KSWO-TV, virtual channel 7 (VHF digital channel 11), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Lawton, Oklahoma, United States and serving the western Texoma area encompassing Southwestern Oklahoma and Western North Texas. The station is owned by Gray Television, which also operates Wichita Falls, Texas-licensed CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV (channel 6) through a shared services agreement (SSA) with owner American Spirit Media (although KAUZ maintains studio facilities separate from those which house KSWO). KSWO's studios are located on 60th Street in southeastern Lawton, and its transmitter is located near East 1940 and North 2390 Roads in rural southwestern Tillman County, Oklahoma (near Grandfield).
|Lawton, Oklahoma–Wichita Falls, Texas|
|Slogan||You Can Count On Us|
|Channels||Digital: 11 (VHF)|
Virtual: 7 (PSIP)
|Translators||KKTM-LP 17 Altus, OK|
KSWX-LP 31 Duncan, OK
K31HC-D 31 Quanah, TX
(Raycom Media Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||March 8, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||South|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
7 (VHF, 1953–2009)
|Transmitter power||138 kW|
|Height||325.1 m (1,067 ft)|
|Public license information:||Profile|
On cable, KSWO is carried on Charter Spectrum channel 8 (in standard definition) and digital channel 1200 (in high definition) in Wichita Falls, and on Fidelity Communications channel 7 (in standard definition) and digital channel 407 (in high definition) in Lawton. (The station's SD feed is also carried on channel 7 on other cable systems within the Wichita Falls–Lawton area.)
On May 22, 1952, Oklahoma Quality Broadcasting Co. – a locally based company founded by M&D Finance Co. owner Ransom H. Drewry, who co-founded the licensee with a group of shareholders that included J.R. Montgomery (then-president of Lawton's City National Bank), T.R. Warkentin, Robert P. Scott (both of whom were minority partners in locally based S.W. Stationery) and G.G. Downing – submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a construction permit to build and license to operate a broadcast television station in the Wichita Falls–Lawton market that would transmit on VHF channel 7. When the FCC awarded the license and permit for channel 7 to the Drewry-led group in December 1952, the group requested and received approval to assign KSWO-TV (for "Southwest Oklahoma") as the call letters for his television station; the calls were taken from the Lawton radio station that Drewry founded in 1941, KSWO-AM (1380, now KKRX). (Oklahoma Quality Broadcasting, which eventually became Drewry Communications, signed on its second radio station, KRHD — named after his initials — in Duncan six years later in 1947; the KRHD callsign is now used by its ABC-affiliated sister station in Bryan–College Station, Texas.)
KSWO-TV first signed on the air on March 8, 1953; it was the second television station to sign on in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market, launching one week after CBS affiliate KWFT-TV (channel 6, later KSYD-TV and now KAUZ-TV)—located across the Oklahoma–Texas state line in Wichita Falls—made its debut on March 1. (Wichita Falls NBC affiliate KFDX-TV [channel 3] would sign on one month later on April 12.) Channel 7 has been an ABC television affiliate since its debut, inheriting those rights through KSWO radio's longtime relationship with the progenitor ABC Radio Network; however, the station also maintained a secondary affiliation with the DuMont Television Network. The station originally maintained transmitter facilities located at its studios, located east of Lawton; construction on the studio facility was delayed 60 days due to inclement winter weather conditions that affected southwestern Oklahoma during the winter of that year, such so that the studio doors were covered with canvas until adequate doors were installed in the building. The transmitter was a relatively low-power unit that propagated a signal that reached 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 KTEN in Ada and KOCO-TV, which had recently relocated to Oklahoma City from Enid) began encroaching the northern and eastern fringes on KSWO's viewing area; however, wide gaps in channel 7's 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, respectively, did not get their own primary ABC affiliates until KAMC affiliated with the network in 1969, followed by the switch of KTXS-TV to ABC from CBS in 1979). KSWO disaffiliated from DuMont upon its shut down in 1956, amid various issues that arose from its relations with Paramount Pictures that hamstrung it from expansion; the station became a full-time ABC affiliate on November 10 of that year. On December 21, 1957, a fire caused extensive damage to the 60th Street studio facility; the station set up transmissions within 18 hours of the fire, although it had resorted to temporary setups during the interim until the damaged areas were rebuilt.
In August 1959, the FCC gave permission for Drewry to construct a 1,059-foot-tall (323 m) tower near Grandfield, Oklahoma, which would operate at 316,000 watts of power (the maximum power allowable for stations broadcasting on VHF channels 7-13), thereby providing a more powerful signal that could extend KSWO-TV's reach to many portions of far southwestern Oklahoma and northwestern Texas where reception of the station had been marginal at best. Wichitex Radio and Television, and Sydney Grayson—the respective owners of NBC affiliate KFDX-TV and CBS affiliate KSYD-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 (from a Lawton perspective, it was in the same direction as the Wichita Falls stations).
