KMBC-TV virtual channel 9 (UHF digital channel 29), is an ABC-affiliated television station serving Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation, as part of a duopoly with The CW affiliate KCWE (channel 29). The two stations share studio facilities located on Winchester Avenue (near Swope Park) in Kansas City, Missouri; KMBC-TV maintains transmitter facilities located in eastern Kansas City, near the Blue River. On cable, KMBC is available on Time Warner Cable, Comcast and SureWest channel 12, and AT&T U-verse channel 9.
KMBC-TV also serves as an alternate ABC affiliate for the adjacent Saint Joseph market; KMBC's transmitter produces a city-grade signal that reaches Saint Joseph proper, and the station is carried locally on satellite and select cable providers (such as Suddenlink Communications) in that market. Its pay television carriage in the St. Joseph market (located to the immediate north of the Kansas City Designated Market Area) is despite the presence of KQTV (channel 2), which has been the market's official ABC station since it affiliated with the network full-time in June 1967; KQTV is carried alongside KMBC-TV on Suddenlink and certain other cable providers in that market.
Early years: two stations
In June 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded the license for the third and last VHF television station in the Kansas City market to the respective locally based owners of two area radio stations, which had both had competed heavily for the granting of the construction permit to build it – the Cook Paint and Varnish Company, which operated WHB (then at 710 AM, now at 810 AM) and the Midland Broadcasting Company, owners of KMBC (980 AM, now KMBZ) – which agreed to jointly bid for the license.
Under the proposal, Cook and Midland agreed to an arrangement in which the two licensees would share the channel 9 allocation as well as a transmitter facility, although each would maintain operational stewardship of their respective individual stations and broadcast from separate studio facilities; the two separate stations – the Midland-owned station being assigned the call letters KMBC-TV and the Cook-owned station being assigned the calls WHB-TV – would also each alternate 90 minutes of airtime (incidentally, WHB radio had maintained a similar split-station arrangement with WDAF (610 AM, now KCSP; the WDAF calls on radio now reside on 106.5 FM) from 1922 to 1927, originating when both radio stations transmitted on 730 AM, and continuing when WHB and WDAF moved to 680 AM in 1924; the arrangement ended when WHB radio moved to 710 AM in 1927). Channel 9 first signed on the air as a shared operation on August 2, 1953, with the combined KMBC-TV/WHB-TV operation operating as an affiliate of CBS, taking over the affiliation from WDAF-TV (channel 4, now a Fox affiliate), which had been affiliated with that network on a part-time basis since that station signed on as Kansas City's first television station in October 1949.
Cook Paint and Varnish purchased Midland Broadcasting's television and radio holdings – KMBC-TV, KMBC radio and sister radio station KFRM (000 AM) in Concordia, Kansas – in April 1954; the deal included Midland's lease to the building now known as the Lyric Theatre in Downtown Kansas City, where the company rented space to house KMBC-TV's studio facilities. On June 14, 1954, KMBC-TV took over channel 9 full-time, absorbing WHB-TV's share of the operation and ending the split-station arrangement. Cook Paint and Varnish also sold WHB radio to Storz Broadcasting in order to comply with FCC rules in effect at the time that limited a single company from owning more than two radio stations in a single media market.
In January 1955, the Meredith Corporation signed a multi-year agreement with CBS to affiliate five of the company's television stations at the time with the network. As part of the deal, Meredith agreed to affiliate KCMO-TV (channel 5, now KCTV) with CBS, as compensation for sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona (which rejoined CBS in September 1994) losing its affiliation with the network. KMBC-TV subsequently signed an affiliation agreement with ABC, taking over that affiliation from KCMO-TV. Channel 9 became the market's first full-time ABC affiliate in September of that year. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
In the winter of late 1958, Cook Paint and Varnish purchased KDRO-TV (channel 6) in Sedalia; the company subsequently changed that station's call letters to KMOS-TV on January 28, 1959. During that time, KDRO-TV had been serving the ABC affiliate for the far eastern portion of the Kansas City market as well as portions of north-central Missouri. However, the network refused to give it a direct feed in order to protect KMBC-TV; this forced station engineers to have to switch to and from channel 9's broadcast signal whenever KDRO aired ABC network programming.
In December 1960, Cook Paint and Varnish sold the KMBC television and radio stations, KMOS-TV and KFRM to New York City-based Metropolitan Broadcasting (later renamed Metromedia) for $9.65 million; Metropolitan subsequently spun off KMOS-TV and KFRM. In 1962, Metropolitan signed on a companion station on the radio side, KMBC-FM (99.7 FM, now KZPT); Metromedia would sell both of the KMBC radio stations to Bonneville International, the broadcasting arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1967 (although its former radio sisters had changed their call letters decades earlier, KMBC-TV has retained the "-TV" suffix in its legal call sign to this day).
