KOCO-TV, virtual channel 5 (VHF digital channel 7), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation. The station maintains studio and transmitter facilities located on East Britton Road (U.S. 66) in the McCourry Heights section of northeast Oklahoma City (located within two miles of competing stations: KFOR-TV to its immediate west, KWTV to its southwest and KOKH-TV to its southeast).
The station first signed on the air on July 2, 1954 as KGEO-TV. Founded by George Streets, it was originally licensed to Enid, and was the only full-power VHF station in northern Oklahoma. Channel 5 has been an ABC affiliate since it signed on; during the late 1950s, the station also had a brief affiliation with the NTA Film Network. In 1957, the station built a new transmitter tower near Crescent, which helped increase its signal reach into Oklahoma City. Later that year, the station was sold to Cimarron Television (which included among its investors, oilmen Dean A. McGee and John E. Kirkpatrick, and state senator Robert S. Kerr).
The station moved its city of license and relocated its operations to Oklahoma City in February 1958 (similar to the transfer of the license and studio relocation of Muskogee's KTVX, now KTUL, to Tulsa in 1957), after the Federal Communications Commission absorbed the state's northern counties into the Oklahoma City television market. Channel 5's move made it the third station in Oklahoma City to affiliate with ABC: WKY-TV (channel 4, now KFOR-TV) served as a secondary affiliate from 1949 to 1953, when it began a full-time affiliation with fledgling UHF outlet KTVQ (channel 25, frequency now used by Fox affiliate KOKH-TV); ABC returned to secondary clearances on WKY-TV when KTVQ ceased operations in 1956. After moving to Oklahoma City, KOCO operated from a studio facility located on Britton Road, inside a converted former Kimberling's grocery store. In the early 1960s, its operations moved to studios near Northwest 63rd Street and Portland Avenue; however, the station maintained a news bureau in Enid, which closed in the mid-1990s.
Combined Communications acquired KOCO from Cimarron Television in 1970. In 1974, KOCO adopted the Eyewitness News format, as it was growing in popularity in television markets throughout the nation (KWTV (channel 9) was the first in the market to adopt the format from 1966 to 1971). Despite using the Eyewitness News concept, KOCO's newscasts remained a distant third place in the ratings for many years against dominant WKY-TV/KTVY/KFOR-TV and KWTV. During this period, KOCO ran its early evening newscast at 5:30 p.m. (instead of the 6:00 p.m. timeslot exclusively used by most stations at the time) until the early 1980s, when it introduced a 5:00 p.m. newscast; ABC's World News Tonight then moved to the 5:30 p.m. timeslot followed by another local newscast at 6:00 p.m. (all three broadcasts were the market's most-watched news programs in those time periods during the November 2006 sweeps period).
In 1977, KOCO adopted the "Alive" branding concept developed by Peters Productions, and popularized on Combined's Atlanta station WXIA-TV and Tribune Broadcasting's WPIX in New York City as the brand rolled out to most of Combined's television stations. During the "5 Alive" era, local newscasts on KOCO were titled 5 Alive NewsCenter and later 5 Alive News.
Combined Communications merged its television properties with the Gannett Company in 1979. KOCO continued to brand itself as "5 Alive" until 1994, even as many of its sister stations stopped using the "Alive" moniker following the merger. Gannett invested in the former Combined stations, constructing a new studio facility near KOCO's East Britton Road transmitter site in the early 1980s (the original facility was then sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network to house the offices of the religious broadcast network's owned-and-operated station KTBO-TV (channel 14)) and acquiring the market's first helicopter for aerial newsgathering. These investments helped KOCO to improve its ratings fortunes from 1980 to 1982, when its newscasts briefly overtook KWTV for second place and even battled longtime powerhouse KTVY for first. By 1983, KOCO settled into a solid second place as KWTV rose from a distant third all the way to first, displacing KTVY from the #1 ratings position it held for decades. However, this did not last as KOCO's news ratings fell back to last place by the late 1980s, where it lingered for years.
