WBKO is an ABC/Fox/CW+-affiliated television station licensed to Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States and serving south central Kentucky. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 13 from a transmitter along KY 185 and Richardsville Road in unincorporated northern Warren County (a tower it shares with PBS member station WKYU-TV, channel 24). Owned by Gray Television, WBKO has studios on Russellville Road (US 68 and KY 80) along the William H. Natcher Parkway in Bowling Green.
|Bowling Green, Kentucky|
|Channels||Digital: 13 (VHF)|
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
(Gray Television Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||June 3, 1962|
|Call letters' meaning||We're Bowling Green,|
|Former callsigns||WLTV (1962–1971)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
13 (VHF, 1962–2009)
33 (UHF, 2000–2009)
|Former affiliations||Primary: Independent (1962–1967)|
DT2: Jewelry TV (secondary)
cable "WBWG"/WB12: The WB (1998–2006)
|Transmitter power||22 kW|
31.5 kW (CP)
|Height||220.5 m (723 ft)|
|Public license information||Profile|
On cable, the station is available on Charter Spectrum channel 9 as ABC, channel 8 as Fox, and on channel 12 (in both SD and high definition: WBKO-DT3's sole HD distribution) as The CW. All three subchannels can also be viewed on several other cable television services throughout the Bowling Green designated market area, including Mediacom (WBKO-DT1 and WBKO-DT2 only), and the Glasgow, Kentucky-based cable systems of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board (all three subchannels) and the South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative (all three subchannels).
The station signed on the air on June 3, 1962, as WLTV (an acronym of Wonderful Live Television). It was the first commercial outlet to launch in Bowling Green and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 13. Joe Walters (a former RCA engineer) and Mr. and Mrs. George Brown (local sales people) owned the station through their company Argus Broadcasting. It was an independent station which originally had studios at its transmitter in rural Warren County.
Most television markets within the United States received at least two VHF stations, but the Bowling Green market was only assigned one VHF license. This is because what became of the market was sandwiched between Evansville (channels 7 and 9) and Louisville (channels 3 and 11) to the north, Nashville (channels 2, 4, 5, and 8) and Jackson (channels 7 and 11) to the south, Cape Girardeau/Paducah (channels 3, 6, 8, and 12) to the west, and Lexington (a UHF island) and Knoxville (channels 6 and 10, later joined by 8) to the east. While Bowling Green relied upon Nashville affiliates for network service, WLTV was the only commercial television station in the market until WQQB signed on in December 1989.
On March 6, 1967, WLTV became affiliated with ABC and since then has aired all of its shows, with the exception of season one of NYPD Blue, which was instead broadcast on Fox affiliate WKNT (previously WQQB, now NBC affiliate WNKY). After affiliating with ABC, the station moved to new studios located on Morgantown Road in downtown Bowling Green. After spending some time off the air in late 1969 due to an explosion destroying its transmitter, Argus Broadcasting sold the station to Professional Telecasting Systems on June 11, 1970. The explosion was due to an estimated 48 sticks of dynamite being placed at the bottom of the tower. It is suspected that a local bootlegger at the time did not appreciate the news spotlighting his operation. This did not collapse the tower but it stood with a bow in it; the transmission line on the lower section of the tower was destroyed and the tower was unsafe. A temporary tower with a temporary antenna was erected at the site and the station continued operation with diminished coverage a few months later. This heralded the relocation of the transmitter to the site where it now operates (and shares with PBS member station WKYU-TV).
The new owner, Professional Telecasting, adopted the WBKO (an acronym for Bowling Green, Kentucky's Own) call sign and instituted color telecasting for local in-studio programming and newscasts in 1971. By this time, the station had moved to studios on East 10th Street in downtown Bowling Green. In 1976, a local group known as Bluegrass Media bought WBKO from Professional Telecasting. It remained in Bluegrass's hands until 1983 when broadcaster A. Richard Benedek took over. Under Benedek's management in 1985, WBKO built its present studios on Russellville Road.
By October 7, 2001, an agreement between this station and the area's cable provider allowed WBKO to launch cable-exclusive WB affiliate, "WBWG", through The WB 100+ Station Group because the Bowling Green market had a rank of 183. Since it was a cable-exclusive outlet, the "WBWG" call sign was not officially recognized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). WBKO provided sales and promotional opportunities to "WBWG". By September 3, 2002, the station's WB+ cable channel was also identified as WB12.
