KSDK virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 35) is an NBC-affiliated television station located in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. The station is owned by Tegna, Inc. KSDK maintains studio facilities and offices located on Market Street in Downtown St. Louis, and its transmitter is located in Shrewsbury.
The station first signed on the air as KSD-TV on February 8, 1947; it was owned by the Pulitzer Publishing Company, publishers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and owners of KSD radio (550 AM, now KTRS). It was the ninth television station to sign on in the United States, the first station in Missouri and the second station located west of the Mississippi River. In the early days, KSD produced much of its own programming and developed its own talent pool. Many St. Louis television pioneers from KSD-TV came from radio, including Frank Eschen, Kay Morton, Russ Severin and Dave Russell.
Because of a freeze on new television station licenses imposed by the Federal Communications Commission, KSD-TV was the only television station in the St. Louis market, until WTVI (channel 54, now KTVI channel 2) signed on in August 1953. Channel 5 has always been an NBC affiliate, owing to KSD radio's longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network; the station is currently the longest-tenured affiliate of any major broadcast television network. In its early years, channel 5 also carried secondary affiliations with CBS, DuMont and ABC. In the early 1960s, Channel 5 became the first St. Louis television station to broadcast in color.
After Pulitzer sold KSD radio to Combined Communications Corporation in 1979 (prior to Combined's merger with the Gannett Company that same year), KSD-TV's call letters were modified to the current KSDK. In 1983, Pulitzer traded channel 5 to Multimedia, Inc. in return for WFBC-TV (now WYFF) in Greenville, South Carolina, in what was a rare instance of one company's flagship station being traded for another. During the 1980s and 1990s, KSDK was the highest-rated NBC affiliate in the country, and it remains the most-watched NBC affiliate in the top 30 markets to this day, despite the network's overall ratings decline that has occurred since the 2004-05 season.
In 1989, KSDK dropped the Eyewitness News branding and rebranded its newscasts as NewsChannel 5; the station also began to operate on a 24-hour-a-day schedule. On July 24, 1995, Multimedia was purchased by the Gannett Company, with the acquisition finalized on December 4. In 1998, KSDK debuted the "Window on St. Louis," a streetside studio located in the same downtown St. Louis building that also houses KSDK's other studios. The local program Show Me St. Louis broadcasts from this studio, which welcomes the public to take part in the telecasts. The Window on St. Louis is modeled on Today's "Window on the World."
In an attempt to provide St. Louisans with local and national election results during the 2004 elections, KSDK partnered with PBS member station KETC (channel 9) to simulcast election coverage. The KSDK/KETC partnership continued through September 2005, when, along with radio partners KYKY (98.1 FM) and KEZK (102.5 FM), a telethon for Hurricane Katrina relief was simulcast.
KSDK produced the first broadcast of any local program in St. Louis in high definition, when it broadcast the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2005. Incidentally, the 2005 parade also marked the final year that the event, which had been a Thanksgiving Day tradition on KSDK, would be broadcast on the station, as the parade moved to CBS affiliate KMOV (channel 4) in 2006.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for KSDK. Gannett threatened to suspend its contact with the satellite provider should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. KSDK was retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.
KSDK in the community
KSDK is active in several community-based and charitable projects:
- "A Place to Call Home" is an Emmy Award-winning weekly segment that airs during the station's Tuesday 6 p.m., and Thursday and Saturday morning newscasts which profilies one child placed within the foster care system that is in need of adoption. Since August 2003, 50% of the children that have appeared on the segment have been adopted. A secondary program, "Little Wishes" allows viewers to are unable to adopt a foster child to add a little happiness to their life by purchasing a gift for him or her.
- "Friend to Friend" is a program that reminds viewers on the fifth of each month to perform a breast self-exam to detect breast cancer in its early, treatable stages. Viewers can also contact KSDK for an informational packet that includes reminders on performing a self-exam. The station is also a major sponsor for the St. Louis Race for the Cure that raises money for breast cancer research foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and which overtook Denver as the largest Race for the Cure event in the country in 2006 with more than 64,000 participants, with more than $2.5 million raised with over 65,000 participants in 2007.
