KUSA, virtual and VHF digital channel 9, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Denver, Colorado, United States. The station is owned by Tegna, Inc., as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate KTVD (channel 20, which rebroadcasts KUSA's signal on UHF digital channel 19.5 using virtual channel 9.4). The two stations share studio facilities located on East Speer Boulevard in Denver's Speer neighborhood (southeast of the studios of ABC affiliate KMGH-TV (channel 7) and the studios shared by Fox affiliate KDVR (channel 31) and CW affiliate KWGN-TV (channel 2)); KUSA maintains transmitter facilities atop Lookout Mountain, near Golden.

On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity in standard definition on channel 9, and in high definition on digital channel 653.[36] It is also carried on CenturyLink Prism channels 9 and 1009.[37] KUSA is also carried by Carnival Cruise Lines through the in-room entertainment system available on ships touring the Caribbean and South Pacific.

History

Early years

The station first signed on the air on October 12, 1952 as KBTV; it was the second television station to sign on in the Denver market—after KFEL-TV (channel 2, now KWGN-TV), which signed on just over three months earlier on July 18. Founded by Mullins Broadcasting, the station initially served as a primary affiliate of CBS, but also carried programs from ABC and NBC through secondary affiliations with both networks. It originally operated from studio facilities located in a converted former car dealership at 1089 Bannock Street in Denver's Civic Center neighborhood. Channel 9 gained an affiliation with the DuMont Television Network in 1953, but lost CBS programming to KLZ-TV (channel 7, now KMGH-TV) when that station signed on in November 1953; this was followed by the loss of the NBC affiliation to KOA-TV (channel 4, now KCNC-TV) when it signed on in December of that year (both KLZ-TV and KOA-TV inherited the affiliations as a result of their sister radio stations' respective longtime affiliations with the CBS Radio Network and the NBC Red Network). This left KBTV as a primary DuMont and secondary ABC affiliate.

[[File:KUSA "9" logo.svg|120px|left|thumb|KUSA's current numerical logo, used since 1984 (contrary to this picture, the "9" is seldom seen by itself). A variant featuring the KUSA callsign (with a negative space star between the "K" and "U") served as the station's primary logo until it was phased out following the 1995 switch to NBC. Similar logos have been used by other stations such as WSOC, KWTV and KGUN. The station struggled in the ratings for several years, in part because ABC's overall ratings were not on par with the other major networks until the 1970s. The station lost the DuMont affiliation when the network shut down on August 6, 1956, which left the station as an exclusive ABC affiliate. In 1969, the station gained some national attention for refusing to air the ABC sketch comedy series Turn-On as the network's affiliates east of the Rocky Mountains voiced displeasure about the program's risqué content during the airing of the pilot episode, with some pulling the program off the air during its broadcast, leading to its cancellation by the network after just one episode.

In 1972, Mullins Broadcasting sold KBTV and sister station KARK-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas to the Combined Communications Corporation, owned jointly by Phoenix advertising mogul Karl Eller and Chicago advertiser John J. Louis, Sr., which already owned its flagship advertising business and stations KTAR-AM and KTAR-TV (the latter station is now KPNX-TV).[2] Combined's station properties would eventually be merged into the Gannett Company seven years later in May 1978, in what was the largest media merger in United States history at the time.[4][6]

In order to align itself with Gannett's new newspaper entity USA Today, the station changed its call letters to KUSA-TV on March 19, 1984 (MinneapolisSt. Paul sister station WTCN underwent a similar rebranding in 1985, when it changed its call letters to WUSA; however after Gannett purchased Washington, D.C. station WDVM-TV in 1986, it moved the WUSA call letters to its newly acquired station; the Minneapolis station that originally held the WUSA calls was renamed KARE-TV). Like many Gannett stations, KUSA dropped the "-TV" suffix ten days after the official digital television transition date of June 12, 2009, although KUSA had made the transition to digital-exclusive broadcasts nearly two months earlier. In April 1992, the station moved its operations into a new state-of-the-art facility at 500 Speer Boulevard (the original studio location was subsequently occupied by PBS member station KRMA-TV (channel 6)). The KBTV call letters are now at Beaumont, Texas' Fox-affiliated TV station.