In 2000, the station began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 33. In 2002, Benedek sold most of his stations (including WBKO) to owner Gray Television. Due to its fairly close proximity to Nashville, Tennessee (about 60 miles (97 km)), WBKO has competed with that market's ABC affiliate WKRN for viewer allegiance.
From January 10, 1992, until March 10, 2001, WKNT (channel 40, now NBC affiliate WNKY) served as the Fox network affiliate for south central Kentucky. When WNKY became the area's NBC affiliate, the Bowling Green area was, by default, served over-the-air and via cable television by WZTV in nearby Nashville. WZTV also served as the default Fox affiliate from 1990 until January 1992, but it was WCAY-TV (later UPN affiliate WUXP-TV, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) that served as the default Fox affiliate from the network's 1987 beginning until 1990, when WZTV took the Fox affiliation in Nashville. Carriage of the distant Fox affiliates was a way for the market to be served by Fox without resorting to carrying the Foxnet national service for the smallest markets.
Meanwhile, in Hart County, cable systems in that area were served by Louisville Fox affiliate WDRB. WDRB was also carried on Glasgow based South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative and the Glasgow Electric Plant Board cable systems throughout the 1990s and the 2000s. In areas east of Bowling Green, Campbellsville-based WGRB (now the defunct WBKI-TV), which mainly served the Louisville market's southern areas, was an alternative default Fox affiliate from 1990 until 1992. That station later became the default over-the-air affiliate of The WB for parts of the area.
In September 2006, WBKO-Fox subchannel 13-2 was launched to serve as a new Fox affiliate for the Bowling Green media market. This filled a gap created in 2001 when WNKY dropped its Fox affiliation and switched to NBC. Thirteen days later, WBKO-DT3 went on the air as an over-the-air relaunch of the then cable-exclusive CW+ affiliate "WBWG".
WBKO-DT2 broadcasts the entire Fox network primetime schedule and weekend schedules, except for the Xploration Station Saturday morning block. Fox's programming also includes some national special reports from Fox News and Fox News Sunday, as well as sports programming from Fox's sports broadcasting division. Syndicated programs on WBKO-DT2 include Pawn Stars, The People's Court, The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, The Andy Griffith Show, Mike & Molly, Last Man Standing, Two and a Half Men, and Extra.
Until June 2016, WBKO-DT2 ran programming from Jewelry Television overnight from 1:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Jewelry Television was dropped and replaced with infomercials and replays of certain syndicated programming from the main channel.
From the network's launch in 1995 until the September 1998 inception of the WB 100+ feed, markets without a WB affiliate, including Bowling Green, were served via cable TV by Chicago's WB affiliate WGN-TV, one of the few national superstations in the United States. In September 1998, WBKO, in conjunction with Insight Communications (later Time Warner Cable, now Charter Spectrum), entered a joint-venture to operate cable-only "WBWG" (a false callsign which stood for The WB BoWling Green), an affiliate of The WB, and received programming via The WB 100+, a national network feed specifically designed to serve WB affiliates that are not within the top 100 markets. At the time of the launch of "WBWG", Bowling Green had a market ranking of 183. The call letters were fictional and were not recognized by the FCC since it was a cable-exclusive outlet. The channel provided all of The WB's programming, along with syndicated programming provided by The WB 100+ feed. It had the branding WB 12 for most of its tenure with the WB.
Over-the-air viewers could still view The WB via a distant station, depending on location. Antenna users in southern portions of the Bowling Green market viewed the network via WNAB in Nashville after that station signed on in 1995. Areas east of Bowling Green (from Brownsville and Glasgow) eastward could pick up the signal of Campbellsville-licensed WBKI-TV, which serves the Louisville area; that station's transmitter location, which is near the western Marion County community of Raywick, covers much of Central Kentucky and provides secondary coverage (Grade-B quality signal or better) into the eastern portions of the Bowling Green market. WBKI's transmitter power and location at the time made that station have the largest coverage area for any station based in the state of Kentucky, covering portions of three media markets, including the Louisville, Bowling Green and Lexington markets. For all intents and purposes, WBKI was the default over-the-air WB affiliate for both Bowling Green and Lexington, especially after Lexington-based WBLU-LP dropped its WB affiliation. WBKI was also carried on dozens of cable systems in the three markets, as well as parts of the Nashville market in areas around Dale Hollow Lake.
On January 24, 2006, UPN and The WB announced the two networks would cease broadcasting and merge. The new combined service would be called The CW. The CW launched on September 18 and "WBWG" became affiliated with The CW via The CW Plus (a similar operation to The WB 100+). After becoming available on a new third digital subchannel of WBKO, it dropped the faux calls in favor of WBKO-CW. "WBWG" (now WBKO-DT3) had been carried on all cable systems in the Bowling Green market since its 1998 inception.
