KIAH, virtual channel 39 (UHF digital channel 38), is a CW-affiliated television station licensed to Houston, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media. KIAH maintains studio facilities adjacent to the Westpark Tollway on the southwest side of Houston. The transmitter is located near Missouri City, in unincorporated Fort Bend County. The station is also available on Comcast Xfinity and AT&T U-verse channel 5, and in high definition on Xfinity digital channel 605 and U-verse channel 1005.
The station first signed on the air on January 6, 1967 as an independent station under the callsign KHTV (standing for "Houston TeleVision"). Prior to its debut, the channel 39 allocation in Houston belonged to the now-defunct DuMont affiliate KNUZ-TV, which existed during the mid-1950s. Channel 39 was originally owned by the WKY Television System, a subsidiary of the Oklahoma Publishing Company, publishers of Oklahoma City's major daily newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman. After the company's namesake station, WKY-TV, was sold in 1976, the WKY Television System became Gaylord Broadcasting, named for the family that owned Oklahoma Publishing.
As Houston's first general entertainment independent station, KHTV ran a schedule of programs including children's shows, syndicated programs, movies, religious programs and some sporting events. One of its best known locally produced programs was Houston Wrestling, hosted by local promoter Paul Boesch, which aired on Saturday evenings (having been taped the night before at the weekly live shows in the Sam Houston Coliseum). From 1983 to 1985, the station was branded on-air as "KHTV 39 Gold". It was the leading independent station in Houston, even as competitors entered the market (including KVRL/KDOG (channel 26, now KRIV), when it launched in 1971). During this time, KHTV was distributed to cable providers as a regional superstation of sorts, with carriage on systems as far east as Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
As a WB affiliate
Prior to its launch in January 1995, The WB agreed to affiliate with KHTV and three of its sister stations – KTVT in Dallas-Fort Worth, WVTV in Milwaukee and KSTW in Tacoma, Washington. However, after CBS lost its affiliation with KDFW in Dallas-Fort Worth to Fox as a result of that network's alliance with New World Communications, Gaylord Broadcasting chose to affiliate both KTVT and KSTW with CBS.
Not pleased with Gaylord's about-face, The WB voided its group affiliation contract with Gaylord, and later took the broadcast group to court for breach of contract. This left Houston as the only top-10 television market without an affiliate of the new network for its first few months in existence; this status came to an end in the fall of 1995, when KHTV was acquired by Tribune Broadcasting, which was an investor in The WB, controlled by Time Warner. Channel 39 became a WB affiliate on September 20, 1995, and began to call itself "Houston's WB39". Prior to that, residents in Houston were only able to receive WB network programming via Chicago-based Superstation WGN exclusively on cable. In 1999, the station changed its call letters to KHWB to reflect its affiliation. The station subsequently dropped references to its channel number in the early 2000s, becoming known as "Houston's WB".
From The WB to The CW
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation (which split from Viacom in December 2005) announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective higher-rated programs to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. On that same date, The CW reached an agreement with Tribune Broadcasting to have 15 of the group's 18 WB-affiliated stations at the time become charter affiliates of the network through a ten-year contractual agreement; as a result, KHWB became The CW's Houston affiliate.
A few months later, the Federal Communications Commission approved a callsign change from KHWB to KHCW (standing for "Houston's CW"), which became official on April 27, 2006. On September 13, 2006, KHCW changed its on-air branding from "Houston's WB" to "CW 39", restoring the channel number to its branding; The CW officially launched on September 18, 2006.
On July 15, 2008, Channel 39 changed its call letters to KIAH as part of a branding campaign emphasizing the station's local orientation (KIAH also serves as the ICAO airport code for George Bush Intercontinental Airport). Due to The CW's sagging ratings, Tribune wanted its CW-affiliated stations (including KIAH) to change their on-air imaging and de-emphasize the network's branding. The station changed to the simplified "Channel 39" branding on August 29, 2008, although "Channel 39, The CW" was used during network promotions. However, it was simplified again to just "39" in January 2011 for regular programming, and the "CW 39" branding returned for use in network promotions (though retaining the numeric "39" introduced with the 2008 rebranding); the "CW 39" branding returned full-time on March 28, using the slogan "Real Houston" to continue to emphasize KIAH's local orientation.