The transmitter facility was activated on February 28, 1960, which extended 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 Thornberry Television signed on KJTL (channel 18, now a Fox affiliate) 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, Ransom Drewry and his 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. The current incarnation of the logo (introduced in 2001), 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, and more closely, to the version used by fellow ABC affiliate KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas since 1999.
The station signed off on a nightly basis until September 1997, when KSWO-TV converted to a 24-hour programming schedule, filling its former downtime with station-scheduled syndicated programming and infomercials on Friday/early Saturdays and Saturday/early Sundays and ABC's overnight newscast, World News Now, during the rest of the week. In December 1997, Drewry sold KSWO radio, as well as KRHD (1350 AM, now KPNS) and KRHD-FM (102.3 FM, now KKEN at 97.1 FM) in Duncan, to Anadarko-based Monroe-Stephens Broadcasting (majority owned by media executive Stanton M. Nelson) for $425,000; the sale of the radio stations allowed the company to focus its business interests around KSWO-TV and its sister television stations in Central and West Texas. (As of 2018[update], all three stations are now owned by Oklahoma City-based Perry Broadcasting and Communications.)
On July 1, 2008, Drewry 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, former CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, the previous year to acquire broadcast properties in small to mid-sized markets within Texas, beginning operations with the February 2008 purchase of CBS affiliate KYTX in Tyler—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, after company management decided to terminate the deal due to market uncertainties resulting from the Great Recession.
JSA with KAUZ-TVEdit
On July 31, 2009, Drewry entered into a joint sales and shared services agreement with Hoak Media, under which it assumed some operational responsibilities for longtime rival 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 (including news operations), master control and production services.
Unlike the SSA formed in 1999 between KFDX-TV and Fox affiliate KJTL when the latter was purchased by Nexstar Broadcasting Group partner company Mission Broadcasting, the operations of the two stations were not consolidated as KAUZ and KSWO maintain distinct focuses on their respective portions of the market. Outside of those assumed by Drewry under the agreement, KAUZ's operations remained largely autonomous from KSWO; both stations maintain separate studio facilities (KAUZ continues to operate from its longtime facility on Seymour Highway in Wichita Falls, more than a one-hour drive from the KSWO building in Lawton), news departments and non-management staff. However, KAUZ-TV laid off four staffers following the formation of the JSA/SSA—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.
In January 2012, KSWO became the second television station in the Wichita Falls–Lawton market and the eighth station in Oklahoma to begin carrying syndicated programming in high definition. The switch was part of a series of upgrades to KSWO and KAUZ's shared master control facility at the former's Lawton studio, which also allowed the seamless insertion of on-screen severe weather alert maps, news and school/event closing tickers, and Emergency Alert System tests during network and syndicated programming on both stations without downgrading HD content to standard definition.
Raycom Media ownershipEdit
On August 10, 2015, Montgomery, Alabama-based Raycom Media announced that it would purchase Drewry's eight television stations for $160 million; as part of the deal, American Spirit Media would purchase the license of and other assets belonging to 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 an FCC rule implemented that year, which prohibited 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, with the remaining stations consisting of low-power outlets). 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; despite this, KAUZ remains based out of Wichita Falls and continues to largely operate independently of channel 7. 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.
Sale to Gray TelevisionEdit
On June 25, 2018, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced it had reached an agreement with Raycom to merge their respective broadcasting assets (consisting of Raycom's 63 existing owned-and/or-operated television stations, including KSWO and the JSA/SSA with KAUZ-TV, and Gray's 93 television stations) under Gray's corporate umbrella. The cash-and-stock merger transaction valued at $3.6 billion – in which Gray shareholders would acquire preferred stock currently held by Raycom – will result in KSWO/KAUZ gaining new sister stations in nearby markets: CBS affiliates KXII in Sherman, Texas, KOSA-TV in Odessa–Midland, Texas (with which KAUZ was co-owned from 1988 to 2000), and KWTX-TV in Waco as well as Bryan semi-satellite KBTX-TV. (Two other former Drewry stations acquired by Raycom in 2017, KXXV and KWES-TV, will be sold to one or more independent companies to comply with FCC ownership rules prohibiting common ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations in a single market.) The sale was approved on December 20, and was completed on January 2, 2019.