From the 1970s to the 2000s, KOCO was known for preempting or delaying ABC programs: All My Children aired one hour early at 11:00 a.m. weekdays before moving to 12:00 p.m. on January 2, 2008 after the cancellation of its noon newscast, remaining there until the soap ended its run and was replaced by The Chew in September 2011. ABC's Saturday morning lineup was also affected: The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show and The Ewoks were preempted in favor of the locally produced Home Showcase in 1987; the station reduced its clearance of the then four-hour lineup to 90 minutes between 1992 and 1996, in favor of a local newscast and other syndicated programming. Power Rangers aired in an early timeslot (5:00 a.m., where the station had regularly shifted an hour of the block since the fall of 1996) from 2003 to 2006, when KOCO and Hearst's other ABC stations dropped the program due to lack of E/I content. Jimmy Kimmel Live! ran on a one-hour delay (at 12:07 a.m.) from 2003 to 2011, due to the station's rebroadcast of Oprah.
During the 1990s, KOCO developed the first automated weather warning system for television use, and was the first in the country to send storm photographs over cellular telephone (both earned the station a Regional News Emmy Award) and to have a mobile Doppler radar system. Later in the decade, it would become the first station to send video over cellular telephone (earning a Regional Emmy nomination) and the first to distribute full-screen video over cell phones. On July 24, 1995, Gannett Company entered into a merger agreement with Multimedia Inc.; the acquisition was finalized on December 4 of that year. FCC rules at the time prohibited cross-ownership of a television station and a cable provider in the same market, so Gannett was granted a temporary waiver to operate both KOCO-TV and Multimedia Cablevision (which served Oklahoma City's surrounding suburbs), that expired in December 1996.
Hearst Television ownership
Argyle Television Holdings II acquired KOCO and Cincinnati, Ohio sister station WLWT in January 1997, through a trade deal that sent fellow ABC affiliate WZZM in Grand Rapids and NBC affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo, New York to Gannett. Argyle merged with Hearst Broadcasting in August of that year to form Hearst-Argyle Television (which was renamed Hearst Television in May 2009). The station brought back the Eyewitness News format for its newscasts in 1998, under the news brand Eyewitness News 5, which was used until April 2013.
The Britton Road studios were struck by straight-line winds to near 105 mph (169 km/h) during a tornado outbreak that affected northern Oklahoma City on June 13, 1998 as a KOCO photojournalist positioned outside the Channel 5 studios was shooting live video of the approaching storm during the station's severe weather coverage; believing a tornado had struck, then-weekend meteorologist Mike LaPoint exclaimed on-air to KOCO's chief meteorologist at the time, Rick Mitchell, "Rick, it's on the ground!" as all three ran to take shelter in the station's main building. The studio and transmitter facility lost power, knocking out KOCO's over-the-air signal for almost 24 hours (though a direct fiber optic studio feed kept the station's programming available on local cable providers). The studio grounds suffered minor damage, mainly limited to a toppled fence and dents that were sustained to its radar dome.
KOCO served as the default ABC affiliate for the Sherman-Ada market beginning in 1998, when KTEN dropped its secondary ABC affiliation to maintain a full-time affiliation with NBC; this status lasted until KTEN launched an ABC-affiliated subchannel on May 9, 2010; however, KOCO remains available on cable and satellite providers within that market. Through this former status, it was the only Oklahoma City television station to offer extensive live coverage of an EF4 tornado that killed eight people in Lone Grove on February 10, 2009. In December 2010, KOCO became the second television station in the Oklahoma City market (after KWTV-DT) and the sixth station in Oklahoma to carry syndicated programming in high definition.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||KOCO-HD||Main KOCO-TV programming / ABC|
KOCO-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. KOCO's Hearst-owned sister ABC affiliates KMBC-TV in Kansas City, WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WCVB-TV in Boston and KETV in Omaha also broadcast HD programming in this format.