Switch to NBC

In July 1994, CBS and Westinghouse Broadcasting (Group W) agreed to a long-term affiliation deal that saw longtime ABC affiliate WJZ-TV in Baltimore and longtime NBC affiliates KYW-TV in Philadelphia and WBZ-TV in Boston become CBS affiliates. Westinghouse's other two stations, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and KPIX-TV in San Francisco, were already longtime CBS affiliates. That November, NBC traded KCNC-TV, which was the network's owned-and-operated station at the time, to CBS in return for CBS' former O&O in Philadelphia, WCAU, as a result of a complex ownership deal between the network, Westinghouse and NBC.[20] CBS had originally planned to sell WCAU to NBC as part of its plan to move its affiliation to KYW-TV, but discovered that an outright sale would incur heavy capital gains taxes and proceeds from the deal. To make the transaction a legal trade, the network swapped ownership of KCNC-TV and required in a deal was KUTV in Salt Lake City (which NBC had acquired earlier that year), along with the VHF channel 4 frequency and transmitter in Miami (then home to WTVJ) to CBS in exchange for WCAU and the channel 6 frequency in Miami (then home to WCIX, which subsequently became WFOR-TV).[20]

McGraw-Hill, then-owner of outgoing CBS affiliate KMGH, entered into an affiliation agreement with ABC at the same time. More or less by default, KUSA affiliated with NBC. Gannett then signed a multi-station affiliation agreement with NBC that included KUSA. This resulted in all three of Denver's "Big Three" stations swapping affiliations at 1:00 a.m. on September 10, 1995, which resulted in KUSA switching to NBC, KMGH switching to ABC, and KCNC switching to CBS (Westinghouse purchased CBS in a group deal one month before, making KCNC a CBS owned-and-operated station when the deal was finalized – two months later[21]).

On the day KUSA joined NBC, it took over KCNC's role as the default home station for the Denver Broncos (who are part of the AFC, which NBC held the broadcast rights to then, channel 4 had aired most Broncos games from 1965 until the 1995 season-opening game a week before the switch), but would only hold this role for only three seasons; however, channel 9 did air the Broncos' first Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XXXII in 1998 (it also happened to be the last Broncos game aired on the station for eight years); after this, KCNC, thanks to CBS' acquisition of the AFC broadcast rights, resumed its role as the home station of the team. Since 2006, Broncos games are aired on channel 9 when they are shown on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

In July 1996, Rapid City NBC affiliate KEVN-TV opted to join Fox, leaving the Black Hills region of South Dakota without a full-power NBC affiliate. As a result, most cable providers in that region began piping in KUSA. Channel 9 served as the market's default NBC affiliate until May 14, 2000, when KNBN signed on as the Rapid City market's NBC station. Scenes for the NBC made-for-TV movie Asteroid were shot at the KUSA studios, the producers filmed the fictional news reports seen in the movie out of the station's 1996–2004 news set.

In August 2007, KUSA began the "9NEWS High School Hotshots Program", which awarded one of twelve student athletes from Colorado's high schools nominated for their academic excellence, selected by the school's administration and staff that recorded their high school football games; the program has since extended to cover winter sports at the schools.

Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for KUSA and KTVD, thus taking a big chunk out of the pockets of potential advertisers in the Rocky Mountains. Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations (including KUSA and KTVD) should the skirmish continue beyond October 7 and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement.[5][36] The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.[36]

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. KUSA and KTVD were retained by the latter company, named TEGNA.[36]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[36]
9.11080i16:9KUSA-DTMain KUSA programming / NBC
9.2480i9News NWeatherNation TV
9.3KUSA JNJustice Network

In April 2005, KUSA began carrying NBC Weather Plus on its second digital subchannel (branded as "9NEWS Weather Plus"). On December 31, 2008, following NBC Weather Plus' shutdown, KUSA affiliated the subchannel with The Local AccuWeather Channel; on May 27, 2013, as part of a multi-station deal between Gannett and the network, KUSA 9.2 switched its affiliation to WeatherNation TV. Digital subchannel 9.2 is carried on cable through Comcast digital channel 249 and CenturyLink Prism channel 10.