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group entered into an agreement to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. The deal, which is pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, would result in channel 39 gaining new sister stations in the adjacent markets of San Antonio (the virtual triopoly of NBC affiliate WOAI-TV, Fox affiliate KABB and CW affiliate KMYS) and Beaumont (the virtual duopoly of Fox affiliate KBTV-TV and CBS-CW affiliate KFDM).
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|39.1||1080i||16:9||KIAH-DT||Main KIAH programming / The CW|
KIAH discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 39, 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 38, using PSIP to display KIAH's virtual channel as 39 on digital television receivers.
When the current incarnation of channel 39 signed on as an independent station, it aired hourly news updates between programs during commercial breaks. In August 1990, the station launched its first news department and began producing half-hour newscasts at 7 and 11 p.m., a move that was made to fill a gap that KRIV had left open, following that station's 1989 decision to discontinue its 7 p.m. newscast and move it to 9 p.m. as the Fox network had expanded its primetime schedule to additional nights. The 11 p.m. newscast was intended to cater to people that missed the traditional 10 p.m. newscasts, though both proved unsuccessful and the news department was ultimately shut down in May 1992.
KHTV (later KHWB) did not carry any news programming from that point on, until Tribune Broadcasting required its then-WB affiliates that did not already produce their own newscasts to form news departments in 1999; the station launched a half-hour 9 p.m. newscast in 2000, to compete with KRIV's longer-running and hour-long late evening newscast in that timeslot. The station's then-chief meteorologist, Keith Monahan, won numerous awards for his weather reports including several Texas Lone Star Awards and multiple first-place finishes in Texas AP judging, and was honored with a Lone Star Emmy in 2006 and a Lone Star Emmy nomination in 2007 for the "Best Weathercast in Texas".
The station expanded its late evening newscast to one hour on June 30, 2008 (the program previously only expanded to a one-hour broadcast due to significant breaking news events). Plans originally called for the launch of a weekday morning newscast in 2010 (which ultimately never launched), along with plans to unveil a new set and the upgrade of its news broadcasts to high definition. On September 28, 2009, KIAH launched an hour-long early evening newscast at 5 p.m. The station then began broadcasting its newscasts in high definition on May 10, 2010 with the debut of a new set, becoming the last English-language network station in the Houston market to make the upgrade. However, like most Tribune-owned stations with in-house newscasts in HD, the locally originated live field reports are also broadcast in the format.
NewsFix and Eye Opener
On March 19, 2011 (delayed from an originally slated fall 2010 launch), KIAH relaunched its newscasts and became the pilot station for a new Tribune-developed news format, NewsFix. Described by KIAH general manager Roger Bare as "a newsreel updated for the 21st century," the program de-emphasizes the traditional use of anchors and reporters, preferring instead to use footage featuring those involved in the story. Houston radio personality Greg Onofrio provides continuity as the program's narrator, and also appears on-screen to provide a commentary segment at the end of the newscast. The plan was to roll out the format to certain other Tribune-owned stations if NewsFix proved successful on KIAH; Dallas sister station KDAF would adopt the NewsFix format in 2014, and WSFL-TV in Miami followed suit in September 2015.
On May 9, 2011, KIAH became the test market for another Tribune news concept, EyeOpener. Airing weekday mornings (from 5-8 a.m.), the program is a local/national hybrid show billed as a "provocative and unpredictable" combination of daily news, lifestyle, entertainment and opinion segments, interspersed with half-hourly local news, weather and traffic inserts presented by a solo anchor from KIAH's Houston studios, with national content initially pre-produced at Tribune's Chicago headquarters. By the fall of 2011, production of EyeOpener's national segments relocated from Chicago to the studios of KIAH sister station and fellow CW affiliate KDAF in Dallas, which began airing Eye Opener on October 31 of that year, along with Tribune stations in Philadelphia, Miami and Portland (which, unlike KDAF and KIAH, do not produce their own news programming). EyeOpener ended its run on June 21, 2017 and was replaced with Morning Dose on June 29.
Notable former on-air staff
- Alan Ashby - sports director (now at Root Sports)
- Alan Hemberger - anchor, formerly of KTRK-TV in Houston; died in 2013
- Katie McCall - reporter (2000–2006; now at KRIV)
- Jim McKrell - station spokesman (later became an anchor and after the newscast had ended, he hosted station-produced specials; appeared in the film Teen Wolf)
- Donna Savarese - anchor/reporter (now Director of Corporate Communications for K12 Inc.)
- David Scott - weekday anchor (Now reporter and weekend anchor at KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas)