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KOCO-TV

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KOCO-TV
KOCO-TV Logo.png

Me-TV KOCO-DT2.png
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
United States
Branding KOCO 5 (general; call letters are sounded out)
KOCO 5 News (newscasts)
MeTV Oklahoma City
(KOCO-DT2 subchannel)
Slogan Live. Local. Latebreaking. (primary)
We'll Bring You the First Alert (weather)
Channels Digital: 7 (VHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
Translators K18HX-D Hollis
K21IT-D Weatherford
K26IR-D Strong City
K42IB-D Sayre
K43KT-D Elk City
Affiliations .1: ABC
.2: MeTV
Owner Hearst Television
(Ohio/Oklahoma Hearst Television Inc.)
First air date July 2, 1954 (63 years ago) (1954-07-02)[1]
(in Enid, Oklahoma; moved to Oklahoma City in 1963)
Call letters' meaning Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Former callsigns KGEO-TV (1954–1958)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
5 (VHF, 1954–2009)
Former affiliations DT2:
Local AccuWX (2008–2011)
This TV (2011–2012)
Transmitter power 65.7 kW
Height 451 m (1,480 ft)
Facility ID 12508
Transmitter coordinates 35°33′45.0″N 97°29′24.0″W / 35.562500°N 97.490000°W / 35.562500; -97.490000Coordinates: 35°33′45.0″N 97°29′24.0″W / 35.562500°N 97.490000°W / 35.562500; -97.490000
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
CDBS
Website www.koco.com

KOCO-TV, virtual channel 5 (VHF digital channel 7), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Hearst Television subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation. KOCO maintains studio and transmitter facilities located on East Britton Road (U.S. 66) in the McCourry Heights neighborhood of northeast Oklahoma City, located within two miles of the facilities of competing duopoly stations (NBC affiliate KFOR-TV and independent station KAUT-TV to its immediate west, CBS affiliate KWTV-DT and MyNetworkTV affiliate KSBI to its southwest, and Fox affiliate KOKH-TV and CW affiliate KOCB to its southeast).

On cable, the station is available on Cox Communications channel 8 and digital channel 705 in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and on channel 5 on most other cable systems (as well as on AT&T U-verse, and satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network) in the market.

History

Early history in Enid

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) originally assigned the VHF channel 5 allocation in the Oklahoma City market to Enid. The initial application to broadcast over the frequency was filed in July 1952 – shortly after the FCC had lifted a four-year moratorium on new television station license applications – when the Enid Radiophone Company, a subsidiary of Enid News & Eagle parent Enid Publishing Company and owner of radio station KCRC (1390 AM), applied with the FCC to obtain a construction permit and license to operate a television station on VHF channel 5.[2] Enid businessman George Streets, owner of local electronics manufacturer Streets Electronics Inc., filed a separate license application for channel 5 in November of that year.[3][4][5] When the FCC awarded the license and permit for channel 5 to Streets (who would serve as its original general manager), and his ownership group (which included local building contractor Philip R. Banta, who served as the station's president, and stockholder L.D. Banta, both of whom – like Streets – held similar 21.3% interests in the station) in February 1954, he requested and received approval to assign KGEO-TV (for "Greater Enid, Oklahoma") as the call letters for his television station. As consolation for losing the application grant to Streets Electronics, the Streets group gave Enid Radiophone an option to acquire a 20% stake in the station.[6][7]

Channel 5, which has operated as an ABC affiliate since its debut, first signed on the air on July 2, 1954. It was the fifth television station to sign on in the Oklahoma City market (behind WKY-TV [channel 4, now KFOR-TV], which signed on the air on June 6, 1949; KTVQ [channel 25, allocation now occupied by Fox affiliate KOKH-TV], which signed on October 28, 1953; KLPR-TV [channel 19, allocation now occupied by Cornerstone Television affiliate KUOT-CD], which signed on November 8, 1953; and KWTV [channel 9], which signed on December 20, 1953). It was also the seventh television station to sign on in the state of Oklahoma, the first within the Oklahoma City market's present designated boundaries to be licensed outside of Oklahoma City proper, and was the only full-power VHF station to have operated in northern Oklahoma. The station originally maintained studio facilities located at East Randolph Avenue and North 2nd Street in northeastern Enid, adjacent to a Streets-owned appliance store; KGEO based its 816-foot (249 m) transmission tower adjacent to the property.[8][9] it initially broadcast nine hours of programming per day from 2:30 to 11:30 p.m. In addition to carrying ABC programming, the station also had a brief affiliation with the NTA Film Network from 1956 until the programming service ceased operations in 1961, carrying only the film showcase NTA Film Spectacular (WKY-TV and KWTV each held rights to most of NTA's other programs). KGEO management charged that some provisions of National Telefilm Associates contracts with NTA Film affiliates (particularly, a compulsory 11-hour "option" for affiliates to carry network programming) violated FCC rules for chain broadcasters; these accusations were rebutted in an FCC hearing on October 5, 1956, when NTA representatives claimed that the company did not abdicate license control over programs and that affiliation contracts, among other allowances, permitted stations to decline clearance of certain programs.[10][11][12]

Transfer to Oklahoma City

Beginning under the stewardship of the Streets group, a concerted effort was made by station ownership to migrate channel 5 into the larger Oklahoma City metropolitan area. On January 11, 1955, Streets Electronics filed a construction permit application to build a new 1,386-foot (422 m)-tall tower in a rural area 6 miles (9.7 km) west-northwest of Crescent (31 miles (50 km) south-southeast of Enid).[13] The move came shortly before the FCC proposed rules to limit television transmission antennas from being located more than 5 miles (8.0 km) from the outskirts of a station's principal city of license. The KGEO transmitter proposal as well as a proposal by KSWS-TV (now NBC affiliate KOBR) in Roswell, New Mexico to build a 1,610-foot (490 m) transmission tower drew opposition from the United States Air Force and the U.S. Department of Defense, which were concerned that broadcast towers standing at heights above 1,000 feet (305 m) would create safety hazards for military and civil aircraft.[14] That August, FCC Hearing Examiner Hugh B. Hutchison issued a recommendation for approval of the move of the KGEO transmitter to the Crescent site, citing that the existing tower near Enid (located within a 12-mile proximity to Vance Air Force Base and Woodring Airport) was more of a hazard to airplanes than the proposed tower would have been, that the proposed tower would substantially place 678,439 residents within KGEO-TV's signal contour. Hutchinson also stated that KGEO was not guilty of charges made by KTVQ owner Republic Television and Radio Company that channel 5 wanted to "straddle" its transmitter between Enid and Oklahoma City to serve both cities, as between 75% and 85% of television set owners in the Enid area owners had oriented their home antennas to receive signals from Oklahoma City and the new tower would provide improved reception in Enid by allowing the signal to propagate into the area at the same direction that these home antennas were aimed.[15]