In late January 2015, KUSA began to broadcast a duplicate 1080i signal of their primary digital subchannel (9.1) on the KTVD (RF 19) transmitter as digital subchannel 9.4, "KUSA-HD". This allows viewers with issues receiving KUSA's VHF signal or with a UHF-only antenna to view KUSA in some form over-the-air.

On August 27, 2017 at noon MDT, KUSA temporarily switched digital subchannel 9.2 from WeatherNation TV to a live feed of a WFAA/KHOU simulcast covering the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey after it flooded the Houston, Texas metro area. This simulcast ended on August 31, 2017 at 6:30pm MDT when the subchannel returned to WeatherNation TV.

Analog-to-digital conversion

KUSA shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9, on April 16, 2009. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 16 to VHF channel 9 for post-transition operations.[36][16][36]

Programming

Syndicated programming seen on KUSA includes The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, T.D. Jakes & repeats of The Doctors in the overnight hours. The station clears the entire NBC schedule, although it airs the fourth hour of Today one hour later than most NBC affiliates at 11:00 a.m., and airs Days of Our Lives at 2:00 p.m. (the secondary slot to NBC's primary recommended 1:00 p.m. timeslot), with syndicated programs airing in the preceding hour (Days aired on KUSA at 3:00 p.m. upon joining NBC in 1995 and continued to air in that slot until the fall of 2003, when it acquired Ellen and moved Days to 1:00 p.m., where it remained until the 2007 cancellation of Passions).[36] It also airs NBC's Heart of a Champion on Wednesday afternoons instead of the show's recommended early Saturday afternoon time slot (most NBC stations air it at 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays).

KUSA produces a weekdaily lifestyle program called Colorado & Company, that features paid segments by local companies and made its debut in September 2004; it airs at 10:00 a.m. following the third hour of Today. Colorado & Company was rebroadcast on KPXC-TV (channel 59) from its debut, until the conclusion of NBC's affiliate partnership and joint ownership of Pax TV in June 2005. KUSA ran the Gannett ID and sounder (often colloquially nicknamed the "Death Star") at the end of the station's weeknight 6:00 p.m. newscasts from 1994 to 2011; in June 2011, KUSA began to show Gannett's new corporate ID tag at the end of all of the station's newscasts, except for the weekday morning programs; as of December 2015, they show Tegna's ID after all of their newscasts.

News operation

KUSA presently broadcasts a total of 36 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and four hours on Sundays); this does not account for newscasts aired on KTVD. KUSA also provides daily weather forecasts for the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper and used to provide local weather updates for six radio stations owned by Entercom: KQMT (99.5 FM), KALC (105.9 FM), K276FK (103.1 FM), KQKS (107.5 FM), KKSE (950 AM) and KEZW (1430 AM); this partnership began on January 1, 2008, and ended in November 2016, after the station's agreement to provide forecasts for KOA (850 AM) radio ended. Weather segments during the station's newscasts are typically presented in the "9 Back Yard", a courtyard outside the Speer Boulevard studios that features a chroma key wall and robotic camera (local weather inserts for The Today Show and updates for 9NEWS Now are done from a chroma key wall inside the weather center).

In addition to its main studios in downtown Denver, KUSA operates a "Northern Newsroom" that based out of the Fort Collins Coloradoan offices in Fort Collins; the bureau employs a rotating staff of reporters and photojournalists out of Denver. The station also operates a "Mountain Newsroom" based in Silverthorne. The station's weather radar is presented on-air as "HD-Doppler 9", a DWSR-10001C radar model supplied by Enterprise Electronics Corporation that is located near Elizabeth and operates at a radiated power of 1 million watts. KUSA brands its websites and sister television properties under the "9NEWS Networks" banner (described by KUSA as its three websites: 9News.com, m.9News.com and HighSchoolSports.net; KTVD (channel 20) and its website; the 9NEWS Now digital subchannel; Metromix; Telemundo owned-and-operated station KDEN-TV (channel 25, whose Spanish-language newscasts are produced by KUSA through a news share agreement) and the "9NEWS Weather Call" weather alert service).

