KFOR-TV, virtual channel 4 (UHF digital channel 27), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media, as part of a duopoly with independent station KAUT-TV (channel 43). The two stations share studio and transmitter facilities located on Britton Road (U.S. 77) in the McCourry Heights section of northeast Oklahoma City.
On cable and satellite, the station is available on channel 4 on Cox Communications (which also carries its high definition feed on digital channel 704), AT&T U-verse, DirecTV and Dish Network in the Oklahoma City area. KFOR is also carried via cable throughout much of western and southern Oklahoma, in areas as far away as Guymon (which is in the Oklahoma Panhandle section of the Amarillo market), and Idabel (part of the Shreveport–Texarkana market). The station is carried on Cable One and other cable systems on the Oklahoma side of the Ada–Sherman market as an alternate NBC affiliate, albeit with NBC programs blacked out due to the presence of Ada-licensed KTEN, in compliance with FCC regulations allowing local network affiliates to prohibit cable providers from carrying duplicative network content from an out-of-market station.
Fascinated with the medium since the late 1930s, Edward K. Gaylord – publisher of the morning Daily Oklahoman and evening Oklahoma Times newspapers – brought television to Oklahoma on an exhibitory basis in mid-November 1939, when his Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) sponsored a six-day demonstration of telecasts and broadcast equipment at the Oklahoma City Municipal Auditorium (now the Civic Center Music Hall) in downtown Oklahoma City, which featured appearances by performers from NBC and Gaylord's radio station, WKY (930 AM). During November and early December 1944, OPUBCO conducted a similar, 19-city television exhibition tour across central and western Oklahoma (open to residents who had purchased war bonds) that included performances from WKY personalities and demonstrations by television technicians.
In the winter of early 1948, Gaylord submitted a permit application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a television station that would transmit on VHF channel 4. He waited to make the submission so as to ensure that any financial burden would be limited until revenue from existing OPUBCO assets was able to offset the station's profit losses. When the FCC granted the license for the proposed television station to Gaylord on June 2, 1948, Gaylord requested to use the WKY call letters assigned to his AM radio station and its sister on 98.9 FM (now defunct, frequency now occupied by KYIS). The station began test broadcasts, accompanied by music playing over the pattern slide, on April 21, 1949. Television set owners in Oklahoma and neighboring states called to report reception of the WKY test signal, which was transmitted each afternoon until regular broadcasts commenced. The test signal operated at low power for three days, after a lightning strike caused minor damage to a junction box on the transmission tower during the early morning of April 27. Closed-circuit transmissions began on May 27, with a wrestling match at the Oklahoma City Stockyards Coliseum.
Channel 4 officially signed on the air as WKY-TV at 7:00 p.m. on June 6, with an inguaural broadcast that included speeches from Gaylord, executive vice president/general manager P.A. "Buddy" Sugg, and Governor Roy J. Turner; a topical feature by Gaylord and Sugg on the new television medium; and a film outlining programs that would air on WKY-TV. It was the first television station to sign on in the state of Oklahoma (KOTV in Tulsa – which had its license approved the same day as the grant of the WKY-TV license to Gaylord – would not debut until October 22), and the 65th to sign on in the United States. WKY-TV's original studio facilities were based at the Municipal Auditorium (near Colcord Drive and Walker Avenue, 0.5 miles (0.80 km) west of WKY radio's facilities at the Skirvin Tower Hotel on Park and Broadway Avenues), with production facilities in the Freede Little Theatre on the second floor. Following a second round of renovations to the building due to a fire that caused $150,000 in damage on November 17, 1948, most of the technical and production equipment was replaced, and soundproofing material was installed in the auditorium to limit disruptions between production of local programs and stage productions that would be held elsewhere in the building. The radio station's 968-foot (295 m) broadcast tower, located between Kelley Avenue and the Broadway Extension in northeast Oklahoma City's Britton section, was the site of an accident in which the assembly carrying the WKY-TV transmitter antenna fell 8 feet (2.4 m) (at the tower's 600-foot (180 m) mark) while being hoisted for installation; the antenna suffered minor, albeit repairable dents.
Channel 4 has been an NBC television affiliate since its debut, inheriting it through WKY radio's longtime relationship with the NBC Red Network, the radio progenitor with which that station had been affiliated since December 1928 (WKY-TV did not air its first NBC program, Who Said That?, until June 17). It also maintained secondary affiliations with CBS, ABC and the DuMont Television Network. Originally broadcasting Sunday through Fridays from 7:00 to 9:45 p.m., the station expanded its broadcast hours markedly over the next two years: WKY-TV began broadcasting seven days a week on February 11, 1950, when it started offering programs on Saturday evenings, and by 1951, when it added a morning schedule of local and network programs, was airing 90 cumulative hours of programming per week. Channel 4's initial local programming included some WKY radio shows that were adaptated for television, including variety series Wiley and Gene (hosted by singers and WKY performers Wiley Walker and Gene Sullivan) and children's program The Adventures of Gizmo Goodkin. In July 1951, the operations of WKY-AM-TV were integrated into a proprietary studio facility, which included television soundstages that were engineered to also allow origination of WKY radio programs, built just east of the Britton Road transmission tower (WKY radio had earlier moved into the facility on March 26).
OPUBCO management challenged a proposal by the FCC's "Sixth Report and Order" – which ended the agency's four-year-long freeze on license application grants and realigned VHF channel assignments in many American media markets to alleviate interference issues – that would have resulted in channel 4 being reassigned to Tulsa and WKY-TV being reallocated to VHF channel 7. The company cited the cost of installing a temporary antenna, the potential effects on WKY radio's transmissions, and the need for viewers to replace their existing outdoor antennas with models capable of receiving high-band VHF signals in its response seeking to stay on channel 4. In April 1952, the FCC rescinded its request for WKY-TV to change frequencies, citing in part, feasible co-channel assignment separation from CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW) in Dallas, and the proposal's potential generation of signal interference issues in adjacent markets with other television stations transmitting on the same channel (the channel 7 allocation was reassigned to Lawton, where it would become occupied by present-day ABC affiliate KSWO-TV). On July 1, 1952, WKY-TV became among the first six television stations in the country – along with fellow NBC stations WBAP-TV (now KXAS-TV) in Fort Worth, KPRC-TV in Houston, WOAI-TV in San Antonio and WDSU in New Orleans, and secondary NBC affiliate KOTV (now exclusively a CBS affiliate) in Tulsa – to begin transmitting network programming over a live coaxial feed. The milestone was inaugurated that morning with a message by Today host Dave Garroway welcoming the stations in commencing live network telecasts; at that time, WKY increased its programming to 111 hours per week.