On December 15, the Commission denied motions by Republic Television and Radio (which was concerned that KGEO's move to the Crescent site would create unfair competition that would result in the shutdown of the bankrupt station) to set aside the recommendation to grant of the transmitter application as well as a petition to reopen the record and call attention to the issues the move would cause.[16][17] The FCC granted the permit change application by Streets Electronics in a 6-1 vote on May 4, 1956, subject to ensuring that the tower include sufficient lighting and hazard markings; the agency subsequently denied Department of Defense petitions to deny KGEO's permit as well as one filed by WSLA (channel 8, now WAKA-TV) in Selma, Alabama to increase its tower height from 387 feet (118 m) to 1,993 feet (607 m) based on the issues previously addressed.[18][19][20] The Enid broadcast tower collapsed in early October 1956, as construction crews prepared to relocate the station's transmitter antenna to the newly built Crescent tower, causing an estimated $140,000 in damage. The crane boom and gin pole that was hoisting the antenna off its platform buckled along with the tower, and the antenna dug a furrow into the ground, folding into four large sections during the collapse. KGEO-TV's analog signal was briefly knocked off the air until it set up temporary transmitter facilities from an auxiliary tower in downtown Enid, where it remained until the new tower became operational.[21]

On October 11, 1957, Streets Electronics sold KGEO-TV to the Caster-Robison Television Corporation (owned by broadcasting executives Louis E. Caster and Ashley Robison) for $950,000 plus the assumption of approximately $500,000 in debt. On March 1, 1958, the station's call letters were changed to KOCO-TV (for "Oklahoma City, Oklahoma"), to reflect its new secondary city of service.[22][23] Although it remained an Enid station nominally, KOCO moved its studio operations to Oklahoma City; it set up temporary studio facilities inside a converted former Kimberling's grocery store on Britton Road. In October of that year, the station's operations moved to a permanent studio facility on a 5-acre (220,000 sq ft) plot of land near Northwest 63rd Street and Portland Avenue, which included a terrace overlooking Lake Hefner for use during local programs produced outside of the studio building.[24] The station later requested a waiver of FCC station identification rules to identify as an Enid-Oklahoma City station on-air and in license documents; however, the Commission denied the petition in May 1961.[25] Following Caster's death on May 15, 1960 due to a heart attack,[26] Ashley Robison and the inheritors of Caster's estate sought offers to sell off KOCO.

In May 1961, Caster-Robison Television sold KOCO to Cimmaron Television Corporation – a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Capital City Investment Corporation that included among its investors, oilmen Dean A. McGee and John E. Kirkpatrick, Grayce Kerr (wife of state senator Robert S. Kerr, who also was a minority owner of KVOO-TV [now KJRH-TV] in Tulsa with McGee at the time) as well as longtime KOCO stockholders Philip and L.D. Banta – for $3 million. The sale received FCC approval on September 27 of that year.[27][28][29] As that transaction was taking place, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to add a third commercial VHF allocation in eight U.S. markets, under reduced mileage separation requirements. Under the plan, per an earlier filing by the Caster-Robison group, KGEO and its channel 5 allocation would be moved to Oklahoma City, but with its signal radiation suppressed to alleviate co-channel interference with KFSA-TV (now KFSM-TV) in Fort Smith (located 180 miles (290 km) east of Oklahoma City, at a distance below the FCC's 190-mile (310 km) threshold for separation of adjacent broadcast signals transmitting on the same channel).[30][31][32] Despite the full proposal receiving backing from ABC, the FCC voted twice against relocating short-spaced VHF channels into seven of the eight proposed markets during the spring of 1963, but granted permission for KOCO's channel allocation to be shifted to Oklahoma City both times, albeit with requirements that it observe standard mileage separation requirements to limit interference with KFSA-TV and that it maintain an auxiliary studio in Enid. The FCC granted KOCO a waiver of the mileage requirement in a 5-1 vote on July 25 of that year, after station representatives convinced the Commission that KOCO's would signal be impaired within Oklahoma City at a distance sufficient under the requirements, and that, if it were to comply with standard spacing rules and Civil Aeronautics Board tower height limitations, it would be difficult for the transmitter to provide a signal that would allow it to adequately serve both the state capital and Enid. (KOCO was the second Oklahoma television station to transfer its license and operations to a larger, nearby city: fellow ABC affiliate KTVX [now KTUL] had moved from Muskogee to Tulsa in 1957.)[33][34][35][36][37][38]

In March 1964, channel 5 moved its transmitter facilities to a 1,563-foot (476 m) tower on East Britton Road in northeast Oklahoma City, at an antenna farm housing the transmission towers of other local television and radio stations; the tower was dedicated with two days of ceremonies that included such notable guests as ABC news anchor Howard K. Smith and the husband-and-wife comedy team of Phil Ford and Mimi Hines.[39] KOCO's formal transfer to Oklahoma City made it the third station in the state's capital city to have been affiliated with ABC: WKY-TV served as a secondary affiliate from 1949 to 1956, while fledgling UHF outlet KTVQ maintained a full-time affiliation from its sign-on in 1953 until that station ceased operations in 1956.

One of channel 5's most popular local programs was a show aimed at younger audiences; Ed Birchall hosted a local children's program on the station for 29 years from March 1959 until shortly before his death after a brief bout with advanced-stage cancer in July 1988. Originally debuting as Lunch With HoHo and airing under various titles (including HoHo's Cartoon Circus, Good Morning HoHo and HoHo's Showplace), Birchall – who donned a colored patchwork jacket and suspender pants, a small brown top hat and oversized tie in his portrayal of HoHo the Clown – starred alongside a sock puppet named Pokey (played by longtime KOCO stage manager Bill Howard), and presented various segments from educational content to light-hearted newspaper stories to cartoon shorts. A memorial service (the first of three held for Birchall) had to be moved to St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, one of Oklahoma City's largest churches, to accommodate a live KOCO broadcast (which was also carried by KTVY, KWTV and KOKH-TV) as well as a crowd of mourners that included an honor guard of professional clowns.[40][41][42][43][44][45] Other notable past local programs produced by KGEO/KOCO included entertainment/lifestyle/fashion talk program The Ida B. Show (originally titled At Home with Ida. B and then Dateline Hollywood), whose host, Ida Blackburn, had previously hosted a local version of Romper Room for the station from 1958 to 1960;[46][47][48] and Captain Tom's Popeye Theatre, hosted by Tom Gilmore as the titular character, who read storybooks on the program, alongside the puppet version of the Alfred Lee Whittle character he developed for radio in 1948.[49] and a local version of the Dialing for Dollars movie/trivia franchise.

Combined Communications ownership

In November 1969, Cimarron Television announced that it would sell KOCO-TV to Phoenix, Arizona-based Combined Communications Corporation (CCC) for $6.5 million. The deal marked the first broadcast property acquisition by CCC, which was formed earlier that year through the merger of the KTAR Broadcasting Company (owner of company flagships KTAR-AM-TV in Phoenix) and Eller Outdoor Advertising (a company founded by CCC president Karl Eller). The sale received FCC approval on July 17, 1970.[50][51] In February 1977, KOCO adopted "5 Alive" as its on-air branding, as part of Combined Communications's rollout of the "Alive" branding concept – which Peters Productions initially developed for Tribune Broadcasting-owned independent station WPIX (now a CW affiliate) in New York City in early 1976 – on most of the group's television stations. It was accompanied by a logo similar to that used at the time by Atlanta sister station WXIA-TV, when it began identifying as "11 Alive" in September 1976 (as of 2017, WXIA is the only station out of the four former CCC outlets that continues to use the "Alive" moniker, which had also been utilized by sister station WLKY in Louisville, Kentucky and former sister WPTA in Fort Wayne, Indiana).