Over the years, KMBC-TV has pre-empted some ABC programming. Notably under Metromedia ownership, channel 9 declined to air The Brady Bunch when it debuted in September 1969, in favor of running movies in its time period, which effectively pre-empted most of ABC's Friday night lineup; the station resumed clearance of the sitcom the following year. It was also one of a small number of ABC affiliates that opted to pre-empt the ABC Evening News during the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as one of a handful that declined the music series American Bandstand for part of its run. Many of the ABC programs that were pre-empted by KMBC-TV could instead be viewed in the market on independent KCIT-TV (channel 50, channel now occupied by KPXE-TV) during its two years of operation from 1969 to 1971; otherwise, the preempted programs could also be viewed in the northern half of the market through KQTV (channel 2) in nearby St. Joseph. In 1974, Metromedia was granted a change to the terms of its lease to the Lyric Theatre, and was given total control of the building.
Hearst Corporation ownership
In September 1981, Metromedia sold KMBC-TV and the lease to the Lyric Theatre to New York City-based Hearst Broadcasting in a deal worth $79 million for the television station alone. Under Hearst ownership, the station heavily invested in its news department and expanded its local news programming, which increased from seven hours per week at the time of the purchase to 20 hours by 1990. In 1988, it also built a 343-metre (1,125 ft) high guyed mast broadcast tower in eastern Kansas City, located on a hill overlooking the Blue River. Hearst also inquired about moving KMBC-TV's operations to a new studio space elsewhere in the Kansas City metropolitan area in 1990; however, company management eventually decided to continue to operate the station out of the Lyric Theatre.
Channel 9 would gain a sister television station in 1997, when Hearst Broadcasting – which was renamed Hearst-Argyle Television after Argyle Television Holdings II merged with Hearst's broadcasting unit (now named Hearst Television) that year – entered into a local marketing agreement to manage the operations of KCWB (channel 29, now CW affiliate KCWE), which signed on the air in September 1996 as the market's original affiliate of The WB (it would later assume the UPN affiliation from KSMO-TV (channel 62, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) in August 1998, as part of a swap that resulted from then-owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's multi-station affiliation agreement with the The WB). Hearst-Argyle Television continued to solely maintain operational responsibilities for KCWE until 2001, when the company bought channel 29 outright by way of an indirect subsidiary of its corporate parent, the Hearst Corporation (doing business as "KCWE-TV Company"), separate from its Hearst-Argyle unit.
KMBC-TV operated from the Lyric Theatre for 54 years until August 23, 2007, when it migrated its operations to a new modern purpose-built concrete and glass studio facility at 6455 Winchester Avenue (near Swope Park) in southern Kansas City, Missouri. In late March 2010, Hearst filed an application with the FCC to transfer the KCWE license from the KCWE-TV Company subsidiary to the Hearst Television unit; the transfer was completed on May 1 of that year, officially making KMBC-TV and KCWE directly owned sister stations. Although "KMBC Hearst Television Inc." remains the name of the licensing purpose corporation for KMBC-TV, "Hearst Stations Inc." – the licensee name for KCWE – is used instead for the copyright tag seen at the end of its newscasts.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|9.1||1080i||16:9||KMBC-DT||Main KMBC-TV programming / ABC|
KMBC-TV is one of several Hearst-owned stations that broadcasts its digital signal in the 1080i high definition format, instead of ABC's preferred 720p format. KMBC-TV's Hearst-owned ABC-affiliated sister stations including WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire; WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh; WCVB-TV in Boston; KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City and KETV in Omaha also transmit high definition programming content in this format.
KMBC-TV launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 9.2 in April 2008, originally operating as an affiliate of The Local AccuWeather Channel. On September 14, 2010, KMBC-DT2 began preempting AccuWeather's Monday through Friday prime time programming in favor of launching "MOREtv Kansas City" (a variant of the branding previously used by sister station KCWE as a UPN affiliate from 1998 to 2005); the four-hour block – which aired on the subchannel each weeknight from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. – consisted mainly of general entertainment syndicated programs (featuring a selection of same-day or week-delayed rebroadcasts of first-run talk shows seen on KMBC's main channel, as well as shows exclusive to the subchannel); it also included a encore of KMBC-TV's weeknight 6:00 p.m. newscast, which aired on a half-hour tape delay at 6:30 p.m.
On June 21, 2011, as part of an affiliation agreement between Hearst Television and network parent Weigel Broadcasting, KMBC-DT2 became an affiliate of the classic television network MeTV; some of the syndicated programs that aired as part of the "MOREtv" block moved to sister station KCWE with the switch.
On February 19, 2009, KMBC-TV – after receiving permission from the FCC for a Special Temporary Authority permit – moved its digital channel allocation from VHF channel 7 to UHF channel 29, which had been vacated by sister station KCWE when it shut down its analog signal two months earlier on December 15, 2008 (KCWE physically transmits its digital signal on UHF channel 31). The station had received viewer complaints regarding issues with the reception of its signal due to the combination of all the television stations in the Kansas City market (besides channel 9) transmitting their digital signals on UHF and to address signal conflicts with Pittsburg, Kansas-based CBS affiliate KOAM-TV, which was allowed to reutilize its analog channel 7 for its post-transition digital channel (KOAM would have experienced interference from KMBC-TV as both stations' transmitters are 131 miles (211 km) away from each other, a fairly shorter distance than the advised 150 miles (240 km) separation between two stations operating on a shared channel).
The station shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9, on June 12 of that year, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States were federally mandated to transition from analog to digital broadcasts. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 9. As part of the SAFER Act, KMBC-TV kept its analog signal on the air until July 12 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
KMBC-TV carries the entire ABC network schedule, although it currently airs some of the network's programming out of pattern. KMBC has aired The View on a one-hour tape delay since its premiere in September 1997; the station has delayed ABC Daytime programs that the network intended for its stations to air during the 10:00 a.m. (Central Time) hour dating back to the late 1970s. The weekend editions of Good Morning America and This Week also air outside of their recommended time slots, with the former airing one hour earlier than recommended on both Saturdays and Sundays (transmitted live via the program's Eastern Time Zone feed), due to a secondary two-hour block of its morning newscast FirstNews; while the latter airs on a half-hour delay to air religious programming following the secondary FirstNews block on Sundays. In addition, KMBC currently pre-empts the Sunday edition of ABC World News Tonight in favor of an hour-long local early evening newscast.
Beginning with the newsmagazine's debut in 1980, KMBC-TV delayed Nightline to midnight – 90 minutes later than most ABC stations had carried it at the time (with only minor exceptions for major breaking news events) – in order to run off-network syndicated sitcoms in the time period following its 10:00 p.m. newscast; this decision had long been criticized by some members of ABC's management and even original Nightline anchor Ted Koppel; Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which has preceded it on ABC's late-night schedule since the network switched the broadcast order of the two programs in January 2013, was also delayed by the station in a similar manner beginning at the talk show's debut in January 2003. On January 3, 2011, KMBC-TV pushed both Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel ahead a half-hour, starting at 11:37 p.m., citing shifting market conditions and a request by the network during negotiations with Hearst Television to renew its affiliation agreement with KMBC-TV that the station air both programs at earlier times. KMBC-TV would begin airing Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Nightline in ABC's intended time periods for both shows (with Kimmel now following its 10:00 p.m. newscast) on January 5, 2015.
From September 2006 until the program was dropped by ABC on August 28, 2010, KMBC-TV pre-empted the Power Rangers series that aired as part of the ABC Kids block due to the program's lack of educational content (as Hearst's other ABC stations opted to do with the series); the station also aired Kim Possible and Power Rangers SPD on tape-delay on early Monday mornings before World News Now during the 2005–06 television season for the same reason. In these instances as well as others in which ABC programs were pre-empted or delayed by KMBC, viewers within the Kansas City market could view the affected shows in their normal time slots if they received KQTV out of St. Joseph and/or KTKA-TV out of Topeka.
KMBC was also among the more than 20 ABC-affiliated stations owned by various groups (including Hearst) that declined to air the network's telecast of Saving Private Ryan in November 2004, due to concerns that the intense war violence and strong profanity that ABC opted against editing out of its broadcast of the 1998 World War II-set film would result in stations that aired it being fined by the FCC amid the agency's crackdown on indecent material following the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy. The station, along with other ABC affiliates that Hearst owned, chose to air the 1992 film Far and Away in its place; it was eventually determined that the movie's broadcast did not violate FCC regulations.
Since 1987, KMBC-TV has served as the local television broadcaster of National Football League (NFL) games involving the Kansas City Chiefs that are televised by ESPN. The Chiefs game simulcasts aired by Channel 9 originally consisted of those that were selected to air on Sunday Night Football up until the 2005 NFL season, and have involved games selected for broadcast on Monday Night Football since 2006 (when the rights to the package were transferred to ESPN from ABC, as compensation for the loss of Sunday Night Football to NBC).
