KOMO-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 30), is an NBC owned-and-operated television station licensed to Seattle, Washington, United States and also serving Tacoma. The station is owned by the NBC Television stations division of WarnerNBC; it is also sister to radio stations KOMO (1000 AM and 97.7 FM), KVI (570 AM), and KPLZ-FM (101.5 MHz). The stations share studios within KOMO Plaza (formerly Fisher Plaza) in the Lower Queen Anne section of Seattle, directly across the street from the Space Needle; KOMO-TV and KUNS-TV share transmitter facilities in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.
From the station's inception until 2001, KOMO-TV was the flagship station of Seattle-based Fisher Communications.
KOMO-TV began operating on December 10, 1953, as an NBC affiliate, owing to KOMO radio's long-time relationship with the NBC Radio Network. It is the fourth-oldest television station in the Seattle–Tacoma area. KOMO also has an almost forgotten distinction as being the first station in Seattle to broadcast a television signal. Whereas crosstown rival KRSC-TV (channel 5, now KING-TV) was the first to air "wide audience" television in November 1948, KOMO broadcast a television signal nearly 20 years prior. On June 3, 1929, KOMO radio engineer Francis J. Brott televised images of a heart, a diamond, a question mark, letters, and numbers over electrical lines to small sets with one-inch screens—23 years before KOMO-TV's first regular broadcasts. A handful of viewers were captivated by the broadcast. KOMO would likely have held the distinction of being the first television station in Seattle, and perhaps the nation, if it were not for the occurrences of the Great Depression and World War II.
The station was originally owned by the Fisher family, which had its start in the flour mill and lumber businesses. The Fishers branched into broadcasting with its founding of KOMO radio in 1926. In competing for the channel 4 construction permit, the Fishers faced off against the then-owners of KJR radio. KOMO was awarded the license in June 1953 after the KJR group dropped their bid, and KOMO-TV first signed on the air only five months later. William W. Warren, general manager of KOMO radio and a nephew of KOMO co-founder Oliver D. Fisher, oversaw the development of KOMO-TV and remained involved with the station's management until his retirement in 1987.
In 1954, a KOMO news photographer discovered a way to develop color film in a new process that took just a few hours instead of days. His discovery allowed KOMO-TV to become the first television station in the nation to broadcast in true color.
In October 1958, however, NBC signed affiliation deals with King Broadcasting Company for their radio and television properties in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. In Seattle, channel 4 shared both ABC and NBC programming with KING-TV until September 27, 1959, when KING-TV took the NBC affiliation full-time. At that point, KOMO-TV became a primary ABC affiliate (the station would eventually reunite with NBC in 2001).
During the 1960s, local television personality Don McCune became well known in the Seattle market for two programs seen on KOMO-TV. McCune was known to thousands of children in the area who came to know him in the role of "Captain Puget", hosting a children's entertainment program. Channel 4 and McCune also produced the documentary series Exploration Northwest, which explored many of the places and people of the Pacific Northwest.
Mount St. Helens eruption, May 18, 1980Edit
KOMO-TV nearly lost one of its staff in the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Dave Crockett, who had been with the station since 1975, had been covering the mountain every day for three weeks until being rotated out a few days prior. On the morning of May 18, he woke up at 3:00 a.m. in Seattle on a hunch that he would get some impressive video that day, and loaded up his news car and headed towards Mount St. Helens without anyone at KOMO knowing about it. He arrived at the mountain just as it was erupting. His news video, which shows an advancing ash cloud and mud flows down the South Fork Toutle River, was made famous by its eleven-minute long "journey into the dark", six of those minutes of which were recorded in "total darkness" as Crockett narrated to what he thought would be his "last day on Earth." His video made worldwide news and was used in a movie remake of the disaster starring Art Carney. The car he drove, with the remains of KOMO lettering still visible, is now a part of a Mount St. Helens Volcano Museum just outside Toutle.
In 1984, KOMO became the first television station to broadcast daily programming in full stereo sound.
In 1994, KOMO applied for the first test license for broadcasting new high-definition signals. KOMO began broadcasting a high-definition digital signal in 1997; on May 18, 1999, KOMO became the first television station in the United States to broadcast its daily newscasts in high definition. This statement, however, comes into conflict with a claim made by WFAA in Dallas (a sister station to KING-TV) that it is the first station in the nation to broadcast its daily news programs in high definition, on February 28, 1997. It also conflicts with WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Switching back to NBCEdit
In June 2000, ABC agreed to an affiliation deal with the broadcasting division of Cox Enterprises, which resulted in three of Cox's television stations—KIRO-TV (channel 7) in Seattle, ??? in ???, and KXXI-TV in Lakeshore, Oregon—becoming ABC affiliates. ABC agreed to the deal as a condition of keeping its affiliation on one of Cox's stations, WFTV in Orlando. That station had been heavily courted by NBC, which was about to lose one of its longtime affiliates—WESH—to The Disney Network. One of the stations that was tapped to switch to ABC was Seattle's then-CBS affiliate, KIRO-TV. ABC was reluctant to include KIRO in the deal; it had seen a huge ratings slump during its only tenure with UPN and its second and last tenure with CBS while KOMO was one of the strongest ABC affiliates in the nation. However, not wanting to be relegated to UHF in one market with few viable choices for a new affiliate, ABC opted to end its 41-year affiliation with channel 4 and move its affiliation to channel 7.
Fisher felt betrayed by ABC after so many years of loyalty, as channel 4 had been one of ABC's longest-tenured affiliates on the West Coast at the time. As a safeguard, it began to shop for an affiliation deal of its own. One month later, Fisher agreed to a long-term affiliation contract with NBC, resulting in KOMO and its sister station in Portland switching to NBC (Fisher did not have any NBC affiliates in its station portfolio at the time). The affiliation switch, the biggest in Seattle television history, occurred early on the morning of February 5, 2001.