KTVU, channel 2, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station licensed to Oakland, California, USA and serving the San Francisco Bay Area. KTVU is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, and operates as part of a duopoly with independent station KICU-TV (channel 36). The two stations share studio facilities at Jack London Square in Oakland; KTVU maintains transmitter facilities at Sutro Tower in San Francisco.

In the few areas of the western United States where a Fox station is not receivable over-the-air or through cable television, KTVU is carried on the Dish Network satellite service as part of All American Direct's distant network package to qualifying subscribers (All American Direct began to lease space from Dish Network to distribute distant network signals following a court ruling that said Dish itself could not distribute the programming).

History

As an independent station

The station first signed on the air as on March 3, 1958, originally operating as an independent station. Interestingly, it was the second television outlet to take the KTVU call letters which were previously used by a short-lived television station in Stockton,[3] on UHF channel 36 that operated from 1955 to 1956. KTVU's operations were inaugurated with a special live telecast from its Oakland studios. The station was originally owned by San Francisco-Oakland Television, Inc., a group of local investors led by a pair of former Don Lee Network and KFRC radio executives, William D. Pabst and Ward D. Ingrim; and Bay Area businessman Edwin W. Pauley, who had led a separate group which competed against Pabst and Ingrim for the station's construction permit.[4]

The Ingrim–Pabst–Pauley group nearly sold KTVU to NBC in 1960, as the network sought a television station in the Bay Area to operate alongside KNBC radio (now KNBR).[6] The sale was eventually cancelled in October 1961 due to preexisting concerns related to NBC's ownership of radio and television stations in Philadelphia.[8] Eighteen months later, in July 1963, channel 2 was sold to the Miami Valley Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, for $12.3 million; the sale was finalized in mid-October of that year, resulting in a partnership that lasted 51 years.[10][11]

During its first 15 years on the air, KTVU's transmitter facilities were originally based from a tower on San Bruno Mountain. Channel 2 moved its transmitter to the Sutro Tower after the structure was completed in 1973.

In 1977, KTVU was uplinked to satellite as a national superstation, being carried primarily on Cox's cable television systems. However, the station was unable to compete with WTBS (now WPCH-TV) in Atlanta, and two other stations that were uplinked to satellite as superstations in the two years after KTVU gained national distribution, WGN-TV in Chicago and WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) in New York City, and began reducing its national cable coverage in 1982; while KTVU remained a superstation for the remainder of its run as an independent, its cable coverage had become limited to providers within the Western United States – primarily those in Northern California, Nevada, Oregon and to a lesser extent, Utah. The station continued to be distributed nationally on satellite via C-Band systems until the late 1990s; KTVU was also carried on PrimeStar as the satellite provider's Pacific Time Zone Fox network feed until its 1999 merger with DirecTV.

Over the years, KTVU aired syndicated off-network series, movies, talk shows, news, public affairs and religious programs. It was the leading independent station in the San Francisco market for several years and retained this status when other independents signed on the air on the UHF dial during the late 1960s, most notably KBHK-TV (channel 44, now KBCW). Channel 2 adapted to competition over the years by reinventing the station's own image with its former longtime slogan, "There's Only One 2" – which was used in its marketing and on-air promos, including a musical jingle, during the 1970s and 1980s.[12]

As a VHF station competitor, KTVU aired The 8 O'Clock Movie as an alternative to network programs that aired during prime time on then-NBC affiliate KRON-TV (channel 4), CBS affiliate KPIX (channel 5) and ABC-owned KGO-TV (channel 7). As an independent station through to its early years as a Fox affiliate, KTVU frequently aired classic movies in the 8:00 p.m. slot as well as on Sunday afternoons. In the early 1960s, KTVU obtained the local rights to the Warner Bros. Pictures library, primarily airing film releases from the 1950s and mostly those in color, on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Channel 2 was the first Bay Area station to televise such films as A Star Is Born, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. KTVU exercised discretion and limited commercial interruptions during the movies, often airing the films uncensored and with commentary, either by a studio host or via slides. The station even televised MGM's Hollywood Revue of 1929 with some of the original two-strip Technicolor sequences. In 1992, KTVU ran a station-edited version of the 1984 science fiction film Dune, combining the Alan Smithee television cut with the original theatrical release (thereby restoring all the violence of the latter cut, while eliminating some of the objectionable edits that caused director David Lynch to remove his name from the credits of the television print). KTVU also carried programming from the Operation Prime Time programming service (at least) in 1978.[13]