From 2005 to April 2008, KOCO digital subchannel 5.2 ran a feed of the station's weather radar "Advantage Doppler HD" with an audio simulcast of NOAA Weather Radio station WXK85. From April 2008 to January 23, 2011, the subchannel operated as "First Alert Weather 24/7" (affiliated with The Local AccuWeather Channel, with some daily E/I children's programming); it simulcast New Orleans sister station WDSU's coverage of Hurricane Gustav in September 2008 for Louisiana residents who evacuated to Oklahoma City. From January 24, 2011 to September 30, 2012, digital channel 5.2 served as the market's This TV affiliate (sharing the affiliation with KSBI-DT 52.2 from September 17 to 30, 2012 due to the late start date of KOCO's MeTV affiliation).
On October 1, 2012, the subchannel affiliated with MeTV as part of a five-year affiliation extension signed earlier that year on July 24 that saw KOCO and four other stations join the network, alongside Hearst's eight existing MeTV affiliates. The subchannel is occasionally used to run ABC programs when extended severe weather or breaking news coverage airs on KOCO's main channel. Is on Cox digital Channel 222.
KOCO-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transitioned from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 7, using PSIP to display KOCO-TV's virtual channel as 5 on digital television receivers. After the switchover, the reduced broadcast radius of KOCO's digital signal created some reception gaps in parts of southern and north-central Oklahoma that previously, at best, received Grade B coverage from its analog signal. A new digital transmitter was installed in May 2010 to help extend KOCO's signal reception to the affected areas.
Outside of the ABC network schedule, Syndicated programs currently broadcast by KOCO-TV include Dr. Oz, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Steve Harvey, The Real and Wheel of Fortune. Oklahoma City is one of just a few markets to carry Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on separate stations. Jeopardy! airs on NBC affiliate KFOR Channel 4. KOCO currently preempts the ABC News Brief seen during ABC Daytime programming.
Due partly to its strong syndicated programming lineup, KOCO has grown to become one of ABC's strongest affiliates in recent years; it ranked as one of the network's highest-rated affiliates (according to Nielsen Media Research) from 2009 to 2012, along with two of its sister stations under Hearst ownership – WISN-TV in Milwaukee and KMBC-TV in Kansas City, and claimed to have ranked as the highest-rated ABC affiliate overall from 2007 to 2009.
From September 2006 until the program was dropped by ABC on August 28, 2010, KOCO preempted ABC Kids broadcasts of the Power Rangers series due to lack of E/I content (as was common with Hearst's other ABC stations); the station tape-delayed Kim Possible and Power Rangers SPD for broadcast on early Monday mornings before World News Now during the 2005-06 season for the same reason, leaving Oklahoma City viewers who wanted to watch each program at its regularly scheduled time to do so via KTUL-TV in Tulsa or KAKE in Wichita, Kansas. (KTEN in Ada added an ABC sub-channel very late in Power Rangers' ABC run.)
KOCO was one of many ABC stations that pre-empted the special showing of Saving Private Ryan in late 2004 due to concerns that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would impose a fine on them if they had aired the World War II-set movie due to the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy earlier that year. The station, along with other Hearst-owned ABC affiliated stations, aired the 1992 film Far and Away instead; Saving Private Ryan happened to air on two of the aforementioned stations, and it was eventually determined that the movie's broadcast did not violate FCC regulations.
KOCO-TV presently broadcasts 29 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with four hours on weekdays and 4½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). The station's Doppler weather radar systems, branded on-air as "Advantage Doppler HD" and "Advantage Doppler 3D", utilize data from a radar site at the station's Britton Road studios with the latter utilizing live VIPIR data from radars operated by regional National Weather Service forecast offices. KOCO also provides news content to Community Newspaper Holdings publications The Norman Transcript and the Enid News & Eagle. KOCO also provides local weather updates for the Enid News and Eagle as well as on the NPR and Champlin Broadcasting (KNAH FM 99.7) and (KGOU FM 106.3)
As with competitor KOKH, one of KOCO's weaknesses has been the turnover rate of the station's anchors and reporters, leading to the unfamiliarity that some of its on-air personalities have in the market (presently, the longest-serving member of channel 5's on-air news staff is evening anchor Jessica Schambach, who joined the station in 2002 as a reporter). KOCO has increased its commitment to news and weather coverage in recent years, with these efforts helping propel the station's 5:00 p.m. newscast to first place in the ratings in 2004, followed by its first-ever outright win at 6:00 p.m. in November 2006.
