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|Branding||ABC 13 (general)
13 Eyewitness News HD (newscasts)
|Slogan||Houston's News Leader|
|Channels||Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
13.2 Live Well Network (HD)
13.3 Live Well Network (SD)
(KTRK Television, Inc.)
|First air date||November 20, 1954|
|Call letters' meaning||Derived from former sister radio station KTRH|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
13 (VHF, 1954–2009)
32 (UHF, 1996–2009)
|Transmitter power||32.4 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
KTRK-TV, virtual channel and VHF digital channel 13, is an ABC owned-and-operated television station located in Houston, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company (through its Disney-ABC Television Group division). KTRK maintains studio facilities located on Bissonnet Street in Houston's Upper Kirby district, and its transmitter is located in unincorporated northeastern Fort Bend County (near Missouri City).
The station grew out of the Federal Communications Commission-imposed VHF "freeze", when three entities vying for the channel 13 assignment, including the Houston Chronicle, decided to merge as Houston Consolidated Television. The group also bought the studio facilities of KNUZ-TV (channel 39), a DuMont affiliate which had gone dark. The station first signed on the air on November 20, 1954 as KTRK-TV; as the Chronicle was the largest shareholder in the company, the callsign was derived from the Chronicle's radio station, KTRH. The station has been aligned with ABC since its debut; during the late 1950s, the station also had a brief affiliation with the NTA Film Network. The station's original studio facilities were located at 4513 Cullen Boulevard (at the defunct Texas Television Center district on the University of Houston campus); this studio later housed KHTV (now KIAH, the present channel 39) and PBS member station KUHT (channel 8).
In 1955, the Chronicle bought out its partners. Although this theoretically left the paper free to change its callsign to "KTRH-TV" to match its radio sister, it opted not to. However, for years it called itself "The Houston Chronicle Station." Soon afterward, the station moved to its current Bissonnet Street facility. The studio was the first domed structure in town, predating the better-known Astrodome by ten years. Both projects were built by the same architect, Hermon Lloyd. Like many stations located on "unlucky" channel 13, it used a black cat as its mascot
Early programs involved a heavy emphasis on local flavor and reflected themes of the day. Some of the more popular local shows included:
- Kitirik: a children's program, hosted by an actress in a cat costume.
- Cadet Don: A space-themed children's adventure program that focused on the exploits of an interstellar adventurer and the locations he visited. His alien puppet friend Seymour was from the planet Katark.
- Dialing for Dollars: A game show of sorts where a viewer would be phoned by the host and would win a cash prize by answering questions.
- Good Morning Houston: The successor to Dialing for Dollars, which debuted in the late 1970s and expanded to include discussions on local events and topics important to viewer's lifestyles.
In 1967, the Chronicle sold KTRK to Capital Cities Broadcasting (later to become Capital Cities Communications). KTRK's introduced its "Circle 13" logo – which is loosely patterned after the Circle 7 logo long used by ABC stations and affiliates broadcasting on channel 7 – in 1971; the original version, used until 1995, was a crooked "Circle 13" that recalled livestock branding of the Old West and was set in a Helvetica typeface, with the bottom of the "3" trailing off outside the circle (similar also to the way the stem of the number 7 terminates at the bottom of the Circle 7 logo).
Under Capital Cities ownership, KTRK pre-empted some ABC programs, though not nearly as much as some of the network's other affiliates, such as Philadelphia sister station WPVI-TV. The programs that channel 13 declined to air were not widely run in many markets, though KTRK did pre-empt the first half-hour of Good Morning America in favor of a local newscast, continuing into the early 1990s when the newscast was moved to a pre-7 a.m. start time. After 1991, the station's only regular preemption was the first half-hour of The Home Show, an arrangement which continued when the show morphed into Mike and Maty. Despite these pre-emptions, ABC was more than satisfied with KTRK, which was one of its strongest affiliates.
Capital Cities bought ABC in 1986, making KTRK an ABC owned-and-operated station and the first network-owned television station in the state of Texas. That year, the trailing portion of the station's logo was "trimmed" and was turned slightly horizontal in a similar fashion to the present-day version (the logo began to be superimposed over a stylized version of the Texas state flag on July 3, 1992).
Capital Cities/ABC was sold to The Walt Disney Company in early 1996. Not long after, the new Disney-led ownership directed KTRK-TV to clear the entire ABC schedule, though there have been instances where local special events have aired in place of network programming (the annual running of the Chevron Houston Marathon is one notable example of this as live race coverage, anchored by the station's news team, pre-empted the Sunday edition of Good Morning America).
On April 30, 2000, a dispute between Disney and Time Warner Cable resulted in KTRK being pulled from TWC's Houston service area for over 24 hours. Other ABC stations in markets served by Time Warner Cable, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Raleigh-Durham, were also affected by the outage before the FCC forced the provider to restore the affected ABC stations to those areas on May 2 (Time Warner traded the Houston franchise to Comcast in exchange for the latter's Dallas-Fort Worth system in 2007).
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|13.1||720p||16:9||KTRK-HD||Main KTRK programming / ABC|
|13.2||LIVWELL||Live Well Network
(letterbox on 13.3)
KTRK-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. As most of ABC's owned-and-operated stations moved their digital channels to their former analog allocation post-transition, the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 32 to VHF channel 13 for post-transition operations.
Channel 13 differs from many ABC-owned stations in that it has never aired the syndicated versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Those programs, which have been mainstays on most of ABC's owned-and-operated stations for years, have aired instead on CBS affiliate KHOU (channel 11) since 1986. Another such program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, aired on KHOU during its entire 25-year run. In fact, at one point during the late 1980s to early 1990s, Donahue was the only syndicated daytime program on KTRK's lineup. This was largely due to its hour-long 6 p.m. newscast (which debuted in 1982) as well as its popular movie showcases and local programming at the time, including Good Morning Houston.
