KHOU, virtual channel and VHF digital channel 11, is a CBS-affiliated television station located in Houston, Texas, United States. The station is owned by Tegna. KHOU maintains studio facilities located along Allen Parkway in the Neartown neighborhood (near Downtown Houston), and its transmitter is located in unincorporated northeastern Fort Bend County (near Missouri City). As of the 2016-17 television season, KHOU is the second-largest CBS affiliate by market size that is not owned and operated by the network, while sister station WUSA the largest CBS affiliate by market size that is not owned and operated by the network.
The station first signed on the air on March 23, 1953 as KGUL-TV (as in gulf or as in "seagull" ); it was founded by Paul Taft of the Taft Broadcasting Co. (no relation to the Cincinnati, Ohio-based Taft Broadcasting Company). Originally licensed to Galveston, it was the second television station to debut in the Houston market (after KPRC-TV, channel 2). One of the original investors in the station was actor James Stewart, along with a small group of other Galveston investors.
In 1956, the original owners sold the station to the Indianapolis-based Whitney Corporation (later Corinthian Broadcasting), which became a subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet in 1971. In June 1959, the station changed its callsign to KHOU-TV (the "-TV" suffix was dropped from the call letters the week following the June 12, 2009 digital transition, as most Belo stations did at the time) and had its city of license relocated to Houston. The FCC license listed both the Houston and Galveston service areas for a time. On April 24, 1960, the station moved to its present studio facilities on Allen Parkway just outside downtown. To this day, KHOU is the only local television station in Houston to have its primary studios located close to downtown
In 1984, Dun & Bradstreet sold its entire broadcasting division, including KHOU, to the Belo Corporation. In 1998, channel 11 became the first television station in the market to begin broadcasting a high-definition digital signal. The KHOU studios were flooded during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, resulting in damage to much of the station's offices, including its newsroom. The damage was so severe that the station had to cease regular programming and instead broadcast a feed from the station's doppler radar for roughly 90 minutes.
In 2002, the Houston Texans NFL franchise began play, as part of the American Football Conference's South Division. As part of the AFC, most Texans games—including all road games against NFC opponents—are aired on CBS, and are therefore aired locally on KHOU. Channel 11 also serves as the over-the-air outlet for all of the Texans' appearances on Thursday Night Football. The Texans are one of two teams never to have been blacked out at home, the other being the Baltimore Ravens.
During Hurricane Ike, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast in mid-September 2008, KHOU's storm coverage was distributed nationwide via DirecTV and XM Satellite Radio, as well as through a live feed on the station's website. On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo for $1.5 billion. The sale was completed on December 23.
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. KHOU was retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|11.1||1080i||16:9||KHOU-DT||Main KHOU programming / CBS|
On September 26, 2011, KHOU began broadcasting Bounce TV on its second digital subchannel upon the network's launch. The station had previously signed on to carry the .2 Network on one of its digital subchannels, although .2 Network never debuted. In 2015, the station began carrying programming from the Justice Network on its third digital subchannel.
KHOU discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 31 to VHF channel 11 for post-transition operations.
Since its inception, KHOU has been a CBS affiliate, and has largely cleared the entire CBS network lineup without interruption. In addition to its newscasts, KHOU also airs Great Day Houston, a local talk show hosted by Deborah Duncan with paid segments from local businesses in Houston, following CBS This Morning. The talk show, which has aired on the station since 2005, is taped at KHOU's Neartown studios with occasional tapings in The Woodlands (a northern suburb of Houston) at the Market Street shopping plaza. Outside of local programming, KHOU's syndicated offerings include The Ellen DeGeneres Show, reruns of Hot in Cleveland, and Wheel of Fortune.
Despite being in a market with an ABC-owned station (KTRK-TV), Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune have aired on KHOU since 1986 despite their presence on ABC's other network-owned stations along with another ABC O&O syndication staple, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which KHOU carried for its entire run from 1986 to 2011. Jeopardy! moved to KTRK on September 14, 2015, making it the last ABC-owned station to carry the quiz show. However, KHOU will continue to carry Wheel of Fortune at 6:30 p.m., making Houston one of the largest (if not the largest) television markets in the United States where both game shows air on separate stations; in most markets both game shows are sold as a package, often airing next to one another on the same station in prime time access.
Like most CBS affiliates prior to 1993, KHOU often carried syndicated programming in late night following its 10 p.m. newscast. Beginning in 1993, KHOU (like most CBS affiliates) began carrying the Late Show (then hosted by David Letterman) at 11:05 p.m., eventually moving it to immediately following its 10 p.m. newscast (at 10:35 p.m. CT) by 1995. However, prior to 2015 the station always aired The Late Late Show on a 30-minute delay (to 12:07 a.m. CT) ever since the show first premiered in 1995, fitting a syndicated sitcom (as of 2015, the aforementioned Hot in Cleveland), game show or tabloid news program between the two shows. Because the latter program's original host, Tom Snyder, had a simulcast with the CBS Radio Network and took calls from viewers during his stint as host, KHOU asked via disclaimer for Houston area viewers to not call the toll-free call-in number due to the tape-delay. However, on September 8, 2015, it began airing The Late Late Show at its network-approved time (11:37 p.m. CT) following Stephen Colbert's debut as host of The Late Show.