Fox affiliation

On October 9, 1986, KTVU became a charter affiliate of the fledgling Fox television network, when it inaugurated programming with the debut of the late night talk show The Late Show. KTVU was programmed as a de facto independent station, similar to other Fox stations during the network's early years, even after Fox expanded its programming into primetime on weekend evenings in 1987. Channel 2 continued to air a movie at 8:00 p.m. on nights when Fox programs did not air until the network's primetime lineup began airing on a nightly basis in September 1993. Channel 2 began to air an afternoon cartoon block supplied by the network, Fox Kids, when the Monday through Saturday children's lineup debuted in September 1990. The station also added more syndicated talk, court and reality shows over the years; it also continued to run some off-network sitcoms. The station continued to run Fox Kids programming on weekdays until the network discontinued its afternoon block in January 2002;[2] it retained the Saturday morning lineup, which eventually became known as 4Kids TV until Fox discontinued its children's programming altogether on December 27, 2008 (replacing it with the two-hour infomercial block Weekend Marketplace).

Throughout its affiliation with Fox under Cox Enterprises ownership, the station continued to brand itself as "Channel 2", even as the network began to require its owned-and-operated stations and affiliates to incorporate the "Fox" name within the station's own branding. However, KTVU would begin to alternately brand as "Fox Channel 2" by the early 1990s, mainly within promotions for Fox network programs. In 1996, the Fox wordmark logo was added onto the underside of the top line of KTVU's longtime "Circle Laser 2" logo (which has been in use since 1975), while the station's branding was also changed to "KTVU Fox 2" as the network tightened its branding standardizations for its stations – although the previous "KTVU Channel 2" moniker remained in use as part of the branding for its newscasts (the "Fox 2" moniker was used on the station's 10:00 p.m. newscast from 2001 to 2002).

KTVU has generally aired the entire Fox program lineup without preemptions (except for San Francisco Giants baseball games during its contractual tenure with the team), as the network airs fewer hours of programming than CBS, NBC and ABC. At first, KTVU delayed the pre-empted programming to weekends, but with the growth of Fox and viewer demand, the station eventually aired the delayed primetime shows following the station's 10:00 p.m. newscast; after Cox purchased KICU until channel 2 lost the Giants rights after the 2007 season, the preempted Fox programming would be moved to KICU to air in their network-designated timeslots. Despite the occasional pre-emptions, Fox was very satisfied with KTVU, as the station has long been one of the network's strongest affiliates.

On November 28, 1999, Cox Enterprises acquired KICU-TV (channel 36) – which launched in October 1967 as KGSC-TV, and is the successor to the original KTVU in Stockton, creating the Bay Area's first television station duopoly with KTVU when the deal was finalized in early 2000;[2] KICU's operations migrated from its original studios in San Jose and were consolidated into KTVU's studios in Oakland. On March 3, 2008, KTVU celebrated its 50th anniversary of broadcasting. In honor of the anniversary, a series of fifteen promos were produced, which included those honoring former KTVU programs such as Romper Room and Captain Satellite as well as the station's sports programming.