Since its 4 p.m. newscast debuted in 2001, Channel 13 has only three hours of non-network programming time on weekdays outside of local and ABC programs; the station currently runs Live! with Kelly and Michael, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Inside Edition, and Rachael Ray (the former two are distributed by corporate cousin Disney-ABC Domestic Television, while the latter two are distributed by CBS Television Distribution, who also distributes the previously mentioned Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and The Oprah Winfrey Show) during these time periods.
KTRK-TV was the original television home of the Houston Astros, from the team's inaugural season in 1962 until 1971; however the station only aired the team's Sunday afternoon road games.
Channel 13 has been the official television home of the Houston Texans since it inaugurated play in 2002. The station has televised all of the NFL franchise's preseason games that are not carried on national television since the team's inception. In addition during the Texans' regular season, KTRK airs the post-game show Houston Texans Inside the Game; (hosted by sports director Greg Bailey and Spencer Tillman) on Sunday nights at 10:35 p.m.; Look Back with Kubiak, in which Bailey and Texans head coach Gary Kubiak review the previous Sunday's game, during its 6 p.m. newscast on Mondays; and Extra Points: Houston Texans Edition, an extension of its sports program Extra Points, on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m.
KTRK presently broadcasts 46 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours on weekdays, 4½ hours on Saturdays and four hours on Sundays). The station's newscasts have been #1 in the Houston market for much of the last 30 years, and are also among the highest-rated newscasts in the country. KTRK ranks in first place among various demographics such as men and women 18 to 49- and 25 to 54-years-old, African Americans and suburban audiences. In addition to KTRK's longtime ratings dominance in news, KTRK ranks #1 sign-on to sign-off and often is ranked places first in primetime viewership, outperforming ABC's national primetime ratings.
Channel 13 is widely noted for having the most experienced news team in the Greater Houston market. Many of the station's anchors and reporters have been at the station for at least 20 years, some even dating back to KTRK's days under Capital Cities ownership. Dave Ward has been the station's main anchor since 1965, the longest tenure of anyone in Houston television history.
KTRK also became known for its legendary consumer and investigative reporter, Marvin Zindler, whose week-long reports on a La Grange brothel in 1973 led to the closing of the Chicken Ranch, a bordello that was later immortalized in the musical and film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and ZZ Top's hit song "La Grange." Zindler was also widely noted in the Houston market for his Friday night Rat and Roach Report focusing on Houston restaurants that have failed health inspections, which ended with his trademark line "Slime in the Ice Machine". Zindler signed a lifetime contract with KTRK in 1988, making him the first person ever offered such a contract by then-owner Capital Cities, which had a reputation for being a financially frugal company. Zindler continued to work for the station until his death from pancreatic cancer in 2007, even filing reports from his hospital bed during treatment. As of 2013, the station's consumer reporting is now handled "Action 13" consumer investigator Jeff Ehling and "Stretch Your Dollar" feature reporter Patricia Lopez.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Ward, along with Zindler, sports director Bob Allen and weatherman Ed Brandon, led KTRK to the #1 position at 6 and 10 p.m. Live At 5 debuted on 18 April 1977. The lineup was later revised to include a female anchor, Shara Fryer, in the 1990s; followed by current chief meteorologist Tim Heller in lieu of Brandon at 10 p.m. in 2002, and the replacement of Fryer with Gina Gaston the following year. In 2007, Brandon retired from the station after a 35-year career, but has occasionally served as a fill-in weather anchor. Allen later left KTRK and was replaced as sports director by Greg Bailey on September 4, 2012. On August 12, 2007, KTRK became the first telelvison station in the Houston market to begin broadcasting portions of its local newscasts in high definition, becoming the seventh ABC-owned station to make the transition. On August 17, 2009, KTRK became the first station in the market to expanded its weekday morning newscast to 4:30 a.m. In January 2014, KTRK expanded their weekend 10:00 p.m. newscast to one hour.
Notable current on-air staff
- Natasha Barrett – weekend evenings anchor; also weekday reporter
- Ilona Carson – weeknights anchor
- Gina Gaston – weeknights anchor
- Tom Koch – weekday mornings anchor
- Art Rascon – weekdays midday & weeknights anchor
- Dave Ward – weeknights; also reporter
- Greg Bailey – sports director; weeknights
- Patricia Lopez – consumer reporter
- Jessica Willey – general assignment reporter
Notable former on-air staff
- Wayne Dolcefino – investigative reporter (1985–2012)
- Troy Dungan – meteorologist (?–1976); later at WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth and now retired
- Katie McCall – anchor/reporter (2009–2014); now at KRIV
- Dan Rather – anchor/reporter (late 1950s); former anchor of CBS Evening News
- Jim Rosenfield – reporter/anchor (1983–1989); now at WCAU in Philadelphia
- Marvin Zindler – consumer/anchor (1973–2007; died in 2007)
- "Harris County Improvement District #3." Upper Kirby. Retrieved on December 10, 2008.
- "Grant proposed for Houston TV Co." Broadcasting - Telecasting, January 18, 1954, pg. 56. 
- "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films". Boxoffice: 13. November 10, 1956.
- "Capital Cities buys KTRK-TV in Houston." Broadcasting, November 21, 1966, pg. 9. 
- "Capcities + ABC" and "FCC approval of CapCities/ABC deal likely." Broadcasting, March 25, 1985, pp. 31-34. 
- The Media Business: The Merger; Walt Disney to Acquire ABC in $19 Billion Deal to Build a Giant for Entertainment, The New York Times, August 1, 1995.
- MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
- RabbitEars TV Query for KTRK
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- CDBS Print
- "Dan Rather Biography". Retrieved 13 March 2013.