KHOU, virtual and VHF digital channel 11, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Houston, Texas, United States. The station is owned by Tegna Inc., as part of a duopoly with Conroe-licensed Quest owned-and-operated station KTBU. The two stations share studios at 5718 Westheimer Road near Uptown Houston; KHOUs transmitter is located near Missouri City, in unincorporated northeastern Fort Bend County.
During the 2016–17 television season, KHOU became the second-largest after sister station and Tegna flagship WUSA in Washington, D.C. CBS affiliate not owned by the network station by market size, after passing Atlanta.
The station first signed on the air on March 23, 1953 as KGUL-TV either GUL of Mexico or sea GUL L. It was founded by Paul Taft of the Taft Broadcasting Co. no relation to the Cincinnati-based Taft Broadcasting Company. Originally licensed to Galveston, it was the second television station to debut in the Houston market after KPRC-TV, channel 2, taking the secondary CBS affiliation from KPRC-TV as the networks new primary affiliate, and has stayed aligned with the network ever since. One of the original investors in the station was actor James Stewart, along with a small group of other Galveston investors. The studio was located at 2002 45th Street in Galveston.
In 1956, the original owners sold the station to the Indianapolis-based Whitney Corporation later Corinthian Broadcasting, which became a subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet in 1971. In June 1959, the station changed its callsign to KHOU-TV and had its city of license relocated to Houston. The Federal Communications Commission FCC license listed both the Houston and Galveston service areas for a time. On April 24, 1960, the station moved to its first Houston facilities at 1945 Allen Parkway, along Buffalo Bayou in the Neartown neighborhood near downtown.
In 1984, Dun & Bradstreet sold its entire broadcasting division, including KHOU, to the Belo Corporation, who spun off its Beaumont station, KFDM-TV channel 6 in order to comply with FCC regulations at the time that prevented one company from owning overlapping signals; both stations had overlapping Grade B signals in the vicinity of Liberty County east of Houston.
Known for its ownership of The Dallas Morning News and its flagship TV station in its home city of Dallas, WFAA historically one of ABCs strongest affiliates and a local news powerhouse in that city, Belo began to make significant investments into KHOU, which had become one of CBS weakest affiliates during the 1980s under the final years of Dun & Bradstreet ownership. With the addition of stronger syndicated programming including the popular game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! both of which were picked up from KPRC-TV and The Oprah Winfrey Show which KTRK-TV turned down, the revamping of its news department, and the carrying over of its Dallas flagships popular branding, The Spirit of Texas, KHOU began to challenge KTRK and KPRC in the local ratings, and eventually became one of CBS strongest affiliates by the 1990s. In 1998, KHOU became the first television station in the market to begin broadcasting a high definition digital signal.
The KHOU studios were flooded during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, resulting in damage to much of the stations offices, including its newsroom. The damage was so severe that the station had to cease regular programming and instead broadcast a West Coast feed of the Late Show with David Letterman, followed by a feed from the stations doppler radar for roughly 90 minutes.
During Hurricane Ike, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast in mid-September 2008, KHOUs storm coverage was distributed nationwide via DirecTV and XM Satellite Radio, as well as through a live feed on the stations website. On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo for $1.5 billion. The sale was completed on December 23.
On June 29, 2015, the Gannett Company split in two, with one side specializing in print media and the other side specializing in broadcast and digital media. KHOU was retained by the latter company, named Tegna.
1.1. History Effects of Hurricane Harvey and studio relocation
On August 21, 2017, KHOU began covering Hurricane Harvey as the storm was projected to hit the Texas Gulf Coast with extensive rainfall expected in the Greater Houston area. The station began wall-to-wall coverage on August 25, 2017 with extensive coverage of the storms landfall in Rockport near Corpus Christi. While initial coverage focused on storm damage and cleanup in parts of KHOUs viewing area, by the following Saturday, August 26, massive and continuous rain bands from the Gulf of Mexico led to catastrophic flooding throughout the metropolitan area, with much of the flooding being unprecedented in many places.