For the better part of the last four decades, KUSA's newscasts (currently titled as 9NEWS) have dominated Denver's local news ratings. In February 1976, Ed Sardella and John Rayburn anchored the weeknight editions of the 10:00 p.m. newscast, helping that program overtake longtime leader KMGH-TV for first place in the ratings; Rayburn was succeeded by Mike Landess in 1977. Landess and Sardella would remain as channel 9's top anchor team until Landess left for KUSA's Atlanta sister station WXIA-TV in late 1993. Adele Arakawa, who had been an anchor at WBBM-TV in Chicago, was hired to succeed Landess. Sardella retired from the anchor desk in 2000, and was succeeded by Jim Benemann, but returned briefly in 2003 to replace Benemann when he left for KCNC-TV.[36] Landess, after anchoring at WTTG in Washington, D.C., returned to Denver at rival KMGH-TV in 2002.

The "KUSA News Package" (created by Third Street Music) was commissioned by KUSA as the theme music for its newscasts in 1995. On October 15, 2008, KUSA debuted a standardized graphics package for the Gannett stations created by the Gannett Graphics Group, along with a standardized music package composed by Rampage Music New York. The closing cut of the previous theme was last used on February 6, 2009, and the remastered talent bumper cut was used until January 10, 2013 (Minneapolis sister station KARE continued to use its own custom theme composed in 1996 by Third Street Music called the "KARE 11 News Theme" until January 25, 2013, when it discontinued it for a new standardized news package by Gari Media Group called "This Is Home"). KUSA formerly rebroadcast its weeknight 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts on KPXC-TV as part of an agreement between NBC and Pax TV to provide news rebroadcasts from the network's stations on Pax's owned-and-operated stations nationally, which ended in June 2005 upon that network's rebrand to I: Independent Television.

In April 2004, KUSA became the first television station in the Denver market, the first Gannett-owned station and the second U.S. television station to begin producing its local newscasts in high definition. On September 5, 2006, KUSA began to produce a daily half-hour primetime newscast at 9:00 p.m. on sister station KTVD, coinciding with that station's affiliation switch from UPN to MyNetworkTV; this expanded on December 5, 2006 to include a two-hour extension of KUSA's weekday morning newscast from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and later to weekend morning newscasts at 6:00 a.m. on KTVD. During the November 2007 sweeps period, KCNC's newscasts surged over KUSA in the 5:00 p.m. timeslot for the first time in over a decade, that station also overtook KUSA in overall sign-on to sign-off numbers (this is partially due to KCNC's shift towards investigative reports and human interest stories, though the strength of CBS' primetime lineup and viewership declines for NBC primetime also played a factor). Overall, KUSA remains the highest-rated local news outlet in the market despite a very close ratings battle between it, KCNC-TV and KMGH-TV.

On March 6, 2009, KUSA began streaming its noon newscast on the station's website, with a live chat room feature included next to the streaming player (the station now streams all newscasts seen on KUSA and KTVD). In June 2010, KUSA expanded its weekday morning newscast to 2½ hours with the addition of a half-hour at 4:30 a.m.; the KUSA-produced 9:00 p.m. newscast on KTVD also expanded to one hour that month. On February 20, 2012, KUSA updated its HD-ready set constructed in 2004 to feature a new backdrop for its daytime newscasts that is a variant of its evening backdrop photograph in a daytime setting. On June 3 of that year, KUSA's newscasts were relocated to a temporary set in "Studio B" for two weeks while their primary news set received updated duratrans.[36]