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|
|7.2||TELEMUN||Telemundo (simulcast of KKTM-LP, Altus)|
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 for its decision to go forward with the transition on the originally scheduled date, despite a Congressional vote the previous month that pushed back the analog-to-digital cutoff for full-power stations to June 12. 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-DT2 (branded as "Telemundo Texoma") is the Telemundo-affiliated second digital subchannel of KSWO-TV, broadcasting in high definition on VHF digital channel 11.2 (or virtual channel 7.2 via PSIP). On cable and satellite, KSWO-DT2 is available on Fidelity Communications channel 14 (in standard definition) in Lawton, Charter Spectrum channel 5 (in standard definition) and digital channel 1212 (in high definition) in Wichita Falls, and DirecTV channel 5 (in standard definition) throughout the market.
In September 2006, KSWO launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 7.2 to serve as an affiliate of the Spanish language broadcast network Telemundo; the subchannel subsequently began to be carried by Fidelity Communications channel 99 in Lawton and Time Warner Cable channel 43 in Wichita Falls.
KSWO-DT3 (branded as "MeTV Texoma") is the MeTV-affiliated third digital subchannel of KSWO-TV, broadcasting in standard definition on VHF digital channel 11.3 (or virtual channel 7.3 via PSIP). On cable and satellite, KSWO-DT3 is available on Fidelity Communications basic channel 5 in Lawton, and Charter Spectrum digital channel 1240 in Wichita Falls.
In February 2009, KSWO-TV launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 7.3, which initially operated as a 24-hour news channel (branded as "SkyWarn 7 Weather 24/7") that featured loops of weather radar and satellite imagery, current conditions (including maps detailing actual and apparent temperatures, winds, humidity and dew points within the KSWO viewing area), live footage from the station's SkyCams (in Lawton, Wichita Falls, Altus, Duncan and Fort Sill), and local and regional forecasts. On July 30, 2011, KSWO-DT3 converted into an affiliate of the Live Well Network, a lifestyle-oriented multicast service owned by Disney-ABC Television Group (the channel was relegated to a live stream on the station's website and mobile app before being discontinued in 2015). At that time, KSWO began producing a half-hour prime time newscast at 9:00 p.m. for the subchannel that aired on Monday through Friday evenings, and competed with a longer-established 9:00 newscast produced by KFDX-TV for Fox affiliate KJTL as well as a similar weeknight-only newscast produced by KAUZ-TV for its CW-affiliated DT2 subchannel. After the channel converted to Live Well Network, the stream was moved exclusively online via the KSWO website. For unknown reasons, the online stream of the channel was removed from the website in January 2017 (the computer within the studio's weather center that was used to run the stream was repurposed for forecasting use).
On December 31, 2014, as a result of the network's decision to relegate its distribution to ABC's eight owned-and-operated stations, KSWO-DT3 disaffiliated from Live Well to become an affiliate of the movie-focused entertainment network This TV. With the affiliation switch, KSWO cancelled the prime time newscast, opting to carry feature films carried on the This TV network feed during that timeslot. The program, however, was brought back to the subchannel in May 2015, after KSWO-DT3 began preempting This TV programming each weeknight from 9:00 to 11:00 to run local news and off-network syndicated sitcoms, before reversing course and resuming carriage of the full This network schedule the following year. On January 1, 2018, KSWO-DT3 became an affiliate of MeTV (which was co-owned with This TV under Weigel Broadcasting ownership until November 2013, when Weigel transferred its interest in the latter to Tribune Broadcasting).
KSWO-TV currently broadcasts the full ABC network schedule, with the only programming pre-emptions being the ABC News Brief seen during ABC Daytime programming, and situations in which preemption of the network's daytime and prime time programs is necessary to allow the main channel to provide extended coverage of breaking news or severe weather events (in some instances, these programs may either be rebroadcast on KSWO on tape delay in place of the station's regular overnight programming, however, cable and satellite subscribers have the option of watching the affected shows on ABC's desktop and mobile streaming platforms or its cable/satellite video-on-demand service the day after their initial airing). 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.
KSWO broadcast Dr. Red Duke's syndicated medical reports to viewers in Texoma throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s.
Syndicated programs broadcast by KSWO-TV as of September 2017[update] include Live with Kelly and Ryan, 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.
As of January 2018[update], KSWO-TV presently broadcasts 26½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 4½ hours on weekdays and two hours 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-TV and beating KSWO's CBS-affiliated sister station KAUZ-TV's weekly news total by a half-hour.
Because of KSWO's status as the only major-network affiliate licensed to a city on the Oklahoma side of the Wichita Falls-Lawton market, the station's newscasts tend to focus more on Lawton and surrounding areas of southwestern Oklahoma, with a secondary focus on stories occurring in northwest Texas. Among the three local television news operations in the area, KSWO maintains a ratings stronghold on the Oklahoma side of the Wichita Falls–Lawton market, while KAUZ and KFDX primarily compete for the audience on the Texas side.
