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|Roswell, New Mexico|
|Channels||Digital: 8 (VHF)|
8.2 This TV
|First air date||June 24, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||KOB (main station),
|Former callsigns||KSWS-TV (1953-1985)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
8 (VHF, 1953-2009)
Digital: 38 (UHF)
|Former affiliations||All secondary:
|Transmitter power||40 kW|
KOBR is an NBC-affiliated television station located in Roswell, New Mexico, U.S. Also serving Carlsbad, KOBR operates on VHF channel 8 as a satellite of NBC affiliate KOB in Albuquerque, which is owned by Hubbard Broadcasting. Other satellite stations of KOB include KOBF in Farmington and KOBG-TV in Silver City. These satellite operations provide additional news bureaus for KOB and sell advertising time to local sponsors.
As a separate station
KOBR channel 8 began operations in 1953 as KSWS-TV and was the first television station in southeastern New Mexico. KSWS began broadcasting with a 790-foot (240 m) tower and studios on Comanche Peak east of Roswell. The station's effective radiated visual power was 107 kW, and its height above average terrain was 905 feet (276 m). The station, owned by oil investor and petroleum engineer John A. Barnett, was affiliated with all four networks at the time: NBC, CBS, ABC and DuMont. The station moved to 1717 West 2nd Street in Roswell, which was purpose-built. A bigger 1,610-foot (490 m) tower was erected near Caprock, New Mexico, 43 miles (69 km) east of Roswell, in 1956. At that time, it was the world's tallest structure; the world's tallest tower of that type 50 years later (North Dakota's KVLY-TV mast) was 2,063 feet (629 m) in height. With the new transmitter, the effective radiated power was ramped up to 316 kW, the highest for a full-power VHF analog station; the antenna was 1,786 feet (544 m) above average terrain. The tower fell due to an ice storm in 1960, and a new 875-foot (267 m) tower was constructed. New facilities at Caprock and Comanche Peak were built. A newer tower was built by 1962. (See KOBR-TV Tower.)
KSWS-TV grew out of the earlier history of KSWS radio, which signed on at 1230 kHz with 250 watts day and night in 1947. This station is mentioned in many of the Roswell UFO incident stories as its newsroom was contacted during the events. It is not known if Barnett put KSWS radio on the air from scratch or whether he bought it prior to putting Channel 8 on the air. It is known that Paul M. McEvoy put KPBM (AM) on air in Carlsbad, NM and once owned 1230 KSWS. It is possible that Barnett came into the picture to provide the large amounts of capital needed to start a TV station in the fifties.
The first transmitter (and likely the first antenna, package deals were very common in the early days of television) was/were built by Standard Electronics. This was installed at the Comanche Peak site east of Roswell. It was later moved to the Caprock tower. In the early sixties an RCA TT-25-DH (25,000 watt visual output, fourth (D) series, high band VHF output channel) was installed at the new site. After the 1960 collapse of the first 1,610-foot (490 m) tower, the 875-foot (267 m) tower (formerly used by KFVS-TV in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) was installed a fraction of a mile from the former and future tall tower site. In the mid-1980s a Harris Transmitter was installed and the TT-25DH was retired to standby duty, where it currently serves.
The Caprock site was remarkable for its extreme isolation. Three houses were built near the tower to house operating engineers and their families. Electrical power was provided by the area power cooperative. When it proved difficult to keep the power flowing, the station invested in large diesel generators to bridge the gap. Water was provided by an extremely deep well, and mail was delivered to a rural box on a stand a few miles away at the crossroads.
The same interest in extreme facilities went into other ventures. The studios and offices were built at 1717 West 2nd in Roswell. The plant was more than 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) and had two large studios, with overhead control rooms and separate audience areas complete with bleachers. The plant was inspired by the then recent CBS Television City facility in the Los Angeles area. The small AM station was sold to other interests (eventually becoming KRSY) when Barnett won a permit for a new station on 1020 kHz. The new KSWS radio station, which went on the air in 1965, was 50,000 watts by day and 10,000 watts by night. That station is today's KCKN.
In 1956 KSWS got its first competitor when KAVE-TV channel 6 signed on in Carlsbad as the CBS affiliate for southeastern New Mexico. KAVE was hobbled with inadequate facilities and broadcast on low power and height from its facilities on Church Street in the western portion of Carlsbad before moving the transmitter to a 1,200-foot (370 m) tower near Artesia, New Mexico in the early 1960s.
In early 1966, KBIM-TV channel 10 signed on in Roswell as the area's CBS affiliate, broadcasting from a studio in downtown Roswell and over a 1,900-foot (580 m) tower that was just 163 feet (50 m) short of the tallest mast, the KVLY mast in North Dakota. Almost simultaneously with the debut of KBIM, KAVE was sold and became a satellite of ABC affiliate KMOM-TV in Monahans, Texas, which is now NBC affiliate KWES-TV in Midland, Texas. With ABC now having a primary affiliate in the area and KBIM becoming the exclusive CBS affiliate for southeastern New Mexico (KSWS retained a secondary affiliation with CBS even after KAVE went on the air), KSWS-TV became an exclusive NBC affiliate.
As KSWS became a sole NBC affiliate in the mid-to-late 1960s, economic problems were emerging in southeastern New Mexico. The potash mines near Carlsbad downscaled activity or closed, and the Walker Air Force Base at Roswell was deactivated in 1967. At the same time, KSWS now faced major competition from KAVE and KBIM, new radio stations, and an expanding cable television system that gave viewers access to TV stations from surrounding areas of New Mexico and west Texas. Following the death of KSWS founder John Barnett in 1968, the station was sold to Lubbock, Texas businessman Joe Bryant and his company, Caprock Broadcasting, for $490,000. Bryant turned KSWS into a full-time satellite of Lubbock's KCBD-TV. Combined, the two stations served one of the largest coverage areas in the nation. Then two years later, Bryant died in 1970, and State Telecasting Company of Columbia, South Carolina became the new owner of both KSWS and KCBD in 1971.
A private microwave system was installed between Lubbock and Roswell to link the two stations and programming. The system was very reliable, with good locations, sturdy towers, clear paths, and backup power (large lead acid batteries). The four hops went from the KCBD-TV studio/transmitter tower at 5600 Avenue "A" in Lubbock to a tower at the south edge of Levelland, Texas, to a site near Lehman, Texas (not far from Morton, Texas) to a site near Crossroads, New Mexico to the actual tower at Caprock. Collins Radio provided the equipment and the system was considered "network grade," meaning that it was comparable to AT&T hops of the day.
During the 1970s KCBD-TV produced a separate newscast for KSWS, aired from the KCBD studios in Lubbock. The New Mexico Report was recorded between KCBD's 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts (5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on KSWS, which operated in the Mountain Time Zone while KCBD broadcast in the Central Time Zone) and consisted largely of items off the New Mexico wire services. The program aired after Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show and before sign-off on both KSWS-TV and KCBD. Often as not, the same program was repeated at sign-on the next day.
State Telecasting decided to sell KSWS in 1983. The owners of Roswell's CBS affiliate, KBIM-TV, made the best bid for KCBD at $10.75 million, but due to KBIM itself, had to divest KSWS in order to keep KCBD. Otherwise, the ownership would break Federal Communications Commission rules because the same company would own two-thirds of Roswell's television media. The station was transferred to KCBD Associates which was headed by W. Robert McKinsey (the longtime general manager of KCBD and KSWS). A planned sale to the Hubbard interests at KOB-TV had to wait until the KSWS license was renewed. The license had been challenged.
In May 1983, the sale of KCBD-TV to the KBIM-TV owners closed. KSWS-TV began to operate independently of KCBD, by way of an agreement with New Mexico public television station KENW in Portales, New Mexico. Where KCBD-TV operated as a Central Time Zone station unsuitable for broadcast in a Mountain Time market (one hour earlier than Central), KSWS began to use an NBC feed that came from KOB and was fed over NMPTV microwave to the Portales master control, and from there to the Caprock tower. According to listings from the New Mexico edition of TV Guide from this era, most NBC and selected syndicated and news programming originated from KOB-TV, with most of that station's syndicated and sports programming replaced with religious and selected PBS programming (though never popular PBS shows such as Sesame Street or Masterpiece Theatre).
New studios and offices were eventually set up for the renamed KOBR at 124 East 4th Street in Roswell. Local news, weather and sports inserts called Eyewitness News 8 and specific to KOBR viewers were included in portions of the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts sourced from the Albuquerque station.
KOBR reached its peak of viewership from 1995 through 1998 under the guidance of a team guided by Station Manager Dorrie Faubus. This group helped to lead the station to the top of the ratings in Roswell, culminating with the "news insert" format during the 6PM and 10PM newscasts. This gathered a boost of over 1-point share of viewership to KOB's ratings in the 18-24 demographic. Ratings waned after the inserts were shortened in 1999. The inserts were eventually discontinued at KOBR and KOBF Farmington effective March 1, 2007.
- KOB website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for KOBR
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on KOBR-TV