KJRH-TV, virtual channel 2 (VHF digital channel 8), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. KJRH-TV's studios are located on South Peoria Avenue and East 37th Street in the Brookside district of midtown Tulsa, and its transmitter is located near South 273rd Avenue East and the Muskogee Turnpike (near Broken Arrow) in southeastern Tulsa County. On cable, the station is available on Cox Communications channel 2.
Early history under Central Plains EnterprisesEdit
The VHF channel 2 allocation was contested between two groups, both led by prominent Oklahoma oilmen, that competed for approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be the holder of the construction permit to build and license to operate a new television station on the third commercial VHF allocation to be assigned to Tulsa. The Southwestern Sales Corporation – owned by William G. Skelly, founder of Skelly Oil and the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, and owner of local radio station KVOO (1170 AM, now KFAQ) – filed the initial permit application on June 27, 1952, one week before the FCC released a Report and Order reallocation memorandum that lifted a four-year moratorium on new television broadcast license applications. KVOO had first proposed television broadcasts in 1939, when Skelly and then-general manager W.B. Way purchased $35,000 worth of television equipment for experimental purposes. The other early applicant was All-Oklahoma Broadcasting – a consortium that owned radio station KRMG (740 AM) and included, among other investors, Kerr-McGee co-founders Robert S. Kerr (whose wife, Grayce Kerr, owned the same 25.3% level of interest in All-Oklahoma as that held by her State Senator husband) and Dean A. McGee (who owned 12.6% of the company) – filed a separate license application four weeks later on July 25.
The two groups ultimately decided to merge their respective applications; the consolidated entity, Central Plains Enterprises – which was formed as a 50/50 venture between Southwestern Sales Corporation and All-Oklahoma Broadcasting – filed their new permit application for channel 2 into the FCC on February 20, 1953; in order to comply with FCC rules that barred common ownership of two or more radio stations operating on the same broadcast band and to allow the Kerrs and McGee to join Skelly in the venture, All-Oklahoma Broadcasting sold KRMG to the Western Broadcasting Company (then-owner of KWHW in Altus) for $305,000. Central Plains concurrently faced new competition for the channel 2 permit, when two new applicants filed for the frequency. The Fryer Television Company – majority owned by Standard-Fryer Drilling Company founder R.J. Fryer – which, as the UHF Television Company, had originally filed to operate a station on UHF channel 23 (allocation now occupied by Fox affiliate KOKI-TV), chose to modify its construction permit/license application to seek the VHF channel 2 allocation. (This effectively resulted in the channel 23 allocation being granted to Albec Oil Company founder/owner J. Elfred Beck, who launched KCEB on that frequency on March 13, 1954.)
The Oil Capital Television Corporation – a group led by several Tulsa businessmen including Fred Jones, owner of local car dealership Fred Jones Ford and half-owner of KFMJ (1050 AM, now KGTO); Tom P. McDermott, director of the Independent Tire Dealers Association; Charles L. McMahon Jr., founder of C.L. McMahon Inc. Oil Producers; insurance executive Dan P. Holmes; and L. Francis Rooney, president of the Manhattan Construction Company – concurrently became the third applicant for the license. On June 16, TulsaVision Inc. – a group co-owned by John E. Mabee, founder of oil drilling contracting firm Mabee Consolidated Corporation, and broadcasting executive John C. Mullins, then-president and general manager of KPHO-TV and KPHO radio (now KFYI) in Phoenix – submitted the fourth application for the frequency. All three competitors dropped out of the bidding over a five-month period beginning in the winter of late 1953. On December 11 of that year, TulsaVision Inc. became the first to withdraw its application, after having earlier applied to have its bid dismissed by the FCC due to ongoing health issues that Mabee was going through at the time. Fryer Television withdrew its application via the grant of an FCC petition on February 12, 1954. The McDermott-Jones group would later follow suit, after Oil Capital Television's principals reached an agreement with the principal owners of Central Plains on June 4. Under said agreement, McDermott, Jones and other shareholders of their company would be given the option of obtaining a 15% interest in Central Plains as compensation for the retraction (these shares were sold back to Central Plains Enterprises in 1963). The FCC granted the permit to Central Plains on July 8, after the agency formally dismissed Oil Capital Television's application.
