KOMU-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station for Mid-Missouri that is licensed to Columbia. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 8 from a transmitter at its studios on US 63 southeast of downtown. The station can also be seen on Mediacom, Suddenlink, and Charter channel 7 as well as CenturyLink channel 8.
Owned by the University of Missouri and operated by the Missouri School of Journalism, KOMU is one of the only two commercial television stations in the United States to be owned by a public institution. The other is WVUA-CD, which is owned and operated by the University of Alabama.
KOMU was the brainchild of longtime University of Missouri journalism professor Edward C. Lambert, who wanted to give journalism students a hands-on experience by working at a full-fledged commercial station. It began airing an analog signal on VHF channel 8 December 21, 1953 and carried programming from all four major networks at the time, but was a primary NBC affiliate. It lost CBS in 1955 when KRCG signed-on from Jefferson City. The two shared ABC until 1971 when KCBJ-TV (now KMIZ) launched. From January 22 through April 23, 1955, KOMU temporarily originated a live prime time ABC network show, Ozark Jubilee.
In 1982, ABC moved its affiliation to the station, since the network was the highest-rated at the time and wanted a stronger outlet. By 1985, however, NBC had regained the ratings lead. Accordingly, KOMU rejoined NBC on New Year's Day 1986. In 2002, KOMU took over operation of cable TV-only WB affiliate "KJWB" as part of The WB 100+. KMIZ had previously operated it, but relinquished control over it to KOMU after its parent company went bankrupt. This service was known on-air as "Mid-Missouri's WB 5" after its cable channel location and, as a result, had a fictional callsign (as did most cable-only WB affiliates).
In 2002, KOMU won the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for maintaining its longstanding policy banning political symbols on-air. The station had come under considerable government and popular pressure to allow its anchors and reporters to wear American flag lapels on-air in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. In December 2005, the station added NBC Weather Plus to a new second digital subchannel and live streaming video on its website. This was added to Mediacom digital systems on January 12, 2007. After the national service shut down on December 1, 2008, it was replaced with Universal Sports but was not added to other digital cable systems. In 2011, Universal Sports was dropped from subchannel 8.2.
It was announced on April 12, 2006 that "KJWB" would become part of The CW and be added as a new third digital subchannel of KOMU to offer non-cable viewers access to the new network. "KJWB" joined The CW at the network's launch on September 18 and began to use the KOMU-DT3 call sign in an official manner. As a result, the station became the first and only educational institution-owned channel in the United States to affiliate with that network. Since KMIZ operated the area's cable-exclusive UPN station "KZOU", that station joined the other new network known as MyNetworkTV that was created to compete against The CW.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||1080i||16:9||KOMU-DT||Main KOMU-TV programming / NBC|
|8.3||720p||KOMU-CW||Mid Missouri's CW|
KOMU-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, 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 36 to VHF channel 8 for post-transition operations.
2011 Mediacom dispute
On January 3, 2011 KOMU was removed from the channel lineup of Mediacom, the main cable provider for most of Mid-Missouri, after talks to negotiate a new retransmission consent broke down, the previous carriage agreement with Mediacom was supposed to expire two days earlier, but KOMU and Mediacom agreed to extend their carriage agreement through midnight on January 3. Mediacom replaced KOMU and its digital subchannels with three cable channels: Turner Classic Movies replaced KOMU on channels 7 and 707; Starz Kids and Family replaced Mid-Missouri CW on channel 5; and The Hub replaced Universal Sports on channel 101. On January 7, 2011, Mediacom brought KOMU and its subchannels back on their respective channel slots after the company and KOMU reached a new carriage agreement.
Syndicated programming on the station includes Wheel of Fortune, The Meredith Vieira Show, Dr. Phil, and Rachael Ray. It is one of the fewest markets where Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! are on two different stations.
