KTUL, virtual channel 8 (VHF digital channel 10), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. KTUL maintains studio facilities located at Lookout Mountain (near South 29th West Avenue) in southwestern Tulsa, and its transmitter is located between South 305th Street East and the Muskogee Turnpike in southeastern Tulsa County (near Coweta). On cable, the station is available on Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse channel 8. There is a high definition feed available on Cox Communications digital channel 708 and AT&T U-verse channel 1008.
The station first signed on the air on September 18, 1954 as KTVX. It was founded by the Tulsa Broadcasting Company, which was majority owned by Oklahoma grocery magnate and broadcast pioneer John Toole Griffin, who also owned radio station KTUL (1430 AM, now KTBZ). The first program to be broadcast on channel 8 was a college football game in which the University of Oklahoma defeated the University of California. The station was originally licensed to Muskogee, roughly 25 miles (40 km) due south of Tulsa; this was because the third VHF frequency originally allocated to the Tulsa market, channel 11, had been reserved for use by a non-commercial educational license (the VHF channel 11 frequency is now occupied by PBS member station KOED, part of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority state network). Griffin therefore decided to seek the channel 8 allocation in Muskogee, the nearest city in the Tulsa market with an assigned VHF channel allocation; the UHF band was not considered viable at the time as most television sets on the retail market then were not equipped with UHF tuners, this would not change until after the Federal Communications Commission passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961. The KTVX call letters were assigned to the station after Griffin discovered that the U.S. Treasury Department's Customs Bureau had assigned them as the signal code to a retired ocean vessel, the William S. Clark, until January 1947.
The station's original studio facilities were based inside a converted grocery store on Eastside Boulevard in Muskogee, with its transmitter located atop Concharty Mountain in the Wagoner County town of Stonebluff. KTVX took the ABC affiliation from KCEB (channel 23, channel now occupied by KOKI-TV), a UHF station that signed on the previous year. The first two personalities at KTVX were news anchor Jack Morris and meteorologist Don Woods, with sports director Hal O'Halloran joining the station later on. The current studio facility on Lookout Mountain had originally been built for KCEB in 1954; the second television station in Tulsa (after KOTV, channel 6), KCEB briefly carried NBC programming, before switching its affiliation to ABC earlier in 1954. KTVX acquired the ABC affiliation from KCEB, leaving that station as an affiliate of the DuMont Television Network, a non-viable fourth network that itself would soon fold in August 1956.
In 1955, KCEB sold its Lookout Mountain studios to Griffin; former owner James C. Leake moved KTVX's operations to Tulsa from Muskogee soon after KCEB ceased operations. KTUL radio had moved into the facility in April of that year, while KTVX moved into the building eight months later in November. The Lookout Mountain facility was used as an auxiliary studio until 1957, when the station received permission from the FCC to move all operations, as well as the station's city of license, to Tulsa (although FCC regulations had been changed a few years earlier so that the station could have remained licensed to Muskogee, while operating solely in Tulsa). In 1955, John Chick joined the station and served as host of two popular afternoon children's shows – Cartoon Zoo and Mr. Zing and Tuffy – as well as hosting The John Chick Show, a live morning music program that featured local country music talent and square dancing. The program, which aired weekday mornings at 7:00 a.m., proved to be a more popular alternative to network morning shows Today on KVOO and the CBS Morning News on KOTV. The John Chick Show pre-empted AM America, when the program debuted on ABC in 1975; when ABC president Elton Rule and other executives with the network demanded to know why KTUL did not give clearance to the fast-growing Good Morning America in the late 1970s, network management backed off after owner James C. "Jimmy" Leake informed Rule about The John Chick Shows's high local ratings. KTUL would not air GMA until 1979, after John Chick departed the station.
On September 12, 1957, the day the move to Tulsa took effect, the station changed its call letters to KTUL-TV to match its radio sister (the KTVX call sign is currently used by another ABC-affiliated television station in Salt Lake City, Utah). Griffin sold off KTUL radio in 1961. In 1965, the station built a new 1,909 feet (582 m) transmitter tower in Coweta, which became the second-tallest broadcast tower in the United States at that time and would enable the station to carry ABC programming in color, which was activated on July 24 of that year. Another popular KTUL personality was Betty Boyd, whom KTUL lured away from competitor KOTV in 1965 to host The Betty Boyd Show, a local daytime program that featured a mix of interviews with Tulsa area newsmakers, community affairs and women's topics; the program helped KTUL reach first place among female viewers. ABC had long placed third in the national network ratings; it was not until the late 1970s, that ABC would improve its viewership to become America's most-watched broadcast network. KTUL's local programming had made it one of the network's strongest stations and the Tulsa market's leading television station for the next 35 years.
In 1968, Griffin sold KTUL-TV and Little Rock, Arkansas sister station KATV to his brother-in-law, Jimmy Leake; Griffin retained control of KWTV in Oklahoma City (Griffin's company, which eventually became Griffin Communications, would re-enter the Tulsa market when it purchased KOTV in October 2000). KTUL continued its popular children's programming in the 1970s with Uncle Zeb's Cartoon Camp (which replaced Mr. Zing and Tuffy in 1970), hosted by Carl Bartholemew as the gruff Uncle Zeb. Following Uncle Zeb were sitcoms that appealed to children, such as The Flintstones, The Lucy Show, Gilligan's Island, The Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.. Griffin and Leake had shared ownership of the stations for many years. Leake kept KTUL and KATV until selling them to Allbritton Communications in 1982.
