KFOR-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 27), is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media, as part of a duopoly with independent station KAUT-TV (channel 43). The two stations share studio and transmitter facilities located on Britton Road (U.S. 77) in the McCourry Heights section of northeast Oklahoma City.
The station first signed on the air on June 6, 1949 as WKY-TV; it was the first television station to sign on in Oklahoma, debuting five months before KOTV in Tulsa. Channel 4 was founded by the Oklahoma Publishing Company (owned by the family of founder Edward K. Gaylord), publishers of the morning Daily Oklahoman and evening Oklahoma Times newspapers, and owners of radio station WKY (930 AM) – from which the television station inherited its original call letters. The station has been a primary NBC affiliate since it signed on (owing to WKY radio's longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network), although it originally held secondary affiliations with CBS, ABC and the DuMont Television Network. The station's first studio facilities were housed in the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Oklahoma City, with a secondary studio that was used for the production of local programs based at the Little Theatre.
Due to a four-year freeze on broadcast licenses imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), WKY-TV was the only television station in the Oklahoma City market until 1953, when KTVQ (channel 25, allocation now occupied by Fox affiliate KOKH-TV) signed on as an ABC affiliate. CBS then moved to KWTV (channel 9) when it signed on that December. WKY-TV remained a dual NBC/DuMont affiliate until the latter network shut down in August 1956. It rejoined ABC that year, after KTVQ ceased operations. In 1958, Enid-based ABC affiliate KGEO-TV (channel 5) relocated to Oklahoma City – changing its callsign to KOCO-TV as well – leaving WKY-TV exclusively with NBC.
On March 21, 1952 (just a few days after he first joined the station following a two-year stint at KOTV in Tulsa), meteorologist Harry Volkman relayed the first tornado warning ever broadcast on television, delivering a bulletin for a tornadic thunderstorm approaching the Oklahoma City area. After reading a bootlegged tornado forecast issued by staff at Tinker Air Force Base (where United States Air Force Col. Robert C. Miller and Maj. Earnest Fawbush pioneered the forecasts in March 1948, and which had their distribution restricted to military personnel) which noted that central Oklahoma was under a "tornado risk" that afternoon, WKY-TV station manager P.A. “Buddy” Sugg instructed Volkman to break into regular programming and relay the information to viewers, believing that the warning would increase residents' odds of survival by allowing them to take safety precautions in advance. Acknowledging that the FCC prohibited broadcasters from disseminating public tornado alerts (on the belief that relaying them to the public would cause panic, a point contradicted by the fact that several tornadic events that occurred while and before the ban was in place had resulted in fatalities exceeding 100+ people), Volkman hesitated to heed Sugg's order out of concern that he could be arrested for violating government regulations. However, after Volkman was assured by his boss that Sugg would take responsibility for violating the FCC's ban, Volkman agreed to do a cut-in to warn viewers on the impending storm. Facing possible termination by OPUBCO management after broadcasting the alert, Volkman narrowly avoided being fired after management found out of letters sent by survivors of the tornado that thanked Volkman and WKY-TV for the warning (he would remain at channel 4 until 1954, when he left to become a meteorologist at KWTV).
As NBC became the first network to broadcast programs in color in 1954, WKY-TV became one of the first television stations in the U.S. to produce and televise programs in color (years before many others transitioned to color telecasts, with many not making the conversion until the mid-1960s). In the mid-1950s, the station moved its operations to a studio facility on East Britton Road in northeast Oklahoma City.
Notable early local programs on channel 4 included children's programs The Adventures of 3-D Danny (whose star, Danny Williams, later hosted the station's midday talk show Dannysday from 1967 to 1984) and Circle 4 Ranch (hosted by Steve Powell as "Foreman Scotty"). In 1966, WKY-TV became the originating studio for the half-hour syndicated program, The Buck Owens Ranch Show (the first season of which was produced by brothers and local businessmen Bud and Don Mathis, founders of locally based Mathis Brothers Furniture, the former of whom played the "ranch foreman" that joked and bantered with Owens); it was seen in over 100 U.S. markets at its height and was perhaps the most successful program of its kind that was not produced in Nashville, where most country music and country-related television programs have originated; regular acts that appeared included Owens' band, the Buckaroos, Kay Adams, the Hager Twins, Susan Raye and Owens' sons Buddy Alan and Mike Owens (the producers of Owens' later series Hee Haw forced him to discontinue Ranch in 1973, due to music duplication on both programs).
The Oklahoma Publishing Company, through its WKY Radiophone Company subsidiary, eventually acquired other television and radio stations, including WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama (in 1955); WTVT in Tampa, Florida (in 1956); WVTV in Milwaukee (in 1966); KHTV (now KIAH) in Houston (built and signed on by the company in 1967); and KTVT in Fort Worth (in 1971); WKY-TV served as the company's flagship station, and in October 1956 OPUBCO renamed its broadcast group the WKY Television System. In 1968, the FCC passed the so-called "one to a market" rule, which barred companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market. However, the agency "grandfathered" several existing newspaper-broadcasting combinations in several markets. Oklahoma Publishing was able to attain a crossownership waiver under the new rule for its combination of the Oklahoman, the Times and WKY-AM-TV.
In July 1975, the Oklahoma Publishing Company sold WKY-TV to Universal Communications, a subsidiary of the Detroit-based Evening News Association. Channel 4's call letters were changed to KTVY after the sale was finalized in 1976. OPUBCO, which retained ownership of WKY radio and the Oklahoman and Times newspapers, rechristened its television group as Gaylord Broadcasting (WKY radio was sold to Citadel Broadcasting in 2002, it is now owned by Cumulus Media; the Times ceased publication as a separate newspaper and was folded into the Oklahoman in March 1984; the Gaylord family later sold the Oklahoman and OPUBCO to The Anschutz Corporation in 2011).
During the late 1970s and 1980s, the station aired edited hour-long replays of University of Oklahoma football games co-hosted by then-head coach Barry Switzer; these broadcasts were syndicated to other television stations around the U.S. (such as KDOC-TV in Anaheim, California). The university challenged the NCAA's rules restricting the number of college football telecasts around this time, which were lifted under a 1984 ruling by the United States Supreme Court.
The Gannett Company bought the Evening News Association in September 1985. However, Gannett had already owned KOCO-TV, which it acquired through the company's 1979 merger with the Combined Communications Corporation; as FCC rules of the time prohibited television duopolies, Gannett was forced to sell KTVY (along with KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona and WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama) to Knight-Ridder Broadcasting after one day of ownership in 1986. In the late 1980s, KTVY became the first television station in the country to introduce colorized Doppler radar.
Knight-Ridder sold off its broadcasting properties to various owners in 1989; KTVY was acquired by Palmer Communications, owner of fellow longtime NBC affiliate WHO-TV in Des Moines. Shortly after the sale was finalized, on April 15, 1990, the station's call letters were changed to KFOR-TV. The New York Times Company purchased KFOR and WHO on May 14, 1996. In the mid-1990s, KFOR became the first television station to broadcast photos and video of severe weather over cell phones. The WKY-AM-TV transmitter tower (located between Kelly Avenue and the Broadway Extension, which had been used as an auxiliary tower for KFOR-TV and WKY radio and was designed to withstand winds in excess of 125 mph (201 km/h)) collapsed due to straight-line wind gusts to near 105 mph (169 km/h) (which also caused minor damage to the nearby studios of KOCO-TV) on June 13, 1998, during a tornado outbreak that affected northern sections of Oklahoma City.
On September 14, 2005, CBS Television Stations sold UPN owned-and-operated station KAUT-TV (channel 43, now an independent station) to The New York Times Company, creating a duopoly with KFOR upon the sale's November 4 closure. On January 4, 2007, The New York Times Company sold its nine television stations to Local TV, a holding company operated by private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners; the sale was finalized on May 7. On July 1, 2013, the Tribune Company (which formed a management company that operated both its own television stations and those owned by Local TV in 2008) acquired the Local TV stations for $2.75 billion; the sale was completed on December 27 (reuniting KFOR with former sister station KIAH, which Tribune acquired from Gaylord Broadcasting in 1995).
On August 5, 2014, during a staff luncheon at the studio housing KAUT's news set, KFOR/KAUT announced plans to construct a new state-of-the-art studio facility that would be located in a 10-acre area adjacent to the site of its existing building. The facility will include soundstages designed to withstand direct-hit severe weather conditions should a tornado approach the facility, which would allow KFOR to stay on-air without interruption. Construction of the new studios is tentatively set to begin in January 2015.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|4.1||1080i||16:9||KFOR-DT||Main KFOR-TV programming / NBC|
Since December 31, 2011, KFOR digital subchannel 4.2 has served as the market's Antenna TV affiliate; the network was originally carried on channel 4.3 from April 21, 2011 to January 15, 2012 (airing in simulcast with 4.2 from December 31, 2011 until the 4.3 subchannel was removed). KAUT has simulcast select Antenna TV programs on a secondary basis since September 16, 2012 to compensate for current-day syndication rights, though 4.2 continues to run the network's complete schedule. From 2006 to December 30, 2011, the 4.2 subchannel operated as "4Warn 24/7" (originally affiliated with NBC Weather Plus until the network's December 1, 2008 shutdown, then with its successor automated service NBC Plus until December 2011). Antenna TV is on Cox digital Channel 247.