Originally, MU School of Journalism students served as KOMU interns providing behind-the-scenes assistance with production and direction. However, since 1970, most of the station's reporters and photographers have been a rotating array of undergraduate and/or graduate students seen by week and portions of the semesters. In addition, weekend and substitute anchors as well as many producers are students. However, like other commercial outlets, the station does employ paid professional staff as managers, engineers, and sales representatives. The editors and main on-air anchors, as well as most of the producers, are actually School of Journalism faculty members. Due to the large number of unpaid interns, KOMU has a significantly larger news staff than conventional wisdom would suggest for a station in the 137th market.
It has historically been the dominant station in Mid-Missouri for most of its history according to Nielsen ratings. In the late 2006 sweeps, however, KOMU lost the lead at 10 p.m. to KRCG—the first time in memory that KOMU had lost any timeslot. However, it still remains a solid runner-up at 10, and leads all other timeslots. Today, KOMU airs local news for 4½ hours on weekdays and 2½ hours on weekends; unlike most NBC affiliates, it does air an evening newscast on Sundays. Unusual for its market size, KOMU begins its weekday morning show at 4:30, reflecting a recent trend of television stations airing a pre-5 a.m. broadcast (most stations ranked #75 and above in the Nielsen rank usually air morning newscasts at 5:30 or 6 in the morning). KOMU is the only station in the area that begins its early-morning newscast this early.
On August 8, 2008, the station became first in the market to offer local newscasts in high definition making Mid-Missouri the third-smallest DMA in the country to feature local broadcasts in HD. On April 23, 2009, KOMU debuted a new set specifically designed for high definition television. Starting July 5, 2010, the station began producing three newscasts for its CW-affiliated third digital subchannel. This includes KOMU 8 News at 9 on The CW every night for a half-hour. The prime time show competes with the KMIZ-produced show on Fox affiliate KQFX-LD.
On September 12, 2011, KOMU started a new weekday 4 p.m. newscast, which replaced The Oprah Winfrey Show; U_News@4#Sarah Hill, featured news, events and local weather, and gave viewers a chance to share their opinions on news stories through social media outlets. The award winning Sarah Hill anchors the hour-long newscast. On January 9, 2012, U_News moved to 11 a.m. and was shortened to a half-hour. On April 23, 2012, the program was reformatted as a traditional newscast and moved once again to noon (the U_News title was also be dropped from the newscast); social media involvement in the newscast continued to be included, though in a downscaled form.
Like all CW Plus stations in the Central Time Zone, KOMU-DT3 also offered the nationally syndicated morning show The Daily Buzz on weekdays from 5 to 8 a.m. until the show's sudden cancellation by its distributor in mid-April 2015. KOMU operates its own weather radar, known as "Live Doppler 8 First Alert Radar", next to its studios. KOMU's website features a live streaming video feed of all newscasts.
In addition to the counties defined in Columbia/Jefferson City media market by Nielsen Media Research, KOMU includes Camden (part of the Springfield market), Gasconade (part of the St. Louis market), Macon (part of the Kirksville/Ottumwa market), Monroe (part of the Quincy/Hannibal market), Pettis and Saline counties (part of the Kansas City market) in its viewing area for news and weather coverage purposes.
Notable former on-air staff
- NBC News: Lisa Myers ('73), Mark Potter ('75)
- ABC News: Elizabeth Vargas ('84), Kevin Roy ('87)
- CBS News: Richard Schlesinger ('76)
- CNN: Sophia Choi ('92), Chuck Roberts ('71)
- Fox News: Jon Scott ('81), Phil Keating ('90)
- ESPN: John Anderson ('87), Matt Winer ('90), Michael Kim ('88)
- National Journal: Major Garrett ('84)
- WKYC: Russ Mitchell ('82)
- KING: Alex Rozier (2011)
Out of market coverage
The station also operated a translator, K07SD in Rolla, Missouri, in the westernmost area of the St. Louis market. The translator operated on analog VHF channel 7. The license for that translator was cancelled by trhe FCC no later than June 2010.