On March 31, 1977, Washington Star Communications announced that it would sell its Washington D.C. flagship station WMAL-TV (now WJLA-TV) to Combined Communications, in exchange for KOCO-TV and approximately $65 million of nonvoting preferred stock in CCC. The deal, which was considered to be the largest purchase price for a single television station up to that time, was done to comply with an FCC rulemaking to diversify print and broadcast media ownership, under which the agency required Star Communications to divest itself of all but one of its D.C.-area media properties by January 1979. The proceeds from the sale, as well as a total of $65 million that Star Communications would have received within 20 years through the repurchase of Combined stock, were to be used to offset the continuing monetary losses of The Washington Star newspaper.[52][53][54] Although the sale initially received approval from the FCC in January 1978, it was never finalized: on February 3, 1978, three weeks before the sale contract with CCC was set to expire, Star Communications sold The Washington Star to Time Inc. for $20 million plus the assumption of $8 million in debt. The FCC subsequently rescinded its approval of the transfer pending an inquiry into Time's purchase of the Star, given the basis of the trade on ensuring the newspaper's financial stability.[55][56][57][58] In a meeting to reconsider its approval of the WJLA-KOCO trade in early March (which was rescheduled from its original February 24 hearing date), the FCC once again granted approval of the station trade after the commission determined that Star Communications president Joe Allbritton had not committed himself to retaining the Star and that reevaluating the approval order turned up no reason to overturn the original decision.[59][60] Despite this, on March 24, Star Communications – which had twice extended its sale contract with CCC to accommodate the FCC's hearing docket following delays in the hearing date – Allbritton terminated the sale, citing a court appeal filed by the Adams Morgan Organization, the District of Columbia chapter of the National Organization for Women, the D.C. Media Task Force and the National Black Media Coalition that accused Star Communications on reneging on efforts to help minority-owned groups obtain financing to acquire the company's broadcast properties.[61][62]

Gannett ownership

On May 9, 1978, the then-Rochester, New York-based Gannett Company announced that it would purchase Combined Communications – which, at the time, had a portfolio of seven television and thirteen radio stations, two newspapers (The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Oakland Tribune), and an outdoor advertising unit – in an all-stock transaction worth $370 million that became the largest print and broadcast media transaction to have occurred in the United States up to that point. The sale – which was contingent on Gannett selling Rochester NBC affiliate WHEC-TV (which it later sold for $27 million to BENI Broadcasting) to comply with FCC rules that restricted media companies from owning more than seven VHF television stations nationwide – received FCC approval on June 7, 1979, and was consummated by the boards of both companies later that day.[63][64][65][66] Gannett (which would eventually spin off its broadcast holdings into Tegna, Inc. in June 2015) made major investments in the former Combined stations, aiming to improve the local news presence at KOCO and its other newly acquired television outlets. In the fall of 1980, the station's operations were relocated into a newly constructed, state-of-the-art studio facility located near the station's Britton Road transmitter site (0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of the studios of rival KTVY); the former studio facilities on Northeast 63rd Street were subsequently purchased by the Trinity Broadcasting Network for use as the office and production facilities for TBN owned-and-operated station KTBO-TV (channel 14). The new $2.4-million facility (designed by Oklahoma City-based architect Frank Rees) housed two production studios, offices and an expanded newsroom, and was designed to provide passive solar energy and included overhangs to shield the building's interior from sunrays to keep the building cool during the summer months.[67]

While KOCO remained under Gannett ownership for 18 years, its position in the company's portfolio was placed in limbo several times. On September 25, 1982, Gannett announced that it would sell KOCO to the San Francisco-based Chronicle Publishing Company for $100 million, in exchange for Chronicle's NBC-affiliated Bay Area flagship station, KRON-TV (now a MyNetworkTV affiliate), which Chronicle had built and signed on in 1949. The transaction was contingent on Gannett selling its Oakland-based newspaper, East Bay Today (which served as the prototype for USA Today), to comply with crossownership restrictions that prohibit the common ownership of newspapers and full-power television stations in the same market, and was part of an attempt by the company to concentrate its television station holdings to major markets. On September 28, 1983, Chronicle and Gannett "mutually agreed" to terminate the sale agreement, after Chronicle management decided to retain ownership of KRON.[68][69][70][71] Under Gannett, KOCO became heavily involved in community outreach initiatives; from 1981 to 1994, the station held the "5 Who Care Awards," an annual awards telecast recognizing outstanding public service contributions by local volunteers, businesses and nonprofit organizations.[72][73] The station expanded upon these initiatives in 1989, with the creation of the "Project Challenge" campaign, which included the "Oklahoma's Best" honors for academic excellence and dedication to the teaching profession.[74]

On September 5, 1985, Gannett announced that it would purchase the Evening News Association for $717 million. However, as FCC rules in effect at the time had prohibited a single company from owning two commercial television stations in the same market, the purchase created an ownership conflict between KOCO-TV and NBC-affiliated rival KTVY.[75][76][77][78] Gannett ultimately chose to keep KOCO on November 15, 1985, when it sold KTVY, along with fellow NBC affiliate WALA-TV (now a Fox affiliate) in Mobile, Alabama and CBS affiliate KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona to Miami, Florida-based Knight Ridder Broadcasting for $160 million. However, Gannett was allowed to jointly own KOCO and KTVY under a temporary waiver until the Knight-Ridder transaction was completed in February 1986, one month after the KTVY sale was finalized.[79][80][81][82][83] On May 14, 1990, three days after KFOR-TV adopted a similar schedule, channel 5 began maintaining a 24-hour-a-day programming schedule, adding a mix of syndicated programming and infomercials as well as hourly local news updates to fill overnight timeslots.[84] After having phased out the name from its news branding the previous September, when it began identifying its newscasts as 5 News, KOCO dropped the "5 Alive" moniker from general promotional use in May 1994, in conjunction with the debut of a new logo (which was inspired by the Paul Rand-designed circle 7 logo, and was replaced with the current "circle 5" logo following a subsequent rebranding in February 1995) and on-air graphics for its newscasts and station promotions; prior to that time, KOCO and WXIA (which briefly retired the "11 Alive" brand in 1993, only to begin restoring it upon viewer demand) were the only Gannett stations that had continued to use the "Alive" moniker.

On July 24, 1995, the Gannett Company announced that it had entered into an agreement to acquire Multimedia Inc. for $1.7 billion, plus $539 million in long-term debt. When the FCC approved the merger in late November 1995, the agency's Broadcast Bureau stipulated that Gannett would have to sell KOCO and NBC-affiliated sister station WLWT in Cincinnati, Ohio to comply with crossownership regulations. (Gannett was also required to sell CBS affiliate WMAZ-TV and sister radio stations WMAZ (now WMAC) and WAYS in Macon, Georgia; however, the company was ultimately able to retain WMAZ-TV after the FCC modified its national ownership cap to allow broadcasters to own any number of television stations with a combined reach of up to 35% of all U.S. households.) However, since it could not legally own both a broadcast television station and a cable provider in the same market under FCC rules of the time period, Gannett was granted a waiver that gave the company until December 1996 to divest itself of either KOCO-TV or Multimedia Cablevision (which, at the time, was the major cable provider for most of Oklahoma City's suburban communities, except for Forest Park, the only area suburb that was serviced by primary provider Cox Communications at the time); the sale was finalized on December 4, 1995.[85][86][87][88][89]

Hearst Television ownership

Former KOCO logo, used from August 1998 until April 18, 2013.
Former alternate logo for KOCO's newscasts under the "Eyewitness News 5" brand.

