KOTA-TV, virtual channel 3 (VHF digital RF channel 7), is an ABC-affiliated television station affiliate based in Rapid City, South Dakota, USA. Owned by Gray Television, the station is sister to low-powered Fox affiliate KEVN-LD and the two outlets have a co-located studio/office and transmitter facility located on Skyline Drive in Rapid City.

KOTA-TV also operates a full-power satellite in Lead, South Dakota, KHSD-TV (virtual channel 11), which can also be seen over the air in Rapid City. KHSD's transmitter is located near Spearfish, South Dakota. KOTA serves a large area in western South Dakota, eastern Montana, eastern Wyoming and the Nebraska panhandle. It calls its vast coverage area "KOTA Territory."

History

KOTA-TV intellectual unit

Until 2016, the KOTA-TV call sign, along with the virtual channel 3 assignment and the ABC affiliation, were associated with the station now known as KHME (channel 23). KOTA-TV had gone on the air in 1955 as a CBS affiliate owned by Helen Duhamel along with KOTA radio (1380 AM). The station also had secondary affiliations with NBC (until 1958) and ABC; it took on a joint-primary affiliation with both CBS and ABC in 1965, dropped CBS for NBC in 1970, lost ABC in 1976, and carried a secondary CBS affiliation from 1976 until 1981. KOTA became an ABC affiliate in 1984, and also carried some Fox programming from 1994 to 1996. The KHSD-TV call letters and virtual channel 11 were previously associated with the station now known as KQME (channel 5), which had been a KOTA-TV satellite since 1966.

Channel 7 license

Channel 7 debuted as KRSD-TV on January 21, 1958. It was owned by Heart of the Black Hills Broadcasters, a company controlled by John, Eli, and Henry Daniels, along with KRSD radio (1340 AM, now KTOQ). The station was a primary NBC affiliate, sharing ABC with the original KOTA-TV.[2] Two years later, in January 1960, KRSD-TV started a satellite station on channel 5 in Lead, KDSJ-TV; the Daniels brothers already operated KDSJ radio (980 AM) in nearby Deadwood.[3] But NBC was apparently unhappy with the stations' technical operations and, on September 13, 1970, KRSD-TV was forced to join CBS, while KOTA-TV launched a new joint-primary affiliation with both ABC and NBC.[4]

The Federal Communications Commission denied the license renewals for KRSD-TV and KDSJ-TV in November 1971 due to the stations' unsatisfactory technical operation. In a unanimous decision, the FCC found that KRSD-TV had been out of compliance with FCC technical standards since at least 1961. As a result, its signal had deteriorated to the point of unacceptability "as early as 1965," and was so poor that it could not be carried on cable—which, then as now, was all but essential for acceptable television in much of western South Dakota. While a handful of radio stations had been ordered off the air for technical violations, it was the first time that the FCC had shuttered a television station due to technical issues.[5] Though the FCC originally ordered the stations to shut down on December 31,[5] Heart of the Black Hills fought the decision;[6] however, the denial was reaffirmed in July 1972.[7] Nonetheless, KRSD and KDSJ continued to operate under special temporary authority for another four years afterward.[8]

New construction permits for channel 7 in Rapid City and the Lead satellite on channel 5 were granted to Dakota Broadcasting Company, owned by a group of Rapid City businessmen, in April 1975;[9] that November, the stations were assigned the call signs KEVN-TV and KIVV-TV.[10] Dakota Broadcasting soon announced a planned July 6, 1976 debut; meanwhile, Heart of the Black Hills finally shut KRSD-TV and KDSJ-TV down for good on February 29, 1976, leaving the Black Hills region without a local CBS affiliate.[11] However, area cable systems already carried Sioux Falls CBS affiliate KELO-TV, which had been trying to get into Rapid City for some time. After a four-month hiatus, KEVN and KIVV came on the air July 11 as full-time ABC affiliates.[12] KOTA, which in fact had been joint-primary between ABC and NBC,[13] switched to NBC primary, CBS secondary[14] until 1981, when K15AC (channel 15), a translator of KPLO-TV from Reliance (itself a satellite of KELO-TV), was authorized[15] (K15AC was upgraded to full-power operations in 1988 as KCLO-TV, a semi-satellite of KELO).