In 1953, OPUBCO – whose founder had long been an advocate for improvements to Oklahoma's educational system – donated $150,000 worth of existing WKY-TV broadcasting equipment to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) for its proposed station on channel 13 (flagship station KETA-TV, which did not sign-on until April 1956). Because of the licensing freeze instituted by the FCC in September 1948, WKY-TV was the only television station in the Oklahoma City market until 1953; its initial two UHF-based competitors – KTVQ (channel 25, allocation now occupied by Fox affiliate KOKH-TV) and KLPR-TV (channel 19, allocation now occupied by Cornerstone Television affiliate KUOT-CD) – made their respective debuts on October 28 and November 8 of that year. Though KTVQ and KLPR respectively signed on as basic affiliates of ABC and DuMont, channel 4 continued to carry selected programs from the two networks, with ABC programming being retained through a secondary basic affiliation; in contrast, WKY disaffiliated from CBS one month prior to KWTV (channel 9) signing on as an affiliate of that network on December 20. WKY-TV remained a primary NBC and secondary DuMont affiliate until the latter network discontinued operations in August 1956. In 1958, Enid-based ABC affiliate KGEO-TV (channel 5) changed call letters to KOCO-TV, refocusing its coverage area to include Oklahoma City and assuming the local ABC programming rights; this left WKY-TV exclusively affiliated with NBC.
On April 8, 1954, channel 4 became one of the first non-network-owned television stations in the U.S. to produce and transmit local programs in color, beginning with a five-minute telecast hosted that evening by E.K. Gaylord; it also carried select NBC network programs in the format, with children's program The Paul Winchell Show was the station's first network color telecast. (Before the FCC had approved a color transmission standard, Gaylord had ordered color broadcasting equipment being developed by RCA – which included two RCA TK40 color cameras – in September 1949.) The cooking show Cook's Book became the first regular program to broadcast in color from the WKY studios and first in the state to do so, while dance program Sooner Shindig became the first live color program in the country to originate from the studios of a network-affiliated station. When NBC became the first network to commence color telecasts on May 1, WKY-TV provided color feeds of the Anadarko Indian Festival to the network for broadcast on Today and Home. Local variety series The Hank Thompson Show also became the first color broadcast of a variety program. In 1955, WKY-TV became the first network affiliate to feed a full-length color program to a television network, transmitting coverage of a square dance convention in downtown Oklahoma City to NBC; it also transmitted closed-circuit images of a surgical procedure in color (WKY-TV had become the first Oklahoma television station to air a surgical procedure via closed circuit telecast four years earlier in February 1950).
The Oklahoma Publishing Company, through its WKY Radiophone Company subsidiary, eventually acquired other television and radio stations, including among others purchased or launched during the Gaylords' stewardship of WKY-TV: WSFA (TV) and WSFA (AM) (now WLWI [AM]) in Montgomery, Alabama (in 1955); WTVT in Tampa, Florida (in 1956); WUHF-TV (now WVTV) in Milwaukee (in 1966); KTVT in Fort Worth (in 1962); KHTV (now KIAH) in Houston (built and signed on by the company in 1967); and KTNT-TV (now KSTW) in Seattle (in 1973). WKY-TV served as the company's flagship station, and in October 1956, OPUBCO renamed its broadcast group, the WKY Television System. In December 1954, a half-hour WKY-TV special, Gift of God, which outlined the medical and legal aspects of corneal transplants and included a film of a transplant operation project led to the development of a statewide eye bank through a partnership with the Lions Clubs of Oklahoma and Lions Sight Conservation Foundation; by 1957, more than 16,400 donor cards (700 of which were received within 1½ hours after the special's initial airing, including one signed by then-Oklahoma Governor Raymond Gary) were signed to permit donation of participants' eyes to the bank after their deaths and 346 Oklahomans (including two who had underwent transplant surgery within 48 hours of the broadcast) had received corneal transplants to restore their sight.
In 1958, WKY became one of the first local stations in the nation to acquire a videotape recorder; intended primarily for use by the station's news department, the recording equipment was also used for some program production, including those it distributed to NBC for national broadcast. One such videotaped show, the Stars and Stripes Show, premiered on NBC that year as the first network television program to be produced by a local station. Ownership of OPUBCO's Oklahoma City-based print and broadcast properties was transferred to Edward L. Gaylord, after his father, E.K. Gaylord, died of natural causes on May 30, 1974 at the age of 101.
In July 1975, the Oklahoma Publishing Company sold WKY-TV to Universal Communications, a subsidiary of the Detroit-based Evening News Association, for $22.697 million. As FCC rules of the time prohibited a single company from owning more than seven television stations nationwide, Gaylord chose to use the proceeds from the sale of channel 4 to purchase ABC affiliate WVUE-TV (now a Fox affiliate) in New Orleans and independent station WUAB (now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) in Cleveland as well as to make improvements to the Britton Road studio building. The sale was approved by the FCC on October 29 of that year. The sale coincided with the FCC's passage of new crossownership rules that prohibited media companies from owning newspapers and full-power broadcast television and radio outlets in the same market, restricting local media ownership within an individual market to one print or broadcast property. However, the agency allowed media companies to file for waivers to "grandfather" existing newspaper-broadcasting combinations in several markets.
Just over two months later, on January 5, 1976, the station's call letters were changed to KTVY. OPUBCO, which retained ownership of WKY radio and the Oklahoman and Times newspapers under a waiver of the crossownership regulations, would later rechristen its broadcasting division as Gaylord Broadcasting (WKY radio – which, in March 1977, moved to a new facility just west of the Britton Road building – was sold to Citadel Broadcasting in 2002, it is now owned by Cumulus Media; the Times ceased publication as a separate newspaper and was folded into the Oklahoman in March 1984; the Gaylord family sold the OPUBCO properties to The Anschutz Corporation in 2011). On June 6, 1985, KTVY became the first Oklahoma station to broadcast in stereo, initially broadcasting NBC network programs, local programs and certain syndicated shows that were transmitted in the audio format; taking advantage of the new format, channel 4's daily sign-ons and sign-offs began to feature music videos, some of which were tailored to the station's public service campaigns.
On September 5, 1985, the Gannett Company announced that it would purchase the Evening News Association for $717 million, thwarting a $566-million hostile takeover bid by L.P. Media Inc. (owned by television producer Norman Lear and media executive A. Jerrold Perenchio). As FCC rules then prohibited a single company from owning two commercial television stations in the same market, Gannett was required to sell either KTVY or KOCO-TV, which the company had owned since its 1979 acquisition of Combined Communications Corporation. On November 15, 1985, Gannett sold KTVY, 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 (with KTVY reportedly selling for $80 million). The sale to Gannett was completed on January 13, 1986, with the Knight-Ridder transaction being approved by the FCC the following month on February 19.
