KSWO-TV, virtual channel 7 (VHF digital channel 11), is an ABC-affiliated television station located in Lawton, Oklahoma, United States and also serves Wichita Falls, Texas. Owned by Raycom Media, KSWO also operates CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV (channel 6) through a shared services agreement with American Spirit Media. The station's studios are located on 60th Street in Southeast Lawton, and its transmitter is located near Grandfield, Oklahoma.
The station first signed on the air on March 8, 1953, and was founded by Ransom H. Drewry, who started his broadcasting company (which eventually became Drewry Communications) in 1941, when he signed on Lawton radio station KSWO-AM (1380, now KKRX); six years later in 1947, Drewry signed on his second radio station, KRHD – the call letters of which were named after his initials – in Duncan (the KRHD callsign is now used by its ABC-affiliated sister station in Bryan-College Station, Texas). Drewry co-founded KSWO-TV with a group that included J.R. Montgomery, T.R. Warkentin, Robert P. Scott and G.G. Downing.
The station's first transmitter was located at its studios, located east of Lawton, which was a relatively low-power unit that transmitted over a limited 55-mile radius spanning to Altus to the west, Wichita Falls to the south, Anadarko to the north and Ringling to the east. By the late 1950s, other nearby ABC affiliates (such as KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City and KTEN in Ada, Oklahoma) began encroaching the northern and eastern fringes on KSWO's viewing area, but wide gaps in signal coverage existed to the south and west of Wichita Falls – the only primary ABC stations in north and west Texas at the time were Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV, and Amarillo affiliate KVII-TV (Lubbock and Abilene did not get their own primary ABC affiliates until KAMC affiliated with the network in 1969 and KTXS-TV switched to ABC from CBS in 1979, respectively).
In 1959, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave permission for Drewry to construct a 1,000-foot-tall (300 m) tower for KSWO-TV, broadcasting at 316,000 watts of power (the maximum power allowable for stations broadcasting on VHF channels 7-13) near Grandfield, Oklahoma; Wichitex Radio and Television and Sydney Grayson – the respective owners of NBC affiliate KFDX-TV (channel 3) and CBS affiliate KSYD-TV (channel 6, now KAUZ-TV) in Wichita Falls – opposed the application, resulting in Drewry having to convince the FCC that the construction permit needed to approved. The new site was located about halfway between Wichita Falls and Lawton, and from a Lawton perspective in the same direction as the Wichita Falls stations. The transmitter facility was activated on February 28, 1960, expanded channel 7's signal to encompass a much larger area of northwestern Texas and southwestern Oklahoma – bringing stronger reception of ABC network programming to additional areas of the two states for the first time. Many years later, when KJTL (channel 18) signed on as an independent station in May 1985, it chose to build its transmitter facility near KSWO-TV's transmitter in Grandfield (ironically, KJTL is now operated by KFDX-TV, which continues maintain its own transmitter from the original site in Wichita Falls, as is the case with KAUZ-TV).
Over the years, the Drewry family gradually expanded their broadcasting group by acquiring other stations in the northern half of Texas: KFDA-TV in Amarillo (acquired in 1976 through Amarillo Telecasters, a partnership between R.H. Drewry and Ray Herndon, majority owner of KMID-TV in Midland); KXXV-TV in Waco (acquired in 1994); KWES-TV in Midland, Texas and Big Spring satellite KWAB-TV (both acquired in 1991); K60EE (now KTLE-LP) in Odessa (acquired in 2001); KSCM-LP in Bryan (acquired in 2006) and KEYU in Amarillo (acquired in 2009).
From 1967 to 1970 and again since 1977, KSWO-TV has used some form of the Circle 7 logo used by many ABC owned-and-operated and affiliated stations that broadcast on channel 7. It is the longest-continuously used logo among the television stations in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market, having been used continuously since 1979 – although the version first used in its second tenure of use for two years prior was similar in resemblance that used in the 1980s and 1990s by CBS affiliate KOSA-TV in Odessa. The station switched back to the proprietary version of the "Circle 7" initially designed by G. Dean Smith for ABC's owned-and-operated stations in 1979, as part of a reimaging that included the introduction of a new set as well as the Action 7 News brand for its newscasts, which would last for more than 15 years until the current 7 News branding and "Newsplex" format was implemented in 1996. The current incarnation of the logo (introduced in 2005), which uses a red background instead of the blue standard for the proprietary ABC version of the logo, is similar in resemblance to the version used by Sunbeam Television stations WHDH in Boston and WSVN in Miami, both of which also integrate their newsdesk within their newsrooms (KSWO's own newsroom/studio set is loosely based on those used by the two stations).
In late May 1996, KSWO broadcast its early morning newscast Good Morning Texoma with limited backup electricity, performing the newscast virtually in the dark due to electrical outages affecting the Lawton area following a severe thunderstorm that rolled through southern Oklahoma the previous night that produced damaging straight-line winds. The only power available to the studio came from a portable generator located in one of the station's live trucks, which also served as a makeshift studio-transmitter link to relay the signal to the transmitter. The broadcast was done with one camera, one tape deck and one microphone (which was passed between the anchors).