News department historyEdit
KSWO pioneered new developments in weather forecasting for its viewing area throughout its history, particularly in regard to its coverage of severe weather events affecting its nearly 30-county viewing area encompassing southwestern Oklahoma and western north Texas. Channel 7 was the first television station in the area to have its own on-site weather radar (which was originally displayed in black and white as the station had not yet acquired color broadcasting equipment nor did colorizing techniques for radar displays exist at the time) in the late 1950s or early 1960s, had introduced the market's first color radar in 1976 (branded as "Accu-scan 7"), and introduced the area's first Doppler weather radar in 1984 (more than ten years ahead of the installations of such a system by arch-rivals KFDX and KAUZ).
KSWO-TV has several longtime veterans who have been with the station for 20 years or longer. Jan Stratton – who also served as the station's news director until July 2006 – served as evening anchor continuously for 33 years from 1981 until her retirement in January 2014. Co-anchor and former news director, David Bradley, who was with the station from 1986 until 2017 (when he accepted an anchor job at fellow ABC affiliate KVII-TV in Amarillo, Texas), originated at channel 7 with a thirteen-year tenure as sports director/weeknight sports anchor before he moved to the news side as KSWO's primary weeknight anchor in 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; Charles served as chief weathercaster/meteorologist from 1964 to 1996 and then as anchor of the 5:30 a.m. newscast and co-anchor of Good Morning Texoma from 2000 to 2010 following a four-year stint as chief meteorologist at CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV. Larry Patton, who has been employed by the station since 1967, has served as general manager of KSWO-TV since 1977; Patton was inducted into the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in March 2015.
The station launched a local morning newscast in 1989, when it launched the traditional news program Good Morning Texoma. Originally airing for 30 minutes from 6:30 to 7:00 a.m., the program would expand to one hour in September 1992, then to 1½ hours in September 1999, and finally to two hours in September 2009. Good Morning Texoma would eventually expand to weekends in January 1993, making KSWO the first television station in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market to launch a weekend morning newscast, with the debut of one-hour-long Saturday and Sunday editions at 8:00 a.m. (the 8:00 a.m. edition of the weekend broadcasts would later be reduced to a half-hour in January 2010, at which time it was joined by an additional half-hour weekend edition at 6:30 a.m.).
In 1996, the station discontinued its longtime Action 7 News moniker for its newscasts and rebranded its news programming under the 7 News banner. In late May of that year, KSWO broadcast its early morning newscast, Good Morning Texoma, with limited backup electricity; the newscast was conducted virtually in the dark due to electrical outages that had affected the Lawton area after a complex of severe thunderstorms rolled through southern Oklahoma the previous night with areas of 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 dish at the Grandfield site. The broadcast was done with one camera, one tape deck and one microphone (which was passed between the anchors). In 1999, the station introduced a combined newsroom/studio set that is heavily downscaled version of the "Newsplex" set used at the time by WHDH in Boston and WSVN in Miami, both of which also integrate their anchor desk within their newsrooms. (In January 2018, the "Newsplex" was repainted and remodeled to include updated duratrans and widescreen monitors; KSWO's newscasts were temporarily moved to a separate area on the newsroom's second level until the remodeling was completed.)
For the May 2009 ratings period, according to Nielsen Media Research, KSWO's newscasts ranked in first place on weekdays in the morning, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. timeslots. However, the station has experienced a slight decline in its ratings ever since Drewry management consolidated certain news department assets belonging to Wichita Falls-based KAUZ with channel 7's news operation in the fall of 2009, and transferred longtime station manager, Mike Taylor, to KAUZ to serve as that station's general manager. Ironically, Nexstar Broadcasting Group-owned KFDX, which maintains the only other news operation in the Lawton–Wichita Falls market, has shown improvement with its ratings rather than an increase either for KAUZ or KSWO. 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; the 9:00 p.m. newscast on KSWO-DT3 was included in the upgrade.
For most of the JSA/SSA's existence, KSWO and KAUZ retained fully separate local news programs, due to the stations' distance from one another and their focus on different portions of the Wichita Falls–Lawton market. The two stations began simulcasting local news for the first time on January 6, 2018, when KSWO and KAUZ consolidated production of their respective half-hour weekend 8:00 a.m. newscasts into a single program, under the unified title Texoma Weekend Morning News, that is simulcast on both stations and utilizes KSWO's existing weekend morning news staff (KSWO maintains a separate 6:30 a.m. newscast on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which carries the same title).
Notable former on-air staffEdit
- Don Armes – agricultural reporter (1999–2002; now 63rd House District Rep. in the Oklahoma House of Representatives)
- Paul Harrop – anchor/reporter (2006–2007; now with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association as a videojournalist/producer for AOPA Live)
- Kevin Ogle – reporter (now at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City)
- Randy Scott – sports anchor/reporter (2004–2005; now at ESPN)
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