On October 8, 1988, Knight Ridder announced that it would sell the group's eight television stations, in order to reduce its $929-million debt load and to help finance its $353-million acquisition of Dialog Information Services. Five of the stations were divested to various owners in February 1989, leaving KTVY, and ABC affiliates WTEN in Albany, New York and WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan as the only ones for which Knight Ridder needed to find buyers. On February 28, 1989, channel 4 was sold to Palmer Communications, then-owner of fellow longtime NBC affiliates WHO-TV in the company's headquarters of Des Moines and KWQC-TV in Davenport, Iowa, for $50 million; the sale was approved by the FCC on May 8. On April 22, 1990, the station's call letters were changed to KFOR-TV, which was adopted in reference to the station's channel number (the KTVY call letters were later used by a full-power television station in Goldfield, Nevada [later KEGS, now defunct] from 2002 to 2005, and its Las Vegas-based low-power repeater [later KEGS-LP, also now defunct] from 1997 to 2005). It also adopted "4 Strong" as a general promotional brand (described by then-programming director Bob Brooks as signifying a "concern for community and professionalism in what we do"), and retitled its newscasts from News 4 Oklahoma (which it had adopted in March 1984) to News Team 4. Subsequently, on May 11, the station began maintaining a 24-hour programming schedule, adding a mix of syndicated programming and infomercials as well as hourly local news updates to fill overnight timeslots.
On November 7, 1991, Palmer announced it had signed a letter of intent to sell KFOR, WHO-TV and Des Moines radio stations WHO (AM) and KLYF (now KDRB) for $70.2 million to New Canaan, Connecticut-based Hughes Broadcasting Partners, a group formed earlier that year with its purchase of ABC affiliate WOKR-TV (now WHAM-TV) in Rochester, New York. The sale agreement for the Oklahoma and Iowa properties was terminated on April 2, 1992, after Palmer management rejected the bid submitted by Hughes Broadcasting representatives. In a lawsuit against Palmer, majority owner VS&A Communications Partners LP asked a Delaware court to force Palmer which claimed it had no binding obligation to negotiate or reach a formal agreement, into resuming negotiations to reach a definitive sale contract. Hughes formally gave up on pursuing the transaction, months after the judge presiding the case ruled that the agreement between VS&A and Palmer was not binding. In August 1992, coinciding with the start of that year's Summer Olympics, the station changed its news branding to "NewsChannel 4", which would become its universalized branding in May 1997 (KFOR's general branding would switch from "4 Strong" to the phoneticism "K-FOR" in 1994).
On May 14, 1996, The New York Times Company announced that it would purchase KFOR-TV and WHO-TV from Palmer Communications for $226 million (with KFOR selling for $155 million); the sale to the Times Company's Memphis-based broadcasting subsidiary received regulatory approval less than two months later on July 3, and was finalized on July 16. The WKY-AM-TV transmitter tower (which had been used as an auxiliary tower for KFOR-TV and WKY radio, and was designed to withstand winds in excess of 125 mph (201 km/h)) collapsed due to straight-line wind gusts to near 105 mph (169 km/h) on June 13, 1998, during a tornado outbreak that affected northern sections of Oklahoma City (the thunderstorm that destroyed the tower also caused minor damage to the nearby studios of KOCO-TV). In 2001, The New York Times Company entered into a local marketing agreement with KOPX-TV (channel 62), in coincidence with NBC's partial ownership interest in Pax TV (now Ion Television) and a related management agreement with that network's owned-and-operated stations. Under the agreement, KFOR handled advertising sales for channel 62, and maintained a news share agreement to allowed that station to air rebroadcasts of channel 4's 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. newscasts after their initial airing; KOPX also occasionally served as a default carrier of NBC programs that could not air on channel 4 due to conflicts with special event programming. The LMA ended on July 1, 2005 upon Pax's rebranding as i: Independent Television.
On September 14, 2005, Viacom Television Stations Group sold UPN owned-and-operated station KAUT-TV (channel 43, now an independent station) to The New York Times Company, creating a duopoly with KFOR upon the sale's November 4 closure. On January 4, 2007, The New York Times Company sold its nine television stations to Local TV, a holding company operated by private equity group Oak Hill Capital Partners, for $530 million; the sale was finalized on May 7. On July 1, 2013, the Chicago-based Tribune Company (which formed a management company for the operation of both Tribune Broadcasting and Local TV's television stations in 2008) acquired the Local TV stations for $2.75 billion. The sale, which was completed on December 27, reunited KFOR with former sister station KIAH (which Tribune had acquired from Gaylord Broadcasting in 1995).
On August 5, 2014, during a staff luncheon at the Britton Road studio soundstage housing KAUT's news set, duopoly president and general manager Wes Milbourn announced plans to construct a new facility on a 10-acre (440,000 sq ft) plot of land directly adjacent to the existing studio building to house the operations of KFOR-TV and KAUT-TV. Construction of the facility began in January 2015, and was completed in early August 2017. The facility – designed under an open floorplan to improve workflow and encourage collaboration between employees of the station's individual departments – incorporates two production studios (the main studio provides a backdrop of the newsroom, similar to the set used from 1990 until the anchor desk was walled off from the former studio's newsroom in 2006, and incorporates an 80-inch (203 cm) razored monitor); an expanded weather center within the production studio housing KFOR's main news set; two control rooms that relay high definition content; and several conference rooms dedicated to former channel 4 employees (such as the Barry Huddle Room, named in honor of late longtime sports anchors Bob Barry Sr. and Bob Barry, Jr.).
The building's exterior was built with reinforced steel, concrete and protective glass to resist a direct hit should a tornado or extreme straight-line winds approach the facility, which would allow KFOR to broadcast uninterrupted during significant severe weather events affecting Oklahoma City proper. KFOR/KAUT's news, sales and marketing departments, and all other operations moved to the new Britton Road studio on August 19, 2017 (commencing broadcasts with that evening's edition of the 10:00 p.m. newscast), ending KFOR's 65-year tenure at the original 444 East Britton Road building. The older building will be razed after operations were moved into the new building. Coinciding with the move, KFOR-TV changed its branding to Oklahoma’s News 4, adopting a graphics package by Tribune Creative West (based on the package developed for the Fox affiliates it owned prior to the Local TV purchase in 2012) and replacing the Wow and Flutter-composed custom theme that had been in use since 1997 with Stephen Arnold Music's NBC chimes-derived "The Rock".