On November 20, 1996, Gannett announced that it would sell KOCO-TV and WLWT to San Antonio-based Argyle Television Holdings II (the successor company to the original Argyle Television, which sold most of its television stations to New World Communications in May 1994) for $20 million, in exchange for fellow ABC affiliate WZZM in Grand Rapids, Michigan and NBC affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo, New York. The sale – which required Gannett to sell the Niagara Falls, New York-based Niagara Gazette to alleviate a crossownership conflict with WGRZ – was finalized on January 31, 1997.[90][91][92][93][94] Subsequently, on March 27, 1997, the Hearst Corporation announced that it would purchase five of the seven Argyle Television stations – KOCO-TV, WLWT, ABC affiliates KHBS in Fort Smith (and its Fayetteville, Arkansas satellite KHOG-TV), KITV in Honolulu (and its satellites KHVO in Hilo and KMAU in Wailuku, Hawaii), and WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi, and the non-license assets of Fox affiliate WNAC-TV in Providence, Rhode Island – for $525 million. The merger was finalized in August of that year, with the combined group of Hearst's six existing television stations and the five it acquired from Argyle becoming known as Hearst-Argyle Television (which was renamed Hearst Television in May 2009).[95][96][97][98] The acquisition marked Hearst's return to the Oklahoma City market; the company owned radio station KOMA (1520 AM, now KOKC) from 1932 until 1938, when Hearst sold that station to John T. Griffin (who founded KWTV in 1953).[99]

On June 13, 1998, rear flank downdraft winds approaching 105 mph (169 km/h) struck the station's Britton Road studio, causing minor damage that included a toppled backyard fence and a large dent to the dome of its weather radar. The event was broadcast live as the station was providing wall-to-wall coverage of the accompanying supercell thunderstorm, which spawned seven tornadoes across Canadian and northern Oklahoma counties, while a KOCO photojournalist positioned in the studio's garage was shooting video of the storm as it approached the Britton Road facility. Believing a tornado had touched down, Mike LaPoint (who was the station's weekend evening meteorologist from 1997 to 2001) yelled to then-chief meteorologist Rick Mitchell, "Rick, it's on the ground!" as the three men ran to take shelter inside the building. Electricity was knocked out to the studio and transmitter facilities, taking the KOCO broadcast signal off-the-air for almost 24 hours; the station remained available to Cox Communications and Multimedia Cablevision subscribers via a direct auxiliary feed transmitted by fiber optic to the cable providers.[100][101][102]

In September 1998, when KTEN (which had been affiliated with ABC on a part-time basis since its sign-on in 1956) disaffiliated from the network, KOCO-TV began serving as a default ABC station for areas on the Oklahoma side of the adjacent Sherman-Ada market – including the cities of Ada, Pauls Valley and Sulphur – through its existing availability on most cable providers in the region (WFAA in Dallas-Fort Worth served as the primary default affiliate for counties in far southern Oklahoma and extreme north-central Texas within the DMA). However, residents in southern Oklahoma could view most ABC programs that were pre-empted by KTEN via KOCO for several years beforehand, particularly after the former switched to a primary NBC affiliation in 1986 (steadily reducing ABC-provided content on its schedule to select daytime and prime time programs by 1994, when it added an additional primary affiliation with Fox). The Sherman-Ada market would regain an ABC station of its own when KTEN launched a digital subchannel affiliated with the network on May 1, 2010.[103] Despite this, KOCO remains available on cable and satellite providers within that market. Through this former default status, it was the only Oklahoma City television station to provide extensive live coverage of an EF4 tornado that killed eight people in Lone Grove on February 10, 2009.

Due partly to its strong syndicated programming lineup, KOCO has grown to become one of ABC's strongest affiliates in recent years; it ranked as one of the network's highest-rated affiliates from 2009 to 2012, according to Nielsen Media Research, sharing this distinction with two of its Hearst-owned sister stations, WISN-TV in Milwaukee and KMBC-TV in Kansas City; the station had also made the claim of ranking as the highest-rated ABC affiliate overall from 2007 to 2009. In December 2010, KOCO became the second television station in the Oklahoma City market (after KWTV-DT) and the sixth station in Oklahoma to carry syndicated programming in high definition.

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[104]
5.1 1080i 16:9 KOCO-HD Main KOCO-TV programming / ABC
5.2 480i KOCO-ME MeTV

KOCO-TV is one of several ABC-affiliated stations owned by Hearst (including, among others, WCVB-TV in Boston, WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, KETV in Omaha and KMBC-TV in Kansas City) that transmit the primary feed of its digital signal and any high definition programming carried over it in the 1080i HD format, instead of ABC's preferred 720p format.

KOCO-DT2

KOCO-DT2 is a MeTV-affiliated television station, which operates as a second digital subchannel of KOCO-TV. Branded as MeTV Oklahoma City, it broadcasts over-the-air in standard definition on VHF digital channel 7.2 (or virtual channel 5.2 via PSIP). On cable, KOCO-DT2 is available on Cox Communications digital channel 222 in the Oklahoma City area, and on Suddenlink Communications systems throughout western Oklahoma. In addition to carrying MeTV programming, KOCO-DT2 is also designated as an alternate ABC affiliate, and carries network (and occasionally, syndicated) programs that KOCO must preempt to carry extended breaking news or severe weather coverage or special event programming on its main channel.

History

KOCO launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 5.2 in 2005, which originally carried a live feed of the station's Doppler radar – then known as "Advantage Doppler HD" (now branded as "First Alert Dual-Pol Doppler") – accompanied by an audio simulcast of NOAA Weather Radio station WXK85. In April 2008, the subchannel became an affiliate of The Local AccuWeather Channel, under the brand "First Alert Weather 24/7". Alongside carrying regional and national forecast segments provided by the AccuWeather-operated network, KOCO also produced pre-recorded local forecast segments presented by meteorologists from the station's "First Alert Weather" team – which were updated two to three times per day – for the subchannel (the radar imagery and NOAA Weather Radio feed continued to be shown after the local forecast segments, along with serving as a transition segment between its AccuWeather and E/I programming).[105][106] In addition, KOCO-DT2 carried a half-hour block of syndicated children's programs compliant with FCC educational programming guidelines on Monday through Saturday afternoons, and was occasionally used to air special weather coverage from its sister stations during tropical weather events (in particular, in September 2008, it simulcast coverage of Hurricane Gustav from NBC-affiliated sister station WDSU in New Orleans to provide information on the storm for Louisiana residents who evacuated inland to Oklahoma City).

On January 24, 2011, KOCO-DT2 became an affiliate of This TV, through an affiliation agreement between Hearst Television and network co-parent Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which handled affiliate distribution for the movie-focused network on behalf of original managing partner Weigel Broadcasting (as Cookie Jar Group programmed a daily block of educational and entertainment-focused children's programs for This TV at the time, KOCO dropped the syndicated E/I programming that Hearst acquired for its stations' DT2 feeds to comply with educational content regulations for multicast services).