KFOR-TV signed on its digital signal in June 1999, becoming the first television station in Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma as a whole to begin operating a digital signal. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, VHF channel 4, 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 27, using PSIP to display KFOR-TV's virtual channel as 4 on digital television receivers.
Although it was one of the stronger affiliates of NBC, which historically was far less tolerant of pre-emptions than the other major networks, WKY/KTVY/KFOR would pre-empt or reschedule some of its programs, including an occasional primetime show. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, it pre-empted NBC's late morning daytime shows in order to run syndicated and locally produced programs, clearing only the network's afternoon soap operas (such as Days of Our Lives and Another World). The station also pre-empted the final two hours of NBC's Saturday morning cartoon lineup from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
In August 1992, KFOR chose to pre-empt the Saturday edition of Today and nearly the entire TNBC lineup (with the exception of Saved by the Bell, and later its spinoff The New Class, when it debuted in 1993), in favor of a new two-hour local morning newscast and a mix of educational children's shows and syndicated lifestyle programs. The station also delayed Late Night (during its David Letterman and Conan O'Brien runs) to 12:05 a.m. from the late 1980s until 2006 in order to run syndicated series in the program's 11:35 p.m. timeslot. KFOR-TV began clearing the entire NBC schedule in the fall of 1996, with Today replacing the 7:00 a.m. hour of its weekend morning newscasts (which were reduced to an hour on Saturdays and 90 minutes on Sundays; a Sunday 6:00 a.m. newscast was added by 2002), and the clearances of the rest of the TNBC block and a third hour of the NBC daytime lineup.
KFOR-TV broadcasts 40½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays and 3½ hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among Oklahoma City's broadcast television stations. In addition, the station produces Flash Point, a political talk show focusing on state and national issues (moderated by weeknight anchor Kevin Ogle, with Mike Turpin and former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys as panelists), which debuted in 1993 and airs Sundays at 9:30 a.m. The station has avidly competed with KWTV for first place among the market's local television newscasts for decades. It had placed second behind KWTV in the morning and late evening news timeslots. Nielsen later found an error in KFOR's ratings reports in September 2008 in which share points were mistakenly assigned to KFOR's 4.1 digital multicast signal from 2005 to 2008; the corrected ratings showed that it had placed #2 in all timeslots at that time, a rarity given the ratings declines that NBC's programming and its affiliates' local newscasts overall had suffered beginning in 2004.
The station's Doppler radar systems, branded as "4WARN StormTracker" and "4WARN Storm Scanner", provide live dual-Doppler radar data from sites at the Oklahoma City studios and near Newcastle (the latter of which operates at 1 million watts); both also utilize data from National Weather Service radar sites nationwide. KFOR also provides local weather updates for six iHeartMedia-owned radio stations: KTOK (1000 AM), KGHM (1340 AM), KBRU (94.7 FM), KXXY-FM (96.1 FM), KTST (101.9 FM) and KJYO (102.7 FM). The station operates a Bell 206L-4 helicopter for newsgathering, "Bob Moore Chopper 4", named through a brand licensing agreement with area car dealership franchise Bob Moore Auto Group in January 2010. The helicopter caught footage of an F5 tornado that killed 36 people on May 3, 1999 as it tracked from Amber to Midwest City (this video was used for eleven years in promos for "Chopper 4"), and an EF5 tornado that hit Moore on May 20, 2013, which was broadcast nationally on The Weather Channel. KFOR became the first Oklahoma station to broadcast aerial helicopter footage in high definition on March 11, 2010.
The station is well known in the Oklahoma City market for the longevity of its anchors. Weeknight anchor Linda Cavanaugh is the longest-tenured member of KFOR-TV's on-air news staff, having been with the station since 1978. Current 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. anchor Kevin Ogle and weekday morning and noon anchor Kent Ogle are two of the sons of the late Jack Ogle, former main news anchor during most of the WKY era and the early KTVY years whose tenure also featured prominent anchor/reporters George Tomek, Ernie Schultz and Jerry Adams (a third son of Jack Ogle, Kelly, serves as evening co-anchor at KWTV while Kevin's daughter Abigail is a sports anchor/reporter for KOCO-TV). The late Bob Barry served as the station's sports anchor from 1966 to 2008; his son Bob Barry, Jr. served as its sports director and weeknight sports anchor until his death in June 2015. Mike Morgan has been chief meteorologist at KFOR since 1993; one of his predecessors, Jim Williams was the primary meteorologist at channel 4 for 32 years from 1958 to 1990.