Pending acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group – owner of Fox affiliate KOKH-TV and CW affiliate KOCB (channel 34) – entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune, pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. As KFOR and KOKH rank among the four highest-rated stations in the Oklahoma City market in total day viewership and broadcasters are not currently allowed to legally own more than two full-power television stations in a single market, the companies may be required to sell either the KFOR/KAUT duopoly or the KOKH/KOCB duopoly to another station group in order to comply with FCC ownership rules and alleviate potential antitrust issues preceding approval of the acquisition; however, a sale of either duopoly to an independent buyer is dependent on later decisions by the FCC regarding local ownership of broadcast television stations and future acts by Congress.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|4.1||1080i||16:9||KFOR-DT||Main KFOR-TV programming / NBC|
In March 2004, KFOR-TV launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 4.2, which was originally formatted as an automated local weather channel (branded as the "4Warn Forecast Channel"), displaying feeds of the station's two Doppler radar systems (then branded as the "4Warn Edge" and the "4Warn Storm Tracker") as well as local and regional weather forecasts. In February 2005, KFOR-DT2 became an affiliate of NBC Weather Plus under the brand "4Warn 24/7"; around this time, Cox Communications began carrying KFOR-DT2 on digital channel 247. Following Weather Plus's shutdown on December 1, 2008, the subchannel returned to an automated format, carrying successor service NBC Plus. On December 31, 2011, KFOR-DT2 assumed the affiliation rights to Antenna TV, a network which had been carried on digital subchannel 4.3 since April 21, 2011 (KFOR-DT3 continued to carry Antenna TV programming in tandem with KFOR-DT2 until the DT3 feed was decommissioned on January 15, 2012). In addition, from September 16, 2012 until September 2013, some Antenna TV programs were simulcast on KAUT during the overnight and early morning hours to compensate for current-day syndication rights.
KFOR-TV signed on its digital signal in June 1999, becoming the first television station in Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma as a whole to begin operating a digital signal. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, VHF channel 4, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40, The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 27, using PSIP to display KFOR-TV's virtual channel as 4 on digital television receivers.
KFOR-TV currently broadcasts the entire NBC schedule, with the only programming pre-emptions being those necessitated due to breaking news or severe weather events that require extended coverage (in some instances, these programs may either be diverted to KAUT-TV or rebroadcast on KFOR on tape delay in place of NBC's overnight programming). Syndicated programs broadcast by KFOR-TV as of September 2017 include Rachael Ray, The Doctors, Jeopardy!, Inside Edition, Blue Bloods and Right This Minute.
Past program preemptions and deferrals
Historically, although NBC was far less tolerant of pre-emptions than its fellow major network rivals and channel 4 was one of the network's stronger affiliates, the station has either pre-empted or aired out of pattern certain NBC network programs to make room for other local or syndicated programs, including an occasional prime time show. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, it pre-empted a selected number of NBC late morning daytime shows in order to run syndicated and locally produced programs; this was especially prevalent under Palmer Communications ownership, when KFOR preempted NBC's late-morning talk shows and soap operas during the early 1990s, clearing only the afternoon soap operas Days of Our Lives and Another World. For most of the soap's NBC run, from 1982 to 1985, KTVY preempted Search for Tomorrow, which was carried instead by then-independent station KOKH-TV; channel 4 began clearing the soap in September 1985, which concurrently forced Days (which many NBC stations in the Central Time Zone normally aired at 12:30 p.m. at the time) to air on a 2½-hour tape delay to accommodate it until Search was cancelled by the network in 1986.
The station also pre-empted the final two hours of NBC's Saturday morning cartoon lineup from the late 1970s until 1992. In August 1992, KFOR chose to pre-empt the Saturday edition of Today and nearly the entire TNBC lineup (with the exception of Saved by the Bell, and later its spinoff The New Class, when it debuted in 1993), in favor of a new two-hour local morning newscast and a mix of educational children's shows and syndicated lifestyle programs. The station also delayed Late Night (during its David Letterman and Conan O'Brien runs) to 12:05 a.m. from the late 1980s until 2006 in order to run syndicated newsmagazines and game shows in the program's recommended 11:35 p.m. timeslot. Following its acquisition by The New York Times Company, KFOR-TV began clearing the entire NBC schedule in the fall of 1996; at that time, it reduced its weekend morning newscasts to an hour on Saturdays and 90 minutes on Sundays (cutting the 7:00 a.m. hour) in order to accommodate the weekend Today broadcasts (a Sunday 6:00 a.m. newscast was added by 2002), and began to carry the remainder of the TNBC block and a third hour of the NBC daytime lineup.
Locally produced programming
One of the station's most successful early local programs was The Adventures of 3-D Danny, a space-themed afternoon children's program that ran from 1953 to 1959. Hosted by Danny Williams as Supreme Galaxy Chief Dan D. Dynamo, the show – which showcased cartoon shorts between segments – was set in the fictional Space Science Center (of which Dynamo served as superintendent and from where he periodically traveled in a time machine known as the "synchro-retroverter"). Ratings for 3-D Danny often beat those of ABC's The Mickey Mouse Club, making it the first local television program in the country to achieve that feat. Williams joined the station in 1950 as host of an eponymous daily talk show as well as appearing as Spavinaw Spoofkin on The Adventures of Gizmo Godkin. He also served as an announcer for WKY-TV's Friday and Saturday night professional wrestling telecasts, and from 1967 to 1984, hosted the local midday talk-variety show Dannysday (which featured among Williams' co-hosts over its 17-year run, Mary Hart, before she became a household name as co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight). The format typified by Dannysday was reprised with the mid-morning infotainment show AM Oklahoma, hosted by Ben and Butch McCain (then working respectively as news and weather anchors for the station's noon newscast as well as its local news updates during Today); the program was cancelled after two years in 1987, after station management declined to renew the brothers' contract.
Another children's show with a similar local cultural impact was Foreman Scotty's Circle 4 Ranch. Airing from 1957 to 1971, it was hosted by Steve Powell (who, with Williams, created and hosted WKY-TV's The Giant Kids Matinee) in the role of the titular cowboy. Scotty was accompanied by a cast of supporting characters that included ranch-hand sidekick Cannonball McCoy (played by station announcer Wilson Hurst), and several played by Danny Williams including fellow sidekick Xavier T. Willard. The show also featured prize giveaways including the Golden Horseshoe, whose winner was selected through the "Magic Lasso," a cut-out slide that was superimposed on-screen over the audience, and honorary rides on a wooden horse named Woody for children in the studio audience who were celebrating their birthday. At its peak, the show had a 1½-year backlog of kids who wanted to be part of the show's audience.