On July 24, 2012, Hearst Television and Weigel Broadcasting announced that Hearst had renewed affiliation agreements with MeTV for eight of the group's affiliates through 2015, and agreed to add the classic television network on digital subchannels of KOCO-TV and its sister stations in Boston, Baltimore, Sacramento and Greensboro.[107][108] The This TV affiliation rights for the Oklahoma City affiliation were subsequently acquired by Family Broadcasting Group, then-owner of independent station KSBI (channel 52, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate); however, because KOCO's MeTV contract did not commence for another two weeks, KSBI was forced to share the This TV affiliation with KOCO-DT2 after KSBI-DT2 began carrying the latter network on September 17, 2012. KOCO-DT2 affiliated with MeTV on October 1, 2012, at which time, KSBI became the market's exclusive This TV affiliate.[109] On August 28, 2017, KOCO-DT2 switched to a 16:9 widescreen standard definition format; prior to the upgrade, ABC and syndicated programs presented in widescreen were transmitted on KOCO-DT2 in a horizontally compressed format to fit the subchannel's 4:3 aspect frame.

Analog-to-digital conversion

KOCO-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transitioned from analog to digital television.[110] The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 7, using PSIP to display KOCO-TV's virtual channel as 5 (corresponding to its analog channel) on digital television receivers. After the switchover, the marginal reductions to the broadcast radius of KOCO's digital signal created some reception gaps in parts of southern and north-central Oklahoma that previously, at best, received Grade B coverage from its analog signal. In May 2010, the station installed a new digital transmitter antenna and dish on the Britton Road tower to help extend KOCO's signal reception to the affected areas.[111]

Programming

KOCO-TV currently broadcasts the complete ABC network schedule, although it does not clear the ABC News Brief that airs during ABC Daytime programming in order to run additional local advertising. The station airs the Litton's Weekend Adventure block on a one-hour delay from its "live feed" due to the third hour of its Saturday morning newscast, although midday college football games that ABC carries during the fall may subject "Weekend Adventure" programs normally aired on Saturdays in the 11:00 a.m. hour (as well as the syndicated Teen Kids News) to be deferred to Sundays to fulfill educational programming obligations. The station may preempt some ABC programs in order to air long-form breaking news or severe weather coverage, or occasional specials produced by KOCO's news department. ABC shows preempted or otherwise interrupted by such content may either be rebroadcast on tape delay over KOCO's main channel in place of regular overnight programs or, more commonly since 2013, diverted to KOCO-DT2 in place of MeTV programming. Station personnel also gives viewers who subscribe to AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, Dish Network and other pay television providers within the KOCO viewing area that do not carry KOCO-DT2 the option of watching the affected shows on ABC's desktop and mobile streaming platforms or its cable/satellite video-on-demand service the day after their initial airing.

Syndicated programs broadcast by KOCO-TV as of September 2017 include The Dr. Oz Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Harry, Steve, The Real, Rizzoli & Isles and Wheel of Fortune (Oklahoma City is one of a small number of U.S. television markets in which Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are carried on separate stations: Jeopardy! airs on NBC affiliate KFOR-TV, which has carried the program locally since September 2000).[112] Channel 5 has served as the Oklahoma City affiliate of the Children's Miracle Network Telethon since its inception in May 1983. Until 2004, KOCO typically aired the first hour of the telethon after the Saturday edition of its late-evening newscast, depending on the telethon's airdate, on the last weekend of May or first weekend of June; the remainder of the telecast (including local segments hosted by KOCO on-air personalities) would then air through its conclusion the following Sunday afternoon.[113][114] It also served as the local broadcaster of the United Cerebral Palsy Star-athon, a telethon to raise money for the cerebral palsy research organization, from 1962 to 1996.[115][116]

Past program preemptions and deferrals

Historically, KOCO-TV has either preempted or given out-of-pattern clearances to certain ABC programs to air local, syndicated or special event programs. After it debuted a noon newscast in September 1978, the station aired All My Children (which ABC concurrently moved to the aforementioned slot with the soap opera's expansion to a full hour) on a day-behind basis at 11:00 a.m., which resulted in the preemption of ABC Daytime shows that normally occupied that hour in the Central Time Zone (such as the network version of Family Feud) until it was ceded to ABC's affiliates in September 1992; KOCO began carrying AMC live-to-air at noon on January 2, 2008, where the soap remained until it was replaced by The Chew on September 27, 2011. Loving also aired mid-mornings on a one-day delay until September 1990, when the station replaced it with the hour-long version of Home;[117] KOCO preempted ABC's half-hour soap operas (Loving, The City and, until the station began clearing it in September 1998, Port Charles) for most of the 1990s in favor of first-run syndicated shows and, after September 1994, an expanded midday newscast in its standard network slot.

Beginning with the newsmagazine's debut in 1980, KOCO-TV delayed Nightline to 11:00 p.m. – a half-hour later than most ABC stations had carried it at the time – in order to air M*A*S*H reruns following its late newscast; in 1983, station management sought permission to delay Nightline to 12:30 a.m. so it could air the syndicated late night talk show Thicke of the Night after M*A*S*H starting that September. ABC vetoed the move and contracted then-independent station KOKH-TV to carry Nightline live-to-air;[118][119] Nightline returned to KOCO on a one-hour delay in February 1985, eventually being shifted to its network slot in September 1995. To accommodate first-run and/or off-network syndicated shows in late access, channel 5 continued to air ABC late-night programs that were intended to directly follow Nightline on a tape-delayed basis: Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher aired on a half-hour delay from its then-recommended 11:05 p.m. Central timeslot from its ABC debut in September 1995 until it ended in December 2002; its replacement, Jimmy Kimmel Live! (which has preceded Nightline since the network switched the scheduling order of the two programs in January 2013), aired on a one-hour delay from its January 2003 premiere, in favor of a same-day Oprah rebroadcast, until KOCO pushed Kimmel to the show's network "live" slot in September 2011.

Channel 5 also preempted portions of ABC's Saturday morning lineup intermittently through September 2006 (as an example, The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show and Ewoks were preempted in favor of the local real estate program Home Showcase in 1987).[120] The station also preempted all but 90 minutes of the then four-hour-long lineup between 1992 and 1996, in favor of a local Saturday morning newscast[121] and other syndicated programming; from September 1996 until December 2007, the ABC children's programs that were recommended to air during the 10:00 a.m. hour aired instead on a one-week delay at 7:00 a.m.; KOCO aired the remaining two hours in pattern from the ABC off-air feed. KOCO aired the various Power Rangers series that aired as part of the ABC Kids block on a one-week delay from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m., instead of the network's "live"-fed slot during the 11:00 a.m. hour, from September 2003 until September 2006; as Hearst's other ABC stations opted to do with the series, it pre-empted Power Rangers afterward due to the program's lack of educational content until the series was dropped by the network on August 28, 2010 (for similar reasons, the station tape-delayed Kim Possible and Power Rangers SPD for broadcast on early Monday mornings before World News Now during the 2005-06 season).