- Volunteer 5 is a weekly, week-long program that collects donations for a particular local charity or community organization. It operates as a telethon, with phone operators taking calls between 4 and 7 p.m. each weeknight from anyone wishing to donate time or a monetary payment. Volunteer 5 has provided more than $5 million annually in services and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to local non-profit organizations. The program began in 1993 to help those affected by the Great Flood of 1993, but has not been seen on KSDK since November 2005, and it no longer appears on the station's website.
- The MDA Show of Strength aired each Labor Day weekend on KSDK until 2012 (having aired only in primetime on the Sunday before the holiday from 2011 to 2012), benefitting the Muscular Dystrophy Association to fund research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy and other diseases affecting the nervous and muscular systems. Anchor Mike Bush served as host of the telethon's local segments, whose donations benefit the St. Louis chapter of the MDA. KSDK lost its status as St. Louis' "Love Network" station when the telethon abandoned its syndication model and became a network telecast on ABC (airing locally on KDNL-TV, channel 30) in 2013 and 2014; the event was discontinued in 2015.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||KSDK-DT||Main KSDK programming / NBC|
Since August 28, 2013, digital subchannel 5.2 has been affiliated with Bounce TV; it is carried locally on Charter Communications digital channel 127. The subchannel previously operated as "First Alert Weather 5", which debuted in June 2005 as an affiliate of NBC Weather Plus (under the name "NewsChannel 5 Weather PLUS"), before affiliating with The Local AccuWeather Channel in December 2008, after NBC Weather Plus discontinued operations. On January 20, 2015 KSDK launched 5.3 which carries a feed of THE Justice Network, which launched the same day.
KSDK shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, 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 35. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
KSDK dominated the news ratings in St. Louis for the better part of its first six decades on the air. KMOX-TV (now KMOV) took the lead in the late 1960s, but KSDK regained the #1 spot in the early 1980s and kept it for most of the next two decades, with some of the highest (and by some measures, the highest) rated newscasts in the nation. For much of that time, its main anchors stayed at the station for 10 years or more. At one point, its 6 p. m. newscast ended with local elementary schoolchildren flashing the hand signs for "5" and "1", signifying that, as a promo featuring the kids said, "Even a 2nd grader could tell you that Channel 5 is Number 1."
During the spring 2004 sweeps, it lost its first-place position at 10 p.m. to KMOV, and the two stations have traded the ratings crown in that timeslot several times since then. KMOV has also closed its ratings gap in several other timeslots, due in part to NBC's overall weaker ratings since 2004. KSDK's ratings dominance began to slip dramatically in 2009, first losing late news to KMOV, and then morning news to KTVI. In 2013, its ratings went into free fall. The November 2013 ratings book saw KSDK tumble into last place for the first time in its history. KTVI easily won the morning news and KMOV swept the rest.
KSDK presently broadcasts 39 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays). In addition, the station produces a sports wrap-up program on Sunday evenings after the 10 p.m. newscast called Sports Plus, hosted by sports director Rene Knott and sports anchor Frank Cusumano (it was originally hosted by Mike Bush until he moved from sports director to news anchor in 2004). KSDK used to operate a Bell 206B3 JetRanger helicopter called "Chopper 5", that was used for breaking news and severe weather coverage. To save money, the station began paying market leader KMOV to use video from its chopper in 2010. Its news reporting has also won the station a multitude of journalism awards including Regional Emmys, Gabriel Awards and Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.
With KSDK now occupying the ratings cellar in the St. Louis news ratings, its dominance has become a distant memory. Jennifer Blome and Art Holliday had one of the longest anchor pairings in U.S. local television history, anchoring the station's weekday morning newscast from August 1989 until Holliday was reassigned to co-anchor a new half-hour 4 p.m. newscast (alongside Kay Quinn) that debuted on September 12, 2011, while Blome was paired with Pat McGonigle (formerly of WHEC-TV/Rochester) on the morning newscast.
On September 12, 2005, KSDK debuted a half-hour weekday newscast at 10 a.m., following the third hour of NBC's Today; the newscast was discontinued in September 2009, but returned on September 12, 2011 as an hour-long program (as a result, the fourth hour of Today airs on a one-hour delay at 11 a.m.). On February 6, 2006, KSDK became the first television station in St. Louis, and the seventh station in the United States, to broadcast all newscasts and locally produced programming in high definition; it also became the first St. Louis area station to stream all of its newscasts online. On August 13, 2007, KSDK debuted Online @ 9, a 10-minute news webcast on the station's website that is tailored to an online audience.