The Hearst Corporation holds a 20% ownership stake in ESPN (the remaining majority interest and operational control of the network is held by ABC parent The Walt Disney Company, with Hearst moreso acting as a silent partner rather than an active participant in ESPN's management); as is the case with ABC's owned-and-operated stations, Hearst's television stations hold the right of first refusal for NFL game simulcasts from ESPN, which – as the telecasts are cable-originated – are required under NFL broadcasting rules to be simulcast on broadcast television stations in the local markets of the participating teams. On weeks when KMBC airs Monday Night Football telecasts involving the Chiefs, the station airs ABC's Monday night schedule on tape delay in late-night.
KMBC-TV presently broadcasts 29½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with four hours on weekdays, and five hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). During the late 1970s and into the 1980s, KMBC had the highest-rated local television newscasts in the Kansas City market; however, the station faced stiff competition during this period from KCTV, which ascended to first in late news with the success of main anchors Anne Peterson and Wendall Anschutz.
In December 1980, KMBC-TV hired Christine Craft to serve as co-anchor for its evening newscasts. Although ratings for channel 9's newscasts had ascended to first place in the market during this time, a focus group recruited by station management to survey their opinion on KMBC's newscasts claimed that Craft – who was 36 at the time, five years older than her co-anchor Scott Feldman, then 31 – was "too old, too unattractive and not deferential to men." Craft resigned from the station nine months later after rejecting a demotion to an assignment reporting position. She then filed a lawsuit against its then-owner Metromedia, accusing KMBC-TV management of both fraud and sexual discrimination; this was one of the first such cases to be widely publicized in the United States. Craft initially won her case when it went to trial in 1983; although when the suit was retried on a second appeal three years later, the presiding judge ruled in favor of Metromedia.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, KMBC became engaged in very competitive race with KCTV and WDAF-TV for first place in overall news viewership, frequently trading places with both stations in certain time periods, although it ended the former decade in second place overall behind NBC affiliate WDAF-TV. After WDAF became a Fox affiliate in September 1994, KMBC-TV experienced a resurgence to first place, overtaking both KCTV and WDAF as the most watched television news operation in Kansas City. At present, channel 9 generally places first in the early evening time period among total viewers; it also battles KCTV for first place at 10:00 p.m., while continuing to battle WDAF for first place on weekday mornings.
In 2007, the station's news department won seven Edward R. Murrow Awards – the most wins by any American television station – in the news series, feature, news documentary, spot news, continuing coverage, newscast and overall excellence categories. On August 23, 2007, beginning with the 5:00 p.m. newscast, KMBC-TV began broadcasting from its new purpose-built facility near Swope Park, which included a newly constructed set for its newscasts that was designed by FX Group. With the relocation, channel 9 became the first television station in the Kansas City market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. In November 2007, KMBC-TV's newscasts finished first in most news timeslots during the sweeps period, while tying for #1 with KCTV at 10:00 p.m. During the following sweeps month in February 2008, channel 9's newscasts won all of its time periods outright.
On March 3, 2008, KMBC-TV debuted a two-hour extension of its FirstNews morning newscast, from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. on CW affiliate KCWE. For many years, KMBC management cited concerns with cannibalizing the station's audience as its reasoning for not expanding news offerings to its sister station. In November 2008, Channel 9 again became the focus of a lawsuit filed by female journalists that were employed by the station: anchor/reporters Maria Antonia and Kelly Eckerman, and general assignment reporter (and former evening anchor) Peggy Breit jointly filed a lawsuit against KMBC and parent company Hearst, alleging age and sex discrimination by station management; the lawsuit was settled in 2010.
On July 30, 2010, as most of its Hearst-owned ABC-affiliated sister stations did on that date, KMBC-TV added an hour-long extension of its weekend morning newscast at 8:00 a.m. This was followed on August 23 by the expansion of its weekday morning newscast into the 4:30 a.m. timeslot (NBC affiliate KSHB-TV (channel 41) also moved the start time of its morning newscast to 4:30 a.m. on that date). On September 14, 2010, KMBC-TV launched a half-hour weeknight-only 9:00 p.m. newscast on KCWE to compete with WDAF-TV's in-house 9:00 p.m. newscast and the KCTV-produced 9:00 p.m. newscast on MyNetworkTV affiliate KSMO. For the February 2011 sweeps period, KMBC-TV's newscasts garnered the #1 spot among the Kansas City market's television news operations; the station tied with WDAF-TV during the 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. hour, though channel 4's morning newscast beat KMBC's broadcast of Good Morning America during the 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. time period. The station's 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts also placed first in their respective time slots; while its prime time newscast on KCWE placed second in the 9:00 p.m. time slot, slightly ahead of the KCTV-produced newscast on KSMO but well behind WDAF-TV, which has led the 9:00 p.m. hour since shortly after its switch to Fox and the related launch of its prime time newscast in September 1994.