KOKI-TV, virtual channel 23 (UHF digital channel 22), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Cox Media Group subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, as part of a duopoly with independent station KMYT-TV (channel 41); KOKI and KMYT are, in turn, co-owned with local radio stations KRMG (740 AM and 102.3 FM), KRAV-FM (96.5), KWEN (95.5 FM) and KJSR (103.3 FM), as well as local cable television provider Cox Communications.

KOKI and KMYT share studios on East 27th Street and South Memorial Drive (near W. G. Skelly Park) in the Audubon neighborhood of southeast Tulsa; the two stations also share transmitter facilities on South 273rd East Avenue (between 91st Street South and 101st Street South, next to the Muskogee Turnpike) in the western city limits of Coweta. On cable, KOKI is available on Cox Communications channel 5 in standard definition and digital channel 1005 in high definition.[1]


As an independent stationEdit

The UHF channel 23 allocation—which had been dormant since a short-lived attempt to revive its original occupant, KCEB, by original licensee Elfred Beck foundered in September 1967—was contested between two groups that vied to hold the construction permit to build a new television station on the frequency. The first prospective permittee was Wilson Communications, owned by Detroit businessman and Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, which filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 7, 1978. The second applicant, Tulsa 23, Ltd. (originally Channel 23 Tulsa, Ltd.), filed on September 5; that group—led by managing partner Benjamin F. Boddie and James Lavenstein, who would go on to serve as KOKI-TV's original general manager—primarily consisted of prominent local corporate executives and community leaders that included Helmerich & Payne CEO Walter H. Helmerich II, and former Williams Companies CEOs John H. Williams and Charles P. Williams (the latter two of whom were also responsible for the redevelopment of over nine square blocks and 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of new office and retail construction in downtown Tulsa, including the establishment of the Williams Center, the Bank of Oklahoma Tower and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center). The FCC granted the license to the Tulsa 23 venture on December 12, 1979.[2][3][4]

KOKI-TV signed on the air on October 26, 1980, a date chosen by Lavenstein at the suggestion of marketing and promotions manager Richard Enderwood, as it coincided with Enderwood's birthday. It was the first commercial television station to sign on in the Tulsa market since NBC affiliate KVOO-TV (channel 2, now KJRH-TV) signed on 26 years earlier on December 5, 1954, and the first independent station to begin operation in a market that, on paper, had a large enough population to provide suitable viewership for an independent station since the early 1970s. The station—which was then branded as "Tulsa 23," accompanied by a futuristic logo in which the numerical "23" was construed as the "LS" in "Tulsa"—originally operated from studio facilities located on East 46th Place (between Memorial Drive and Sheridan Road) in southeast Tulsa, which was fitted with used transmission equipment acquired second-hand from various other American television stations. The station operated on a lean budget, maintaining a general entertainment programming format that featured a mix of classic sitcoms, westerns and drama series, cartoons, and a limited number of sports events and religious programs. The Tulsa 23 partnership purchased programming at low cost, and tailored its schedule to appeal to older and rural demographics, leaving much of the higher-rated and more recent syndicated content to be acquired by its network-affiliated competitors, KJRH, CBS affiliate KOTV (channel 6) and ABC affiliate KTUL (channel 8). KOKI was opportunistic with its programming acquisitions on occasion, and picked up broadcast rights to college and major league sporting events.[5]