In 1966, WKY-TV became the originating studio for The Buck Owens Ranch Show (the first season of which was produced by local businessmen Bud and Don Mathis, founders of locally based Mathis Brothers Furniture, the former of whom played the "ranch foreman" that joked and bantered with Owens). The half-hour syndicated country-variety series was seen in over 100 U.S. markets at its height, and was perhaps the most successful program of its kind that was not produced in Nashville, where most television programs of the country genre have been filmed; regular acts that appeared included Owens' band, the Buckaroos, Kay Adams, the Hager Twins, Susan Raye and Owens' sons Buddy Alan and Mike Owens. Yongestreet Productions forced Owens to discontinue the Ranch Show in 1973, due to music duplication with the longer-running Hee Haw (both of which featured Roy Clark as his co-host).
Other noted local programs that have aired on channel 4 include The Wallace Wildlife Show, a pioneering and regionally syndicated fishing show hosted by former WKY radio disc jockey Don Wallace from 1965 to 1988, which was the highest-rated U.S. television program of that genre during the 1974-75 season; The Scene, an American Bandstand-style Saturday afternoon dance show hosted by WKY radio DJ Ronnie Kaye throughout its 1966 to 1974 run, which courted such famed musicians as James Brown, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ike and Tina Turner; a local version of PM Magazine; The Jude 'n' Jody Show, a country-variety program hosted by singers Jude Northcutt and Jody Taylor (later owners of local furniture store Jude 'n' Jody and Sons) that ran on channel 4 and other Oklahoma City stations at various points from 1954 to 1982; and three horror movie showcases hosted by John Ferguson as "Count Gregore", a local version of Shock Theater from 1958 to 1962, Thriller Theater from 1962 to 1964 and Sleepwalker's Matinee from 1973 to 1979. (Ferguson – who worked as a staff announcer for channel 4 in 1955 before going on to play multiple characters on 3-D Danny – would reprise the Count Gregore character on several similar horror-thriller showcases that aired on KOCO-TV, KOKH-TV, KOCB, KAUT-TV and local cable access channels in the Oklahoma City market at various points through the late 2000s.)
In August 1949, the University of Oklahoma signed an agreement that allowed channel 4 (then WKY-TV) to air Oklahoma Sooners football games held at Owen Field (now Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium). The station's first live Sooners telecast aired on October 1 of that year, with a home game against the Texas A&M Aggies. WKY-TV also originated the first televised college football analysis program: airing from 1953 to 1963, Bud Wilkinson’s Football (later retitled Inside Football with Bud Wilkinson) was a 15-minute – later 30-minute – show that featured the Sooners' three-time national championship head coach as he discussed the previous week's game strategy, demonstrated through film footage and using figurines positioned on a miniature football field. At its peak, the show was syndicated to television stations in 45 markets across the U.S. In 1966, a wrestling match between the Sooners and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys became the first to be televised live on the station.
As KTVY, from 1978 to 1984, the station aired an hour-long condensed broadcast of the most recent Sooners football game, with wraparound segments co-hosted by then-head coach Barry Switzer. The Oklahoma Playback – which aired on Sunday afternoons during the college football season – was also syndicated to stations throughout the Southwest as well as a few in markets outside that region (such as KDOC-TV in Anaheim, California), and briefly aired on the Five Star Cable Sports Network (a now-defunct channel owned by OU alumnus, oilman and former Texas Rangers owner Eddie Chiles). Around this time, the University of Oklahoma and then-Oklahoma City mayor Andy Coats led a legal challenge to regulations imposed by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) in 1951 that restricted the number of college football games that could be televised live in a single season; however, KTVY occasionally broadcast live games through NCAA waivers that allowed certain games to be broadcast within a team's home market as they were being held. The rules, which were imposed out of concern that the broadcasts negatively affected game attendance, were overturned in a 7-2 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1984.
From 1982 to 1997, channel 4 also aired college basketball games involving the Sooners. These telecasts – consisting of between ten and twelve regular season games each year, most of which aired on Saturday afternoons – originated under a direct revenue-sharing deal with the university, before expanding to encompass the Oklahoma State Cowboys and other fellow members in the Big Eight Conference – which evolved into the Big XII in 1996 – under an agreement with Raycom Sports in 1985 (transferring to ESPN Plus in 1993) in an agreement that also gave the station the local broadcast rights to select college football games involving conference teams to which ABC did not hold the national television rights and the first three rounds of its men's basketball tournament. Since KFOR-TV lost the local syndication rights to the ESPN-produced Big XII basketball telecasts to KOCB in 1998 to 2014, sports programming on the station comes mainly through NBC Sports.
KFOR-TV broadcasts 40½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with seven hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays and 3½ hours on Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among Oklahoma City's broadcast television stations. In addition, the station produces Flashpoint, a political discussion show focusing on state and national issues (moderated by weeknight anchor Kevin Ogle, with Mike Turpen and former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys as panelists), which airs Sundays at 9:30 a.m. The station operates a Bell 206L-4 LongRanger IV helicopter for newsgathering, "Bob Moore Chopper 4", named through a brand licensing agreement with area car dealership franchise Bob Moore Auto Group in January 2010. The helicopter caught footage of an F5 tornado that killed 36 people on May 3, 1999 as it tracked from Amber to Midwest City (this video was used for eleven years in promos for "Chopper 4"), and an EF5 tornado that hit Moore on May 20, 2013, which was broadcast nationally on The Weather Channel. KFOR became the first Oklahoma station to broadcast aerial helicopter footage in high definition on March 11, 2010.
Channel 4's news department began operations along with the station on June 6, 1949, originally consisting of 10-minute-long newscasts at sign-on and sign-off, using wire copies of local news headlines read by anchors over still newspaper photographs. Bruce Palmer, the station's first news director, wanted to provide more immediacy to news coverage; he believed the restrictions placed on television news would result in broadcasts detailing only a limited number of stories at a time, outside of weather reports, and foresaw that television news would concentrate on films or photographs to help tell the story. The television station's news department utilized news staff from WKY radio to serve as reporters and photographers (a collection of 16 mm news footage shot by WKY-TV between 1953 and 1979 was donated in 2013 to the Oklahoma Historical Society, which made the films available on its website and a dedicated YouTube channel). Within a few years, WKY had employed a staff of 44 Oklahoma-based reporters and additional correspondents in three surrounding states. In 1950, WKY-TV became one of the first television stations in the country to employ a mobile broadcasting unit to conduct live broadcasts that would be relayed to the Oklahoma City studio or to film on-scene footage on kinescope for later broadcast; the unit – which had its electronic equipment installed by station engineers – employed up to three cameras, one of which was stationed on a special platform on the roof of the bus, and included a 12-inch television receiver built onto its side to display the direct-to-studio feed (this vehicle was replaced in 1969, with a proprietary mobile color unit). Among the events that the unit was sent to cover during the station's early years were the Oklahoma Republican and Democratic State Conventions, both of which were relayed live from the Municipal Auditorium, respectively in February and April 1952.
