KOVR, virtual channel 13 (UHF digital channel 25), is a CBS owned-and-operated television station serving Sacramento, California, United States that is licensed to Stockton. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of CBS Corporation, as part of a duopoly with CW owned-and-operated station KMAX-TV (channel 31). The two stations share offices and studio facilities located on KOVR Drive in West Sacramento; KOVR's transmitter is located in Walnut Grove.
The station first signed on the air on September 6, 1954, with its first broadcast originating from the California State Fair. KOVR is the oldest continuously-operating television station in the Sacramento market. Originally serving as an independent station with its transmitter located on Mount Diablo, its signal reached the San Francisco Bay Area, lending to the KOVR call letters ("covering" all of Northern California). The station originally operated from studio facilities located on Miner Avenue in Stockton. Art Finley hosted an afternoon children's program, Toonytown, on the station for several years, before moving to San Francisco's KRON-TV.
As an ABC affiliate
In May 1957, KOVR merged its operations with Sacramento's original ABC affiliate, KCCC-TV (channel 40, which signed on eleven months before KOVR in September 1953). KCCC shut down, with KOVR acquiring the ABC affiliation. At the network's request, the station moved its transmitter facilities to a temporary site near Jackson to avoid competition with KGO-TV in San Francisco. By this time, it was obvious that Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto were going to be a single television market. In 1960, KOVR teamed up with KCRA-TV (channel 3) and KXTV (channel 10) to build a new 1,549-foot (472 m) tower in Walnut Grove. In 1985, KOVR and KXTV moved to their current 2,049-foot (625 m) tower while KCRA moved to its own 2,000-foot (610 m) tower; KCRA still uses the old tower as an auxiliary facility.
In 1958, the Gannett Company (whose successor company, Tegna, now owns rival KXTV) bought KOVR from its original owners, then sold it the following year to John Kluge's Metropolitan Broadcasting (which later became Metromedia). In 1960, the station moved its business offices and news department to a new studio facility on Arden Way in Sacramento. In 1987, KOVR consolidated its operations into its current facility in West Sacramento.
Metromedia sold KOVR to McClatchy Newspapers in 1964. McClatchy ran the station alongside The Sacramento Bee and Modesto Bee newspapers, as well as radio stations KWG (1230 AM) in Stockton, KBEE (970 AM) in Modesto and KFBK (1530 AM) in Sacramento. McClatchy was able to own KOVR, KWG, KBEE and KFBK because Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto, then as now, were separate radio markets. McClatchy had established a trio of bee mascots (originally designed by Walt Disney, whose namesake company would eventually acquire ABC in 1996) for its properties. Teevee the Bee was KOVR's official mascot during the years that McClatchy owned the station – short cartoons of the bee bookended KOVR's broadcast day, either ushering in or concluding the day's programming.
After McClatchy sold the station to Outlet Communications in 1978, KOVR went into a gradual decline in terms of both ratings and programming quality (even as ABC became the country's highest-rated network), and has been in third place in the Sacramento ratings for most of the time since then. The station was then sold to Narragansett Television LP in 1986, then to Anchor Media in 1988. Anchor Media was merged into River City Broadcasting in 1993, and River City was purchased by the Sinclair Broadcast Group three years later. KOVR has made some firsts in local broadcasting: it was the first station in Northern California to use videotape (rather than film) for its newscasts, and was the first station in the Sacramento/Stockton area to broadcast in stereo.
As an ABC affiliate, KOVR preempted a moderate amount of programming, even the 30-minute soap opera Loving. It also aired some ABC programming out of pattern: All My Children in the early years was aired at 11 a.m. (half of ABC's affiliates aired the soap at 11 a.m. to follow it with their noon newscasts; until the series was cancelled in 2011, the network recommended that the program run in the noon timeslot). In the mid-1990s, KOVR moved the soap opera to 3 p.m., a practice continued by KXTV following its affiliation switch with KOVR until the early 2000s.
Switching to CBS
On March 6, 1995, KOVR swapped networks with longtime CBS affiliate KXTV; KOVR is the third station in Sacramento to have been affiliated with CBS: before moving to KXTV, KCCC carried the network secondarily to its primary ABC affiliation. Despite joining CBS, KOVR chose not to air Guiding Light, a practice originated by KXTV during its CBS days (due to the show's below-average ratings in the area). When the program ended its run on September 18, 2009, it was one of only two CBS affiliates that did not carry the show; the other, WNEM-TV in Bay City, Michigan, aired it on a MyNetworkTV-affiliated digital subchannel. During Guiding Light's last 16 seasons, Sacramento viewers had to view it on cable via San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX.