In January 2016, KUSA announced that they would be constructing a brand new studio to "better cover and explain the news." The new studio and set, which was completed in March, replaced the previous one, which debuted in 2004. Newscasts were relocated to the news room temporarily before moving to another temporary set.[37]

Notable current on-air staff

  • Kim Christiansen - weekdays at 4:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. and weeknights at 10:00 p.m. (KTVD) (KUSA) (1985)
  • Kyle Clark -weeknights at 9:00 p.m.(KTVD); also general assignment and investigative reporter (2007)
  • Amelia Earhart - weekday mornings 4:30-5:00 a.m.; also weekday traffic reporter and fill-in weather anchor (2007-2009; 2010)
  • Corey Rose -weekend mornings 6:00-7:00 a.m.(KTVD) and 7:00-9:00 a.m.; also general assignment reporter (2010)
  • Gary Shapiro - weekday mornings 5:00-7:00 a.m. and 7:00-9:00 a.m. (KTVD) and weekdays at noon (KUSA) (1983)
  • Christine Noël - weekday mornings 5:00-7:00 a.m. and 7:00-9:00 a.m.(KTVD) (Fill-in 4:00 pm) (KUSA) (2016)
Weather team
  • Kathy Sabine (AMS and NWA Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weekdays at 4:00 and weeknights at 5:00, 6:00, 9:00 (KTVD) and 10:00 p.m. (1993)
  • Marty Coniglio (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and NWA Seals of Approval) - meteorologist; weekends at 5:00, 9:00 (KTVD) and 10:00 p.m. (2004)
  • Becky Ditchfield (AMS Seal of Approval) - meteorologist; weekday mornings 4:30-7:00 a.m. 7:00-9:00 a.m. (KTVD) and weekdays at 11:00 a.m. (KTVD) and noon (2007)
  • Belen de Leon - meteorologist; weekend mornings 6:00-7:00 a.m. (KTVD) and 7:00-9:00 a.m. (2012)
  • Corey Reppenhagen - meteorologist; storm chaser (Reports from the "9NEWS Weather Titan" storm chase vehicle. (2017)
Sports team
  • Rod Mackey - sports anchor; weekends at 5:00, 9:00 (KTVD) and 10:00 p.m.; also weeknight sports reporter (2000)
  • Aaron Matas - sports anchor; weeknights at 4:00, 5:00, 10:00 (KUSA) 9:00 p.m. (KTVD) (2011)
  • Taylor Tembee- prep sports anchor/reporter; weekend mornings 6:00-7:00 a.m. (KTVD) 7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m. (KUSA) (2015)
  • Mike Klis - Broncos Reporter (2015)
Reporters
  • Anastasiya Bolton - general assignment and criminal justice reporter (2006)
  • Noel Brennan - general assignment reporter (2013)
  • Nelson Garcia - general assignment and education reporter (2005)
  • Jessica Oh - general assignment reporter (2013)
  • Steve Staeger - general assignment and NEXT reporter (2014)
  • Matt Renoux - Mountain Newsroom reporter (1999)
  • Brandon Rittiman - political reporter (2011)
  • TaRhonda Thomas - general assignment reporter; also morning anchor (2007)
  • Dr. John Torres - medical specialist reporter (2009)
  • Vida Urbonas - general assignment reporter (2013)
  • Chris Vanderveen - investigative reporter (2002)
  • Marshall Zelinger - investigative reporter/reporter on NEXT With Kyle Clark (2017)
9 Wants to Know
  • Kyle Clark - investigative reporter (2007)
  • Jeremy Jojola - investigative reporter (2011)
  • Marshall Zelinger - investigative reporter (2017)

Notable former on-air staff

Reception

In 1986, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSICOP) presented anchor and investigative reporter, Ward Lucas with the Responsibility in Journalism award, "In recognition of contributions to fair and balanced reporting of paranormal claims".[36]

Translators

KUSA operates a large network of translators to relay its signal to portions of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming within and adjacent to the Denver market (all translators on this list are in Colorado unless otherwise listed).

See also