In October 2006, WBKI was dropped from any Bowling Green-market cable system that carried it to give WBKO-DT3 cable exclusivity as a CW affiliate. Meanwhile, WBKI was also dropped from Lexington-area cable systems to make way for former UPN affiliate WKYT-DT2 (a digital subchannel of CBS affiliate WKYT-TV, a sister station to WBKO) after that subchannel joined The CW at the time of that network's inception. WBKI's analog signal could still be picked up over-the-air in select areas of the market with an outdoor antenna until the 2009 digital television transition. WBKI-TV's principal signal was taken off the air in 2017 as a result of the 2016–17 FCC spectrum incentive auction, four years after that station began to share the channel space with a Salem, Indiana-licensed station that now uses the WBKI callsign.
WBKO-DT3, along with WCZU-LD, are the only two major network affiliated stations in the market not offered on Dish Network, due in part to CW and MyNetworkTV affiliated superstations being offered to grandfathered subscribers on Dish. DirecTV does not carry any of Bowling Green's local channels.
As of June 2018, the over-the-air feed of WBKO-DT3 continued airing in a 16:9 widescreen standard definition picture format; it could not be upgraded to high definition, most likely due to bandwidth limitations prohibiting WBKO from transmitting all three of their feeds in HD simultaneously. WBKO-DT3's high definition signal continues to be exclusive to Spectrum channel 117.
WBKO-DT3 clears all of the CW's primetime programming. As a CW Plus affiliate, syndicated programming on this channel is provided by the network-run feed. As of September 2014, programming includes Seinfeld, The Steve Wilkos Show, Maury, The Cleveland Show, King of the Hill, The King of Queens, and Page Six TV. In a few events, WBKO preempts some of the feed's programming in favor of other syndicated programming or to broadcast local sports programming, such as the tape-delayed broadcasts of the KHSAA Boys' and Girls' Sweet 16 Basketball Championship games, and the Kentucky–Indiana all-star high school basketball games in March. In some cases, WBKO-DT3 had previously carried some Raycom Sports or SEC TV broadcasts of Southeastern Conference football and men's basketball games when WBKO carried them from 2008 until 2014 on ABC or Fox Sports.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|13.1||720p||16:9||WBKO-HD||Main WBKO programming / ABC|
|13.2||WBKO-FX||WBKO-DT2 / Fox|
|13.3||480i||WBKO-CW||South Central Kentucky CW|
On December 8, 2008, at 1:15 a.m., the station turned off its analog transmitter in a flash-cut procedure. This allowed the station to begin the process of installing a new digital antenna and other equipment. Originally, its digital signal was scheduled to return to VHF channel 13 on or immediately after December 22. However, due to inclement weather and the holiday season, the construction took longer than anticipated with eight more days of construction resuming on January 3, 2009. Due to the installation of the equipment at the transmitter site, the digital signal (on UHF channel 33) was off-the-air during daytime hours so that installation work could be completed. Until the completion of the over-the-air transition, WBKO was seen non-stop on several area cable systems.
WBKO was the home to Southeastern Conference football and men's basketball games from Jefferson-Pilot (later Lincoln Financial Sports, now Raycom Sports) from the 1980s until 2009 (although WNKY aired most SEC football games in the 1990s). After Raycom lost the rights to the SEC in 2009, WBKO ran SEC games syndicated through ESPN Plus-oriented SEC TV (formerly SEC Network) from 2009 to the end of the 2013–14 basketball season. This ended in 2014 because of the inception of the then-new cable-exclusive SEC Network that launched in August 2014. That was part of a new contract between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN to launch that new network. The UK IMG Sports Network also provided programming related to the University of Kentucky's football and men's basketball programs. They also provided early season Kentucky Wildcats basketball games until the SEC Network launched. As a result, the only sports programming available on WBKO is from ABC's exclusive ESPN on ABC package, including any NBA and college football games that air on ABC.
Sports programming on WBKO-DT2 includes Fox College Football games on Saturday, NASCAR on Fox, and NFL Sunday afternoon games featuring NFC teams. This also includes instances when the Tennessee Titans (based in Nashville), who play in the AFC, play host to an NFC opponent, which usually happens two to three times per season. In addition, the station also carries THIS is Kentucky Basketball as part of the UK IMG Sports Network's package offered by sister station WKYT-TV in Lexington.
