CBS wanted its own station in St. Louis to run alongside its powerhouse radio station, KMOX (1120 AM). It originally won a construction permit for channel 11 -- the last remaining commercial VHF license in St. Louis -- in 1955. However, CBS decided two years later instead to buy KWK-TV, and transferred the channel 11 license to St. Louis hotelier Harold Koplar in a money-less transaction. Almost immediately, the deal was held up after the St. Louis Amusement Company, one of the applicants for channel 11, protested to the United States Court of Appeals in January 1958. The appeal was dropped in November 1958. CBS officially took control of channel 4 later that month, and changed its calls to KMOX-TV after its radio sister. The following April, channel 11 signed on as independent station (and now CW affiliate) KPLR-TV.
By 1986, CBS was experiencing rough financial straits, an after-effect of successfully fending off a hostile takeover attempt by Ted Turner the previous year. CBS spent the latter portion of 1985 repurchasing a large portion of its stock to help block the Turner takeover. Once Turner sold its stock, CBS was saddled with significant debt and needed to raise cash. The company made the decision to sell KMOX-TV, its smallest owned-and-operated television station at the time, and on May 16, 1986, former CBS subsidiary Viacom purchased the station and renamed it KMOV.
As part of a sale of Viacom's non-UPN affiliated stations, Belo acquired KMOV in a three-way deal also involving two television stations in Seattle. As part of the transaction, Belo sold KIRO-TV in Seattle to Cox Enterprises, who subsequently sold its existing Seattle station, KSTW, to Viacom. The deal was consummated on June 1, 1997.
As a CBS owned-and-operated station, channel 4 cleared the entire network schedule. When Viacom took over in 1986, this changed rather drastically. KMOV began signing off the air at night, thus pre-empting the overnight news program CBS News Nightwatch. A barrage of scattered primetime pre-emptions later followed that was so rampant, the station earned a mention in Ken Auletta's 1991 book, Three Blind Mice. KMOV randomly replaced CBS prime-time shows with programming such as Billy Graham Crusades and National Geographic specials, syndicated movie packages, and occasional sporting events. According to Auletta, KMOV pre-empted 103 hours of CBS prime-time programming in 1987, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the network prime-time schedule. In the 1990s, the prime-time pre-emptions eased, and currently, the station only occasionally pre-empts a CBS prime-time program. The station also resumed a 24-hour broadcast schedule in the early-1990s.
In February 2002, KMOV and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch launched the weekly news discussion program Extra Edition; hosted by weekday morning news anchor Marc Cox. In 2003, KMOV began producing and airing At the Zoo, a program that gives behind-the-scenes look at the St. Louis Zoo, hosted by KMOV chief meteorologist Kent Ehrhardt.
In September 2008, KMOV premiered Great Day St. Louis, a one-hour daytime show, mostly focusing on entertainment and lifestyle topics in the St. Louis area. The show is hosted by Stephanie Simmons and Carol Daniel.
Channel 4 was a strong contender in the St. Louis news ratings for most of the time from the late-1960s to the early-1980s. From the early-1980s until recently, KMOX / KMOV has been a solid runner-up to KSDK. Although KMOV's newscasts won much critical acclaim, they were rarely rewarded with a ratings win. The 10 p.m. newscast regularly won at least a 20% share in viewership, while KSDK averaged about 30% share.
Since 2004, KMOV has seen significant growth in viewership. The station initially beat out KSDK at 10 p.m. in November, 2004. KMOV won at 10 p.m. again in May 2006. In November, 2006, KMOV's 10 p.m. newscast not only beat out KSDK's, but also became the most-watched late newscast in the country. Most of the 10pm growth can be attributed to CBS' primetime ratings increases and NBC's large drop in viewership. However, KMOV has also seen growth in all of its other newscasts, at times where the station does not benefit from a strong CBS lead-in.
Many KMOV personalities have moved on to jobs in the national spotlight (both Richelle Carey and meteorologist Reynolds Wolf moved to CNN in 2006). While this would initially seem like a positive, the "revolving door" and the unfamiliarity many of the station's personalities have in the market has been one of KMOV's weaknesses. Three of the station's four main anchors (Russell Kinsaul, Vickie Newton, and one anchor opening; Donna Savarese left the station in 2007) have been with the station for fewer than five years, three of the stations four main meteorologists (Matt Chambers, Steve Templeton, and Kristen Cornett) have been with the station fewer than three years. Though this may have initially caused some hiccups for KMOV, the ratings now seem to be increasing. Since the departure of Karen Foss from KSDK in December, 2006, Larry Conners assumed the mantle of longest-serving 10 p.m. news anchor in the market.
On January 27, 2008 at 5:30 p.m., KMOV became the second station in St. Louis to broadcast in 1080i High Definition behind KSDK which has been in HD since 2006. With the switch to HD came a new set by FX Group and new graphics which is a red and blue version of the graphics used on sister Belo Stations KING-TV, KREM-TV, WCNC-TV, KGW-TV, and Northwest Cable News. Although the station has made advances in the HD signal, Belo Corp. has yet to form an agreement with Charter Communications to broadcast KMOV's HD programming on Charter, which accounts for more than half of the viewership in St. Louis.
In 1976, it was the second station to adopt the "Channel 2 News" theme that eventually became the de facto official theme music for CBS' O&Os. It dropped the tune in 1986 after Viacom took control, but it later used another "Channel 2 News"-derived tune, The CBS Enforcer Music Collection from 2001 to 2008. Ironically, for a time in the late 1980s, it used News Series 2000--a tune traditionally associated with ABC stations--as its theme song.
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