In January 1951, WKY-TV became the first station in the U.S. to provide coverage of state legislature sessions, which were conducted from the Oklahoma State Capitol twice a week. Channel 4 claimed to have made the fastest showing of any sound on film ever to have been processed and aired on television at the time, when on February 8, 1952, WKY-TV aired anchor John Field's introductory remarks that were filmed 15 minutes prior to that evening's newscast. The Houston film processor used by the station allowed WKY-TV to broadcast news coverage only a few hours after it was shot on-scene. The station is also purported to be the first in the U.S. to allowed access to film a court proceeding on December 13, 1953, while covering the trial of accused murderer Billy Eugene Manley. A WKY-TV film crew (led by reporter Frank McGee) was placed in a specially constructed, enclosed booth in the rear of the trial's courtroom at the Oklahoma County Courthouse, with a microphone hidden near the front of the court recording the proceedings. A small button was placed on the desk of Judge A. P. Van Meter to allow him to automatically discontinue operation of the cameras at any time. The swearing in of the jury, some testimony and Manley's sentencing was filmed for later broadcast news broadcasts.
The station's ascendance in the local news ratings occurred primarily under the stewardship of longtime news director Ernie Schultz (who joined the station as a reporter and photographer in 1955, before being promoted to news director and anchor of the noon newscast in 1964). The station hired top-drawer talent and based its journalistic style around in-depth reporting. In 1972, Pam Henry – who contracted polio at 14 months old, and had served as the national poster child for the March of Dimes in 1959 – was hired by channel 4 as an assignment reporter, becoming the first female to work as a news reporter on Oklahoma television; after a brief stint working in Washington D.C., Henry would later work at other television stations in Oklahoma City and Lawton as well as a 16-year run as manager of news and public affairs at OETA). From 1973 to 1978, WKY-TV aired Spectrum, a weekly prime time public affairs show with a newsmagazine format, which incorporated feature segments on local stories and people of importance and issues affecting Oklahoma's minority community. A documentary featured on the program, Through The Looking Glass Darkly (produced and reported by eventual NBC News correspondent Bob Dotson, about the history of blacks in Oklahoma), became the first program from an Oklahoma television station to win an Emmy Award in 1974.
The station is well known in the Oklahoma City market for the longevity of its anchors as well as the two families that have had roots with the station. In 1979, Linda Cavanaugh – who began her broadcasting career at the station on October 17, 1977 as an assignment reporter and news photographer, and is the longest-tenured member of KFOR-TV's on-air news staff – became the first female to co-anchor an evening newscast at channel 4 when she was appointed as lead co-anchor for the station's 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts, alongside George Tomek (who remained her co-anchor until he was moved to the station's midday newscast in 1982). Cavanaugh's co-anchors throughout her tenure have also included Jerry Adams (1982–1987), Jane Jayroe (1984–1987), Dan Slocum (1987–1990), Bob Bruce (1990–1992), Devin Scillian (1992–1995) and presently Kevin Ogle, who was promoted to weeknight co-anchor in 1996. In 1989, Cavanaugh and chief photographer Tony Stizza were awarded the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting for its documentary "From Red Soil to Red Square," which detailed life in the Soviet Union, a principal trade partner with Oklahoma's agricultural industry, under the territory's glasnost. The two partnered on several other projects including Tapestry, a 1996 documentary on the lives of several survivors of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building one year after the terror attack, which was honored with four Emmys, a National Gabriel Award Certificate of Merit as well as several accolades by, among others, the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. Cavanaugh will remain primary co-anchor until her retirement from broadcasting on December 15, 2017. Replacing her will be Joleen Chaney, who first joined KFOR as a weekend evening anchor/reporter in 2008, and after a two-year reporting stint at KWTV beginning in June 2014, returned as co-anchor of the weekday 4:00, 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts in July 2016.
The Ogle family have been part of the station in some manner since the 1960s. Jack Ogle joined WKY-TV as its main news anchor in 1962, and became known for his interpersonal, "good-ol'-boy" approach to his on-air delivery; his tenure also featured prominent anchor/reporters George Tomek, Ernie Schultz and Jerry Adams. After Schultz moved to a role as WKY-TV's director of information, Ogle became news director in 1970 and served in that capacity for seven years; he continued to occasionally appear on channel 4 as well as rivals KOCO and KWTV after departing as anchor/news director role to do regular commentary pieces. His eldest son, Kevin Ogle, first worked at channel 4 as a reporter from 1986 to 1989; he returned as a weekend evening anchor/reporter in 1993. Middle son, Kent, was hired as a reporter in 1994; after brief stints anchoring the weekend morning and, later, weekend evening newscasts starting in 1994, Kent was moved to the weekday morning and noon newscasts in 1997 (two of Jack's other descendants, youngest son Kelly Ogle and granddaughter by way of Kevin, Abigail Ogle, respectively serve as evening co-anchor at KWTV and weeknight 6:00 p.m. co-anchor/reporter for KOCO-TV). In 2006, Kevin began hosting The Rant, a segment airing most Monday through Thursdays during the 10:00 p.m. newscast that features viewer opinions on a selected news story, with the Thursday edition serving as an "open topic" forum featuring positive and critical comments on multiple subjects.
The late Bob Barry, Sr. was also a fixture for many years, starting his television career at WKY-TV as its lead sports anchor in 1966, while maintaining his duties as the radio play-by-play voice of the Oklahoma Sooners (a position to which Barry was appointed by Bud Wilkinson in 1961; Barry called radio broadcasts of OU, and later Oklahoma State, football and basketball games with Jack Ogle until 1974). Barry became sports director in 1970, holding that position for 27 of his 42 years at Channel 4; he remained a part-time evening sports anchor until his retirement in May 2008. His son, Bob Barry, Jr., became weekend sports anchor/reporter at KTVY in 1982, working along Bob Sr. for 25 years and assuming his father's role as sports director in 1997; the younger Barry – who was known for his jovial, off-the-cuff style – served as KFOR's sports director and weeknight sports anchor until the day prior to his death in a motorcycle accident in June 2015. Collectively, including a posthumous win by Bob Barry Jr. in 2016, the Barrys earned 22 "Sportscaster of the Year" awards from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (Bob, Sr. holds the record for most wins with 15). In February 2016, Brian Brinkley (who joined KFOR as weekend sports anchor in 1991) succeeded Barry Jr. as sports director.
The station is known for its In Your Corner series of consumer advocacy reports, which focus on investigations into reported scams, area businesses accused of ripping off consumers, and occasionally, issues of corruption in Oklahoma state and local governments. Debuting in 1981, the segment was created and originally conducted by Brad Edwards, who joined channel 4 as a reporter/photographer in 1973, before being promoted to 10:00 p.m. anchor two years later. Edwards also started several community initiatives overseen by the station that help low-income residents, including "Warmth 4 Winter" (a partnership with The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command and local dry cleaners to collect donated winter coats and other winter clothing for needy Oklahomans) and "Fans 4 Oklahomans" (a drive held each summer to collect boxed fans for donation to the elderly and poor who cannot afford or do not have air conditioning). Following Edwards's death due to complications from endocarditis, vasculitis and a brain aneurysm in May 2006, duties for the "In Your Corner" segment were rotated between anchors Lance West and Ali Meyer, and assignment reporters Scott Hines and Cherokee Ballard in the interim until Hines was promoted to a full-time consumer investigative reporting role in 2007.
In January 1980, KTVY expanded its 5:00 p.m. newscast to one hour (it was the first station in Oklahoma City to air an hour-long newscast in that timeslot, predating the launch of KOKH-TV's own 5:00 p.m. news hour by 34 years). The move resulted in the station shifting NBC Nightly News to 6:00 p.m., airing on a half-hour delay from its network-recommended slot. The early-evening newscast was split into two half-hour programs at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., bookended by Nightly News, in August 1985. In May 1990, KFOR-TV implemented the "24-Hour News Source" concept, which was the subject of a trademark infringement lawsuit filed that month by KOCO-TV, which claimed it held the local rights to the brand name. Providing news headlines in time periods not occupied by the station's regular long-form newscasts or its half-hourly updates during Today, channel 4 began to produce 30-second-long news updates that aired at or near the top of each hour during local commercial break inserts within syndicated and NBC network programs, even during prime time and overnight slots (producers and other newsroom personnel anchored the segments for several years during the 1990s). The station continued to utilize the hourly newsbrief format exclusively in daytime and late fringe slots until 2006, when they were reduced to two afternoon segments serving as de facto promotions for the evening newscasts. Upon joining KFOR in July 1991, Galen Culver (who is currently married to Saturday morning anchor Tara Blume) started Is This a Great State or What?, a regular feature airing Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the 5:00 p.m. newscast that focuses on stories of interesting places and people around Oklahoma.
Following the adoption of the NewsChannel 4 brand in August 1992, KFOR-TV began to slowly expand its local news programming, starting under the direction of then-general manager Bill Katsafanas and news director Melissa Klinzing, who enacted the strategy to gear KFOR as "the CNN of the [Oklahoma City] market". That month, channel 4 became the first Oklahoma City station to debut weekend morning newscasts, originally airing Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m., and also expanded its weekday noon newscast to a full hour. In February 1994, the station added a weekday afternoon, lifestyle-focused newscast at 4:30 p.m. (originally titled First News at 4:30); this was followed in February 1996 by the debut of a half-hour extension of its 6:00 p.m. newscast – replacing first-run syndicated programs that the station had traditionally aired in the 6:30 timeslot – focusing primarily on national and international news headlines that was modeled similarly to ABC, CBS and NBC's national evening newscasts. In September 1993, KFOR debuted Flashpoint, a half-hour Sunday morning talk show that was originally moderated by Devin Scillian (who developed a program of the same title and format at WDIV-TV in Detroit in 1996). Following their run as analysts for channel 4's coverage of the 1992 presidential election, news producer Mary Ann Eckstein, who later became KFOR's news director in 1996, developed the program around panelists and former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates Mike Turpen and Burns Hargis (the latter of whom left the show in 2008 to become president of Oklahoma State University–Stillwater).
During coverage of the April 19, 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, the station erroneously reported during that day's coverage that a member of the Nation of Islam had called in to the station to take credit for the bombing (which was actually orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh, who associated himself with the Patriot movement, and Terry Nichols), even though it cautioned that the claim might have been a crank call; similarly, in the aftermath of the bombing, then-KFOR reporter Jayna Davis reported on a story which claimed that McVeigh was seen drinking beer with a former Iraqi soldier in an Oklahoma City tavern (Davis would later write a 2005 book, The Third Terrorist, which looked at the conspiracy theory that a Middle Eastern man had been involved in planning the bombing). KFOR-TV has avidly competed with KWTV for first place among the market's local television newscasts for decades. It had placed second behind KWTV in the morning and late evening news timeslots. Nielsen later found an error in KFOR's ratings reports in September 2008, in which share points were mistakenly assigned to KFOR's 4.1 digital multicast signal from 2005 to 2008; the corrected ratings showed that it had placed #2 in all timeslots at that time, a rarity given the ratings declines that NBC's programming and its affiliates' local newscasts overall had suffered beginning in 2004.
On June 5, 2006, KFOR-TV began producing a half-hour weeknight 9:00 p.m. newscast for KAUT-TV (which competes against Fox affiliate KOKH-TV's hour-long newscast that debuted in May 1996); it expanded news programming on KAUT with the debut of a two-hour extension of its weekday morning newscast on September 8, 2008. On July 12, 2009, starting with its 10:00 p.m. newscast, KFOR became the first commercial television station in the Oklahoma City market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (it also upgraded its severe weather ticker to be overlaid on HD programming without having to downconvert the content to standard definition); the Is This a Great State or What? segments began to be produced in HD that January and the KAUT newscasts were included in the overall upgrade. On September 7, 2011, KFOR-TV launched a half-hour 4:00 p.m. newscast that features an emphasis on viewer interaction through social media, mixing news, lifestyle and entertainment stories with trending stories on the internet and web videos. On August 27, 2012, KFOR expanded its weekday morning newscast to three hours, with the addition of an hour at 4:00 a.m.
KFOR-TV is one of two stations within the Oklahoma City market that is known for its comprehensive coverage of severe weather affecting the state. The station's Doppler radar system, branded as "4WARN Storm Scanner", provides live dual-Doppler radar data from sites at the Oklahoma City studios and near Newcastle (the latter of which operates at 1 million watts); both also utilize data from National Weather Service (NWS) radar sites nationwide. KFOR also provides local weather updates for six iHeartMedia-owned radio stations: KTOK (1000 AM), KGHM (1340 AM), KBRU (94.7 FM), KXXY-FM (96.1 FM), KTST (101.9 FM) and KJYO (102.7 FM).
