KENS, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 39), is a CBS-affiliated television station located in San Antonio, Texas, United States. The station is owned by Tegna, Inc. KENS maintains studio facilities located on Fredericksburg Road (Spur 345) in the Mockingbird Hill neighborhood of northwest San Antonio, and its transmitter is located off of Route 181 in northwest Wilson County (northeast of Elmendorf).
The station first signed on the air on February 15, 1950 as KEYL; channel 5 was the second television station to sign on in the San Antonio market, debuting three months after primary NBC affiliate WOAI-TV (channel 4). The station has been a primary CBS affiliate since its sign-on, however it initially carried secondary affiliations with DuMont, ABC and the Paramount Television Network – the former two affiliations were shared with WOAI-TV. The station was originally owned alongside KABC radio (680 AM, now KKYX). KEYL was one of Paramount's strongest affiliates, carrying nearly the network's entire lineup. Among the Paramount programs that KEYL aired were Armchair Detective, Latin Cruise, Hollywood Reel, Hollywood Wrestling, Time For Beany and Movietown, RSVP.
In 1951, Storer Broadcasting (which had good relations with CBS) bought KEYL and KABC. On February 1, 1954, channel 5 changed its call letters to KGBS-TV; KABC's calls were subsequently changed to match its television sister, as KGBS-AM, on March 1. In November of that year, Storer was forced to sell KGBS-AM-TV to the San Antonio Express-News, in order to complete the company's purchase of WXEL-TV (now WJW) in Cleveland, Ohio as keeping KGBS-TV would have put the company one station over the Federal Communications Commission's ownership regulations that went into effect that year which limited the number of television stations that can be owned by one company to seven, with no more than five of those allocated to the VHF band (at the time, newspapers could own television and/or radio stations in the same market provided that such ownership complied with the FCC-mandated ownership limits of each property in effect at the time). The Express-News then changed the call letters of the television and radio stations to KENS-TV and KENS-AM (the -TV suffix was dropped from the call letters of the television station following the digital television transition on June 12, 2009, when several other Belo stations dropped the suffix from their legal call signs; Storer later re-used the KGBS calls on what is now KTNQ and KAMP-FM in Los Angeles).
DuMont ceased most network operations in 1955, but would honor network commitments until August 1956, when it ceased operations permanently. Channel 5 lost ABC programming when KONO-TV (channel 12, now KSAT-TV) signed on in 1957, leaving KENS as a full-time CBS affiliate. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
In early 1962, the Express-News and KENS-AM-TV were purchased by Harte-Hanks Communications; the radio station was sold off a few months later since Harte-Hanks was not interested in radio station ownership at the time. When the FCC tightened its cross-ownership rules in the early 1970s, Harte-Hanks sought grandfathered protection for its San Antonio media combination. However, while the FCC granted such protection to several media combinations across the country, it would not do the same to the Harte-Hanks combination in San Antonio. Accordingly, in 1973, Harte-Hanks opted to keep KENS-TV and sell the Express-News to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
In the mid-1980s, KENS broadcast a short-lived local cable channel that was carried on Rogers Cablevision channel 24, called KENS II. Under the direction of station manager Larry Smith, the channel's programming included replays of channel 5's local newscasts, broadcasts of Ron Taylor and Janie Groves' classified real estate programming and a few locally produced programs and specials such as Auto TV (hosted by Richard Courchesne and Michael Saul), and Barney Regets' computer generated musical video kaleidoscope created earlier at UA Columbia's Consumer Cable 29.
In 1993, Harte-Hanks acquired what at the time became the second incarnation of KENS radio (1160 AM). In September 1997, Harte-Hanks sold its remaining media properties, including the KENS stations, to the E. W. Scripps Company in order to concentrate on the company's direct marketing operations. At the same time, Belo Corporation announced that it would trade its controlling stake in the Food Network to Scripps in exchange for the KENS stations. The Harte-Hanks/Scripps deal and the transfer of Belo's stake in the Food Network to Scripps were both completed on October 15 of that year. At that time, Belo took over the operations of the KENS stations through a time brokerage agreement. Belo completed its purchase of the KENS stations on December 4, 1997. The second incarnation of KENS radio was sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2003, which converted the station into a Radio Disney outlet as KRDY. In August 2000, KENS began to manage upstart UPN affiliate KBEJ (channel 2, now MyNetworkTV affiliate KCWX) under a local marketing agreement. The LMA was terminated in April 2010, five months before the station lost its CW affiliation.
KENS remained closely associated with the Express-News, even though the station and newspaper had been under separate ownership for many years. The station shared its main website with the newspaper until the end of 2008, when the news partnership agreement between KENS and the Express-News ended. The station launched its own website, , on January 26, 2009. The site has been recognized with two Lone Star Emmy Awards for Interactivity and the 2011 and 2015 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for "Best Large-Market Website."
On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo's television properties, including KENS, for $1.5 billion. The sale received FCC approval on December 20, and was formally completed on December 23, 2013, reuniting KENS with former Harte-Hanks sister stations WFMY and WTLV. On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. KENS was retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|5.1||1080i||16:9||KENS-HD||main KENS programming / CBS|
KENS discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, 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. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 55, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition and was vacated early by the station in November 2008 to allow Qualcomm to begin testing for its now-defunct mobile television service MediaFLO, to UHF channel 39, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.