A more notable oddity with KOVR's affiliation with CBS is that the station runs the network's primetime lineup one hour earlier than the standard 8 (7 on Sundays) to 11 p.m. scheduling for the Pacific as well as the Eastern time zones, opting to run it from 7 to 10 p.m. (the standard scheduling used by stations in the Central and Mountain time zones). When KOVR was an ABC affiliate, the station had an 11 p.m. newscast like most stations on the coastal time zones. Upon the network switch, the station followed the then-practice of now-sister station KPIX in having an hour-long primetime newscast at 10 p.m. (KPIX later moved its late evening newscast back to the 11 p.m. slot in 1998). In recent ratings periods, KOVR has battled Fox affiliate KTXL (channel 40) for the lead among the newscasts in the 10 p.m. timeslot, with KOVR leading in total households and KTXL leading in the key demographics.
In 2001, KOVR gained attention when it landed a "local exclusive" interview with Congressman Gary Condit regarding the Chandra Levy murder case (Condit appeared the same evening on ABC, in an interview with Connie Chung). The station televised an interview on August 30 in which Condit claimed that he did not kill Levy after a visit with the slain intern. Despite numerous KOVR reports filed by reporter Gloria Gomez, the Condit interview was granted to another KOVR reporter, Jodi Hernandez. Much of the national interest in the case was lost days later, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
In December 2004, Sinclair sold KOVR to Viacom Television Stations Group (now part of CBS Corporation as CBS Television Stations), creating the third duopoly in the Sacramento market with KMAX-TV (channel 31, then a UPN owned-and-operated station, now a CW O&O) and CBS' third television duopoly in California (after KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles; and KPIX and KBCW in San Francisco). Viacom was forced to sell KFRC radio in San Francisco as a condition of the sale, as the station's city-grade signal reaches Sacramento; the purchase was finalized on April 29, 2005. The station then changed its on-air branding from "KOVR 13" to "CBS 13".
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|13.1||1080i||16:9||KOVR-DT||Main KOVR programming / CBS|
KOVR shut down its analog signal, over VHF, 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 25, using PSIP to display KOVR's virtual channel as 13 on digital television receivers.
On October 21, 2014, CBS and Weigel Broadcasting announced the launch of a new digital subchannel service called Decades, scheduled to launch on all CBS-owned stations in 2015, including on KOVR on channel 13.2. The channel will be co-owned by CBS and Weigel (owner of CBS affiliate WDJT-TV in Milwaukee), with Weigel being responsible for distribution to non-CBS-owned stations. It will air programs from the extensive library of CBS Television Distribution, including archival footage from CBS News.
KOVR is the only CBS station in the Pacific Time Zone that runs its primetime lineup out of pattern from the network's recommended scheduling (MyNetworkTV affiliate KQCA, channel 58, similarly began carrying that service's schedule one hour behind from 7 to 9 p.m. on September 5, 2006; KQCA has since moved MyNetworkTV programming back to the 8 to 10 p.m. timeslot). After CBS purchased channel 13, some, including station management, had speculated that KOVR would move the CBS primetime lineup back to its standard 8–11 p.m. slot and add Guiding Light to the schedule, as well as drop Jerry Springer. It was assumed that as an O&O, KOVR would have to carry Guiding Light (most network-owned stations run the entire network programming schedule, with exceptions only for breaking news coverage or special programming). However, on May 3, 2005, CBS announced that it would make no immediate programming changes, including any addition of Guiding Light (which remained off the station through its final episode in September 2009).
On August 11, 2005, CBS announced that KOVR's 7–10 p.m. scheduling of the primetime lineup, the 10 p.m. newscast and the 11 p.m. airing of the Late Show with David Letterman would remain in place due to the success of the early prime schedule. At that point, it also stated that Guiding Light would not join the KOVR schedule; it is believed that this was based on the logic that a show that had not been available in the market for over 14 years would not receive good ratings, and that there were few requests to run the program. On July 31, 2006, KOVR received approval from CBS to move the weekend primetime lineup back an hour in order to maintain an hour-long 10 p.m. newscast seven days a week, to take effect August 27. The Late Late Show (which had been airing at 1 a.m.) was also pushed one hour earlier, while Jerry Springer (which aired at 3 p.m. until September 8, 2006) was bumped to a later timeslot before moving to KMAX-TV in September 2006 (the program moved to KQCA one year later). KOVR began clearing the entire CBS network schedule in September 2009, after Guiding Light ended and was temporarily replaced by a secondary run of The Price Is Right; Let's Make a Deal began airing the following month at 9 a.m. (outside of the show's more common 2 p.m. slot for stations in the Pacific Time Zone).
KOVR presently broadcasts 30½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and 1½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). KOVR debuted its noon newscast in 1965 as a 15-minute broadcast, which was followed by People, Places & Things at 12:15 p.m. In the 1980s, KOVR aired the ABC soap opera All My Children at 11 a.m. (on a day-behind tape delay) in order to free the noon slot for the newscast.