Acquisition by Fox Television Stations

Following its March 2013 purchase of WJZY in Charlotte, Variety reported that Fox Television Stations was pursuing station acquisitions in San Francisco and Seattle as it desired to have a larger presence in the markets of NFL teams that are part of the National Football Conference (such as the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks), to which Fox holds broadcast rights.[16] Fox had for many years wanted to have an owned-and-operated station in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has always been one of the ten largest Nielsen television markets. When Fox Television Stations acquired WTXF-TV in Philadelphia in 1995, KTVU became the largest Fox station by market size not to be owned by the network.[17] Fox's original parent company News Corporation (which spun off the network to 21st Century Fox in July 2013 as part of the company's separation of its entertainment and publishing assets) made several offers to buy KTVU, but Cox turned Fox down each time. Fox had reportedly considered purchasing KTVU's Seattle sister station, CBS affiliate KIRO-TV (which would have displaced that market's charter Fox affiliate, KCPQ).[16]

On June 24, 2014, Fox announced that it would trade its stations in Boston (WFXT) and Memphis (WHBQ-TV) to the Cox Media Group in exchange for acquiring KTVU and KICU. The deal made KTVU the last Big Four network station in the Bay Area to become an owned-and-operated station of its associated network.[18][19] The trade was completed on October 8, 2014.[20]

In November 2014, KTVU transitioned from Cox's in-house digital operations to those of Fox, which included the release of new mobile apps and the transition of its website to the WorldNow platform used by Fox-owned stations.[21] On February 8, 2015, KTVU began to fully comply with Fox's station branding guidelines, extending the "KTVU Fox 2" brand to its news programming; however, the station retained the "Circle Laser 2" logo by both including it within the group's standardized "boxkite" logo and in an alternate version in which it is now placed next to the Fox wordmark.[2]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[2]
2.1720p16:9KTVU-HDMain KTVU programming / Fox
2.2480i4:3LATVLATV
2.3Movies!Movies!
2.4BuzzrBuzzr

KTVU also operates a Mobile DTV simulcast feed on subchannel 2.1. It was broadcast over KICU-TV's signal, but has since moved to its own signal.[3][3]

Analog-to-digital conversion

KTVU shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television.[26] The station's digital signal was relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 56, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to UHF channel 44 (the allocation previously occupied by KBCW's analog signal),[27] using PSIP to display KTVU's virtual channel as 2 on digital television receivers.

KTVU also operates a digital fill-in translator on UHF channel 48,[3] which serves the southern part of the viewing area, including San Jose.

Programming

Locally produced programming

During the 1960s and 1970s, KTVU aired the afternoon children's program Captain Satellite, which was hosted by Bob March; the series showcased cartoons between segments, including among others The Space Explorers.[3] Until the 1980s, the station produced a series of classic public service shorts titled Bits and Pieces, often featuring two talking puppets, Charley and Humphrey, which Pat McCormick had brought from KGO-TV; the shorts, which often aired during the station's children's programming, were aimed at delivering positive and educational messages to kids. It was also the Bay Area's originating station for the children's television program franchise Romper Room; the program aired at 8:30 a.m. during the 1980s.

One of the station's most successful programs – both in terms of ratings and cultural impact – was Creature Features, a horror movie showcase hosted by Bob Wilkins (who had earlier hosted a very popular show with a similar theme at KCRA in Sacramento), who brought a straight presentation and dry wit to a television genre made ridiculous by the likes of Vampira. Creature Features became an immediate hit following its January 9, 1971 premiere telecast, eventually expanding to a double feature format in the mid-1970s, by which time it was defeating network fare such as Saturday Night Live in the local ratings. It was these latter ratings victories that resulted in John Belushi and John Landis appearing on the program in 1978, during their promotional tour for National Lampoon's Animal House. Wilkins also interviewed then-local author Anne Rice upon the publication of Interview With The Vampire, as well as Christopher Lee, William Shatner, local independent filmmaker Ernie Fosselius (of Hardware Wars fame) and many others. Wilkins eventually began hosting a second program on KTVU, Captain Cosmic, wherein he introduced the Bay Area – and by extension, through KTVU's superstation status, the rest of the country – to Japanese anime by broadcasting such shows as Star Blazers. Captain Cosmic was a hit, though it and Creature Features both ended when Wilkins retired from television in 1979.

