KARE, virtual and VHF digital channel 11, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States and serving the Twin Cities television market. The station is owned by the Gannett Company. KARE's studios are located on Olson Memorial Highway (MN 55) in Golden Valley, and its transmitter is located at the Telefarm site in Shoreview, Minnesota.
KARE also serves as an alternate NBC affiliate for the Mankato market (via K32GX-D in nearby St. James through the local municipal-operated Cooperative TV [CTV] network of translators), even though Mankato has its own NBC affiliate KMKT.
Channel 11 signed on the air in 1953 with its broadcast hours split between WTCN-TV in Minneapolis and WMIN-TV in St. Paul; the WTCN-TV callsign was originally used by the Minneapolis-licensed channel 4 from that station's sign-on in 1949 to 1952; channel 4 changed to WCCO-TV when, in August 1952, Twin Cities Newspapers (a partnership between the Minneapolis Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch) divested its broadcast properties. The television station was sold to a new company, Midwest Radio and Television, which was created for the purchase, with CBS as a minority partner. CBS at the time owned WCCO radio; with the purchase of the TV station, channel 4's calls were unified with the radio station. Meanwhile, the Twin Cities Newspapers radio properties, WTCN (1280 AM) and WTCN-FM (97.1, now KTCZ-FM), were sold to the Minnesota Television Service Corporation headed by Saint Paul businessman Robert Butler, a former ambassador to Cuba and Australia. Soon afterward, Butler's group and the owners of WMIN radio both applied for the new channel 11 construction permit. Because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had a backlog of contested licenses, the two stations worked out an agreement for a joint application.
The FCC approved this deal and WTCN-TV/WMIN-TV went on the air on September 1, 1953 as an ABC affiliate. The station also carried a secondary affiliation with DuMont.[clarification needed] During the late 1950s, the station also was briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. Under the agreement, the stations shared a transmitter mounted atop the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, alternating use every two hours. WTCN-TV's studios were in the Calhoun Beach Hotel in Minneapolis near Lake Calhoun, while WMIN-TV was based in the Hamm Building in downtown Saint Paul. On April 3, 1955, with FCC approval, WMIN sold its share of channel 11 and WTCN-TV took over the frequency full-time. On the same day, the WTCN stations were sold to the Bitner Group. Two years later, the Bitner group merged with Time-Life.
The early draw of WTCN-TV was its children's programs that featured characters like J. P. Patches, Skipper Daryl, Captain 11 (originally played by Jim Lange), Sergeant Scotty, Wrangler Steve (Steve Cannon, who would later become one of WCCO radio's biggest draws) and the most popular of all, Casey Jones, a train engineer played by Roger Awsumb and accompanied by his sidekick, Joe the Cook (Chris Wedes), succeeded by Roundhouse Rodney (Lynn Dwyer). The Lunch With Casey show originated on WMIN-TV and was on the channel 11 schedule from 1954 until 1972.
On April 16, 1961, KMSP-TV (channel 9) took the ABC affiliation and WTCN-TV became an independent station. As a traditional general entertainment station, channel 11 offered cartoons, sitcoms, old movies, Minnesota Twins baseball, locally produced shows, news and drama series. It was also home to the Twin Cities' first prime-time newscast, with its 10:00 p.m. newscast moving to 9:00 p.m. Chris-Craft Industries bought WTCN-TV in 1964; WTCN radio was sold later that year by Time-Life to Buckley Broadcasting and became WWTC. Under Chris-Craft, channel 11 modernized its newscasts; up to that time, they were still shot on film.
Metromedia enters the pictureEdit
Metromedia announced its purchase of WTCN-TV from Chris-Craft in July 1971. Upon taking control of the station's operations in June 1972 Metromedia made channel 11 its fourth independent outlet, falling in line with the company's stations in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.. The new owners announced plans to upgrade channel 11's lineup of acquired programming (among the new shows added by Metromedia were The Merv Griffin Show in primetime and Wonderama on Sunday mornings) as well as make an investment in news and public affairs. WTCN-TV also began using a new tower at the Telefarm site in Shoreview, Minnesota; the new transmitter increased the station's broadcasting range significantly, boosting its secondary coverage to 72 miles (116 km). In 1973, after 20 years at the Calhoun Beach Hotel, WTCN-TV moved to its current studio in Golden Valley. The address of the building was originally 441 Boone Avenue North, but is now known as 8811 Highway 55 (55427-4762)—the 11 corresponding to the station's channel.
The switch to NBCEdit
In the mid-1970s, ABC—then enjoying its first run as America's top-rated television network—began looking for stronger affiliates across the country, and largely did so at the expense of third-place NBC. ABC surprised the industry in August 1978 by announcing it had signed an affiliation deal with KSTP-TV (channel 5, now a CBS owned-and-operated station), ending that station's 30-year relationship with NBC. NBC then chose to affiliate with WTCN-TV after rejecting an offer from former ABC affiliate KMSP-TV. The three-way switch occurred on March 5, 1979, making WTCN-TV Metromedia's first (and only) station affiliated with the NBC network.
As part of its new network affiliation status, Metromedia promised further upgrades to WTCN-TV's programming as well as a major investment in the news department. Channel 11's schedule in its first few weeks as an NBC outlet was a hodgepodge of network programs and syndicated fare the station was still obligated to run, such as Spider-Man, Tom and Jerry, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The PTL Club; Metromedia also recently acquired for WTCN-TV the Twin Cities' rights to Happy Days, M*A*S*H, and The Waltons. But as NBC's struggles in primetime continued into the 1980s, channel 11 struggled also. The station fell to fourth place in the ratings–behind even KMSP-TV, which replaced WTCN-TV as the Twin Cities' largest independent station and one of the most prominent in the upper Midwest. Metromedia would later sell about half of WTCN's cartoons and syndicated programming inventory to KMSP-TV. The station's newscasts were an even bigger concern as they drew single-digit audience shares, far behind both WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV.
In August 1982, having grown tired of the sustained losses, Metromedia announced it was selling channel 11 to its current owner, the then-Rochester, New York-based Gannett Company. Gannett took over WTCN-TV in March 1983 and made some immediate changes in the station's on-air look, and prominently made a significant investment in the station's news department. The anchor team of Paul Magers and Diana Pierce was hired that September and led the station's 10:00 p.m. newscasts for 20 years, which is a record among Twin Cities news anchors. The station's "Backyard" weather studio was also launched in 1983, coinciding with the arrival of meteorologist Paul Douglas in May.
On July 4, 1985, Gannett rebranded Channel 11 as WUSA, but after the company purchased WDVM-TV in Washington, D.C. the same year, it transferred the call letters to that station on July 4, 1986 and changed channel 11's call sign on the same day to the current KARE (acquired from an AM radio station in Atchison, Kansas) that sounds like "care".
KARE was in danger of losing its NBC affiliation when, in 2000, CBS, having put its Twin Cities O&O WCCO-TV up for sale, approached KARE to sign an affiliation contract with the network. However, NBC was concerned about this, as Hearst Communications planned to switch several of the network's stronger-performing affiliates to The Disney Network. NBC then asked Gannett to renew the network's existing affiliation contracts with KARE and its affiliate in Jacksonville and switch one of KARE's sister stations—CBS affiliate WUSA (channel 9) in Washington, D.C.—to the network as a condition of the deal. NBC's longtime Washington O&O, WRC-TV (channel 4), was sold to CBS as a result, although Hearst initially planned on buying channel 4 in hopes of converting it into a TDN station.
On April 27, 2006, KARE became the first station in the Twin Cities to broadcast its local newscasts in high definition. As part of this transition, the station completely replaced its news set, originally built in 1986 and updated in the 1990s, with a new state-of-the-art backdrop. All newscasts continued to be presented in 4:3 (standard definition) as well as simulcast in 16:9 (high definition) until the federally mandated digital transition on June 12, 2009.
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 KARE. Gannett threatened to suspend KARE's contract 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.