Three months before it signed on, Skelly chose instead to assign his group's television station the KVOO call letters (which stood for "Voice Of Oklahoma") that had been used by the companion radio station since it signed on in June 1926. (The station's initial slogan, "The Eyes of Oklahoma," was an extension of the "Voice of Oklahoma" slogan originated by KVOO radio.) The station began test broadcasts on November 15, 1954, originally transmitting over a closed-circuit television system. KVOO-TV officially commenced regular programming three weeks later on December 5, with a 39-minute special presentation at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, respectively featuring speeches from Skelly, Kerr and McGee and a film from NBC dedicating the station's launch; following that dedication program was the first NBC network program aired by channel 2, Meet the Press. The station – which originally broadcast for 17 hours each day from 7:00 a.m. to midnight – originally operated from studio facilities located in the Akdar Building on South Denver Avenue (between West Third and West Fourth Streets) in downtown Tulsa. KVOO was also the third television station (behind CBS affiliate KOTV [channel 6], which debuted on October 22, 1949, and KCEB) and the second VHF television station to sign on in the Tulsa market. (ABC affiliate KTVX [channel 8, now KTUL] did not have its city of license reassigned from Muskogee to Tulsa until August 1957, although that station had been operating auxiliary studio facilities located at Lookout Mountain in southwest Tulsa from the time it began operations.)
Channel 2 has carried programming from NBC since its sign-on, having inherited the affiliation through KVOO radio's longtime relationship with the television network's direct radio predecessor, the NBC Red Network, with which it had been affiliated since 1927. It assumed the NBC affiliation from KCEB, which had been serving as the Tulsa market's primary affiliate of the network since its sign-on that March. (KOTV – which had been carrying select NBC programs since that station's sign-on – continued to maintain a secondary NBC affiliation after KCEB debuted, under an agreement that allowed KOTV to continue "cherry-picking" some of the network's stronger programs for broadcast to the entire market, as reception of KCEB's signal was nearly impossible in much of northeastern Oklahoma without an external UHF tuner due to the fact that electronics manufacturers were not required to incorporate UHF tuners into television sets at the time.) In 1955, channel 2 became the first television station in the Tulsa market to begin broadcasting its programming in color, initially transmitting NBC network programming in the format. Broadcasting equipment was installed in the Akdar Building studios that allowed the station to televise local films as well as advertising and promotional slides in color.
During the 1950s and 1960s, KVOO-TV produced several locally produced shows. Among these early local programs was The University of Tulsa Presents, a weekly half-hour program developed and co-produced as a laboratory project by the university's television production department, which premiered in September 1955; the program initially ran weekly until January 1957, and was revived during the first semester of the university's 1963–64 academic year. children's program Big Bill & Oom-A-Gog, a series that aired from 1959 to 1964, which cartoons and live wraparound segments conducted in front of an audience of local children; host William "Big Bill" Blair was often accompanied by a robot named Oom-A-Gog, who lumbered into the studio through a rolling steel door. Another of its most popular shows during this period was Fantastic Theater, a locally produced weekly late-night showcase of classic science fiction and horror films that aired on Friday and Saturday late nights from 1965 to 1968. Host Josef Peter Hardt – who, as the character Mr. Oktoberfest, gave his hosting delivery in an ominous, authentic German accent (Hardt was born in the German river city of Oberhausen) – typically began each show greeting viewers with "Good evening, meine freunde, and welcome to Fantastic Theater," following a brief philosophical monologue tied to the theme of that week's movie.
Ownership of W.G. Skelly's interests in KVOO-TV and KVOO radio would transfer to one of his daughters, Joan Skelly Stuart, and her husband, Harold Stuart, after the elder Skelly died on April 11, 1957. On December 1, 1957, KVOO-TV and KVOO radio moved their respective operations into a purpose-built Streamline Moderne art deco facility on 37th Street and Peoria Avenue in midtown Tulsa's Brookside district. The Brookside Broadcast Center facility, designed by Tulsa-based architectural firm Koberling & Brandborg (a partnership between Joseph Koberling and Lennart Brandborg), was constructed under a floorplan that allowed the television and radio stations to share news department resources. In November 1964, KVOO began originating its locally produced programs in color from its Broadcast Center studios, and features a large spire tower atop the building that houses the station's auxiliary tower (which was originally also used for KVOO radio's transmissions). In November 1964, KVOO-TV purchased a color camera for programming production and began producing its local programs in color.