KOKI heavily emphasized feature films as part of its schedule during this period, typically offering a single film in the afternoon and one to two films during prime time each weekday, and three or four films per day on Saturdays and Sundays. One of the station's regular film presentations was Creature Feature, hosted by Sherman Oaks (the stage name of local comedian Jim Millaway), alongside Gailard Sartain and Jeanne Tripplehorn (then known as Jeanne Summers, who left after the program's first season), both of whom worked as radio hosts for KMOD-FM (97.5) at the time. Showcasing horror and science fiction B movies each Saturday night from October 1982 until October 1985, it featured wraparound segments before and after commercial breaks in which the hosts conducted various skits, often making ridiculous nonsequitir remarks. KOKI would gain a competitor on March 18, 1981, when a joint venture between Green Country Associates and Satellite Syndicated Systems signed on fellow independent KGCT-TV (channel 41) with a mix of syndicated entertainment programs, locally produced news and talk programming in the afternoon, and movies, sports and specials from the In-Home Theatre (IT) subscription service at night. (Within three months of its debut, KGCT transitioned to a hybrid format consisting of daytime general entertainment programming on weekdays and weekend mornings, and IT subscription programming at night throughout the week and on weekend afternoons.) Despite its low-cost approach, KOKI became a major force in the market; this was evidenced in a 1983 study by New York City-based advertising and marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather examining Tulsa's commercial television stations, which showed that KOKI was the only station to increase viewership shares over the two-year period from May 1981 to May 1983, rising from a 6 to a 19 share in early evenings, from a 5 to a 9 in prime time and from a 4 to a 10 share against late newscasts on the three network affiliates, whereas KJRH, KOTV and KTUL saw steady declines in those same dayparts, which were linked to KOKI's overall growth.[6]

The slogan used to promote its film offerings from the station's sign-on until 1984—"Oklahoma's Movie Star," based off the title of the station's Movie Star film presentations—would be the center of a federal trademark infringement lawsuit that Tulsa 23 Ltd. filed against Home Box Office Inc. in October 1982 over the use of the "We Are Your Movie Star" image campaign implemented by HBO's sister premium service, Cinemax, earlier that year. Judge James Ellison, who presided over the case filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, granted an injunction against Home Box Office in November 1983, on grounds that the Cinemax campaign had infringed upon KOKI's trademark. HBO appealed the ruling in the Denver-based Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld Ellison's injunction order in a ruling handed down on December 9, forcing Cinemax to discontinue the campaign and begin developing a replacement marketing initiative ("We're Taking You to the Stars," which Cinemax used as its image campaign slogan until 1986).[7][8]

As a Fox affiliateEdit

Partly because of its status as the strongest of the market's two independent stations, in early August 1986, in advance of the network's launch, News Corporation announced that it had reached an agreement with Tulsa 23 Ltd., in which KOKI-TV was named the Tulsa charter affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company.[9][10]

KOKI-TV affiliated with Fox when the fledgling network inaugurated programming on October 9, 1986, with the premiere of late-night talk show The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Though it was technically a network affiliate, Channel 23 continued to be programmed as a de facto independent station as Fox offered a limited schedule of programming during the network's early years of operation. Even after the network's programming expanded with the launch of a three-hour Sunday night lineup in April 1987, Fox offered prime time programs exclusively on weekend evenings until September 1989, when it began a five-year expansion towards a nightly prime time schedule. (It would take seven years for Fox to offer prime time programs on all seven nights of the week, completing the expansion with the rollout of its Monday night lineup in January 1993.) Until the network's expansion was completed, KOKI continued to air a movie at 7:00 p.m. on nights when the network did not offer any programming. In 1988, the station moved its operations into a low-rise office building on East 54th Street and South Yale Avenue (near LaFortune Park) in southeast Tulsa, which was named Fox Plaza.

Clear Channel ownershipEdit

After trying for several years to offload KOKI-TV, the Tulsa 23 partnership secured a willing buyer on March 6, 1989, when it reached an agreement to sell the station to San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel Television for $6.075 million. Citing that KOKI had not generated a profit for some time as a result of an economic downturn spurred by an oil exploration slump in the region during the 1980s, division parent Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia)—which had owned KMOD-FM and KAKC (1300 AM) since the company, as San Antonio Broadcasting Corp., acquired the two radio stations from Unicorn Inc. in 1973—applied for a "failing station" waiver of FCC ownership rules that then prohibited common ownership of television and radio stations in the same market on the basis that the combined ownership would provide KOKI with needed financial support to remain operational and expand its public affairs programming. The sale and cross-ownership waiver received FCC approval on November 17, 1989; the transaction was finalized in late February 1990.[11][12][13][14][15][16] (KOKI would gain additional radio sisters when Clear Channel purchased KQLL-AM-FM [1430, now KTBZ, and 106.1, now KTGX] and KOAS [92.1 FM, now KTBT] from Federated Media for $15.4 million in April 1996; as the Telecommunications Act eliminated the radio-television cross-ownership restrictions, the company acquired the two stations without amending the earlier waiver.)[17]

Under Clear Channel's stewardship, the station – which, in compliance with Fox's stricter branding requirements, phased out the "Tulsa 23" branding in favor of identifying as "KOKI Fox 23" in September 1990 – significantly upgraded its programming, acquiring the rights to more recent sitcoms, higher-quality feature film titles and some first-run talk shows for its schedule. It would also begin to rely on Fox Kids for much of its children's programming inventory after Fox launched the children's program block in September 1990; as such, many of the syndicated children's programs that KOKI had aired to occupy portions of the weekday daytime and Saturday morning time periods were gradually relegated to early morning time slots as well as around the network-supplied daytime and Saturday blocks. With these changes, coupled with the growth of the Fox network into a major competitor to the Big Three networks during the early part of that decade, KOKI was generating respectable profits by the middle of the decade.[18]

On November 3, 1993, Clear Channel Television entered into a local marketing agreement with RDS Broadcasting – which had relaunched channel 41 (as independent station KTFO) in May 1991, after completing its purchase of the dormant license—to provide programming, advertising and other administrative services for KTFO, which would subsequently move that station's operations from its existing studio facilities on Garnett Avenue in southeast Tulsa into the Fox Plaza facility. Both KOKI and KTFO pooled programming inventories, with the latter acquiring additional talk and reality shows as well as more recent first-run and off-network sitcoms and drama series to complement channel 23's offerings (although many higher-rated syndicated shows continued to air on KOKI).[19] As was the trend for many Fox affiliates, channel 23 gradually shifted the focus of its syndication inventory away from classic sitcoms and syndicated children's programs during the latter half of the 1990s, becoming increasingly reliant on talk, reality and court shows to fill portions of its daytime schedule; more recent sitcoms were added to occupy early-evening and late night timeslots. The station continued to run Fox Kids programming on weekdays until its afternoon block was discontinued in December 2001,[20][21][22] at which time, it replaced the children's programs on weekday mid-afternoons with additional talk shows and game shows; it retained the remaining Saturday morning children's lineup (which was relaunched FoxBox in September 2002, and was later branded as 4Kids TV from September 2005 until December 2008, when Fox stopped providing children's programming after declining to renew its agreement with time-lease partner 4Kids Entertainment).

On December 15, 1999, four months after the FCC began permitting any commercial broadcasting firm the ability to legally own two commercial television stations within the same media market, Clear Channel announced it would acquire the KTFO license outright as part of a four-station deal with the San Antonio-based Mercury Broadcasting Company worth $11.663 million. The sale was approved by the FCC on March 9, 2000; following consummation of the transaction that May, KOKI and KTFO became the first legal broadcast television duopoly in the Tulsa market.[23][24] In January 2002, Clear Channel relocated the operations of KOKI and KTFO from Fox Plaza into a 124,000-square-foot (11,500 m2) studio complex located at 2625 South Memorial Drive. The building—which was originally constructed in 1962 for an expansion of the Oertle's Family Discount Store and later rented out to house a Burlington Coat Factory location—was purchased to allow the operations of the two television stations and Clear Channel's five Tulsa radio properties (which had previously operated from the Mid-Oklahoma Building on 41st Street and Skelly Drive in southwest Tulsa) to be housed under a single facility as well as to allow KOKI/KTFO to commence digital television transmissions and news operations. (An additional 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of building space was reserved for the Clear Channel Event Center exhibition complex.)[25][26]

Newport Television ownershipEdit

On April 20, 2007, following the completion of the company's $18.7-billion purchase by private equity firms Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital, Clear Channel entered into an agreement to sell its television stations to Providence Equity Partners for $1.2 billion.[27][28][29][30] The sale was approved by the FCC on December 1, 2007; after settling a lawsuit by Clear Channel ownership to force the equity firm to complete the sale, the Providence acquisition was finalized on March 14, 2008, at which time it formed Newport Television as a holding company to own and manage 27 of Clear Channel's 35 television stations (including KOKI and KMYT), and began transferring the remaining nine stations (all in markets where conflicts with FCC ownership rules precluded a legal duopoly from continuing under Newport) to High Plains Broadcasting, a licensee corporation formed to allow those stations to remain operationally tied to their associated Newport-owned outlets through local marketing agreements.[31][32][33][34][35]

On August 11, 2011, William Sturdivant II—a then-25-year-old with a history of mental health issues, including once reportedly being apprehended on such an event after walking 250 miles (400 km) from Tulsa to Dallas, and an arrest record that included charges for burglary and drug possession – was found wandering in an area outside the KOKI/KMYT/Clear Channel Radio facility on Memorial Drive that was not authorized for public access, where he was chased onto the building's roof by security guards and climbed up to the 150-foot (46 m) mark of an adjacent 287-foot (87 m) transmission tower owned by Clear Channel for use by its radio stations and as an auxiliary tower for KOKI. Sturdivant (who was nicknamed "Tower Guy" by Tulsa-area and Oklahoma news outlets) moved at elevations between 75 and 100 feet (23 and 30 m) from his original point on the tower at various points during the standoff.[36][37][38] After more than 150 hours (the longest standoff in the Tulsa Police Department's history, breaking the record set by a 1993 standoff involving a murder suspect that lasted for 32 hours), the standoff ended at around 6:40 p.m. on August 16, after retired Tulsa Police negotiator Tyrone Lynn was sent up the tower by crane to take Sturdivant—who, after being lowered to the ground by a Tulsa Fire Department cherry picker, was transported to the Hillcrest Medical Center to be treated for severe dehydration, heat exhaustion and burns sustained to his uncovered feet from navigating the tower beams in temperatures exceeding 90 °F (32 °C)—down from the tower.[39][40][41][42][43]

Cox Media Group ownershipEdit

As part of a series of piecemeal sales announced on July 19, 2012 that also involved the larger Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, Newport Television announced that it would sell KOKI-TV and KMYT as well as fellow Fox affiliate WAWS (now WFOX-TV) and the intellectual assets of CBS affiliate WTEV-TV (now WJAX-TV) in Jacksonville, Florida, to the Cox Media Group subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises for $253.011 million. The purchase placed the KOKI-KMYT duopoly under common ownership with Cox Radio's Tulsa cluster of KRMG (740 AM and 102.3 FM), KRAV-FM (96.5), KWEN (95.5 FM) and KJSR (103.3 FM), and, in the first instance since the 2003 repeal of an FCC cross-ownership ban in which the owner of a local cable provider acquired a television station in the same market, also made the two stations sister properties to Cox Communications, which has been the dominant cable operator in northeastern Oklahoma since it acquired Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI)'s Tulsa-area franchise in April 2000.[44][45][46][47][48] The FCC approved the transaction on October 23, 2012; the sale was finalized on December 3.[49][50][51][52] Although the sale separated KOKI/KMYT from its former radio sisters under Clear Channel ownership, iHeartMedia's Tulsa cluster continued to operate out of the Memorial Drive facility until the summer of 2017, when Cox moved its Tulsa-area radio stations into the building and iHeart moved its local stations into a new facility on Yale Avenue and 71st Street (northeast of Oral Roberts University) in southeast Tulsa's Richmond Hills section.

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