WKPT-TV, channel 19, is a MyNetworkTV-affiliated television station licensed to Kingsport, Tennessee, USA and serving the Tri-Cities area of northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. WKPT-TV is owned by the Glenwood Communications Corporation, and is a sister station to Class A stations WAPK-CD and WOPI-CD; and several radio stations, including WKPT (1400 AM). All properties share studios on Commerce Street in downtown Kingsport and WKPT-TV's transmitter is located on Holston Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest.
Although the station is licensed to and based in Kingsport, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires it to include Johnson City and Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia in its legal on-air identifications.
WKPT-TV began broadcasting on August 20, 1969 as the Tri-Cities' exclusive ABC affiliate. Previously, the network had been shared between NBC affiliate WCYB-TV (Channel 5) and CBS affiliate WJHL-TV (Channel 11), each of which picked its own ABC programs to air. However, many viewers in the area could view the entire ABC schedule on nearby WLOS-TV in Asheville, North Carolina. Before WKPT signed on, WLOS included the Tri-Cities as part of its primary coverage area as it was widely available over the air (from a transmitter on Mount Pisgah that provided city-grade picture quality) and on cable.
WKPT has three historical distinctions. First, it is the oldest UHF television station in Tennessee to have maintained continuous operation on the UHF band to the present. Second, it is the second oldest station in Tennessee to have had the same licensee from its inaugural date to the present. WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee is the oldest but only after it was sold to Bahakel Communications. Third, for years it was the only locally owned-and-operated full-power station in the Tri-Cities. However, that was merely by default. Because the antenna heights of its two VHF rivals, WJHL and WCYB, are above the 2,000 ft (610 m) above average terrain full power ceiling height mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), those two could not operate at their full power capacities. WCYB radiated 65,000 watts ERP analog visual while WJHL radiated 245,000 watts ERP analog visual.
WKPT was also one of the first stations in the country to utilize a newly adopted (at the time) FCC rule called must-carry that required local cable companies to black out stations in nearby cities affiliated with the same network that were carried on local cable systems and cover the channel with the local network affiliate. As a result, the easily receivable off-air network signal from WLOS, 110 miles (180 km) away, was always blacked out on cable systems in the Tri-Cities while being covered by the WKPT signal any time both stations were broadcasting ABC programming. Local WLOS programming was not blacked out. After deregulation of the cable industry, stations from adjacent markets were taken off most local cable systems altogether in favor of satellite stations like TBS, WGN America, CNN, and others.
WCYB and WJHL received ABC via traditional ground microwave relay stations provided by AT&T back in the 1950s and 1960s. However, when WKPT started in 1969, its owners could not afford to spend a half-million dollars per year for a network feed. As a result, the station developed its own low-cost way of bringing ABC to upper East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia. Before the advent of satellite technology, WKPT utilized a series of private microwave relay stations between Kingsport and Knoxville. As the ABC signal was being transmitted via traditional microwave from AT&T into the studios of then-ABC affiliate WTVK-TV on Sharp's Ridge in Knoxville (now CBS affiliate WVLT-TV), WKPT would literally "grab" the telco signal just as it was going into the WTVK studios.
It then sent the signal via private microwave to a relay station 70 miles (110 km) line-of-sight miles east to Camp Creek Bald on the Tennessee/North Carolina border in Southern Greene County, Tennessee. The ABC signal was then re-transmitted via another WKPT microwave 33 miles (53 km) line-of-sight miles further east to the WKPT transmitter site on Holston Mountain. From the relay point there, it was transmitted by a third WKPT microwave 25 miles (40 km) line-of-sight miles down to the studios in Downtown Kingsport through the station's master control board and then back to Holston Mountain via the station's regular studio-transmitter link and then broadcast on Channel 19.
Private microwave relays of network programming were prevalent before the advent of AT&T commercial microwave. WVVA-TV in Bluefield, West Virginia operated its own private microwave relay that brought NBC to Bluefield from WSLS-TV in Roanoke. In its early days, WSMV-TV, Nashville received its NBC feed from WAVE-TV Louisville, and WSAZ-TV Huntington operated a private microwave to deliver NBC first from WLWT in Cincinnati, then from WLWC-TV (now WCMH-TV) in Columbus.
Whenever any part of WKPT-TV's private microwave relay system malfunctioned, as it did periodically because of heavy snowfall or downed trees, station engineers were forced to broadcast the signal of either WTVK or WLOS whenever network programming was airing. Occasionally, WKPT accidentally aired the local commercials and the station identifications of either WTVK or WLOS being unable to cover them up quickly. When WTVK swapped affiliations with WATE-TV, WKPT merely moved its Knoxville microwave relay 800 ft (240 m) west to WATE's transmitter site, also on Sharp's Ridge, and continued to receive ABC via its privately owned microwave relay system. Ironically, the AT&T network signals for WJHL and WCYB were both delivered from Greenville, South Carolina to the phone company microwave that is also atop Camp Creek Bald that fed the Knoxville television stations.