On July 1, 2008, Drewry Communications Group announced its intention to sell its eleven television stations (as well as radio station KTXC in Lamesa, Texas) to Dallas-based London Broadcasting Company – a company founded by Terry E. London the previous year to acquire broadcast properties in small to mid-sized markets within Texas, which had purchased CBS affiliate KYTX in Tyler in February 2008 – for $115 million. While the deal received approval by the FCC, London Broadcasting filed a notice of non-consummation to the FCC in January 2009, terminating the deal due to market uncertainties resulting from the Great Recession.
JSA with KAUZ-TV
On July 31, 2009, Drewry Communications entered into a joint sales and shared services agreement with Hoak Media, owners of KAUZ-TV. The agreement, which took effect on August 3, allowed KSWO-TV to provide advertising and promotional services for KAUZ, while Hoak would retain responsibilities over channel 6's programming, master control and production services.
Unlike the SSA formed in 2002 between KFDX-TV and Fox affiliate KJTL when the latter was purchased by Nexstar Broadcasting Group partner company Mission Broadcasting, the two stations did not merge their operations; both retained separate studio facilities, with KSWO staying in Lawton and KAUZ remaining at its Wichita Falls studio on Seymour Highway (more than a one-hour drive from one another). However, KAUZ-TV laid off four staffers – general manager Mike deLier, news director Dan Garcia, sales manager Randy Stone and news photographer Jim Allen – with those positions being assumed by existing KSWO-TV staff.
Sale to Raycom Media
On August 10, 2015, Raycom Media announced that it would purchase Drewry Communications Group's eight television stations for $160 million; as part of the deal, American Spirit Media would purchase KAUZ-TV from Hoak Media. While KSWO and KAUZ would remain jointly operated, the existing joint sales agreement between KSWO and KAUZ would be terminated upon the sale's closure due to FCC rules prohibiting such agreements by counting the sale of 15% or more of advertising time by one station to a competing junior partner station in the JSA as a duopoly in violation with the agency's ownership rules (the Wichita Falls-Lawton market has only four full-power television stations, four fewer than that allowed to legally form a duopoly). The sale was completed on December 1.
Upon the JSA's termination, Raycom entered into a shared services agreement with KAUZ, under which KSWO would handle news production, administrative and production operations, and provide equipment and building space for that station. Through its ownership by Drewry, KSWO-TV had been one of the few television stations in the country not owned by a major network that has had the same callsign, owner and primary network affiliation throughout its history; it was also the only remaining major television station in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market to be locally owned.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|7.1||720p||16:9||KSWO-DT||Main KSWO-TV programming / ABC|
KSWO-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 7, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station cited the need to place its digital antenna where the analog transmitter was located. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 11. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 7.
KSWO-TV carries the entire ABC network schedule, however the station carries the network's political/news discussion program This Week on a half-hour delay on Sunday mornings (at 9:30 a.m.), due to its broadcast of the hour-long religious program In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. In addition, syndicated programs broadcast on KSWO include Live! with Kelly and Michael, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Castle, The Doctors, Extra and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
KSWO-TV has broadcast the annual West Texas Rehabilitation Center telethon from Abilene each year since 1971. The telethon airs on a Saturday night each January on television stations serving various markets in northern, western and central Texas.
KSWO-TV presently broadcasts 22 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with four hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output among the Wichita Falls-Lawton market's broadcast television stations, tied with NBC affiliate KFDX and beating CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV's weekly news total by a half-hour.
Among the Wichita Falls-Lawton market's local newscasts, KSWO has a ratings stronghold on the Oklahoma side of the market, while KAUZ and KFDX primarily compete for the audience on the Texas side.
KSWO pioneered new developments to the local area in weather forecasting throughout its history, particularly with severe weather coverage across its nearly 30-county viewing area in Southwest Oklahoma and North Texas. Channel 7 was first with its own on-site weather radar (which was displayed in black and white) in the late 1950s or early 1960s, introduced the market's first color radar in 1976 (called "Accu-scan 7") and introduced the area's first Doppler weather radar in 1984 more than 10 years ahead of arch-rivals KFDX and KAUZ.
KSWO-TV has several longtime veterans who have been with the station for 20 years or longer. Jan Stratton has served as anchor continuously since 1981 and was news director until July 2006, while co-anchor and current news director, David Bradley has been with the station since 1986 first as sports director/anchor for 13 years and then as news anchor since 1999. Tom Charles, a familiar face to Channel 7 viewers since the early 1960s, officially retired from KSWO-TV after 45 years of service on December 31, 2010. He served as chief weathercaster/meteorologist from 1964 to 1996 and then as anchor of the 5:30 a.m. newscast and Good Morning Texoma co-anchor from 2000 to 2010 following a four-year stint as chief meteorologist at CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas. Larry Patton has served as general manager of KSWO-TV since 1976 and has been employed by the station since 1967. In June 2011, KSWO began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, becoming the first station in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market to make the upgrade.
For the May 2009 ratings period, according to Nielsen Media Research, KSWO's newscasts ranked in first place on weekdays for the morning show, as well as at 6 and 10 p.m. However, the station has showed a slight drop in ratings ever since acquisition of newsroom assets of Wichita Falls station, KAUZ. Drewry management decided to purchase only newsroom assets in fall of 2009 and moved longtime station manager, Mike Taylor, to general manager at KAUZ. Ironically, Nexstar Broadcasting Group-owned KFDX, the other news station in the Lawton-Wichita Falls market, has showed improvement in ratings rather than an increase either for KAUZ or KSWO.