In 1992, KOCO debuted a Saturday morning newscast from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; by 1995, it was reduced to a two-hour program from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. and before moving to 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in 1996. Also in 1996, its weekday morning newscast was expanded from one hour to a 90-minute broadcast from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m., before eventually expanding to two hours in 1999; the noon newscast also expanded to one hour, before reverting to a half-hour program in 1997 to accommodate ABC's newly launched soap opera Port Charles. During its waning years as a Gannett-owned station in the mid-1990s, KOCO maintained an investigative unit, known as the "I-Team", led by longtime investigative reporter Terri Watkins (who retired in 2006). From 1998 to 1999, the station's weather staff provided hourly weather updates during regular programming near the start of each hour, similar to the hourly news updates that KFOR-TV had been airing around that same timeframe.
The station expanded its weekend morning newscasts in February 2006, with the addition of a two-hour Sunday newscast from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. That same year, the station expanded its 10:00 p.m. newscast on Sundays from 35 minutes to one hour, absorbing the Sunday Sports Xtra wrap-up program, which was reduced to a 15-minute segment at the tail end of the newscast. The week of January 2, 2008 saw further changes to its news schedule: the noon newscast was cancelled (in lieu of a midday newscast, a 30-second weather update airs before ABC Daytime programming in that timeslot), the 5:00 p.m. newscast was expanded to Saturday evenings, and the Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts were moved to an earlier, uniform timeslot from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. In October 2009, KOCO upgraded its severe weather, school closings and news tickers to be overlaid on high definition programming without having to downconvert HD content to standard definition.
KOCO's newscasts were presented with pillarboxing from October 2009 until the station began broadcasting local newscasts in widescreen standard definition on October 11, 2010. Prior to the upgrade to HD, news footage was upconverted to the 16:9 picture format from 4:3 in the control room for broadcast of certain stories as some cameras used by KOCO for newsgathering did not shoot in native widescreen. An hour-long extension of the station's weekend morning newscasts debuted on July 31, 2010, airing from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. This was followed on September 22, with the expansion of the weekday morning newscast to 4:30 a.m., becoming the first television station in Oklahoma to expand its morning newscasts to a pre-5:00 a.m. timeslot. Sports segments on the station used the Sports Xtra umbrella title until February 2012, this brand (originally stylized as Sports Extra) had dated back to 1992 under Gannett ownership when the station debuted a Sunday night sports wrap-up show under that name; from that timeframe to 2004, KOCO produced Prep Sports Extra, a 15-minute wrap-up show that ran on Friday nights during the high school football season (it has since been renamed High School Playbook).
On April 18, 2013, KOCO became the third commercial station in Oklahoma City to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. With the switch to HD, KOCO began using Hearst's new standardized graphics (developed by the Orlando graphics hub at sister station WESH) and music package (Strive by inthegroovemusic).
Notable former on-air staff
- Ed Birchall (a.k.a. "Ho Ho the Clown") - children's television personality (1959–1988)
- Dean Blevins - sports director (1990–1994; now at KWTV in same position)
- Mick Cornett - sports anchor/morning news anchor/reporter (1981–1999; now Mayor of Oklahoma City)
- Jane Jayroe - anchor/reporter (1977–1980 and 1985–1992; former Miss America 1967)
- Ben McCain - news anchor (1987–1994; now actor and producer/host/reporter at Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles)
- Butch McCain - meteorologist (1987–1994; now actor/weather anchor at KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado)
- Rick Mitchell - chief meteorologist (1994–2012; now at KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth)
- Mike Morgan - chief meteorologist (1989–1992; now at KFOR-TV in same position)
- Cameron Sanders - reporter (1982–1983; later correspondent for CNN and host of NPR's Marketplace)