KPHO-TV virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 17) is a CBS-affiliated television station located in Phoenix, Arizona, United States. The station is owned by the Meredith Corporation as part of a duopoly with independent station KTVK (channel 3). KPHO has its studios located on North Seventh Avenue in Uptown Phoenix with its transmitter located on South Mountain on the city's south side. KPHO extends its signal throughout northern Arizona by way of more than a dozen translators.
The station first signed on the air on December 4, 1949 as the first television station in Arizona. It was originally owned by a group of entrepreneurs – one of whom, John Mullins, would later launch KBTV (now KUSA) in Denver. Majority interest was held by Phoenix Broadcasting, owners of KPHO radio (910 AM, now KFYI at 550 AM); the television station, which was originally assigned the call letters KTLX, had its callsign changed to KPHO-TV to match its radio sister shortly before its debut. It originally broadcast from studios at the Hotel Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix. The Meredith Corporation purchased the KPHO stations on June 25, 1952. In April 1950, the Lew King Ranger children's show broadcast live on KPHO with a young Wayne Newton as announcer. In 1954, it began airing The Wallace and Ladmo Show, a children's program which aired weekday mornings until 1989 – one of the longest-running locally produced children's shows in television history.
As the only television station in Phoenix during the first 3½ years of operation, it carried programming from all four networks of the time: it was a primary CBS affiliate, and had secondary affiliations with NBC, ABC and the now-defunct DuMont Television Network. NBC programming moved to KTYL-TV (channel 12, now KPNX) when it signed on April 1953, followed by CBS when KOOL-TV (channel 10, now KSAZ-TV) signed on in October. KPHO remained a dual ABC/DuMont affiliate (with ABC programming shared between KPHO-TV and KOOL-TV) until February 1955, when KTVK (channel 3) signed on and took the ABC affiliation full-time.
Channel 5 became an independent station when the DuMont network ceased operations in 1956. During the late 1950s, the station was briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. As an independent station, channel 5 programmed a schedule of movies and off-network series, along with local newscasts. KPHO-TV was separated from its sister station when Meredith sold KPHO radio in 1972. That same year, channel 5's operations moved to its current facility on Black Canyon Highway. During the 1970s, KPHO became a regional superstation that was available on cable television in much of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as parts of California, Utah and Nevada.
KPHO-TV was the sole English-language independent station in Phoenix until 1979, when KNXV-TV (channel 15) signed on with a general entertainment format during the day and subscription-based service ONTV at night (KNXV became a full-time general entertainment station by 1983). Even though channel 5 was the leading independent in the market, the upstart Fox Broadcasting Company opted to affiliate with channel 15 in 1986 after the E. W. Scripps Company purchased the station, promising to upgrade its syndicated programming and to launch a newscast (KPHO's other sister stations, KVVU-TV in Las Vegas and WOFL in Orlando landed affiliations with Fox upon its October 1986 launch, with the latter now owned by the network outright). Although it never did begin a newscast until the final months of its tenure with Fox in 1994, landing the Fox affiliation made KNXV a very strong competitor against KPHO. Early in 1994, KPHO signed a verbal agreement – but not a contractual one – with The WB, which was set to launch the following year in January 1995.
Returning to CBS
On May 23, 1994, New World Communications signed an agreement with Fox to convert twelve of its stations to the network, resulting in a massive wave of affiliation switches throughout the country; locally, KSAZ-TV – which New World was in the process of acquiring from Citicasters – was included in the deal. CBS then sought to find a new Phoenix area affiliate. It briefly wooed KTVK, but its locally based owners, the McFarland-Lewis family, turned the offer down in hopes of renewing its contract with ABC. CBS then approached KPHO, since it was the only area station not affiliated with a Big Three network that had a functioning news department. On June 30, 1994, CBS agreed to a long-term contract with Meredith, allowing KPHO to rejoin the network after losing the CBS affiliation 42 years earlier to channel 10. The centerpiece of the deal was a renewal of CBS' affiliation with Meredith's Kansas City station, KCTV; it also called for another of KPHO's sister stations, NBC affiliate WNEM-TV in Bay City, Michigan, to join CBS. The ABC affiliation eventually went to KNXV when Scripps cut an affiliation deal which called for four of that company's stations to switch to ABC from other networks; KTVK replaced KPHO as the Valley's leading independent affiliation in September 1995 after an eight-month affiliation with The WB. Phoenix was one of just four television markets where the CBS affiliation moved from one VHF station to another during the affiliation switches spurred by Fox's deal with New World Communications.
CBS officially returned to KPHO on September 12, 1994, three days after New World's purchase of KSAZ-TV – which became an independent before affiliating with Fox three months later – was finalized. Initially, channel 5 continued to run a couple of cartoons and a moderate amount of sitcoms during non-network hours. By January 1995, the station began taking on the look of a major-network affiliate as the syndicated cartoons disappeared from the schedule; the station then gradually added more newscasts, talk and reality shows. The sitcoms were phased out and moved to KTVK, KUTP (channel 45), and upstart KASW (channel 61). KPHO has generally been one of CBS's weaker affiliates since the 1994 switch, due in large part to the station's lack of a strong syndicated programming inventory. However, its 10 p.m. newscast led among Phoenix's English-language stations in total households during the November 2009 sweeps period. In stark contrast, channel 10 had been one of CBS's strongest affiliates and was at a strong second place in total day viewership at the time of the switch.