In the interim period between November 2008 and June 2009, KENS-DT's digital signal was broadcast on a subchannel of Univision owned-and-operated station KWEX-DT (mapped to virtual channel 5.1), which broadcast on channel 39 prior to the transition; since the entire KWEX schedule was at the time presented in 480i standard definition, KENS continued to transmit in 1080i HD without any problems between the two stations. After the digital transition was complete, KENS-DT retained the channel 39 facilities, while KWEX-DT launched its permanent digital operations on UHF channel 41 (the station's previous analog frequency). The transition also allowed former sister station KCWX (which prior to the conversion, did not have an over-the-air digital signal) to begin transmitting its digital signal on VHF channel 5.
KENS does not clear the entire CBS network schedule. The station pre-empts the Saturday edition of CBS This Morning due to its Saturday morning newscast (as a result, CBS This Morning Saturday does not air in the San Antonio market), splits the CBS Dream Team lineup into two blocks that bookend its Saturday morning newscast (with the first hour airing before the program and the final two airing after it), and splits Face the Nation into two half-hour blocks (as such, it is one of several CBS affiliates that carry the program on both Sunday mornings and overnights in such a manner). Syndicated programs broadcast by KENS include The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Extra, and Right This Minute. KENS acquired the local syndication rights to Jeopardy! and Wheel in September 1999 from KMOL-TV (now WOAI-TV)
The station also produces the local talk and lifestyle program Great Day SA, which airs weekday mornings at 9 a.m. (the format of the program is modeled after similar morning talk programs produced by other former Belo stations as well as certain ones owned by Gannett prior to the latter's purchase of Belo, including Dallas sister station WFAA's Good Morning Texas and Houston sister station KHOU's Great Day Houston); the program debuted on September 8, 2003, and features local and national music artists, celebrities, and local human interest stories. Formerly hosted by 1994 Miss USA winner Lu Parker and later Kristina Guererro (later a reporter for the syndicated program Inside Edition, most recently an entertainment reporter for E!), Great Day SA is currently hosted by former KENS reporter Bridget Smith.
KENS is also one of the few "Big Three" network affiliates in the United States that maintains over-the-air broadcast rights to a major sports franchise: the station carries rights to broadcast NBA games featuring the San Antonio Spurs that are not carried by Fox Sports Southwest.
KENS presently broadcasts 31½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and three hours on Sundays). Former KENS employee Bob Rogers was and remains the station's most successful and longest-running news director. Under Rogers' stewardship, the ratings for KENS 5's newscasts shot to first place. Rogers was also responsible for hiring, coaching and helping the careers of many local and national news anchors, reporters and correspondents; he retired from the station in the late 1990s.
On January 7, 2008, when CBS's now-defunct morning program The Early Show abandoned its hybrid format that included local segments interspersed within the national program, KENS reduced its weekday morning newscast from three hours to two, airing from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. Also at the same time, Itza Gutierrez left her position as anchor of the Saturday morning newscast to become a stay-at-home mother (she was later replaced by Stacia Willson, who was later promoted to the weekday noon newscast).
Emmy Award-winning longtime anchor Chris Marrou, who worked at KENS for 36 years beginning in 1973, retired from the station in 2009. Marrou and other well-known anchors helped KENS dominate the 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. news timeslots from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Marrou presented a long-running segment seen at the end of the weeknight editions of the 10 p.m. newscast, the Eyewitness Newsreel, in which Marrou narrated a package of humorous local news segments juxtaposed with out-of-context soundbits of CBS news anchors, politicians or celebrities "commenting" on the situation done in a faux newsreel style. In 2009, KENS announced that Jeff Vaughn (who previously served as a reporter for NBC affiliate KSHB in Kansas City) would replace Marrou as co-anchor of the 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts starting in January 2010. Marrou wrote the segment each weeknight. With Marrou's retirement that year, the Eyewitness Newsreel segment was discontinued.
In early June 2008, KENS began running promos mentioning that "the biggest thing in KENS' history" would be occurring soon, with the only details stating that it would happen on June 30. On that date, KENS became the first television station in the San Antonio market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. On August 2, 2010, channel 5 became the first station television station in the San Antonio market with a local newscast during the 4:00 p.m. hour, when it debuted a half-hour broadcast at 4:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday afternoons (the station opted to slot Jeopardy! to bookend the 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. newscasts). On January 10, 2011, KENS expanded its weekday morning newscast to 2½ hours, through the addition of a half-hour broadcast at 4:30 a.m.
Notable former on-air staff
- Dan Cook (retired in 2000, died in 2008)
- Paul Deanno (now chief meteorologist at KPIX-TV in San Francisco)
- Ainsley Earhardt (now at Fox News)
- Patricio Espinoza - reporter
- Chris Marrou - anchor (1973–2009; retired)
- Tom Rickhoff - Bexar County probate judge, former commentator for "Eye on San Antonio"
- Lynn Russell - anchor (1980-1983; later at CNN)