On November 11, 2010, KSDK entered into a news share agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned ABC affiliate KDNL-TV, to produce two pre-recorded half-hour newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. weeknights for that station starting on January 3, 2011 (prior to the agreement, KDNL had not run any local newscasts since it shut down its news department in October 2001); in addition. KDNL has also aired weekend rebroadcasts of KSDK's entertainment/features program Show Me St. Louis. KDNL general manager Tom Tipton stated that the station did not want to run simulcast or repurposed newscasts in its efforts to return daily newscasts to channel 30. The arrangement is unusual given that KSDK and KDNL are both "Big Three" network affiliates, and the fact that the newscasts on both stations compete against one another. The agreement with KDNL was to have ended on December 31, 2013; however, it was extended for another month until January 31, 2014.
On September 12, 2011, along with the relaunch of its 10 a.m. newscast and the addition of a 4 p.m. newscast, Today in St. Louis expanded from 2½ to three hours on weekday mornings, now running at 4-7 a.m.; while the noon newscast was reduced to a half-hour with Show Me St. Louis being moved to fill the remaining half-hour. With these additions, KSDK was reduced to only three hours of syndicated daytime shows to back up its newscasts outside of NBC network programming.
2014 School Security Controversy
In January 2014, KSDK faced criticism from educators and the community for an undercover piece on school security. On January 16, a KSDK videojournalist entered Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood to test the school's security, wearing a hidden camera. This followed several other tests at local single-building elementary schools, whereas Kirkwood High School is a multi-building campus. Thus, Kirkwood was the only school where the employee entered without being questioned. School personnel became concerned when the KSDK employee asked to use a restroom and left the office in the opposite direction, and when the station would not confirm with the school that the employee's visit was only a test, the school was placed on lockdown for 40 minutes, when a station representative finally confirmed that the employee's presence was for a story. Investigative reporter Leisa Zigman apologized on-air for the chain of events leading to the lockdown, but the station stood by its story, claiming the lockdown did not occur until an hour after the videojournalist left. Despite a school spokesperson admitting changes to security needed to be made, KSDK was strongly criticized by viewers raising questions about journalistic ethics, and anchor Mike Bush led the 10:00pm newscast on January 20 with a more formal apology, stating that the station was reviewing its procedures to ensure a similar incident would not occur again. It is worth noting that the community of Kirkwood suffered a mass shooting in 2008, resulting in the deaths of several members of city government and two police officers, making it a particularly poor choice for this 'test'.
Notable current on-air staff
- Mike Bush - news anchor (2003-present), sports reporter (1985-2003)
Notable former on-air staff
- George Abel – announcer, wrestling commentator, staff announcer (1947–1981; sports announcer and wrestling commentator)
- John Auble – anchor/reporter (1968-1973; first person to interview Martin Luther King, Jr. assassin, James Earl Ray)
- Russ Carter – personality (1958-1973; host of “St. Louis Hop” dance show which became St. Louis’s first racially integrated TV program)
- Fran Charles - reporter (1991–1992; later at WNBC-TV/New York City; currently host on NFL Network)
- Chris Condon – anchor (1961-1984; known for his take-no-prisoners interviewing style and no-nonsense presentation)
- Howard DeMere – meteorologist/announcer (1949-1979; known for signoff of “That’s all from here…Howard DeMere”)
- Pat Fontaine – meteorologist (1958-1962; later with “The Today Show”)
- Karen Foss - anchor (1979–2006; later vice president for public relations at Ameren)
- Harry Gibbs – announcer/personality (1950-1963; local cowboy personality and host of children’s program as “Texas Bruce”)
- Paul Goodloe - chief meteorologist (1997–1999; now at The Weather Channel)
- Janice Huff - meteorologist (1987–1991; now at WNBC-TV/New York City)
- Julius Hunter - reporter (1966–1974; later at KMOV)
