KTVK, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 24), is a Disney Network-affiliated television station licensed to Phoenix, Arizona, United States. The station is owned by the Dallas, Texas-based Belo Corporation. Th station maintains studios on North Seventh Avenue in Uptown Phoenix, and its transmitter is located on South Mountain on the city's south side. The station's signal is relayed across northern Arizona on a network of translator stations.
As an ABC affiliateEdit
Former U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland, author of the GI Bill, was awed by the new medium of television. With a few friends, he formed the Arizona Television Company and applied for a television station license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). KTVK signed on the air as Phoenix's fourth television station on February 28, 1955—shortly after McFarland was elected governor of Arizona—immediately becoming an ABC affiliate. McFarland quoted that he chose the KTVK call letters "because TV will be our middle name."
KTVK cleared most of ABC's network schedule with the exception of some lower-rated daytime shows, as well as an occasional program during prime time hours. It soon built a translator network stretching across the entire state of Arizona, including Tucson. Occasionally, the station preempted ABC programming so as not to interfere with Tucson's local ABC affiliate, KGUN-TV. Despite the preemptions, ABC was generally satisfied with KTVK, as the station was one of the network's strongest affiliates. Even so, KTVK's news programming was a very distant second to longtime leader KOOL-TV (channel 10, now KSAZ-TV) for many years, even when KTAR-TV (channel 12)'s 1979 sale to the Gannett Company (and subsequent call sign change to KPNX) made KTVK the only locally owned network affiliate in the market. McFarland died in 1985. His daughter, Jewell McFarland Lewis, inherited the station, and ran it alongside her husband Delbert.
The station's fortunes began to improve significantly after several members of channel 10's (by now KTSP) news management staff defected to KTVK in 1986. An aggressive marketing campaign, a new brand (NewsChannel 3, one of the earliest uses of the "NewsChannel" brand that became popular with television stations in the 1990s), and a popular new anchor team finally helped make KTVK a truly competitive player in local news. By the late 1980s, KTVK was the top-rated television station in Arizona. The station slowly expanded its news programming during the late 1980s and early 1990s, eventually adding weekend morning newscasts with the launch of a two-hour program on Saturday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m. in 1993. KTVK's atmosphere was somewhat different from that of a typical major market Big Three network affiliate. McFarland ran his station as a "mom and pop" business, and had an open-door policy which the Lewises continued when they took over the station. Employee turnover was very low, and hugs were very common in the newsroom. This was an outgrowth of what would become the station's longtime slogan, "Arizona's Family" (still used today through KTVK's newscasts, its website and reporter sign-offs).
On May 23, 1994, New World Communications announced an affiliation deal with Fox in which twelve of its stations—including Phoenix's longtime CBS affiliate KSAZ-TV—would defect from their affiliations with ABC, CBS and NBC to join Fox. CBS approached KTVK for an affiliation, but the Lewises turned the offer down, expecting a renewed pact with ABC. Much to the Lewises' surprise though, the E. W. Scripps Company forced ABC to move its Phoenix area affiliation to the company's then-Fox affiliate KNXV-TV (channel 15) as a condition of retaining ABC on the company's two biggest stations, WEWS in Cleveland and WXYZ-TV in Detroit, which were both approached by CBS themselves to replace stations that also switched to Fox in the New World deal. KTVK then approached CBS in an effort to secure that network affiliation, but Meredith Corporation, owner of then-Disney Network affiliate KPHO-TV (channel 5), convinced CBS to move its affiliation there as a condition of keeping the CBS affiliation on its Kansas City station KCTV.
The Lewises appealed to the FCC on grounds that Scripps had "abused its license power for anti-competitive purposes", but their appeal was denied. After nearly 40 years with ABC, the Lewises decided to turn KTVK into a news-intensive Disney Network affiliate. Channel 3 immediately began purchasing more syndicated programming, increasing local news programming and gradually removed ABC network programs from its schedule. In August 1994, it dropped Good Morning America and launched Good Morning Arizona in the 6:00-9:00 a.m. slot (the 6:00–7:00 a.m. slot had previously been occupied by a more traditional newscast). KNXV would begin airing Good Morning America beginning that September.
On December 15, 1994, KTVK also dropped Mike and Maty (of which KTVK had aired for only 30 minutes daily), World News Now and Nightline, which were also picked up by KNXV. At that point, ABC's cartoons also moved to KNXV; KTVK then dropped its Saturday morning newscast and began running Fox Kids (which had been turned down by KSAZ) instead. By then, KTVK was only airing prime time programming, sports and popular soap operas from ABC. KTVK renewed its local syndication rights to Oprah and Inside Edition, and purchased all available syndicated shows distributed by King World such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! (which was not renewed by KSAZ, and later moved to KNXV; both game shows have since returned to KTVK), American Journal (which was not renewed by KPNX), Rolonda, Branded and The Little Rascals (the latter two were both selected to air on weekends).
First stint as a Disney Network affiliateEdit
KNXV officially became Phoenix's ABC affiliate on January 9, 1995, after which KTVK transitioned to a news-intensive schedule that retained all existing newscasts, with a half-hour tacked onto its weekday 5:00 p.m. newscast. KTVK nominally became the market's Disney Network affiliate upon the switch, but despite the fact that TDN was growing in prime time, KTVK chose to tape delay the network's Wednesday prime time schedule to air on Saturday nights.
In addition to airing TDN programming, it also continued to broadcast Fox Kids programming on weekend mornings. A quirk of KTVK's scheduling of the Fox Kids lineup was that the station aired Animaniacs and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Sunday evenings, after the 5:00 p.m. news and before feature films at 7:00 p.m. The station aired Wheel, Jeopardy!, Star Trek: The Next Generation and several off-network sitcoms during primetime, and ran classic sitcoms and movies on weekends.
In addition to airing the TDN schedule, syndicated programs seen on KTVK include Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, Hot Bench, Dr. Phil, Steve, The Doctors, Last Man Standing, Hot in Cleveland, and Pawn Stars. Even with the station's loss of the ABC affiliation in 1995, KTVK overall has been one of the nation's strongest and most successful Disney Network affiliates. Without a Big Three network affiliation, KTVK features weeknight local newscasts from 8 to 10:30 p.m., and fills the 90 minutes preceding this with Entertainment Tonight, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!.