On June 15, 1970, Central Plains Enterprises sold KVOO-TV to the Scripps-Howard Broadcasting subsidiary of the Cincinnati, Ohio-based E. W. Scripps Company, for $6.6 million in cash plus $1.2 million worth of stock shares; the sale received FCC approval on November 25, 1970, and was finalized the following month on December 31. On January 1, 1971, the day after the Scripps purchase was completed, the station changed its call letters to KTEW-TV (standing for "Tulsa E.W. Scripps", and also easily interpreted as sounding like the phoneticism for "two"). This change was made due to an FCC rule in effect at the time that banned TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different owners from sharing the same call letters. That year, KTEW began operating three low-powered translator stations – K04DY (now a campus independent station operated by Northeastern State University) in Tahlequah, K04DW in Independence, Kansas, and K04EJ in Coffeyville, Kansas – to relay the station's programming in areas of east-central Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas that could not adequately receive the signal; all three translators transmitted on VHF channel 4, but had its transmitters located at sufficient enough spacing to avoid signal interference with fellow NBC affiliate WKY-TV (now KWKM-TV) in Oklahoma City.
On the evening of June 8, 1974, the Brookside district was struck by a destructive F3 tornado that killed one person and caused $44 million in damage. Station management sent most of KTEW's staff to seek shelter as the twister, which reached the district after tearing across the Arkansas River, tracked close to the station's Peoria Avenue studios; the tornado narrowly missed the building and its spire tower to the north, but destroyed a Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Stores location to the adjacent northwest of the facility. The KTEW studio facility went without electricity most of the night as Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) crews attempted to restore power to the Brookside district. On July 14, 1980, the station's call letters were changed to KJRH-TV, which were assigned in honor of Jack R. Howard, who served as president of the E. W. Scripps Company and chairman of the Scripps-Howard Broadcasting subsidiary from January 1953 until his retirement from the company in December 1976 (the "TV" suffix was added to the callsign on February 10, 2010; the KTEW call letters are now used by a Retro Television Network-affiliated low-power station based in Ponca City). In July 1985, KJRH became the first television station in the Tulsa market to broadcast in stereo, initially broadcasting NBC network programs, local programs and certain syndicated shows that were transmitted in the audio format.
In April 1992, KJRH became the first Tulsa-area television station to relay its signal directly to a cable television system by fiber optics, after it activated a 5.6-mile-long (9.0 km) fiber cable link between the Peoria Avenue studios and the local headend facility of United Artists Cable (now operated by Cox Communications, which acquired successor Tele-Communications Inc.'s Tulsa cable operations in March 2000) near 44th Street and South Sheridan Avenue – the construction of which was completed weeks prior on March 19. KJRH was not affected by a 1994 affiliation deal between Scripps and its ABC affiliates, as Allbritton Communications (who then owned KTUL) was in the process of signing a group-wide affiliation deal with ABC at the time; it would later be purchased by ABC. In November 1997, KJRH changed its on-air branding to "2 NBC" for general purposes and 2 News NBC for its local newscasts. The station changed its branding to "[Channel] 2 Works for You" in January 2001, following the implementation of a new graphics package that placed the current red and white "square 2" logo (which had first been introduced in May 2001 as a time-temperature bug shown during local newscasts, syndicated programming and intermittently during some NBC network shows) into full-time usage.
In January 2001, per an agreement reached by the group involving Paxson Communications-owned stations in three markets, the E. W. Scripps Company entered into local marketing and joint sales agreements with Pax TV (now Ion Television) owned-and-operated station KTPX-TV (channel 44). Under the agreement, KJRH handled advertising sales for channel 44, and maintained a news share agreement to allowed that station to air rebroadcasts of channel 2's 10:00 p.m. newscast after its initial airing; KTPX also occasionally served as a default carrier of NBC programs that could not air on KJRH because of conflicts with special event programming. The LMA ended on July 1, 2005 upon Pax's rebranding as i: Independent Television. On December 31, 2009, the Peoria Avenue studios served as the centerpiece of "The Party! New Year's Eve on Brookside" event in Tulsa's Brookside entertainment district, which also helped benefit the Oklahoma Food Bank. During the close of the festivities, a large, lighted "crystal" ball was dropped from the large spire atop the microwave tower at the building during the countdown to the start of 2010. Streets in the Brookside district near the studio were closed off to allow pedestrian traffic for attendees to the event inspired by the New Year's celebrations at New York City's Times Square.