On June 24, 1984, NBC moved its programming to KEVN;[16] that network was fed-up with the pre-emption practices of KOTA-TV,[17] which took the ABC affiliation.[16] The swap brought KEVN in line with Sioux Falls sister station KDLT-TV;[16] that station had been purchased by KEVN's owners in 1982 and made its own move from ABC to NBC in 1983. In 1985, Dakota Broadcasting sold KEVN/KIVV and KDLT to Heritage Communications for nearly $20 million.[18] In 1987, following Tele-Communications Inc.'s purchase of a majority interest in Heritage Communications, the company spun off its television and radio stations to Heritage's management under the Heritage Media banner.[19][20]

Heritage Media announced in September 1995 that it would sell KEVN-TV and KIVV-TV to Blackstar, LLC, a minority-controlled company in which nonvoting equity interests were held by Fox Television Stations and Silver King Communications, for $14 million;[21][22] the deal was completed on February 7, 1996.[23] Blackstar immediately announced that KEVN would drop NBC and join Fox.[21] the affiliation change happened in July 1996.[25] Prior to that, cable systems piped in the National Foxnet service or Fox's Denver affiliate, KDVR, although KOTA-TV had had a secondary affiliation with Fox since 1994, mainly for NFL games. The move left the Black Hills without an NBC affiliate,[21] and the region did not get another NBC affiliate until Rapid signed on KNBN (channel 21) in May 2000. In the interim, cable systems in the market piped in NBC's Denver affiliate, KUSA-TV.

USA Networks (the former Silver King Communications), through its USA Broadcasting subsidiary, acquired Blackstar, LLC outright in 1998 as part of a larger deal between USA and Paxson Communications that saw USA take control of Atlanta's WNGM-TV from Paxson and Paxson buying Portland's KBSP-TV from Blackstar.[26] USA mainly acquired Blackstar in order to incorporate its Orlando station, WBSF, into its planned "CityVision" group of independent stations, and soon sold KEVN-TV and KIVV-TV to Mission TV, LLC, an independent private company led by California attorney William Reyner, who at that time held partial stakes in fellow Fox affiliates KKFX-LP in Santa Barbara, California and Smith Broadcasting-owned WFFF-TV in Burlington, Vermont.[27] (Mission TV was not related to Mission Broadcasting, a holding company whose stations are controlled by Nexstar Broadcasting Group.)

KEVN filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on November 20, 2003 to prevent Finova Capital Corp., the station's largest creditor, from taking legal action to acquire control of the station; KEVN's programming and operations were not affected by this move,[28] and the station emerged from bankruptcy in July 2005.[29] In January 2007, after having been branded as "KEVN Fox 7" for its first 11 years as a Fox affiliate, the station changed its branding to "Black Hills Fox," removing the over-the-air channel number from KEVN's brand identity.

On December 18, 2013, it was announced that Mission TV, LLC would sell KEVN-TV and KIVV-TV to Gray Television for $7.75 million.[30] Upob the completion of the sale on May 1, 2014, KEVN was Gray's first standalone full power Fox affiliate.[31][32] On September 14, 2015, Gray announced that it would purchase the television and radio stations owned by Schurz Communications, including KOTA-TV and its satellites and the Rushmore Media Company group of radio stations, for $442.5 million. Gray intends to consolidate KOTA's operations with those of KEVN;[33][34] in announcing the sale of most of KOTA-TV's assets to Legacy Broadcasting on October 1, Gray announced that KEVN-TV would inherit KOTA's ABC affiliation following the deal's completion.[35]

On February 1, 2016 KEVN-TV changed its callsign to KOTA-TV; while satellite station KIVV changed its calls to KHSD-TV. The station moved its virtual channel to 3, while continuing to transmit on RF channel 7, as the ABC affiliation was moved to the new KOTA, and the Fox affiliation has moved to KEVN-LD, virtual channel 7. The former KOTA has changed its call sign to KHME, and broadcasts MeTV and This TV subchannels on virtual channel 23, using KOTA's former RF channel 2.