It was also among the more than 20 stations that declined to air ABC's November 2004 telecast of Saving Private Ryan, amid concerns that the intense war violence and strong profanity retained from the 1998 World War II-set film's theatrical cut would subject stations that aired it to being fined by the FCC, which initiated a crackdown on indecent material following the wardrobe malfunction incident during Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show performance that February.[122][123] KOCO, along with the eight other Hearst-owned ABC stations – out of the eleven it owned at the time – that also refused to air Saving Private Ryan, chose to air the 1992 film Far and Away in its place. (The FCC eventually determined that, even though content typically prohibited from being shown on broadcast television was not expurgated from the film's network cut, the movie's broadcast did not violate agency regulations.)[122][124]

Sports programming

Sports programming on KOCO-TV is sourced solely through the ABC's ESPN-managed sports programming unit, ESPN on ABC. Under ABC's broadcast television contract with the Big XII Conference, channel 5 is the primary over-the-air rightsholder to college football games involving the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The station produces pre-game and post-game shows that air as wraparound programs between ABC's college football telecasts on weeks when the network is scheduled to air a game involving the Sooners and/or the Cowboys. In September 1982, after the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay of a district court order that ruled network and cable contracts for college football telecasts reached by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) to be in violation of antitrust rules, the University of Oklahoma sold KOCO-TV the local television rights to the team's game against the USC Trojans under arrangement with the Katz Agency. The court's delay in acting on the case and time constraints thereof led to the university abandoning its effort to telecast the game on KOCO.[125]

After NCAA regulations that restricted the number of college football games that could be televised live in a single season were overturned in a Supreme Court case in 1984, KOCO acquired the local rights to a package of college football games involving teams in the Big Eight Conference through Katz Sports (Katz subsequently sold the rights to the college football games and certain other sports events to Raycom Sports after the 1985 NCAA Division I college football season). From 1988 to 1991 and again from 1993 to 1995, KOCO also maintained a programming agreement with the Sooners to air various team-related programs during the regular season, including the head coach's weekly analysis program Oklahoma Football, which was co-hosted by then-sports director Dean Blevins and Sooners football coach Gary Gibbs (Fox affiliate KOKH held the local rights to the Sooners magazing programs for the 1992 season, with KOCO carrying select Oklahoma State Cowboys programs such as analysis program The Pat Jones Show in the interim).[117][126][127][128]

News operation

As of September 2017, KOCO-TV broadcasts 34 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays and 4½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays); the station also produces an additional 3½ hours of newscasts each week (consisting of a half-hour each on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays) for its MeTV-affiliated DT2 subchannel. KOCO also provides news content to Community Newspaper Holdings publications The Norman Transcript and the Enid News & Eagle.

Channel 5's news department began operations when the station signed on as Enid-based KGEO-TV on July 2, 1954. The station initially aired two 15-minute-long newscasts at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. each evening, with Ernie Schultz (who would later serve as a news director for WKY-TV and KWTV) serving as the original main anchor of the Monday through Friday editions. As part of the condition of the station's license transfer to Oklahoma City that required it to maintain an auxiliary studio in its original city of license, KOCO maintained a news bureau at its original Randolph Street facility in Enid; the bureau would eventually be closed in 1995. During the 1960s, the station produced a companion news and features program, Sundayscope, which also featured a regular viewer mail segment hosted by general manager Ben K. West.[129] The weeknight newscasts were reformatted in 1968 as The Hickox-Halburnt Report, anchored by news director Richard Hickox and assistant news director Joe Halburnt Jr.; they were replaced by Dean Swanson in 1971. In 1974, as the format was growing in popularity in television markets throughout the nation, KOCO-TV rebranded its local newscasts under the Eyewitness News moniker (it was the second station in the Oklahoma City market to have utilized the format, following a previous run at KWTV between 1966 and 1971; the format was later reused under the Eyewitness News 5 moniker from July 1998 to April 2013). Swanson and chief meteorologist Fred Norman were joined weeknights by sports director Jerry Park, who would become the station's longest-serving on-air personality, remaining with KOCO for 25 years until his retirement in May 1999 (Park was relegated to the weekend newscasts in 1988, following the arrival of Dean Blevins as sports director).[130]

Under the helm of news director Tom Kirby (who was later promoted to president and general manager of KOCO), the station made aggressive moves to improve its standing among the market's television news operations by highlighting investigative reporting and extensive coverage of breaking news events (among which, included live and filmed coverage of a July 1973 riot at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, which was compiled into a one-hour documentary that received a commendation by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency). The station also acquired a private airplane to transport reporters and camera crews to news stories and pick up edited film reels.[131] However, the format changes did not reward the station's newscasts with a ratings win, as KOCO remained at a distant third place in the ratings for many years against the then-long-dominant channel 4 and the perennially second-place KWTV. During this period, KOCO aired its early evening newscast at 5:30 p.m. (instead of the 6:00 p.m. timeslot exclusively used by most stations at the time); the station consequently shifted the ABC Evening News to 5:00 p.m., when the network first fed the newscast to its affiliates (including fellow Oklahoma-based ABC affiliates KTUL, KTEN and KSWO-TV in Lawton) during that period. The early-evening newscast was split into two half-hour programs at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., bookended by ABC's World News Tonight, in September 1982 (all three broadcasts ranked the market's most-watched news programs in those time periods during the November 2006 sweeps period).

In June 1979, while on assignment at a Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) press conference, KOCO anchor/reporter Ron Stahl and photographer Bill Collard were arrested on a trespassing complaint after crossing a utility fence to cover a protest against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Inola. Stahl (who contended that he and Collard would have been unable to return for the press conference in time had they chosen to hike more than 2 miles (3.2 km) over rough terrain to reach a sanctioned area to view the demonstrators' arrests) and nine other reporters who were taken into custody – including Tom Newcomb and Susie Welsh of KTVY, and Vicki Monks of KWTV – were convicted and individually levied a $25 fine in January 1980. The convictions were appealed on press freedom infringement complaints, but were upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Western District of Oklahoma. The Supreme Court declined to review the case upon consideration in January 1984, letting stand the convictions of Stahl and the other reporters.[132][133] Later, in 1984, the station was sued for defamation by local OB-GYN William Crittendon, who claimed a report on a medical malpractice case he was being tried for had misquoted an expert witness who said that a patient had a "perfectly healthy" (rather than "perfectly normal") uterus; the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that station management must pay Crittendon $550,000 in damages; an appeal of the ruling, charging First Amendment violations, gained the support of the National Association of Broadcasters, which contended that the court did not establish negligence or causation.[134]