The station is known for its In Your Corner series of investigative reports that focus on area residents that have been ripped off by businesses. The segment was helmed by Brad Edwards from 1973 until a few months prior his death in 2006; Reporter Scott Hines, anchors Lance West and Ali Meyer, and former reporter Cherokee Ballard rotated duties for the segment until Hines was named as Edwards's permanent replacement in 2007. Is This a Great State or What? debuted as a regular feature in 1991, focusing on interesting stories and people around Oklahoma; airing Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the 5:00 p.m. newscast, it is hosted by Galen Culver (who is also married to Saturday morning anchor Tara Blume). The Rant with Kevin Ogle (airing most Monday through Thursdays during the 10:00 p.m. newscast) began in 2006, and features viewer opinions on a selected news story, the Thursday edition serves an "open topic" forum featuring viewer comments on multiple subjects.
In 1972, then-news director Ernie Schultz hired Pam Henry as the first female news reporter on Oklahoma television, later becoming the state's first female anchor. Henry worked in television news for 30 years, despite walking on crutches due to having contracted polio at 14 months old (Henry had served as the national poster child for the March of Dimes in 1959). In 1990, the station implemented the "24-Hour News Source" concept, involving the production of 30-second newsbriefs airing at or near the top of every hour outside of regular newscasts; by 2006, these were reduced to two afternoon updates serving mainly to promote the evening newscasts. In August 1992, KFOR became the first Oklahoma City station to debut newscasts on weekend mornings, originally running from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.; a weekday afternoon newscast at 4:30 p.m. was added in 1994, followed in 1996 by the debut of a 6:30 p.m. newscast (which focuses mainly on national and international stories). During coverage of the April 19, 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, the station erroneously reported during that day's coverage that a member of the Nation of Islam took credit for the bombing (actually orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols), even though it cautioned that the claim might have been a crank call.
On June 5, 2006, KFOR-TV began producing a half-hour weeknight 9:00 p.m. newscast for KAUT-TV (which competes against Fox affiliate KOKH-TV's hour-long newscast that debuted in May 1996); a two-hour extension of the station's weekday morning newscast debuted on KAUT on September 8, 2008. On July 12, 2009 starting with its 10:00 p.m. newscast, KFOR became the first commercial television station in the Oklahoma City market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (it also upgraded its severe weather ticker to be overlaid on HD programming without having to downconvert the content to standard definition); the Is This a Great State or What? segments began to be produced in HD that January. On September 7, 2011, KFOR-TV launched a half-hour 4:00 p.m. newscast that features an emphasis on viewer interaction through social media, mixing news, lifestyle and entertainment stories with trending stories on the internet and web videos. On August 27, 2012, KFOR expanded its weekday morning newscast to three hours, with the addition of an hour at 4:00 a.m. In April 2013, KFOR partnered with veteran storm chaser Reed Timmer to help supplement the station's storm chasing fleet, providing coverage of severe weather events.
Notable current on-air staff
- Linda Cavanaugh – anchor; also reporter
- Kevin Ogle – anchor; also reporter and statewide newsreader
- Reed Timmer – storm chaser
- Kirk Humphreys – commentator
- Marianne Rafferty - anchor
- Mike Morgan - meteorologist
Notable former on-air staff
- Bob Barry, Jr. – sports director; also Friday Night Heroes and Friday Sports Overtime host (1982–2015; deceased)
- Bob Barry, Sr. – sports anchor (1966–2008; concurrently worked as the radio announcer for University of Oklahoma basketball and football until shortly before his 2011 death)
- Brad Edwards – anchor/investigative reporter (1973–2006; deceased)
- Mary Hart – co-host of Dannysday (1976–1980; later anchor of the syndicated entertainment program Entertainment Tonight from 1982 to 2011)
- David Payne – meteorologist/storm chaser (1993–2012; now chief meteorologist at KWTV-DT)
- Harry Volkman – meteorologist, known for being also the first to broadcast a tornado warning (1949–1954; later at WBBM-TV, WGN-TV and WFLD-TV in Chicago; deceased)
Out-of-market cable coverage
The station is carried on cable providers throughout much of the western and southern portions of the state including areas within the Lawton and Ada-Sherman markets (on Fidelity Communications and Cable One, respectively), which both have NBC affiliates serving their respective regions (KFDX-TV and KTEN). It is also available in areas as far away as Guymon, which is part of the Amarillo market and Idabel, which is part of the Shreveport-Texarkana market.