KHOU presently broadcasts 28 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, two hours on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays). Unlike most CBS affiliates, the station does not air a newscast prior to CBS Sunday Morning. Channel 11 has been widely regarded as a stepping stone for many well-known television news personalities, as many of its reporters have gone on to work for national networks. KHOU's best known former on-air staffers include former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, NBC News correspondent Dennis Murphy, newswomen Linda Ellerbee and Jessica Savitch, and sports anchors Jim Nantz (now with CBS Sports) and Ron Franklin (now with ESPN). The station's newscasts currently rank second among those in the Houston area (behind ABC-owned KTRK); however, they receive decent viewership among 35- to 55-year-olds and suburban audiences. This is noted since, as of 2011, KHOU is the only Houston area station whose traffic reports cover suburban areas, in addition to the Houston freeways.
KHOU also has gained a reputation for its investigative reporting staff (currently known as the "KHOU 11 News I-Team"), whose notable stories include its 2000 investigation into defective tire designs by Firestone – which led to the mandatory recall of Wilderness AT, Firestone ATX and ATX II tires, as well as numerous lawsuits (the defective tires resulted in a number of deaths, including that of KTRK reporter Stephen Gauvain) and a story in the early 2000s by former reporter Anna Werner that led to the shutdown of the Houston Police Department's crime lab. The investigative unit has also exposed allegations of dropout rate fraud in the Houston Independent School District, which resulted in the dismissal of several HISD officials.
Beginning in the late 1980s, KHOU hired several high-profile people to its news team. The most notable was former National Hurricane Center director Dr. Neil Frank, who was hired as the station's chief meteorologist in July 1987. In another key move, KHOU also hired former KTRK anchor Sylvan Rodriguez (then with ABC News' West Coast bureau) to anchor the station's early evening newscasts. KHOU also began to use the "Spirit of Texas" slogan and TM Productions' "Spirit" music package, which originated at Dallas sister station WFAA. In January 1989, KHOU revamped the appearance of its newscasts, with an image campaign that included full-page ads in the Houston Chronicle and Post, as well as an on-air promotional campaign that focused more on ordinary citizens throughout Greater Houston than on its news team. With anchors Steve Smith and Marlene McClinton, chief meteorologist Neil Frank and sports director Giff Nielsen as its main news team, along with a new set, graphics and theme music, KHOU began to mount a serious challenge to the other Houston newscasts, leading to a competitive ratings race during the 1990s.
1999 proved to be a breakout year for KHOU, with its newscasts reaching #1 in viewership in several timeslots during the May sweeps period, unseating KTRK during the midday hours, and at 5:00 (it debuted in May 1974) and 6:00 pm. The station's ratings boost also included an exclusive interview with Serbian and Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic during the Kosovo War, just a month before his indictment. This news came despite the retirement of longtime anchor Steve Smith, anchor Sylvan Rodriguez's eventually fatal bout with pancreatic cancer and the abrupt resignation of fellow anchor Marlene McClinton during one of the station's newscasts.
On February 4, 2007, following CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XLI, KHOU began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, becoming the first station in the market to do so. On September 7, 2009, KHOU-TV expanded its weekday morning newscast with the addition of the 4:30 am program First Look; despite being the last station in the Houston market to launch a 4:30 a.m. newscast, KHOU was the first station in the market to announce its intentions to do so (three of Houston's major network affiliates – KHOU, KTRK-TV and KPRC-TV – launched 4:30 am newscasts within three weeks of each other in the late summer of 2009). On August 1, 2011, KHOU debuted a new half-hour newscast at 4:00 pm on weekdays.
Notable former on-air staff
- Steve Edwards – anchor/talk show host (1972–1975; now at KTTV in Los Angeles)
- Linda Ellerbee – reporter (1972–1973; later with NBC News, now host of Nickelodeon's Nick News)
- Dr. Neil Frank – chief meteorologist (1987–2008; now retired; returns periodically for special weather events)
- Ron Franklin – sports director (1971–1980)
- John Hambrick – ancher/reporter (1960s; deceased)
- Dennis Murphy – reporter/assignment editor (1975–1978; now with NBC News)
- Jim Nantz – sports anchor/reporter (1981–1983; now with CBS Sports as the network's top play-by-play announcer of the NFL)
- Chau Nguyen – anchor/reporter (2003–2007)
- Giff Nielsen – sports director (1984–2009)
- Dan Patrick – sports anchor (1980s; later conservative talk show host KSEV-AM; now Lieutenant Governor of Texas)
- Dan Rather – anchor/reporter (early 1960s; former anchor of CBS Evening News)
- Rick Sanchez – reporter (1986–1988; formerly with CNN)
- Jessica Savitch – anchor/reporter (1971–1972; later KYW-TV and NBC News, deceased)
- Janet Shamlian – anchor/reporter (1987–1995; now NBC News)
- Ron Stone – anchor (1961–1972; later KPRC-TV, deceased)