After being acquired by Gannett, the company made substantial investments in KOCO's news operations, which included the acquisition of an Aerospatiale Astar 350 (branded as "Sky 5"), which was the first helicopter to be used for aerial newsgathering in the Oklahoma City market. KOCO's ratings fortunes improved from 1980 to 1982, when its newscasts briefly overtook KWTV for second place following the installment of Jack Bowen, Mary Ruth Carleton, Fred Norman and sports director Jerry Park as its primary anchor team. The station's newscasts (which were then titled 5 Alive NewsCenter, before being shortened to 5 Alive News in 1984) even battled longtime powerhouse KTVY for first in the market. In 1977, KOCO began airing "Wednesday's Child", a weekly feature segment on its 10:00 p.m. newscast that was conducted by Jack Bowen (who served as an anchor/reporter at the station from 1974 to 1987 and again from 1990 to 1995[117][135]), which profiled children in need of an adoptive family. The station also collaborated with ABC News' 20/20 on the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 1981 undercover investigative report "Throwaway Kids", which looked into abuse, neglect and preventable deaths of children, elderly and mentally ill persons in the care of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services that would lead to the resignation of OKDHS director Lloyd Rader. By 1983, channel 5's newscasts had settled into a solid second place as a series of anchor changes helped propel KWTV from a distant third all the way to first place, displacing KTVY from the #1 ratings position it held for decades. In September 1983, the 5:00 p.m. newscast adopted the Newscope format, a customizable syndicated news concept for local stations that featured local perspectives on major national and international news stories as well as consumer and entertainment news; KOCO reformatted the 5:00 show as a traditional local newscast after Newscope was discontinued nationally in September 1984.[118] A main weakness of KOCO has been the turnover rate of its on-air news department staff. Massive staffing changes took place during 1984 under newly appointed vice president of news operations Gary Long (a former general manager at ex-sister station KARK-TV in Little Rock). Anchors Mary Ruth Carleton and Gan Matthews, farm reporter Gene Wheatley, assignment reporter Jennifer Eve, and sports anchor Tony Sellars (the latter four of which had joined KWTV by the end of 1984) left or had their contracts not get renewed, while longtime weeknight meteorologist Fred Norman was shifted to the weekend evening newscasts, where he remained until his retirement in 1987. In addition, Gerry Harris (who joined channel 5 from WTNH in Hartford, Connecticut) and meteorologist Wayne Shattuck (who had been working as a primary weather anchor at KDFW in Dallas for four years, following a prior stint at KOCO from 1977 to 1980) were hired to join Bowen and Park on the weeknight newscasts.[136][137][138]

In an effort to improve KOCO's newscast ratings, which had declined to a distant third place over the preceding years as a result of the changes, the station lured away several anchors from rival KTVY, including Jane Jayroe (who, during her first tenure at KOCO from 1978 to 1980, was the first female to anchor a newscast at channel 5) and Jerry Adams (who replaced Bowen after his departure to become main co-anchor at KWTV), and Harris (who was moved to the noon and 5:00 p.m. newscasts, and became a feature reporter for the nightly segment "Oklahoma Pride") as its primary evening anchors. Brothers Butch and Ben McCain were also hired to anchor the noon newscast as well as a new hour-long weekday news and features program that debuted in August 1987, Good Morning Oklahoma, which maintained a similar, albeit slightly more news-driven, format as their former KTVY program AM Oklahoma. (The McCains also hosted the music video programs Hot Country Hits and Chartbusters for KOCO during the early 1990s, as well as the local academic quiz show Challenge Bowl from 1989 to 1994.)[139][140][141][142][143] The late 1980s also saw the station's newscasts shift toward a "softer, entertainment-influenced approach" that incorporated more infotainment and special interest segments alongside hard news content.[144] In 1988, the station premiered Prep Sports Extra, a Friday night program that covered high school football games from around the state during the fall season (which, depending on the year, aired anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes); the program's brief suspension in the fall of 1996, attributed to longtime sports anchor and co-host Mick Cornett's shift to weekday morning news anchor that year, led to such viewer outcry that the station reinstating Prep Sports Extra (which was renamed High School Playbook in September 2012) midway through that year's football season.[117][145]

On May 14, 1990, KOCO-TV implemented the "24-Hour News Source" concept, producing 30-second-long news updates during commercial breaks outside of long-form newscasts near the top of each hour; the station also began airing weather updates on weekend mornings, and an overnight news feed with content sourced from its then-sister stations WXIA and KUSA-TV in Denver. Later that month, KOCO filed a trademark lawsuit against KFOR and its owner at the time, Palmer Communications, seeking $208,000 in damages and to stop KFOR from promoting itself as the "24-Hour News and Information Source," on grounds that channel 5 was the exclusive owner of the "24-Hour News Source" moniker in the state since 1980 and that KFOR's three-day jump in adopting the format and slogan upon its switch to a 24-hour schedule caused viewer confusion that denied KOCO immediate recognition with its rollout. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bana Blasdel denied the station's request for an emergency temporary restraining order to prevent KFOR, which contended it was using a slogan that could not be trademarked, from using the term on May 25.[84][146][147][148][149] The parties would later settle the suit, with KOCO continuing to air round-the-clock news updates until 1993; KFOR did the same until 1999, changing its slogan to obliquely reference its use of the format (KOCO utilized a retooled version of the concept from 1998 to 1999, providing top-of-the-hour weather updates from the newly branded "24-Hour First Alert Weather" team). Channel 5's implementation of the format won it a first place honor for innovation at the Best of Gannett Awards in 1990.[150]

1990 also saw KOCO become the first television station in Oklahoma to offer closed captioning of its newscasts for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. In April 1992, KOCO debuted a Saturday morning newscast from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., taking over part of the timeslot allocated to ABC's cartoon lineup (the newscast would be reduced to two hours starting at 8:00 a.m. by 1995, before being shifted again to 10:00 a.m. in September 1996). This was eventually followed by the September 1994 expansion of the noon newscast to one hour (reverting to a half-hour program in September 1998 to accommodate the ABC soap opera Port Charles), and the expansion of its weekday morning newscast into a 90-minute broadcast starting at 5:30 a.m. in 1998 (expanding once again to two hours in September 1999). During the early- and mid-1990s, KOCO maintained an investigative unit, known as the "I-Team"; the unit was led by investigative and assignment reporter Terri Watkins, who worked at channel 5 from 1982 until she retired from broadcasting in 2006, and was nominated for and won multiple awards for her various reports including two Peabody Awards, several Edward R. Murrow Awards, Houston International Film and Video Festival, New York International Film Festival, Associated Press and Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters awards, and six Emmy nominations (most notably, for her coverage of the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing and the trial and execution of bombing co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh).[151][152][153][154]

The 1990s saw continued changes to its anchor team that included the move of weekend anchor Jennifer Eve (who rejoined KOCO in 1987, after a reporting stint from 1982 to 1984) replacing the departing Jane Jayroe on the weeknight newscasts in 1992, where Eve remained until she left television news in 2001;[155][156][157] and Ben and Butch McCain being pulled from Good Morning Oklahoma in May 1994, as the station switched its morning show to a conventional news format (they would file a wrongful termination suit against KOCO in 1996).[158][159] In 1999, then-weekend evening anchor Cherokee Ballard became the focus of a series of reports chronicling her battle with non-Hodgkin's large-cell lymphoma (for which she had been diagnosed with that June) to educate viewers about the disease. (Ballard's cancer went into remission the following year.)[160][161] KOCO has increased its commitment to news and weather coverage in recent years, with these efforts helping propel the station's 5:00 p.m. newscast to first place in the ratings in 2004, followed by its first-ever outright win at 6:00 p.m. in November 2006.

