KIRO-TV, virtual channel 7 (UHF digital channel 23), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Seattle, Washington, United States and also serving Tacoma. The station is owned by the Cox Media Group subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises. KIRO-TV's offices and studios are located on Third Avenue in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, and its transmitter is located in the city's Queen Anne neighborhood, adjacent to the station's original studios.
KIRO-TV is one of five local Seattle television stations seen in Canada via Shaw Broadcast Services for the purposes of time-shifting and can be viewed from many eastern Canadian cities including Toronto and Montreal and on satellite providers Bell TV and Shaw Direct. It can also been seen on cable systems in British Columbia as the quasi-local ABC affiliate.
After KOMO-TV (channel 4) signed on in December 1953, Seattle's channel 7 was the last commercial VHF channel allocation available in the Puget Sound area. As such, its construction permit was heavily contested among several local broadcast interests. Three radio stations—KVI (570 AM), KXA (770 AM, now KTTH) and KIRO (710 AM)—were locked in a battle for the frequency over several years of comparative hearings at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Following an initial decision in 1955 and a reaffirmation in 1957, the ultimate victorious party was Queen City Broadcasting, owners of KIRO radio, who signed-on channel 7 on February 8, 1958. Queen City was led by president and general manager Saul Haas, who purchased KIRO radio in 1935 and included U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson and CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow amongst its shareholders. The station's original studios were located on Queen Anne Avenue, adjacent to its broadcast tower and directly across the street from KIRO radio. The first program shown on channel 7 was the explosion of Ripple Rock, a hazard to navigation in Seymour Narrows, British Columbia.
KIRO radio had been a CBS Radio affiliate for over 20 years and KIRO-TV subsequently became an affiliate of the CBS television network upon signing on. Channel 7 took the CBS affiliation from Tacoma-licensed KTNT-TV (channel 11, now KSTW) prompting that station's owners at the time, the Tacoma News Tribune to file an antitrust lawsuit accusing CBS of having a standing agreement with KIRO to affiliate with the television network before Queen City's permit to build channel 7 was even approved. In May 1960, KIRO-TV was forced to share CBS with KTNT-TV as part of a settlement reached between the three parties. This arrangement lasted for the next two years with KIRO-TV again becoming the market's exclusive CBS affiliate in September 1962.
The Mormons take overEdit
In April 1963, the Deseret News Publishing Company, the media arm of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), began purchasing stock in Queen City Broadcasting starting with a 10 percent share from several minority partners including Sen. Magnuson. Six months later the LDS Church purchased an additional 50 percent, giving them majority control of the KIRO stations. Along with having earned a handsome return on his original investment of 28 years earlier, Saul Hass subsequently joined the board of the LDS Church's broadcasting subsidiary, which was renamed Bonneville International in 1964.
Soon after the FCC approved the sale, Bonneville executives Lloyd Cooney and Kenneth L. Hatch arrived in Seattle to lead the renamed KIRO, Inc. division. Upon Cooney's departure to run for U.S. Senate in 1980, Hatch became president, CEO and chairman, positions he held until 1995. Under Hatch's leadership, KIRO, Inc. (which included KIRO-AM-FM-TV, KING AM and Third Avenue Productions) became one of the nation's premier regional broadcast groups. KIRO's corporate board included many notable leaders including Mary Gates (mother of Bill Gates); Pay 'n Save chairman M. Lamont Bean; Washington Mutual chief executive officer Tony Eyring and Gordon B. Hinckley, a future president of the LDS Church. The KIRO stations (which later included KING radio and Third Avenue Productions) moved their offices and studios to "Broadcast House" at Third Avenue and Broad Street in Seattle's Belltown district in 1968 and where KIRO-TV remains to this day for the present location.
Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, KIRO-TV still faced competition in some parts of Western Washington from Bellingham-based KVOS-TV (channel 12), which was also then a CBS affiliate. After years of legal challenges and negotiations with CBS and KIRO-TV, KVOS (at the time owned by Wometco Enterprises) began to phase out most CBS programming by 1980. KVOS retained a nominal affiliation with CBS until 1987 (KVOS gradually became an independent station, and is now a primary affiliate of Heroes & Icons [H&I]), during which it would run any CBS network programs that were pre-empted by channel 7.