While under Sinclair ownership, KOVR had worked with a small to medium-sized news staff, unusual considering Sacramento's dramatic growth during the 1980s had made it a top-20 market. It was one of several Sinclair-owned stations that did not participate in Sinclair's controversial News Central hybrid news format; this centralized operation incorporated national news segments, local weather forecast segments, and some sports coverage based out of studios at Sinclair's corporate headquarters on Beaver Dam Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland that was supplemented by local content at most of Sinclair's in-house news departments. After CBS purchased KOVR, both it and KMAX-TV's news departments were consolidated at KOVR's West Sacramento facility. On-air staff from both stations periodically appear on their respective newscasts.
Most of KOVR's on-air staffers that were with the station under Sinclair ownership have either been fired or have resigned. Dismissals of former lead anchors Paul Joncich and Jennifer Whitney were sudden and unannounced whereas Marcy Valenzuela and Jennifer Krier were allowed to say farewell to viewers on air. Remaining on-air staff include chief meteorologist Dave Bender and investigative reporter Kurtis Ming. On February 1, 2006, Pallas Hupé and former KCRA anchor Sam Shane became the station's new main anchor team; the evening newscast also instituted a three-anchor format, which began with Shane and (current co-anchor) Shannon Brinias anchoring the day's major news stories, deferring to anchor/reporter Christina Anderson for national and international headlines. The unique three-anchor setup remained during the weekend 10 p.m. newscasts with rotating anchors. KOVR has been without a sports department since the departure of John Henk in the late 1990s. In July 2006, KOVR debuted an hour-long 4 p.m. newscast on weekdays.
In October 2008, KOVR began broadcasting its local newscasts in high-definition. Only the in-studio segments are presented in HD; however, for over a year-and-a-half after KTXL upgraded its newscasts to HD, KOVR was the only station in the Sacramento market that still presented its remote field reports in pillarboxed 4:3 standard-definition. Atypical for a duopoly, sister station KMAX-TV did not upgrade its newscasts to HD until summer 2009. KOVR has since begun using HD cameras for its field reports; however, much of the field footage is still downconverted to 16:9 widescreen standard definition in the control room. The station's 10 p.m. newscast won a 2010 Emmy Award for "Best Evening Newscast" and was the #1 rated late newscast in Sacramento during the May 2010 ratings period.
KOVR also produces two newscasts for sister station KMAX, which air weekdays at 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. In addition, KOVR provides news updates during KMAX's morning news program Good Day. The weekend afternoon, evening, and late newscasts are translated into Spanish via the station's SAP feed.
CBS13.com Rush Limbaugh controversy
In May 2007, KOVR revamped its morning news program with an emphasis on its website. The 5-6 a.m. hour of the newscast, titled CBS13.com, centered around viewer feedback through the web, viral videos and news found on the Internet. On May 7, 2007, the program reported on a song that conservative radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh played heavily on his nationally syndicated program called "Barack the Magic Negro" (to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon") that spoofed the then-upcoming election of Barack Obama. The song was a satire of an article called "Magic Negro Returns" that had appeared in the Los Angeles Times claiming that Mr. Obama was – in many people's minds – fulfilling a Hollywood film archetype the author called the "Magic Negro", who has only positive attributes and exists to improve the lives of the main protagonists, who are white.
The program ran an online poll asking people whether they thought the song was racist. Limbaugh blasted KOVR, claiming it was a part of the "liberal media" and called the anchor team of Chris Burrous, Lisa Gonzales and weather anchor Jeff James . Throughout that day's newscasts, KOVR covered Limbaugh's remarks against the station, adding with a disclaimer after every story that KOVR and admitting that the station found the song on YouTube.
Notable current on-air staff
- Christina Anderson – anchor; also national and world reporter
- Kinsey Schofield – anchor and reporter (2017–present)
Notable former on-air staff
- Stan Atkinson – anchor (1994–1999; previously with KCRA-TV, now retired running local ads)
- Claudia Cowan – anchor/reporter (later moved to KRON-TV in San Francisco, now reporter for Fox News)
- Jonathan Elias – investigative reporter (1991–1993, now anchor/reporter at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.)
- Kristine Hanson – meteorologist (2004–2005; now freelancing at KGO-TV in San Francisco and KTXL-TV in Sacramento; returned to KOVR in 2016 as a morning anchor)
- Lois Hart – anchor (later at KCRA-TV, now retired)
- Bob Hilton – anchor
- Tom Loffman – meteorologist KCRA-TV in Sacramento (1978–1987), KOVR-TV (1987–1999), then KMAX-TV all in Sacramento, now co-owner of Loffman Realty and Property Management in Rocklin, CA)
- Cristina Mendonsa (now evening anchor at KXTV)
- Steve Somers (now at sports radio station WFAN in New York City)
- Jim Wieder – reporter/anchor (1989–2005; retired from anchoring in 2006)
Out-of-market cable coverage
KOVR is available on cable in the northern parts of the Bay Area, mostly in Solano County. KOVR can also be seen in most of the Chico area.