In February 2006, the station extended its weekend morning news programming to Sundays, with the addition of a two-hour 7:00 a.m. newscast. That same year, the Sunday edition of the 10:00 p.m. newscast expanded to a full hour, resulting in Sunday Sports Xtra – a sports wrap-up program that debuted on September 4, 1994 as Sports Final, and was relaunched after a seven-month hiatus as Sports Extra in August 1997[162][163] – converting from a standalone program to a 15-minute tail-end segment within the newscast (the Sports Extra moniker was used as the umbrella title for its sports segments from 2006 to February 2012). The week of January 2, 2008 saw further changes to its news schedule: the noon newscast was cancelled (in lieu of a midday newscast, a 30-second weather update airs before ABC Daytime programming in that timeslot), the 5:00 p.m. newscast was expanded to Saturday evenings, and the Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts were moved to an earlier, uniform timeslot from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. After more than two decades of turnover with its evening anchor team, the station eventually gained stability with its primary anchor team when it paired Jessica Schambach (the longest-serving member of channel 5's current on-air news staff, who joined the station in 2002 as a reporter, and joined the evening newscasts as 5:00 p.m. anchor in 2005[164]) and Paul Folger (who joined the station from WTEV [now WJAX-TV] in Jacksonville, Florida) on the weeknight newscasts in 2008; the two were later joined in August 2017 by Abigail Ogle (daughter of KFOR evening anchor Kevin Ogle, who joined KOCO as a sports reporter in 2012) as co-anchor on the 6:00 p.m. newscast. In October 2009, KOCO upgraded its severe weather, school closings and news tickers to be overlaid on high definition programming without having to downconvert HD content to standard definition. An hour-long extension of the station's weekend morning newscasts debuted on July 31, 2010, airing from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.[165] This was followed on September 22, with the expansion of the weekday morning newscast to 4:30 a.m., becoming the first television station in Oklahoma to expand its morning newscasts to a pre-5:00 a.m. timeslot.[166]

On April 18, 2013, KOCO became the third commercial station in Oklahoma City to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (prior to the move, KOCO utilized a pillarboxed presentation for its newscasts from October 2009 until October 11, 2010, when it began transmitting in-studio segments in and upconverted field news video to the 16:9 widescreen format). With the conversion to HD, KOCO implemented the standardized graphics package designed for Hearst's stations by the company's Orlando graphics hub (based at sister station WESH) and music package (Strive by inthegroovemusic). On April 8, 2016, KOCO launched two additional newscasts: an hour-long, weekday newscast at 9:00 a.m. on its main channel (which, though not technically an extension of its primary morning newscast, uses the same anchors and reporters as the 4:30-7:00 broadcast), and a half-hour prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m. for KOCO-DT2. The latter program – KOCO 5 News at 9:00 on MeTV, which airs seven nights a week, and followed the launches of prime time newscasts on the MeTV subchannels of Hearst-owned stations in other markets – directly competes against an hour-long prime time newscast on Fox affiliate KOKH-TV (which debuted in June 1996), and a KFOR-produced half-hour newscast on KAUT-TV (which launched in September 2006); however, the KOCO-DT2 newscast is the only local prime time news program in the Oklahoma City market that airs at its normal timeslot on a nightly basis (KOKH's Primetime News at Nine is occasionally delayed due to overruns of Fox Sports game telecasts, more commonly on Saturday nights; KAUT does not broadcast weekend editions of Oklahoma's News 4 at 9:00, ceding the hour to syndicated programs and movies on Saturdays and Sundays).[167][168]

Weather coverage

Although not as well known as its two principal competitors in this arena, KOCO-TV has made continual efforts over the years to improve its coverage of severe weather affecting Oklahoma. The station's Doppler weather radar system, branded on-air as "KOCO 5 First Alert Dual-Pol Doppler", utilizes data from a radar site at the station's Britton Road studios as well as live VIPIR data from radars operated by regional National Weather Service forecast offices. KOCO also provides local weather updates for the Enid News and Eagle as well as for NPR member station KGOU (106.3 FM) and Champlin Broadcasting-owned country radio station KNAH (99.7 FM).

When Fred Norman was hired as the station's chief meteorologist in 1972, he became known among viewers for his quirky colloquialisms and lively on-air delivery, but also sought to improve channel 5's weather coverage. During the mid-to-late 1970s, the station offered "Weather Watch", a nightly post-sign-off feature consisting mainly of live imagery of the station's weather radar, along with any cut-ins from the station's meteorologists in the event that the National Weather Service issued severe weather alerts for the KOCO viewing area during the overnight hours. Following the 1989 promotion of Mike Morgan to chief meteorologist, following the departure of Wayne Shattuck (who was also succeeded in that capacity by Morgan at KFOR in 1993),[169] KOCO's weather department invested the development of new technology to relay warnings and footage of inclement weather from the field. In July 1990, "5 Alive WeatherTrack" (later known as "WeatherPhone 5" until it was discontinued in 2004), a toll phone service providing local and worldwide weather information, was launched.[170]

In 1991, the station developed First Alert, the first automated weather warning system for television use (which was based on the manual-input First Warning system developed by KWTV around that time); it also assembled crews of storm chasing units, the "First Alert Storm Teams" (or "F.A.S.T. units"), which utilized custom vehicles equipped with video cameras and pioneering technology that enabled still photographs to be transmitted over cellular telephone (the "First Pix" cell technology as well as "First Alert" would earn the station a Regional News Emmy Award in 1991). Morgan – who was later sued for breach of contract and accusations of taking storm-related videotapes, computer programs and forecasting equipment without the station's permission – left KOCO to become chief meteorologist at KFOR-TV in August 1992, and was later briefly replaced by former Weather Channel severe weather expert Vince Miller.[171][172]

After Rick Mitchell took over as chief meteorologist in 1994, it would become the first station to utilize a mobile Doppler radar system, to send video over cellular telephone (earning the station a Regional Emmy nomination) and to distribute full-screen video over cell phones. KOCO's coverage of an F5 tornado that killed 36 people in several of Oklahoma City's southern suburbs on May 3, 1999 earned the station a special recognition award from Governor Frank Keating. Mitchell remained with KOCO until July 2012, when he became an evening meteorologist at KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth.[173][174][175] In March 2000, the station unveiled the "Neighborhood Network," a network of sensors that relayed real-time weather observations from sites throughout central Oklahoma, and "Predictor," which compiles computer model data to display hour-by-hour forecasts up to 48 hours in advance.[176] In October 2012, Mitchell was succeeded by Damon Lane (who had been with the station since 2009 as a weekday morning meteorologist), who just eight months later on May 20, 2013, covered an EF5 tornado that killed 24 people in Moore, narrowly missing the home he lived in with wife Melissa Newton (formerly a reporter at KOCO from 2004 to 2006). The station's coverage of that tornado earned KOCO an Regional Emmy nomination, and chronicled in part by Lane in a 2016 episode of the ABC docu-series In an Instant.[177][178][179]

On-air staff

Notable former on-air staff

References

  1. ^ KOCO states July 15 as its sign-on date, while the Oklahoma Historical Society states it as July 18.
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  4. ^ "FCC Readies Flexible Priority List on TV Hearing Speed-Up" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. December 28, 1953. p. 46. Retrieved October 10, 2017 – via American Radio History. 
  5. ^ "New Grantees' Commencement Target Dates" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. December 28, 1953. p. 97. Retrieved October 10, 2017 – via American Radio History. 
  6. ^ "For the Record" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. February 15, 1954. p. 104. Retrieved October 10, 2017 – via American Radio History. 
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  10. ^ "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films", Boxoffice: 13, November 10, 1956 
  11. ^ "104 Sign Up for NTA Film Network, Due to Begin Operations on Oct. 15" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. September 17, 1956. p. 56. Retrieved October 10, 2017 – via American Radio History. 
    "For the Record" (PDF). Broadcasting-Telecasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. September 17, 1956. p. 58. Retrieved October 10, 2017 – via American Radio History. 
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