From CBS to UPNEdit
In 1994, CBS found itself without an affiliate in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex after KDFW-TV left the network to become a Fox affiliate as a result of the station's owner, New World Communications, signing an affiliation deal with Fox (it later was purchased outright by the network). Consequently, CBS began to negotiate with Gaylord Broadcasting to secure an affiliation agreement with the independent station it had long owned in Fort Worth, KTVT. As part of the deal, CBS would also affiliate with Gaylord-owned independent KSTW in Tacoma; both KSTW and KTVT had already been independents (while The Disney Network would instead pair up with KTZZ-TV [now KZJO] and KDAF, respectively). The deal was announced on September 15, 1994, and CBS programs that had been preempted by KIRO-TV (such as The Bold and the Beautiful) moved to KSTW soon afterward. Other CBS programs such as The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder were shown on KSTW beginning in January 1995, although the show aired an hour later at 1:35 a.m., whereas other CBS affiliates aired the program directly after the Late Show with David Letterman at 12:35 a.m. Even when channel 11 regained the CBS affiliation for the third time in its history in March 1995, the program continued to air at 1:35 a.m.
Two days before the affiliation switch was announced, Bonneville announced that it would sell KIRO-TV to the Belo Corporation, while retaining ownership of KIRO radio. In addition, in anticipation of the affiliation change, Belo stated that it would run channel 7 as a news-intensive independent station. However, on December 6, the station reached an affiliation deal with the then-forthcoming UPN network.
More changes descended upon channel 7 after Belo took control of the station on January 31, 1995. The station began carrying UPN programming upon its startup on January 16, 1995; however, until CBS moved completely to KSTW on March 13 of that year, UPN programs generally aired on weekend afternoons, though KIRO-TV did preempt CBS programming so that it could air the series premiere of Star Trek: Voyager in primetime.
Local newscasts on channel 7 expanded during this time to nearly 40 hours each week with expansions to its morning and early evening newscasts to compensate for UPN not having national news programs. Outside of UPN's program offerings, the rest of KIRO-TV's schedule was filled with first-run syndicated talk shows, reality shows, off-network dramas, a couple of off-network sitcoms and movies. This format was unusual for a UPN affiliate (but was becoming standard for a Fox affiliate) as most UPN affiliates had a general entertainment format outside of network programming hours. In 1996, Belo acquired the Providence Journal Company, which owned Seattle's NBC affiliate KING-TV (channel 5). Belo couldn't own both KING-TV and KIRO-TV under FCC rules at the time and as a result, the company opted to sell KIRO-TV.
Briefly rejoining CBSEdit
Though there was speculation that Belo would swap KIRO-TV to Fox Television Stations in exchange for KSAZ-TV in Phoenix and KTBC-TV in Austin, Texas, Belo announced on February 20, 1997, that it would swap channel 7 to UPN co-owner Viacom's Paramount Stations Group subsidiary (now part of CBS Television Stations), in exchange for KMOV in St. Louis. At the time, Paramount Stations Group was in the process of selling off the CBS and NBC affiliates that it inherited from Viacom through its 1994 purchase of Paramount Pictures.
Concurrently, Paramount/Viacom traded KIRO-TV to Cox Enterprises in exchange for KSTW, just one month after Cox announced it would acquire that station from Gaylord Broadcasting. The trades were completed on June 2, 1997. The two stations retained their respective syndicated programming, but swapped network affiliations once again—with KSTW becoming a UPN owned-and-operated station and KIRO-TV regaining its CBS affiliation on June 30, 1997.
On June 13, 2000, Cox and ABC announced a complex affiliation deal, which resulted in three Cox-owned stations becoming affiliates of the network. KIRO was included in the deal, and Channel 7 would displace Seattle's longtime ABC affiliate, Fisher Communications-owned KOMO-TV. ABC agreed to the deal as a condition of keeping its affiliation on Cox's Orlando station, WFTV; that outlet had heavily been wooed by NBC, which was about to lose its affiliate in Orlando to The Disney Network in an affiliation deal with Hearst-Argyle Television. Locally, it triggered Seattle's biggest network swap, which saw KIRO switch to ABC, KING-TV returning to CBS, and KOMO reuniting with NBC after signing a groupwide affiliation deal with Fisher that also switched the affiliation of its sister station in Portland to NBC (which was also affiliated with ABC; all of the Fisher stations were eventually purchased by NBC). The switch occurred on February 5, 2001, with the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of The Flamingo Rising being the final CBS program to air on channel 7.
ABC had been reluctant to drop its affiliation with KOMO, which had been the highest-rated station in Seattle for over a quarter-century and was one of the strongest ABC affiliates in the nation. In contrast, KIRO had seen a transition in total viewership during its tenure with UPN and its second tenure with CBS. Indeed, ABC's ratings in Seattle went into a steep decline after the switch, with a number of programs falling from first to third in the Seattle ratings in one stroke.
As of September 2018, syndicated programs broadcasting on KIRO-TV presently include Right This Minute, Judge Judy and Entertainment Tonight. KIRO-TV runs the entire ABC programming lineup with minimal preemptions. However, the station's alternate feed for Canadian viewers has more preemptions than the regular feed, particularly infomercials replacing programs like Let's Make a Deal, KIRO 7 News at Noon, and Right This Minute.