KTVO is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Heart Land area of Northeastern Missouri and Southeastern Iowa. Licensed to Kirksville, Missouri, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 33 from a transmitter northwest of Downing, Missouri along US 136. The station can also be seen in Iowa on Mediacom channel 5 (HD on digital channel 803) and in Missouri on Cable One channel 6 (HD on digital channel 455). Owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, KTVO's main broadcast facility is located on US 63 two miles north of Kirksville. A secondary news studio and operations are maintained at 111 South Market Street in downtown Ottumwa, Iowa.
When the FCC lifted the "Freeze of '48"—the nationwide halt to reorganize TV frequencies—on April 14, 1952 the VHF channel 3 was assigned to the Kirksville, Missouri market. This prime channel attracted the attention of North Missouri Broadcasting Partners, a group led by former U.S. Congressman Sam "Wat" Arnold and Sam Burk, owners of Kirksville radio station KIRX, who had already been discussing the feasibility of adding a television station to their operations. Hoping to defray the costs and risk of the new venture, in early 1953 the Kirksville group joined with another led by James J. Conroy, owner of KBIZ in Ottumwa, Iowa. In return for shares in KBIZ, the Kirksville group would allow construction of a tower and transmitter site whose signal would cover both Kirksville and Ottumwa. Following FCC approval, a 1,100 foot tower was built near Downing, Missouri.
KTVO signed-on November 21, 1955 airing an analog signal on VHF channel 3. However, by time of sign-on the Kirksville group felt the venture held little hope for profitability and had sold all shares back to Conroy. For much of its early history KTVO was a primary CBS affiliate, although its single market status allowed it to cherry-pick the most popular programming from NBC and ABC. At first Arnold and Burk's fears that the Ottumwa/Kirksville Designated Market Area (DMA) was too small to support a television station were proven true but Conroy persevered, believing southeastern Iowa and northeastern Missouri would be proud to have a locally based station. This was not a surprise, given that KTVO was the area's only channel until 1986, when KOIA-TV (now Fox affiliate KYOU-TV) began operations.
On January 7, 1964, Conroy sold KTVO to the Post Corporation, a media conglomerate of newspapers and broadcasting properties based in Appleton, Wisconsin. The new owners renovated and expanded the KTVO facilities in Ottumwa, shared for the station's first twenty years with then co-owned KBIZ-AM 1240. In 1968, KTVO switched primary affiliation to ABC, although the station continued carrying a few CBS and NBC shows until 1974. The year 1976 brought great change to KTVO. The Post Corporation received FCC approval to erect a new 2,000 foot tower near Colony, Missouri. This new height and location would allow KTVO's signal to reach the lucrative Quincy, Illinois-Hannibal, Missouri DMA while still serving its two original cities of license. As part of the upgrade KTVO's main studios were moved from Ottumwa to a newly constructed building three miles north of Kirksville, with a secondary studio remaining in Ottumwa and a news bureau to be established in Quincy. With more room to grow in their new Kirksville facility, in the early 1980s KTVO operated a short-lived, low-power UHF station, K40AI, channel 40. A large bulk of K40AI's schedule was made up of programming from the now-defunct Satellite Program Network. K40AI also re-purposed a small amount of the syndicated programming aired on KTVO at the time, such as Solid Gold. In 1984, Gillett Corporation bought the Post Corporation Stations; however, due to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limit of five VHF television stations that was in effect at the time, KTVO was spun off to a local telecommunications company called "Gillbro Communications". Federal Broadcasting (later Federal Enterprises) acquired the station in 1987.
On June 2, 1988, a three-member broadcast tower maintenance crew were killed when the KTVO transmitter tower collapsed. This forced the channel, along with radio station KRXL-FM 94.5 (which had been renting antenna space on the tower) off-the-air. Since the original tower was still available, KTVO was able to resume broadcasting within thirty hours of the collapse. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation placed official blame for the tower collapse primarily on the maintenance crew, citing the removal of too many tower cross-braces at once for repair. Although a relatively new structure, the steel cross-braces had already shown signs of cracking, rust, and other deterioration thus necessitating the early repair and maintenance.
KTVO was acquired by Raycom Media in 1996. In December 2003, Raycom acquired the television stations of Waitt Media, which included KYOU. However, due to FCC duopoly regulations, KYOU was transferred to Ottumwa Media Holdings, LLC and entered into a local marketing agreement (LMA) with KTVO. On March 27, 2006, the company announced that it would sell KTVO along with thirteen other stations across the country to Barrington Broadcasting. The sale closed that August. As a result, KYOU's owner, Ottumwa Media Holdings, was renamed American Spirit Media and the LMA dissolved.
KTVO had been serving the Quincy, Illinois/Hannibal, Missouri/Keokuk, Iowa market as the default analog ABC affiliate on cable with some locations being able pick up its over-the-air signal. On August 28, 2007, sister station KHQA announced that they would launch a new second digital subchannel to offer ABC programming beginning September 30. However, KTVO remains on area cable systems, and launched a CBS-affiliated second digital subchannel on May 15, 2010 effectively marking the network's return to the area after a 36-year absence. Until this point, KHQA had been the analog default affiliate. Like KHQA-DT2, KTVO-DT2 originally offered America One as a secondary affiliate but has since added syndicated programming to its schedule. On February 28, 2013, Barrington Broadcasting announced the sale of its entire group, including KTVO, to Sinclair Broadcast Group. The sale was completed on November 25. In November 2015, KTVO celebrated the 60th Anniversary of its original airdate when stationed in Ottumwa, IA.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|3.1||720p||16:9||KTVO-ABC||Main KTVO programming / ABC|
|3.2||KTVO-CBS||KTVO-DT2 / CBS|
KTVO discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, 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 33. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
KTVO was the only local source of newscasts in the market until November 2, 2015, when rival station KYOU-TV launched a 9 p.m. newscast. KTVO shares resources with sister station KHQA and with other Sinclair-owned stations to provide additional coverage. In addition to its main studios, KTVO operates a bureau on South Market Street in Downtown Ottumwa which is just around the corner from the original studios. KTVO-DT2 airs a Southeastern Iowa-focused newscast on weeknights called KTVO CBS 3.2 News at 6:30 originating from the bureau. To meet the needs of the areas increasing Hispanic population, a five-minute Spanish-language "mini-newscast" was begun on KTVO-DT2 in October, 2011. It airs at 10 p.m. weeknights, featuring news headlines and local weather forecasts. Otherwise, the subchannel airs no other local news. Unlike most ABC affiliates in the Central Time Zone, KTVO does not air a full two-hour morning or midday show on weekdays.
In March 2009, KTVO received national attention as the victim of viewer prank. A list of fake names many considered crude or obscene (i.e. Dixie Normus and Craven Moorhead) was submitted to its weekday morning show birthdays/anniversaries segment. This list was aired in February 2009 and by March a video of the incident began appearing on websites such as YouTube and Break.com. Over 400,000 viewings occurred on YouTube before KTVO management forced the removal citing copyright violation. However, it had gained enough national attention that the Howard Stern radio show and Jimmy Kimmel Live! exposed the prank to a larger audience.