Until the discontinuation of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball and football syndication packages by Raycom Sports and ESPN Plus-operated SEC TV in 2009 and 2014, respectively, WBKO-DT2 had carried any ABC broadcast of a college football game that would conflict with the timing of SEC TV's broadcast of a football game.
As the first commercial television station to launch in Bowling Green, WBKO has been a longtime leader on the Nielsen ratings. Even after the sign-on of WQQB (now WNKY) in 1989, the station has remained the dominant outlet for south central Kentucky. However, it has also competed with Nashville stations transmitting rimshot signals into parts of the Bowling Green area. WBKO's first newscasts were branded as Channel 13 News Report and began airing in 1963. In the 1970s, the news operation was known as 13 News. The broadcasts were re-branded to WBKO 13 News.
As the area's original Fox affiliate in the mid-1990s, WNKY established its own news department. Unable to gain consistent viewership and ratings against WBKO, that station's short lived full news operation was eventually shut down. In the early 2000s, WNKY slowly re-entered the market with an unusual weather-only approach. Instead of full newscasts, it offers weekday morning and nightly local weather forecast cut-ins provided through AccuWeather of State College, Pennsylvania.
On October 21, 2007, current Fox affiliate WBKO-DT2 began airing a thirty-minute prime time newscast on weeknights known as WBKO Fox News at 9. Sarah Goebel originally anchored the show until early 2008 when she was promoted to WBKO's main weeknight broadcasts. After this, Daniel Kemp was the news anchor until early June when he moved to the weekend newscasts on the main channel. Julie Talley would host the prime time broadcast for a short time in mid-2008 after which reporter and Internet producer Sam Provenzano anchored the show until its cancellation. WBKO Fox News at 9 stopped airing on November 28, 2008 due to financial issues. WBKO-DT2 continues to replay MidDay Live tape-delayed weekdays at noon. The broadcast features news anchor Hayley Harmon and weather director Chris Allen. In addition, the station also carries the WBKO LiveWire Weather Alert Scroll on the top of the screen during severe weather. Beginning on June 13, 2016, WBKO-DT2 began broadcasting a replay of AM Kentucky, the main channel's 90-minute weekday morning newscast.
Unlike most ABC affiliates, the station does not air a full two-hour weekday morning show or early evening news on weekends.
With the premiere of their 4 p.m. newscast in late August 2019, WBKO currently airs 26 hours of local news programming.
WBKO has had a long-standing policy to preempt regular programming for wall-to-wall, uninterrupted, severe weather coverage when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for any county within its viewing area. The station operates its own Doppler weather radar, the First Alert Live Doppler, which it launched in 1998. It is a real time Doppler radar that was primarily used from its launch until late 2004 when the station began utilizing NWS NEXRAD Doppler radar from Nashville (Old Hickory), Paducah, Louisville, and (starting in 2013) Fort Campbell for better resolution in tracking storms. Weather forecasts from this station can be heard on WKLX FM 100.7, WOVO 106.3, and WPTQ FM 105.3, all of which simulcast audio of wall-to-wall severe weather coverage during a tornado warning situation.
WBKO's home market area is very small, so WBKO's terrestrial signal covers all of the Bowling Green media market, and spills into nearby portions of three neighboring market areas. The signal can be picked up as far west as Hopkinsville, as far north as the Rough River Lake area—Owensboro and Elizabethtown, as far east as Columbia, and as far south as the far northern suburbs of Nashville. People with over-the-air receivers in the northeast side of Clarksville, Tennessee can also pick up WBKO's signal.
WBKO is carried on several cable systems outside the Bowling Green market. Only the station's main channel is carried on these out-of-market cable systems, including the Suddenlink cable system in Logan County, the Charter system in Hopkinsville, the South Central Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (SCRTC)'s cable customers in Allen and Monroe counties (in addition to their customers in Barren, Hart, and Metcalfe counties), as well as some cable carriers in the Elizabethtown area. The SCRTC also provides WBKO's main channel to their customers in Green and Larue counties in the Louisville market, but it is subject to blackout of ABC programming by WHAS-TV in accordance with Syndex rules. WBKO's main channel is also carried on Comcast channel 13 in Elizabethtown and Campbellsville.
Duo County Telecom also carries WBKO's main channel for its customers in Adair, Cumberland, and Russell counties, but under Syndex rules, ABC programming from WHAS-TV is substituted during the primetime hours in Adair and Cumberland counties (despite Cumberland County being part of the Nashville market), while WTVQ's ABC programming from Lexington is substituted during the primetime hours in Russell County because that area is considered to be in the Lexington designated market area.
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