- Stan Kann – personality (became frequent guest to “The Tonight Show” and other programs with his presentations of gadgets)
- George Noory - news director (early to mid-1980s; now host of Coast To Coast AM)
- Charlotte Peters – personality (1956-1970; host of “To The Ladies” which had a large female audience in the pre-Oprah days)
- Cindy Preszler (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - chief meteorologist (October 1998-April 22, 2016)
- Jay Randolph - sports director/reporter
- Sonny Randle - sports reporter (1965–1970)
- Bob Richards - chief meteorologist (1983–1994; deceased)
- Mike Roberts - meteorologist (1996-April 22, 2016)
- Max Roby – anchor (1973-1978; one of the most trusted news people in St. Louis, known for delivering news in the style of Cronkite)
- Sharon Stevens - education reporter (1993–2013)
- Clif St. James – announcer/meteorologist/personality (1956-1988; host of children’s program as “Corky the Clown”)
- Anne Thompson - consumer reporter (1983–1986; currently at NBC News)
- Debbye Turner - Show Me St. Louis anchor/feature reporter (1995–2001, Miss America 1990; currently at CBS News)
- Diane White – meteorologist (1962-1988; first African-American TV weather personality)
- Matt Winer - sports reporter (formerly on ESPN, currently at Turner Sports)
- Trey Wingo - sports reporter (1991–1997; currently at ESPN)
When KSD-TV signed on in 1947, it began a longtime association with the St. Louis Cardinals as the team's flagship station. On May 8, 1966, during ceremonies for the opening of Busch Memorial Stadium, Bill Houska Sr. flew home plate from Sportsman's Park to the new downtown stadium in "Chopper 5." The station aired Cardinals games from 1947 to 1958, before losing the rights to KPLR-TV (channel 11) for the next four seasons. The Cardinals returned in 1963 and remained on channel 5 until 1987 – long after many other "Big Three" network affiliates dropped local sports event coverage. KSDK lost the rights to KPLR again after the 1987 season.
On December 7, 2006, KSDK re-obtained the television rights to Cardinals games effective with the 2007 season, ending a 19-year run on KPLR. KSDK aired an average of 20 locally produced Cardinals games each year, with most other games airing on Fox Sports Midwest outside the St. Louis market. KSDK lost the broadcast rights on July 15, 2010, when Fox Sports Midwest signed an exclusive contract with the team beginning with the 2011 season, ending the Cardinals' over-the-air telecasts. The final Cardinals telecast on channel 5 aired on October 3, 2010, with a game against the Colorado Rockies.
Other locally produced programming
KSDK has had a long history of producing local programs, including the Wranglers Club with Texas Bruce (1950–1963), Corky's Colorama with Clif St. James playing Corky the Clown (1963–1980), Newsbeat hosted by Dick Ford and John Auble (1976–1984), and Midday A.M. (c. 1979–1986).
Since September 5, 1995, KSDK has aired Show Me St. Louis, which highlights local entertainment and other (mostly family-oriented) attractions around the St. Louis area. The program usually broadcasts from the "Window on St. Louis", where local groups and organizations are allowed to bring signs to advertise their events, though it occasionally leaves the studio to broadcast from local attractions (such as the St. Louis Zoo, Busch Stadium, the Fox Theatre) or from surrounding communities (such as Waterloo, Illinois and Florissant) that have uncommon or unknown attractions that may be of interest to viewers; these "Great Escapes" (as the segment within the show is titled) usually occur during summer months. The program has also drawn criticism, as select segments and occasional entire episodes of Show Me St. Louis have sponsorships; a disclaimer preceding and following each episode acknowledges that portions of the program have been paid for by sponsors. After individual segments, a card with information is shown, which will feature a notice reading that the segment is paid for by a local business.
Simply Irresistible is a primetime program that interrupts regularly scheduled NBC programming for what is essentially a local infomercial. During the 1980s, the syndicated daytime talk show Sally (hosted by Sally Jessy Raphael) originated from KSDK's studios (Multimedia Entertainment, a subsidiary of former KSDK owner Multimedia, Inc., distributed the program nationally until the company's 1995 merger with Gannett, with the distribution rights held by Universal Television Enterprises and then Studios USA Television until the show's 2002 cancellation).