Under federal must-carry rules, broadcasters can either allow cable systems in their market to carry their signals for free or charge a fee under retransmission consent provisions. On December 3, 2008, it was announced that Inter Mountain Cable (IMC), a cable provider serving parts of Eastern Kentucky, announced that it would drop WKPT from their lineup unless an agreement was reached over retransmission consent. According to The Mountain Eagle, this dispute has caused concern among officials in the city of Fleming-Neon, where IMC holds the cable television franchise there. The city council in Fleming-Neon have stated that the removal of WKPT would violate IMC's franchise agreement.
WKPT-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 19, 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 27.
Switch to MyNetworkTV
On January 4, 2016, WKPT announced that it had lost its ABC affiliation effective February 2016; ABC programming moved to the new ABC Tri-Cities subchannel of Media General's WJHL-TV. In a statement by Holston Valley Broadcasting president George DeVault, he stated that despite negotiating in good faith with a "loyal" affiliate of ABC, and having agreed in principle on a 5-year extension, the network had chosen to explore other options, and showed a preference to being affiliated with a station owned by a larger group.
With the loss of ABC programming, WKPT switched to MyNetworkTV on February 1, 2016, assuming the affiliation as well as syndicated programming previously seen on sister station WAPK-CD (which switched to MeTV) while retaining WKPT's syndicated programs. WKPT continues to carry the Litton's Weekend Adventure Saturday morning E/I block which is most known for being carried by ABC affiliates, as that is under a syndication agreement with Litton Entertainment and separate from WKPT's expired contract with ABC (WJHL-DT2 combines content from Xploration Station, which was turned down by Fox affiliate WEMT, and the open syndication market for their E/I contributions).
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|19.1||720p||16:9||WKPT-HD||Main WKPT-TV programming / MyNetworkTV|
WKPT syndicated programs retain in the switch from ABC to MyNetworkTV were “Rachael Ray,” “Wendy Williams,” “Inside Edition,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “Family Feud.”
WKPT's first personalities in the early 1970s included news anchors Martin Karant and Bill Freehoff along with weather/sports with Bill Trailer. These distinguished broadcasters had been popular personalities on WKPT-AM 1400 and made the move to television. Karant continued to hold his position on WKPT-AM until his retirement in 1997. Until February 2002, WKPT produced news in-house. However, they never made much headway against WCYB and WJHL.
From February 2002 through September 2006, nightly 6 and 11 o’clock newscasts originated from WJHL and were simulcast on both WKPT and WJHL in a news share agreement. In situations where one station was off (due to network run over or other circumstances), the news was broadcast on the other station at the correct time.
Starting in September 2006, WJHL's nightly 11 o’clock broadcast was repeated on WKPT at or around 1:06 in the morning. In addition, a five-minute news and weather summary was provided at 11:30 P.M. to accommodate for the gap between the end of syndicated programming and the beginning of Nightline. At some point, this programming was dropped. Also, WJHL's weekday Noon show had been repeated on WAPK and WKPT-DT3 / WOPI-CA on a half-hour delay at 12:30. Like all RTV affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, that station also aired Daytime weekday mornings at 9.
In 2009, WKPT began airing local news and weather briefs that were taped in advance using the resources of its sister radio stations. It eventually relaunched a small news department in 2010 with the debut of two weeknight news and weather updates that included a five-minute cut-in at 6:25 and an eight-minute brief at 11, featuring news anchor Cyrus Fees. In March 2012, these cut-ins began resembling abbreviated newscasts featuring contributions from the first reporter hired by WKPT, Ashton Bishop. Corresponding with the format change, the early weeknight update moved to 6 preceding ABC World News. In addition, local news and weather cut-ins were added at :25 and :55 past the hour on weekday mornings during Good Morning America (from 7:00 to 9:00 AM). All of the aforementioned programming aired in high definition under the branding 19 WKPT News. After hiring more personnel, WKPT resumed traditional full-length newscasts (which were seen weeknights at 6 and 11) on March 4, 2013, with anchors Jim Bailey and Liz Marrs. In 2013 morning cut-in anchor Ashton Bishop was named as the new co-anchor for the 6 and 11 newscasts with Bailey.
Following the announcement that it would lose its ABC affiliation, WKPT also announced that it would shut down its news department at the same time, owing to the "tough financial challenge" the station would face in running news without an affiliation with a major network. The news operation officially shut down January 29, 2016, with the final airing of A Closer Look aired on January 31, 2016.