Programs that were formerly seen on KTVU during its run as an independent station included Dialing for Dollars, which was hosted by Pat McCormick, who later served as a weather anchor at the station; National All-Star Wrestling,[3] which aired on Friday nights during the early and mid-1960s from the KTVU studios or Daly City's Cow Palace and was hosted by Walt Harris; and Roller Derby, which Harris also hosted for many years and featured San Francisco Bay Bombers roller derby games until the demise of the International Roller Derby League in 1973. During the early 2000s, KTVU broadcast San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade each winter; sister station KICU generally rebroadcast the parade on the evening of its broadcast (independent station KTSF (channel 26) aired its own Chinese-language telecast of the parade using "pool" cameras).

Sports programming

KTVU obtained the rights to televise San Francisco Giants Major League Baseball games in 1961,[3] three years after the team arrived from New York City. After the relocation, the Giants initially opted against televising their games to encourage game attendance by Bay Area residents and tourists; as such, when KTVU became the Giants' television partner, it only televised the team's road games against the Los Angeles Dodgers until 1965,[3] when the station began airing additional regular season and exhibition games. KTVU lost rights to the Giants telecasts beginning with the 2008 season, when the broadcast television contract was taken over by San Jose NBC owned-and-operated station KNTV (channel 11).[3] The Giants retain a presence on channel 2, as some Saturday afternoon – and more recently, Saturday evening – regular season games (in addition to the team's postseason and World Series appearances) have been carried on the station since 1996, as part of Fox's national baseball coverage.

KTVU has also served as the local television broadcaster of San Francisco 49ers since 1994, when Fox won the contract to air games from the National Football Conference; the station airs most of the team's exhibition, regular season and playoff games whose rights are not held by other broadcast networks. KTVU also airs most Oakland Raiders games in which the team plays against an NFC opponent as well as select preseason games (although some preseason matches may be deferred to KICU). Both KTVU and sister station KICU also carry Raiders preseason games. The San Francisco/Golden State Warriors also aired many of its basketball games on KTVU through the years, on several occasions from 1962 to 1963, 1965 to 1968, 1969 to 1983 and the late 1990s to 2001.

News operation

KTVU presently broadcasts 59¾ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 10 hours on weekdays, 4¼ hours on Saturday and 4½ hours on Sunday); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest newscast output of any television station in the San Francisco Bay Area (over MyNetworkTV affiliate KRON-TV, which carries 56½ hours each week). In addition, the station produces the sports highlight program Sports Wrap, airing Saturday at 10:45 p.m. and run for 15 minutes, Sunday at 11:00 p.m. (originally running as a 15-minute program within the weekend 10:00 p.m. newscasts until May 30, 2015, after which it was spun-off into a separate half-hour program on June 7),[4] and the public affairs program Bay Area People, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 a.m. KTVU's Saturday 6:00 p.m. and Sunday 5:00 p.m. newscasts are subject to preemption or delay due to network sports telecasts overrunning into or starting within either timeslot. KTVU is the fifth-largest Fox station overall without a newscast in a conventional late news timeslot.

The station has been well known in the Bay Area for its news programming; KTVU's news department began operations along with the station on March 3, 1958, with the launch of The 10 O'Clock News (modified to the fully spelled titling in 2001, before switching to a partially numerical-based titling – as the Fox 2 10:00 News, mirroring similar titing schemes for newscasts used by some of its sister stations such as Los Angeles O&O KTTV – in February 2015 under Fox ownership, and then reverting to the original title six months later), which for years had been the market's only local television newscast at 10:00 p.m. Throughout the 1980s until 2006, the program was often referred to as "the number one prime time newscast in the country," a factual statement – which was referenced in the newscast's introduction during this period – based on the number of viewers watching the program at that hour. KTVU's primetime newscast was such a force to be reckoned with that WB affiliate KBWB (channel 20, now independent station KOFY-TV) canceled its KNTV-produced 10:00 p.m. newscast in 2002, as it was unable to compete with KTVU in the ratings (KPIX began producing a half-hour 10:00 newscast for KBCW in March 2008, which competes against KTVU's hour-long newscast). When KRON-TV became an independent station in January 2002, it scheduled its new primetime newscast at 9:00 p.m. to avoid competing directly with KTVU – a stark contrast to the early 1990s, when both KRON and KPIX moved their late evening newscasts to 10:00 as part of the "early prime" network scheduling experiment; both programs have since moved back to the 11:00 p.m. slot. During this period, KTVU branded its flagship newscast as The Original Ten O'Clock News. Besides beating out its competition in the 10:00 p.m. timeslot, The Ten O'Clock News has also placed ahead of KRON, KPIX and KGO's 11:00 p.m. newscasts in overall late news viewership for much of its history.