In 2014, Meredith Corporation acquired KTVK, making it a sister station. On August 7, 2014, Meredith announced plans to merge the two stations' operations at KTVK's studio in the Central Avenue Corridor, citing its significantly larger size in comparison to KPHO's current facilities.
On September 8, 2015, it was announced that Media General would acquire Meredith Corporation in a cash and stock deal valued at $2.4 billion. The deal was expected to be consummated in June 2016. The combined company was to operate under the name Meredith Media General. This would have been the first change in ownership for KPHO in 63 years. However, on January 27, 2016, Nexstar Broadcasting Group announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Media General and that Meredith agreed to termination of its merger agreement with Media General.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||KPHO HD||Main KPHO-TV programming / CBS|
|5.2||480i||4:3||KPHO SD||Cozi TV |
On December 20, 2006, KPHO began broadcasting a local weather multicast service called CBS 5 Weather Now on digital subchannel 5.2, broadcasting 24 hours a day. The service was automated through the station's weather computer and was carried on select cable systems in the Phoenix market. The service was active until the first quarter of 2015 and bucked the trend of many broadcast television stations using their subchannel bandwidth for entertainment multicast networks in the presence of multiple sources of weather information, including smartphone applications. However, the service was dropped and replaced with Cozi TV in April 2015. The service was then moved to sister station KTVK on their digital subchannel 3.3, starting April 13, 2015.
KPHO-TV formerly operated a third digital subchannel for use as an overflow game feed during the early rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The station's analog channel 5 would break from the 5.1 digital channel in order to run coverage of four different games simultaneously. In 2008, when CBS restricted stations to only one multicast feed, the station aired the additional game over KPHO-DT2. The need for stations to multicast games ended in 2011, as CBS and the Turner Broadcasting System's TBS, TNT and TruTV began sharing the broadcast rights to the tournament.
KPHO-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, at 11:59 p.m. on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 17. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
As part of the SAFER Act, KPHO 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.
As a CBS affiliate, KPHO-TV currently airs two of the network's programs out of pattern: due to its hour-long local newscast at 5 p.m., the station runs the CBS Evening News at 6 p.m., a half-hour later than the network's recommended 5:30 p.m. timeslot for the program in the Mountain Time Zone. The station also airs The Price Is Right at 9 a.m., one hour earlier than CBS's recommended timeslot for the program.
Outside of the CBS network schedule, syndicated programming featured on KPHO includes Inside Edition, Jeopardy! (both of which also air on KTVK), The People's Court, Leverage, Republic of Doyle, White Collar, and Storm Stories, among others. The station also produces Better Arizona, a daily lifestyle program which features locally produced segments interspersed with segments from the national Better program that is produced and syndicated by Meredith, which airs weekday mornings at 10 a.m.
KPHO-TV presently broadcasts 28 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays); unlike most CBS affiliates within the top 50 television markets, KPHO-TV does not carry local newscasts on weekend mornings. Atypical for CBS stations located outside of the Pacific and Eastern Time Zones, KPHO runs its weeknight 5 p.m. newscast for one hour; it is also the largest (as well as one of the few) CBS affiliates in the country that does not air a 6 p.m. newscast on Monday through Friday evenings, in addition to having a 5 p.m. newscast.
KPHO-TV has operated a news department since it signed on, and by the time it lost its status as a network affiliate in the mid-1950s, had become one of several major market independent stations to produce their own news programs. By the 1960s, the station ran its late evening newscast at 9 p.m., becoming the first primetime newscast in Arizona (years before KSAZ launched its own 9 p.m. newscast as a Fox station). By the late 1980s, the station ran two newscasts a day: a midday newscast at 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and a nightly primetime newscast at 9:30 p.m., this program expanded a half-hour earlier to 9 p.m. by the fall of 1994.
When KPHO reassumed the CBS affiliation in December 1994, the station gradually expanded its news programming with newscasts being added at 5 and 6 p.m. each weeknight; its midday and late evening newscasts were respectively moved a half-hour later to noon and 10 p.m. The 10 p.m. newscast by 1995 only aired for five minutes (which expanded to eight minutes by 1997) on weeknights, followed by a Seinfeld rerun; on January 1, 2001, KPHO expanded the newscast to the standard 35-minute timeslot, which had already been the length of the station's weekend 10 p.m. newscasts. By 1996, KPHO had added a weekday morning newscast; this program later expanded to 4:30 a.m. (almost a decade before it became commonplace for stations to expand their weekday morning newscasts into that timeslot), the program's start time was reduced to 5 a.m. on January 1, 2001.
On March 1, 2009, KPHO-TV began sharing a news helicopter as part of an agreement with KTVK and KPNX. The helicopter is operated by Helicopters Inc. and is branded as "News Chopper 20", a combination of the over-the-air virtual channel numbers of the three stations – 3, 5 and 12. On March 14, 2009, KPHO became the fourth television station in the Phoenix market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition.
On May 8, 2009, KPHO-TV entered into a second agreement to share newsgathering resources, when it partnered with KSAZ-TV and KNXV-TV to join a Local News Service agreement that was originally formed between the two stations' respective owners Fox Television Stations and the E. W. Scripps Company on April 1, 2009 involving stations owned by those companies in Phoenix, Detroit and Tampa. The service allows the pooling of newsgathering efforts for local news events and each station provides employees to the pool service in exchange for the sharing of video.
Notable former on-air staff
KPHO is rebroadcast on the following translator stations: