KOMO-TV, channel 4, is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Seattle, Washington, United States. KOMO-TV is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group as part of a duopoly with Univision affiliate KUNS-TV, licensed to Bellevue. The station's studios and offices are co-located with sister radio stations KOMO (1000 AM and 97.7 FM), KVI (570 AM), and KPLZ-FM (101.5 MHz.) within KOMO Plaza (formerly Fisher Plaza) in the Lower Queen Anne section of Seattle, directly across the street from the Space Needle. The station's transmitter is located on Queen Anne Hill.
KOMO-TV is available to most cable subscribers in Vancouver, BC area as the ABC affiliate and is one of five Seattle television stations seen in Canada on the Bell TV and Shaw Direct satellite providers.
KOMO-TV began operating on December 10, 1953 as an NBC affiliate, owing to KOMO radio's long-time relationship with the NBC Radio Network. It is the fourth-oldest television station in the Seattle-Tacoma area. KOMO also has an almost forgotten distinction as being the first station in Seattle to broadcast a television signal. Whereas crosstown rival KRSC-TV (channel 5, now KING-TV) was the first to air "wide audience" television in November 1948, KOMO broadcast a television signal nearly 20 years prior. On June 3, 1929, KOMO radio engineer Francis J. Brott televised images of a heart, a diamond, a question mark, letters, and numbers over electrical lines to small sets with one-inch screens – 23 years before KOMO-TV's first regular broadcasts. A handful of viewers were captivated by the broadcast. KOMO would likely have held the distinction of being the first television station in Seattle, and perhaps the nation, were it not for the occurrences of the Great Depression and World War II.
The station was originally owned by the Fisher family, which had its start in the flour mill and lumber businesses. The Fishers branched into broadcasting with its founding of KOMO radio in 1926. In competing for the channel 4 construction permit, the Fishers faced off against the then-owners of KJR radio. KOMO was awarded the license in June 1953 after the KJR group dropped their bid, and KOMO-TV first signed on the air only five months later. William W. Warren, general manager of KOMO radio and a nephew of KOMO co-founder Oliver D. Fisher, oversaw the development of KOMO-TV and remained involved with the station's management until his retirement in 1987.
In 1954, a KOMO news photographer discovered a way to develop color film in a new process that took just a few hours instead of days. His discovery allowed KOMO-TV to become the first television station in the nation to broadcast in true color.
In October 1958, however, NBC signed affiliation deals with King Broadcasting Company for their radio and television properties in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. In Seattle, channel 4 shared both ABC and NBC programming with KING-TV until September 27, 1959, when KING-TV took the NBC affiliation full-time. At that point, KOMO-TV became a primary ABC affiliate.
During the 1960s, local television personality Don McCune became well known in the Seattle market for two programs seen on KOMO-TV. McCune was known to thousands of children in the area who came to know him in the role of "Captain Puget", hosting a children's entertainment program. Channel 4 and McCune also produced the documentary series Exploration Northwest, which explored many of the places and people of the Pacific Northwest. KOMO-TV and its Portland sister station KATU (built by Fisher and signed-on in 1962) were the only two ABC stations in the contiguous United States which aired Monday Night Football on a one-hour delay, from 1970 to 1995, in order to accommodate early evening newscasts on both stations. When the Seattle Seahawks joined the NFL in 1976, the stations modified this arrangement in order to broadcast Seahawks games live. In 1996, after years of fan protests, KOMO-TV and KATU began clearing the entire Monday Night Football schedule live regardless of the teams that were playing each week. A decade later, the program moved to ESPN.
Mount St. Helens eruption, May 18, 1980
KOMO-TV nearly lost one of its staff in the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Dave Crockett, who had been with the station since 1975, had been covering the mountain every day for three weeks until being rotated out a few days prior. On the morning of May 18, he woke up at 3:00 a.m. in Seattle on a hunch that he would get some impressive video that day, and loaded up his news car and headed towards Mount St. Helens without anyone at KOMO knowing about it. He arrived at the mountain just as it was erupting. His news video, which shows an advancing ash cloud and mud flows down the South Fork Toutle River, was made famous by its eleven-minute long "journey into the dark", six of those minutes of which were recorded in "total darkness" as Crockett narrated to what he thought would be his "last day on Earth." His video made worldwide news and was used in a movie remake of the disaster starring Art Carney. The car he drove, with the remains of KOMO lettering still visible, is now a part of a Mount St. Helens Volcano Museum just outside Toutle.
In 1994, KOMO applied for the first test license for broadcasting new high-definition signals. KOMO began broadcasting a high-definition digital signal in 1997; on May 18, 1999, KOMO became the first television station in the United States to broadcast its daily newscasts in high definition. This statement, however, comes into conflict with a claim made by WFAA in Dallas (a sister station to KING-TV) that it is the first station in the nation to broadcast its daily news programs in high definition, on February 28, 1997.