In 1987, KTUL's broadcast tower collapsed due to heavy freezing rain accumulations from an ice storm; a new 582 m (1,909 ft) tower located near Coweta was completed the following year. In 1999, KTUL built new broadcast facilities on Lookout Mountain to accommodate station growth. In 1996, then-meteorologist Frank Mitchell made a surprise wedding proposal to his co-host, Teri Bowers, during a live broadcast of the station's morning newscast Good Morning Oklahoma; the proposal made national news and was featured on programs such as American Journal, Geraldo and Maury.
On May 1, 2013, reports surfaced that Allbritton was planning to sell its television stations in order to focus on running its political news website Politico. On July 29, the company announced that it would sell its entire television group, including KTUL, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||720p||16:9||KTUL-DT||Main KTUL programming / ABC|
KTUL operates a 24-hour local weather channel called "First Alert Weather 24/7" on digital subchannel 8.2 and Cox Communications digital channel 247, the service launched in 2005. The Retro Television Network classic television programming service is carried on digital subchannel 8.3 and Cox digital channel 131, it began to be carried on the station in January 2009.
KTUL shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 10. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 8.
KTUL also operates a digital fill-in translator on UHF channel 24, which serves the southern part of the viewing area, including McAlester. The station has also filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to operate a second fill-in translator in Caney, Kansas, which will also broadcast on UHF channel 24, to serve northern portions of the market including Bartlesville and portions of southeastern Kansas that receive a weaker signal or had completely lost access to KTUL's main signal following the digital transition.
KTUL runs the entire ABC programming lineup, with minimal pre-emptions outside of extended breaking news and severe weather coverage. However, it airs Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Nightline on a one-hour delay in favor of running syndicated sitcoms after the 10:00 p.m. newscast, and airs the Litton's Weekend Adventure block on Saturdays one hour ahead of the "live" feed (airing from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., instead of 9:00 a.m. to noon). Syndicated programs broadcast on KTUL include Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, Steve Harvey, Rachael Ray, and Meredith Vieira.
KTUL presently broadcasts 24½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 4½ hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, the station also produces a weekly program featuring sports-related questions submitted by viewers called Ford Sports Xtra, airing Sundays after the 10:00 p.m. newscast (competing with the Oklahoma Sports Blitz airing on rival KOTV); as well as an hour-long lifestyle program called Good Day Tulsa, which debuted in 2004 and airs at 9:00 a.m. on weekday mornings. Unlike most ABC affiliates, KTUL does not carry a local newscast during the weekday midday timeslot (although none of Oklahoma's standalone ABC affiliates carry a midday newscast, the ABC-affiliated digital subchannel of Ada NBC affiliate KTEN simulcasts KTEN's midday newscast).
When KTUL signed on in Muskogee as KTVX, the station's management sought to hire a weatherman who could draw a cartoon character. Don Woods was chosen, and his cartoon character became Gusty, who was named through a contest that began the day of the station's first broadcast. From 1954 until his retirement in 1989, Woods drew Gusty live during his weather forecasts, and could be drawn waving flags and smiling for fair weather, holding an umbrella if rain was forecast or jumping in his "fraidy hole" for thunderstorms; viewers sent in requests for their own Gusty drawings. After Woods retired from KTUL in 1989, he continued to draw Gusty on occasion, and even authored a book entitled The Gospel According to Gusty. In 2005, Gusty was made Oklahoma's State Cartoon Character by the Oklahoma Legislature, and a drawing of Gusty is currently housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Woods died on June 12, 2012 at age 84, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
During the 1960s, the station's local newscasts became the highest-rated in the Tulsa market, aided by the popularity of main anchor Jack Morris. One of Morris' accomplishments at KTUL was the local television documentary The Five Civilized Tribes: Unfinished Journey, which won the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for "Best Television Documentary" in 1966. When Morris left KTUL for KVOO in 1970, KOTV anchor Bob Hower joined channel 8 and took over as anchor; the station continued its ratings dominance in local news. After James Leake sold the station to Allbritton in 1982, KTUL remained #1 in the Tulsa market throughout the 1980s and 1990s with its local newscasts and syndicated programming. This streak as the perennial leader in the Tulsa television market ended in 1999, when KOTV overtook KTUL as the area's most-watched television station. KTUL currently ranks second in news viewership, with its 10:00 p.m. newscast placing second behind KOTV, and ahead of KJRH and KOKI-TV.
Since 1980, KTUL has produced Waiting Child, a segment highlighting children in state custody that are in need of an adoptive family. Hower began the segment in October 1980, and helmed it until his retirement in 1986. The segment continued with anchor Rea Blakey and then sports director John Walls, before anchor Carole Lambert took over the segment in 1990; after Lambert left KTUL in 2011, Good Day Tulsa co-anchor Keith Taylor began hosting the segment. The Waiting Child segment, which has resulted in the adoption of more than 4,000 Oklahoma children, airs Wednesdays during the 4:00 p.m. newscast and Saturdays during the 10:00 p.m. newscast. The song "(I'm a) Waiting Child", which plays during the Waiting Child news segment, was composed by former anchor Bob Hower and is sung by Oleta Adams.
On August 22, 2011, KTUL became the third television station (after KJRH-TV and KOKI-TV) in the Tulsa market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. KTUL became the first Tulsa station to employ a female chief meteorologist with the September 2012 hiring of Jennifer Zeppelin. During a January 2013 edition of Good Morning Oklahoma, morning meteorologist Andrew Kozak hand-drew the weather forecast after a computer that supplied the station's on-air weather graphics had crashed. A video of the forecast made several national news programs including Good Morning America and Anderson Cooper 360°, in which Cooper called Kozak's weather that day the "Best Forecast Ever".