlike the other stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, video shot during field reports is recorded and broadcast in true high definition. The market's other four news-producing stations broadcast studio segments in HD, but, at the time, video footage during field reports shot for their newscasts was recorded in 16:9 widescreen standard definition.
On October 31, 2011, KDAF began airing the Tribune-distributed morning news program EyeOpener, which originally premiered six months earlier on May 9 as a test concept on CW-affiliated sister station KIAH in Houston. Initially airing only on weekday mornings (for three hours starting at 5:00 a.m.), before expanding to include hour-long weekend editions in April 2015, the program's hybrid format is billed as a "provocative and unpredictable" combination of daily news, lifestyle, entertainment and opinion segments. All national content is produced at KDAF's Carpenter Freeway studios, which replaced the Tribune Tower corporate headquarters in Chicago as the program's main production base in conjunction with KDAF acquiring the local rights to EyeOpener. Local news, weather and traffic updates are also presented live during each half-hour by a solo anchor at the KDAF studios; local news and traffic reports were first presented by Nerissa Knight, who served as the program's national news segment anchor (and was a former anchor at KTVT), while weather segments were presented by meteorologist Krista Villarreal (formerly of KXAS-TV). Tribune gradually began syndicating the program to its stations in four additional markets (Philadelphia, Miami, Portland, Oregon and Fort Smith, Arkansas), as well as a non-Tribune station in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, all of which provide local news and weather segments during the program.
During the summer of 2012, KDAF's news department underwent a series of staff departures: following ratings declines during his tenure, news director David Duitch left the station in July to become website editor for The Dallas Morning News; that August saw the departures of chief meteorologist Bob Goosman and sports reporter Chase Williams, the resignation of reporter Giselle Phelps and Walt MacIborski's departure for Fox-affiliated sister station WXIN in Indianapolis. On August 16 of that year, EyeOpener senior producer Larissa Hall was promoted to a director of content position to oversee the newscasts.
On September 4, 2012, KDAF management announced in a meeting with station staff that it would adopt a format similar to EyeOpener for the 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. newscasts, in order to reduce production and operation costs for the news department, and to make the broadcast profitable. The evening newscasts were revamped under the title Nightcap on November 1, 2012; the program made use of multimedia journalists (which require a single person to film, edit and report news stories) and incorporated humor within most of its story content, except for those that warranted a more serious tone. New staff members were hired to anchor and report for the newscasts, while about half of the newsroom staff (including several employees that were with KDAF since the current news department's inception in 1999) had been laid off.
Even with the format switch, KDAF remained in last place among Dallas-Fort Worth's news-producing English stations, with viewership having declined to the point of registering "hashmarks" (indicating viewership too low to register a ratings point) on some nights during the initial switch to the Nightcap format. Ratings slowly increased over the next year-and-a-half while the format was in use, particularly in the key age demographic of adults 25-54. Larissa Hall, who oversaw Nightcap's launch as KDAF's director of content, left the station at the end of 2012, shifting to other duties within the Tribune corporate umbrella and giving Nightcap only partial oversight.
In November 2013, KDAF hired Steve Simon (a former weekend anchor-turned-producer at KIAH) as its news director. While in Houston, Simon helped launch NewsFix, a stylized news format that first launched in March 2011 on KIAH and described by that station's general manager Roger Bare as "a newsreel updated for the 21st century," which de-emphasizes on-camera anchors and reporters – using only an off-camera narrator for continuity to place more of a direct focus on footage involving those tied to the story – requiring a far smaller staff than most news programs. Many on-air members of the KDAF news staff departed in the months prior to the format change, including longtime reporter Barry Carpenter and anchor Amanda Fitzpatrick, both of whom were with the station prior to the adoption of the Nightcap format. NewsFix officially debuted on May 20, 2014, beginning with the 5:00 p.m. broadcast, with Greg Onofrio – a Houston radio personality who also continues to serve in the same capacity on the KIAH edition of the program – serving as its narrator, in addition to making on-screen appearances for a commentary segment at the end of the broadcast. The weekday early-evening edition expanded to an hour on September 7, 2015.