On April 10, 2013, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Fisher Communications for $373.3 million. However, the deal was subjected to financial scrutiny; the law firm Levi & Korsinsky notified Fisher shareholders with accusations that Fisher's board of directors were breaching fiduciary duties by "failing to adequately shop the Company before agreeing to enter into the transaction", and Sinclair was underpaying for Fisher's stock. Shortly after the announcement, a lawsuit was filed by a Fisher shareholder. On August 6, the shareholders voted to approve the sale, after they approved that the shareholders would get $41 per share. The Federal Communications Commission granted approval of the deal on August 6, and the sale was consummated on August 8. Prior to the sale, KOMO-TV had been the last television station in the Seattle market to be owned by local interests.
On March 18, 2014, KOMO-TV's news helicopter crashed at the Seattle Center, as it was taking off from Fisher Plaza around 7:40 a.m., falling onto at least one car. A second car and pickup truck, also involved, caught fire. Fuel from the crashed helicopter, which was leased to the station by St. Louis-based Helicopters Inc. and was also used by KING-TV under a Local News Service agreement, ran down Broad Street (along and south of the crash site), later bursting into flames. Helicopter pilot Gary Pfitzner and photographer Bill Strothman were both killed in the crash. A 37-year-old man in one of the cars was also critically injured, reportedly suffering burns covering up to 20% of his body (revised from an earlier report of burns at up to 50%) according to the Seattle Fire Department. The Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter involved in the crash, FAA registration number N250FB, had been leased to KOMO-TV while technical upgrades were being made to the station's own helicopter.
On September 27, 2015, KOMO introduced a new studio for its newscasts, which was designed by Devlin Design Group—Sinclair's primary set design firm. The new design contains nods to Seattle's scenery, including tribal designs on the floor, a desk inspired by whale pods, as well as a helicopter blade—serving as a memorial to Pfitzner and Strothman.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|4.1||720p||16:9||KOMO||Main KOMO-TV programming / ABC|
KOMO-TV shut down its analog signal, over 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 38, using PSIP to display KOMO-TV's virtual channel as 4 on digital television receivers.
In 2009, KOMO-TV became one of four television stations in the country to be the first to launch mobile DTV signals. The Open Mobile Video Coalition chose KOMO and independent station KONG (channel 16), and WPXA-TV and WATL in Atlanta, Georgia to beta test the ATSC-M/H standard, which has since been officially adopted for free-to-air digital broadcast television with clear reception on mobile devices, which overcomes the defects of the original ATSC standard.
Syndicated programming includes Live! with Kelly, The Doctors, Steve Harvey, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy! among others. The station also airs Castle in syndication alongside first-run episodes, as well as the Ring of Honor Wrestling series on Fridays after late-night programming (a practice commonplace on Sinclair-owned stations).
KOMO-TV presently broadcasts 38 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with six hours on weekdays and four hours on weekends).
For the last three decades, KOMO has competed directly with KING-TV for first place in the Seattle news ratings. KOMO continually places first amongst the local newscasts.
KOMO-TV's news division has consistently won awards for its reporting, and averages more wins per year than any Seattle television station. The station won the Edward R. Murrow Award for "Best Large Market Newscast" In both 2002 and 2008. In June 2008, KOMO was awarded 15 regional Emmy Awards, taking top honors in the "Station Excellence", "Morning News", "Evening News", "Breaking News" and "Team Coverage" categories. KOMO anchor/reporter Molly Shen won the prestigious Individual Achievement Award for the second time in three years, and longtime anchor Kathi Goertzen took home a Silver Circle Award, in recognition of her 25+ years with the station. The station also won the Emmy Award for "Breaking News Coverage". A segment on The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies (Palm Springs, California) received an Emmy in 1997.
KOMO anchors Dan Lewis, Kathi Goertzen, and weather forecaster Steve Pool had the third-longest tenure of an anchor team in the United States, having served as KOMO's evening news team from 1987 to 2009. The station's evening newscast has long been co-anchored by Lewis and Goertzen, and was praised by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as being the "Best First-String anchor unit in town."
Notable current on-air staff
- Dan Lewis – special projects reporter
- Tim Lewis - weekend sports anchor
- Shannon O'Donnell – meteorologist
- Steve Pool – chief weather anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Kathi Goertzen – anchor and special assignment reporter (1980–2012; died on August 13, 2012)
- Keith Jackson – reporter (1950s; later with ABC Sports; now retired)
- Dan Lewis – anchor (1987-2014; retired, but returns occasionally for special projects for KOMO-TV)
- John Seigenthaler Jr. – anchor and reporter (married fellow KOMO anchor/reporter Kerry Brock in 1992, left the station and moved to Nashville, Tennessee; later weekend anchor of NBC Nightly News)
- Bill Schonely – Sportscaster, 1955–1959, worked alongside Keith Jackson. Bill later became "The Voice of the Trailblazers" for almost three decades and is now employed by the team as their "Ambassador"
- Jim Snyder – anchor and reporter (1994–1998; now with KSNV)