Channel 4 claims to be the first television station in the United States to have established a professional meteorological department, which was formed with the 1951 hire of Wally Kinnan as the station's weather director; it also claims to have hired the first local broadcast meteorologist in Oklahoma, when Harry Volkman (who previously worked at Tulsa's KOTV for two years) joined WKY-TV in March 1952. On September 5, 1954, it became the first television station to broadcast a tornado warning as a tornadic thunderstorm approached Meeker. WKY-TV reporter Frank McGee relayed a tornado forecast issued by Tinker Air Force Base staff for military personnel use over the phone to Volkman. General manager P.A. Sugg – who, with Oklahoma U.S. Senator Mike Monroney, had been pushing the U.S. Government to overturn a ban on disseminating tornado alerts to the public, believing the high risk of fatalities and the need to allow residents to take safety precautions outweighed government concerns that it would incite panic – instructed Volkman to deliver an on-air bulletin of a "tornado risk" for central Oklahoma that afternoon. Though he was concerned about being arrested for violating government rules, Volkman agreed to deliver the warning after Sugg volunteered to take responsibility. Volkman narrowly avoided being fired by OPUBCO management upon finding out that viewers in the tornado's path sent letters thanking him and WKY-TV for the warning (Volkman would remain at channel 4 until 1954, when he became a meteorologist at KWTV).
In 1958, WKY-TV became the first television station in Oklahoma to install a weather radar system for weather reports, utilizing a converted surplus military radar that remained in use until 1970. Wally Kinnan had earlier developed methodology to predict and detect tornadoes using radar by identifying wind patterns to predict the movement of precipitation, despite the NWS's belief that there was no method possible to predict them with a degree of accuracy. That year also saw the hiring of Jim Williams as the station's chief meteorologist; Williams held the record as the state's longest-serving television meteorologist, having worked at channel 4 for 32 years until his retirement in 1990 (former KWTV chief meteorologist Gary England surpassed Williams for the title in 2005; England retired in August 2013, after a 41-year tenure at channel 9 that began in October 1972). Mike Morgan – who replaced one of Williams' two short-lived successors, Wayne Shattuck, who himself was Morgan's direct predecessor for the same position at KOCO-TV – took over as KFOR's chief meteorologist in 1993. In 1986, KTVY became the first television station in the country to introduce colorized Doppler radar. In 1995, KFOR became the first television station to transmit images over cell phones with the development of "First Video," technology which allowed the station's news crews to send photos and video of severe weather over mobile relays for broadcast (the originator of such technology is in dispute, as a similar system was developed at KWTV by former anchor Roger Cooper in 1992, which allowed near-moving video to be relayed to the station over cell phones). The "First Video" technology won a Heartland Emmy for technological broadcast innovation in 1996.
In recent years, KFOR has been locked in a competition with KWTV-DT for having the top weather technology in the U.S., that has driven the so-called "weather wars" between it and chief rivals KWTV and KOCO. In 1997, KFOR debuted "The Edge," a radar system which provided updated imagery in near-real-time (compared to the average 10-minute update delay of NEXRAD) and incorporated street-level mapping. A statement made by Morgan during coverage of a tornadic thunderstorm that moved through central Oklahoma City on October 23, 2000, in which he said that NEXRAD data used by KFOR's two principal competitors was "20 to 25 minutes" behind that of "The Edge," led to then-KWTV weekend meteorologist Brady Brus and then-KOCO chief meteorologist Rick Mitchell disputing the claim. Following the May 1999 tornadoes, with which KFOR's coverage (as well as KWTV and KOCO's) were credited for their extensive warning, Morgan was criticized by other area meteorologists, including Gary England, for taking a "chicken little" approach to tornado coverage, either by providing too much coverage of tornadoes that do not pose an immediate threat to life and property or by misidentifying benign cloud formations in thunderstorms. In April 2013, KFOR partnered with veteran storm chaser Reed Timmer to help supplement the station's storm chasing fleet, providing coverage of severe weather events.
Notable current on-air staff
- Linda Cavanaugh – weeknight anchor; also reporter
- Kevin Ogle – weeknight anchor; also reporter and statewide newsreader
- Kirk Humphreys – commentator/Flash Point panelist
- Mike Turpen – political analyst/Flash Point panelist
Notable former staff
- Bob Barry Jr. – sports director, Friday Night Heroes and Friday Sports Overtime host (1982–2015; deceased)
- Bob Barry Sr. – sports anchor (1966–2008; concurrently worked as the radio announcer for University of Oklahoma basketball and football until shortly before his 2011 death)
- Tiffany Blackmon – sports reporter (2013–2014; now at NFL Network)
- Jayna Davis – reporter (1993–1995)
- Bob Donaldson – weekend evening anchor/reporter/co-host of PM Magazine (1984–1988; now anchor at sister station WTTV in Indianapolis)
- Bob Dotson – anchor/reporter/photographer/director of special projects (1969–1975; later at NBC News, now at the Newhouse School in Syracuse, New York)
- Chuck Dunaway – co-star of Foreman Scotty's Circle 4 Ranch (1958–1960)
- Brad Edwards – anchor/investigative reporter (1973–2006; deceased)
- Mary Hart – co-host of Dannysday (1976–1980; later anchor of the syndicated entertainment program Entertainment Tonight from 1982 to 2011)
- Burns Hargis – political analyst/Flash Point panelist (1992–2008; now President of Oklahoma State University–Stillwater)
- Jane Jayroe – evening anchor/reporter (1984–1987; later at KOCO-TV)
- Herschell Gordon Lewis – studio director (1949–1953; later known for developing the "splatter" horror film subgenre; deceased)
- Ben McCain – noon anchor/co-host of AM Oklahoma/reporter (1980–1987; later at KOCO-TV)
- Butch McCain – noon weather anchor/co-host of AM Oklahoma (1980–1987; later at KOCO-TV, now weather anchor at KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado)
- Frank McGee – anchor (1949–1955; later at NBC News; deceased)
- David Payne – meteorologist/storm chaser (1993–2012; now chief meteorologist at KWTV-DT)
- Russell Pierson – agriculture reporter (1959–1983; deceased)
- Ross Porter – sports anchor (1962–1966; later play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, now announcer for Cal State Northridge Matadors baseball)
- Marianne Rafferty – weekday evening anchor (2016; now anchor at Fox News Channel)
- Devin Scillian – anchor/reporter (1989–1996; now at WDIV-TV in Detroit)
- Bella Shaw – weekend anchor/reporter (1977–1984; later at CNN)
- Hank Thompson – host of variety series The Hank Thompson Show (1950s; deceased)
- Ron Thulin – sports anchor/reporter (1976–1980; now with Stadium and Fox Sports Networks)
- Reed Timmer – storm chaser (2013–2014)
- Harry Volkman – meteorologist, known for being also the first to broadcast a tornado warning (1949–1954; later at WBBM-TV, WGN-TV and WFLD in Chicago; deceased)