Digital television

Digital channel

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[36][37]
3.1720p16:9KOTA-DTMain programming / ABC
11.1KHSD-DT

Analog-to-digital conversion

Four months before the official date of the analog television shutdown and digital conversion on February 17, 2009, both stations shut down their analog signals:[38]

  • KOTA-TV (as KEVN-TV) shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 7; the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 18 to VHF channel 7 for post-transition operations.
  • KHSD-TV (as KIVV-TV) shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5; the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 29 to VHF channel 5 for post-transition operations.

Mission TV submitted an application to the FCC in 2007 asking to defer further construction of the station's digital transmitter (which was not yet operating at full-power due to financial problems) until the end of the digital television transition, indicating that its owners were the subject of a bankruptcy proceeding at the time and to expand the funds necessary to complete construction of its full-power digital television facility "could be fatal."[39]

Rebroadcasters

KOTA's programming is also shown on a network of two satellite stations.

StationCity of licenseChannels
TV (RF)
First air dateERPHAATTransmitter CoordinatesFacility IDPublic license
information
KHSD-TVLead, South Dakota11 (PSIP)
5 (VHF)
January 19609.2 kW561 m34348
KNEPSidney, Nebraska4 (PSIP)
7 (VHF)
March 5, 195832 kW475 m17683
KSGW-TVSheridan, Wyoming12 (PSIP)
13 (VHF)
December 28, 197750 kW372 m17680

KHSD operates as a full-time repeater of KOTA. KNEP's primary channel is a semi-satellite of KOTA, airing separate commercials from studios in Scottsbluff and Sheridan. KNEP (as KDUH-TV) once produced its own full-length newscasts as well. However, due to cutbacks in later years, KDUH's newscasts have been reduced to inserts in KOTA's weeknight newscasts with a few personalities locally based in Scottsbluff. On May 5, 2016, KNEP's full-length localized newscasts in Scottsbluff were reinstated, upon the launch of NBC Nebraska Scottsbluff which airs on KNEP's digital subchannel 4.2.[40][41][42][43] The subchannel operates as a semi-satellite of North Platte's NBC affiliate, KNOP-TV.[44]

When KQME was being launched as KHSD-TV, KOTA-TV contracted with KDIX-TV in Dickinson, North Dakota (now KXMA-TV) to provide programming for that station, as KDIX was close enough to KHSD that its engineers would be able to pick up KHSD's signal. Consequently, KDIX was practically a satellite of KOTA from November 1966 until September 1970.

KNEP is one of two ABC affiliates on Dish Network's Cheyenne-Scottsbluff local feed. The other is KTWO-TV in Casper, which is carried on Fox affiliate KLWY's digital subchannel.

KOTA-TV also operates the following low-power translators:

  • K09YI-D Gillette, Wyoming (repeating KSGW)
  • K08IP-D Baker, Montana (repeating KHSD)

News operation

KOTA-TV presently broadcasts a total of 9½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 1½ hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays). The station is among the few Fox affiliates to carry a 6:00 p.m. newscast and one of the only Fox stations to offer a newscast in that timeslot, that does not also produce a 5:00 p.m. newscast. The station also does not produce any newscasts during morning or midday timeslots, although KEVN rebroadcasts its hour-long 9:00 p.m. news program at 6:00 a.m. on weekday mornings.

Early in KEVN's Fox affiliation, the station produced an hour-long morning newscast at 7 a.m., as well as half-hour newscasts at noon, 5:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. (a holdover from its NBC affiliation); on weekends, KEVN only aired its late newscast.[46] In 1998, the station moved the late newscast to 9 p.m., making it the first Rapid City station to produce a primetime newscast;[47] KCLO-TV also airs a newscast at that time, but it is a simulcast of KELO-TV's Sioux Falls-based 10 p.m. newscast. Around the same time, the morning and midday newscasts were discontinued.[48] By 2001, KEVN expanded the weeknight 9 p.m. news to an hour;[49][50] the weekend edition of the newscast would be expanded to an hour as well on November 2, 2013.[51][52] The station moved the early evening newscast to 6 p.m. on March 31, 2008 and relaunched it as The Six; station management stated that airing a newscast at that slot would allow KEVN to attract viewers unable to view the 5:30 newscasts on KOTA-TV and KNBN.[47]