The Ten O'Clock News is also one of the few local newscasts in the United States to have been syndicated to other television stations. It also airs on Monterey Fox affiliate KCBA (which also carries the morning newscast),[35] MyNetworkTV affiliates KRVU-LD in Chico and KEMY-LP in Eureka, California and Fox affiliate KRXI-TV in Reno, Nevada (which – unlike the other three stations, which have never been owned by Cox – was co-owned with KTVU from 1997 to 2013; it also carried KTVU's morning and noon newscasts until Cox discontinued its agreement with KRXI owner Sinclair Broadcast Group to air both programs on May 14, 2014[4]). KTVU had used the "KTVU News Theme" by Michael Randall as the theme music for its newscasts from 1987 (debuting alongside a well-known title sequence for the 10:00 p.m. newscast that was updated in 1994 and used until 2001, featuring a CGI fly-over of the Bay Area with the program's title logo sliding across the waters of the San Francisco Bay) until the package was replaced on June 23, 2010 by a new 615 Music-composed theme called "Icon News". In the 2000s, channel 2 became the last news-producing English language station in the Bay Area to begin utilizing a helicopter for news gathering, with the introduction of News Chopper 2 (now known as SkyFox as part of the rebranding by Fox after its acquisition).

Throughout its run as an independent station, the 10:00 p.m. broadcast was the only news program on KTVU. The station first expanded its news programming in 1986 with the debut of a half-hour midday newscast (originally titled 2 at Noon), displacing syndicated game shows on the noon timeslot. The station debuted a half-hour 6:00 p.m. newscast in the late 1980s; it was cancelled by the early 1990s. Channel 2 eventually decided to shift towards a news-intensive format to compete with KRON, KPIX, KGO-TV and KNTV that took the course of several years to take effect; Fox has never carried any national network newscasts (aside from news updates produced out of its New York City station WNYW that aired during primetime from 1987 to 1990, and four attempts at newsmagazines between 1987 and 2003), but it still motivated its affiliates, including KTVU, to air more local news programming. The station's original morning newscast, Mornings on 2, debuted on January 2, 1991 on the 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. slot (as such, it became the fourth Fox station to air a weekday morning newscast); this was followed by the 1996 debut of an additional hour-long newscast at 6:00 a.m. (which would gradually expand to 2½ hours, now beginning at 4:30 a.m.). Early evening newscasts later returned on March 26, 2000 with the debut of a new half-hour 6:00 p.m. newscast,[4][4] followed by the addition of an hour-long 5:00 p.m. newscast in April 2005.

As its news programming expanded, KTVU's newscasts avidly competed for first overall with KRON-TV during the 1990s; its newscasts became the highest-rated among the Bay Area's television stations in the early 2000s, firmly taking first place from KRON-TV following channel 4's 2002 disaffiliation from NBC. The retirement of longtime news director Fred Zehnder brought changes to the newsroom; however, KTVU was ranked as the highest quality local newscast in the nation in 2000 by the Project for Excellence in Journalism under his immediate successor, Andrew Finlayson, while maintaining the top ratings slot at 10:00 and throughout the noon and morning newscasts. Varying prime time numbers and improvements at competitors have since led to a decline in the once-dominant news operation's ratings, although it retains the #1 spot. For the month of August 2010, KTVU's newscasts ranked #1 among adult viewers 25-54, beating KPIX, KGO, KNTV and KRON.[4]

