KVOA is a full-service NBC-affiliated television station serving Tucson, Arizona. It broadcasts in digital on UHF channel 23 from its transmitter on Mount Bigelow, northeast of Tucson, and its studio operations are located on West Elm Street north of downtown. Per FCC regulations, the station identifies itself on television tuners as channel 4 through PSIP. KVOA has a low-power digital translator in Casas Adobes and analog translators in Duncan/Safford and Sierra Vista. The primary station and the Casas Adobes and Sierra Vista translators are owned by Cordillera Communications, a subsidiary of the Evening Post Industries of Charleston, South Carolina.
In September 1953, KVOA signed on as Tucson's second television station and NBC affiliate, eight months after KOLD-TV signed on as the CBS affiliate. Although KVOA was an NBC affiliate, it carried a secondary affiliation with ABC until 1956 when KDWI-TV (now KGUN) began operations. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
It was originally owned by Chicago advertising executive John Louis, Sr., along with KVOA-AM 1290 (now KCUB). It was a sister station to KTAR in Phoenix. In October 1953, KVOA brought Tucson its first-ever live television event: a World Series broadcast. The Louis broadcasting empire eventually became known as Pacific & Southern Broadcasting, headquartered in Phoenix; however, Louis did not keep KVOA for long. In 1955, Louis sold the KVOA stations to Clinton D. McKinnon, who would later acquire KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico and combine the two television stations to form Alvarado Television. In 1962, the Alvarado stations were sold to Steinman Stations, the owner of WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
In 1968, the Steinmans sold a controlling stake in KVOA-TV to Pulitzer Publishing, making it Pulitzer's first (partial) television station acquisition outside of its home base in St. Louis, Missouri; KOAT went to Pulitzer fully a year later. In 1972, Pulitzer was forced to spin off its share of KVOA to an employee group called Channel 4-TV after it purchased the Arizona Daily Star the year before due to the tightening of the Federal Communications Commission's cross-ownership rules. Channel 4-TV also acquired Steinman's stake in KVOA around the same time.
Also in 1968, KVOA became the de facto Tucson home of the infamous Heidi Game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, so called because of an NBC decision to break away from its coverage of the game to broadcast the television film Heidi, costing many Tucson viewers an opportunity to see the Raiders' comeback (since most of KVOA's live programming came from the NBC East Coast feed at the time).
The station was acquired by the Hobby family of Houston, publishers of the Houston Post, in 1982. When the Post was sold a year later, the Hobby family reorganized its broadcasting interests as H&C Communications. H&C sold off its television stations in 1993, with KVOA going to the Evening Post Publishing Company.
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On June 15, 2000, KVOA was issued a construction permit to build digital station KVOA-DT on UHF channel 23. There were delays in building the new station, and on June 18, 2003, KVOA was granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) to operate the digital station at reduced power. The STA has been extended several times, and as of September 2006, KVOA-DT continues to operate under STA at reduced power.
In October 2006, KVOA requested companion digital LPTV channels for its Sierra Vista translator, K20FO, and Casas Adobes translator, K64BV. The FCC granted a construction permits for the Sierra Vista companion channel, K10QA-D, and the Casa Adobes companion channel, K04QP-D, on December 26, 2007.
KVOA's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009. The same day, KVOA ended analog broadcasts on its channel 64 Casas Adobes translator, began digital operations on K04QP-D, and applied for a license to cover, which was granted June 16.
Long known as Tucson's NBC affiliate, KVOA currently clears that network's entire lineup. Syndicated programming on KVOA includes: Inside Edition, The Insider, The Dr. Oz Show, Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil.
KVOA began airing NBC's long-running Tonight Show sometime in 1960 or 1961; for the remainder of Jack Paar's tenure on the show and for the first few years of Johnny Carson's tenure on the show, KVOA only joined the show's East Coast feed for 45 minutes, thus, for the latter, the station did not air his monologue and pre-interview sketches until the station expanded its late-night newscast to 30 minutes during the 1970-71 season and established a satellite link with NBC's Phoenix affiliate KTAR-TV (now KPNX). KVOA appeared to have shown The Tonight Show in its entirety by 1975 and is still doing so today.
During the 2009 Super Bowl, Comcast's standard-definition transmission of the station was interrupted for approximately 20 seconds replacing KVOA's broadcast of the game with soft-core porn, affecting Comcast's analog subscribers in portions of the Tucson area; it allowed KVOA to join Chicago stations WGN-TV and WTTW and the cable channel HBO (all of which had similar incidents) as victims of broadcast signal intervention. (WGN's former superstation feed was and remains available on much of Tucson's cable systems; as such, WGN was Tucson's de facto WB affiliate until KWBA signed on in 1999) The substitution appears to have been made at Comcast, not at KVOA, leaving KVOA's over-the-air, satellite and other cable providers viewers unaffected. Also, Comcast's high-definition transmission of KVOA was not affected.
In May 2011, KVOA announced that it would delay the showing of an upcoming episode of Law & Order: LA based on the mass shootings which occurred in Tucson earlier that year with a late-night airing, due to concerns that its content would be too sensitive. To date, it has been the station's last known pre-emption of any NBC program for any reason other than for breaking news or severe weather coverage.
KVOA formerly operated Southern Arizona News Network, a 24-hour cable news television network that was exclusive to local Cox Cable subscribers, that premiered on June 7, 2007 and ended broadcasting on March 31, 2010.
Since the early 1970s, KVOA had used the Eyewitness News moniker, and later used the slogan "Where The News Comes First". These newscasts first used a variation of Lalo Schifrin's "Tar Sequence" from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, and then later used the various News Series themes composed by Frank Gari. These themes were all usually associated with local newscasts on ABC stations, not those of KVOA's affiliated network of NBC, which was more than satisfied with KVOA's news ratings; those in particular had made it one of NBC's strongest affiliates in the Southwest. Just as NBC became the nation's overall leader during the 1980s and 1990s, KVOA also was the market's news leader: by 1995, Channel 4 had led the Tucson news ratings for 21 straight years, half of its history – but only after Jon F. Ruby became the station's general manager in 1974 and initiated a major expansion of news. In 1995, KVOA's $750,000 satellite truck was the market's only microwave-based live news vehicle; Eyewitness News equaled or beat KGUN and KOLD combined in all time slots; was first with stereo, closed captioning, and microwave electronic news gathering; and had the largest television news staff in the market (second in size only to the Arizona Daily Star). However in February 2006 the name shortened to News 4, with the new slogan "Coverage You Can Count On". In November 2007, KVOA changed its slogan to "Balanced News You Can Count On", and also began using normal NBC station themes.
On April 22, 2007, KVOA became the first station in Tucson to broadcast its local newscasts in high definition, starting with the 10 p.m. newscast; among the changes included a new set andupdated graphics. KVOA is the first station in Tucson to offer news in high definition and the second in Arizona (following KPNX in Phoenix). Sister station WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky is also currently broadcasting its local newscasts in HD.
Notable current on-air staff
- Sean Mooney – anchor
Notable former on-air staff
- Christine Devine, Now at KTTV FOX 11 Los Angeles
- Savannah Guthrie, current co-anchor of The Today Show
- Mary Kim Titla, ran for Congress in 2008; publishes Native Youth Magazine
- Lou Waters, joined CNN when launched in 1980