On October 10, 2006, KTVU became the first television station in the Bay Area (and the third Cox-owned station, after Atlanta flagship WSB-TV and WFTV in Orlando) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition;[4] with the upgrade, the station debuted a new state-of-the-art studio designed for HD newscast production, which replaced the previous set that had been used since 1986; video from remote and field equipment was initially broadcast in 480p standard definition following the transition; high definition cameras are now utilized for field reports. On January 21, 2008, the station began producing a half-hour newscast at 7:00 p.m. each weeknight for sister station KICU-TV.[4]

KTVU Channel 2 News was honored in 2010 with the prestigious Peabody Award for its 2009 BART Shooting coverage.[4] On January 22, 2011, KTVU launched two-hour newscasts on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. (now 10:00 a.m.), becoming the largest Fox affiliate and the second-largest Fox station – behind the network's Dallas O&O KDFW – to carry newscasts on weekend mornings.[43][6] Two days later on January 24, 2011, KTVU expanded its weekday morning newscast to 4½ hours, with the addition of a half-hour at 4:30 a.m.[43]

In March 2014, KTVU began using the AFD #10 broadcast flag to present its newscasts in letterboxed widescreen for viewers watching on cable through 4:3 television sets (the AFD #10 flag had already been used to show Fox programming on the station in letterbox on Bay Area cable and IPTV providers).

In February 2015, KTVU introduced a new graphics package, accompanied the replacement of the "Icon News" package with OSI Music's "Fox Affiliate News Theme", matching with the imaging style of other stations owned by Fox Television Stations, continuing the transition to the "Fox 2" brand. On June 22, 2015 (originally announced in an April 14 release that also announced the expansion of Mornings on 2 by a half-hour earlier at 4:00 a.m. on April 20), KTVU debuted an hour-long 4:00 p.m. newscast, marking the first time that a Fox owned-and-operated station would air a newscast during that hour since a short-lived 4:30 p.m. effort on former Boston O&O WFXT in 2002 that lasted for one year (all but two of Fox's other O&Os start their early-evening news blocks at 5:00 p.m.).[6]

Asiana Airlines accident prank

During the July 12, 2013, edition of the noon newscast, the station ran a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report (read by anchor Tori Campbell) that claimed to identify the four pilots of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 which crash landed at San Francisco International Airport six days earlier. A summer intern at the NTSB incorrectly confirmed the spellings of the names when called by KTVU.[6] The names used on the broadcast were:

  • Captain Sum Ting Wong
  • Wi Tu Lo
  • Ho Lee Fuk
  • Bang Ding Ow

Producers of the KTVU newscast missed the prank, and allowed the insulting names to be shown onscreen and read by their newscaster. KTVU was otherwise able to confirm the legitimate names, since Asiana Airlines had confirmed two of the pilots' names earlier that week and an Associated Press article that included the actual names of all four pilots was posted on KTVU's website two days before the erroneous report aired.[6] The NTSB quickly apologized for the joke, saying that the intern had been fired.[48][6][50] Three KTVU producers were let go after an internal review,[6] and an additional noon producer left for health reasons.[6][6]

Asiana Airlines announced on July 15, 2013 that it would file a defamation lawsuit against KTVU, claiming the incident damaged the airline's reputation,[8] only to reverse course days later, citing in a statement that it would instead "concentrate all [their] efforts on dealing with the aftermath of the accident."[8] KTVU later filed requests through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to remove user-uploaded videos of the prank available online,[8] causing some criticism for "trying to cover up their mistake";[8] KTVU General Manager Tom Raponi contended that the takedown claims were not so much a way of preventing copyright infringement (as the uploads of the segment may fall under fair use criteria) than to try to lessen insensitivity towards the Asian community.[8]

On-air staff

Notable current on-air staff

Notable former on-air staff