On the early morning of Sunday, August 27, KHOU was forced to evacuate its studios due to rising floodwaters from the nearby Buffalo Bayou. Around 6 a.m., the first floor of the building became inundated with floodwaters, forcing station employees to completely abandon its facility nearly three hours later after a move to a second floor conference room proved to only be a short-term option, though critical equipment such as the studios robotic cameras was also moved up to the second floor before the flooding became worse. The stations brand-new news set which had debuted in November 2016, weather center, newsroom and master control were destroyed by the floodwaters, which rose up to five feet 2 m within the building. Additionally, the stations over the air signal, including its CBS and diginet feeds, were knocked off the air as computers and other equipment became submerged by floodwaters, with staff relegated to providing updates on social media.
After KHOUs signal was knocked off the air, sister station WFAA began providing live news coverage for KHOU by live-streaming on both stations websites and social media profiles until the station was able to resume broadcasting on its own. The stations staff then evacuated to the nearby Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Houston Branch building on higher ground while a new contingency plan was drafted.
With the assistance of PBS member station KUHT channel 8 and master control from WFAA, KHOU eventually resumed live broadcasting later that night from temporary facilities at the LeRoy and Lucile Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting on the campus of the University of Houston. At various times, WFAA, along with Tegna NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, provided assistance with weather graphics and master control. Due to technical difficulties, WFAA originated the August 27 edition of the 10 p.m. news that was simulcast in both cities. Eventually a reliable signal was established an hour later from the Melcher Center and storm coverage continued. KHOU is the third commercial station in Houston to utilize a part of the UH campus for its facilities, after ill-fated KNUZ-TV channel 39 from 1953 to 1954 and KTRK-TV channel 13 from its 1954 launch until its 1961 move to its current studios in the Upper Kirby district.
On the evening of August 31, the station resumed CBS programming with its prime time lineup. For the first month, the station only broadcast its main HD channel while its two subchannels at the time Bounce TV and Justice Network remained shut down. The following week, on September 4, KHOU began to reuse parts of its previous 2011–2016 news set in the temporary studio. On October 4, the subchannels returned as widescreen SD simulcasts of the main channel in preparation for the eventual return of the diginets, which would finally return on October 12. Around the same time, the stations on-air look returned to normal with full news and weather graphics restored and program guide listings on the terrestrial signal. A temporary news set, similar in design to its previous news set destroyed in the Harvey floods with additional brick accents, would eventually be constructed for the station at the Houston Public Media facilities.
On November 16, 2017, KHOU officially announced it would not return to the Allen Parkway facility; the building would eventually be sold to an affiliate of Service Corporation International whose headquarters are located in an office building adjacent to the former KHOU studios and was eventually demolished the following May. In December 2017, KHOU announced that it would open a secondary street-side studio at the George R. Brown Convention Center along Avenida Houston. The studio opened in the fall of 2018, and is primarily used for its weekday newscasts. This setup is similar to that of Dallas sister station WFAAs Victory Park studio, which opened a decade earlier in January 2007.
On March 29, 2018, KHOU announced that it had signed a lease for 43.000 square feet 3.995 m 2 of space at 5718 Westheimer Road near Uptown Houston Galleria area. The station occupies three floors of the high-rise that will include two studios, two control rooms, an open collaboration space for all content producing departments, technical operations, sales and executive offices. The station began its operations from its new facility on Sunday, February 17, 2019 during its 10 p.m. newscast.
2. Digital television
The stations digital signal is multiplexed:
On September 26, 2011, KHOU began broadcasting Bounce TV on its second digital subchannel which originally launched as a quasi-independent station upon the networks launch. The station had previously signed on to carry the.2 Network on one of its digital subchannels, although.2 Network never debuted. In 2015, the station began carrying programming from the Justice Network on its third digital subchannel. Quest was added to the fourth digital subchannel on January 16, 2018.
KHOU discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, on the morning of June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The stations digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 31 to VHF channel 11 for post-transition operations.
Since its inception, KHOU has been a CBS affiliate, and has largely cleared the entire CBS network lineup without interruption. In addition to its newscasts, KHOU also airs Great Day Houston, a local talk show hosted by Deborah Duncan with paid segments from local businesses in Houston, following CBS This Morning. The talk show, which has aired on the station since 2005, is taped at KHOUs studios on Westheimer Road west of the Galleria. Outside of local programming, KHOUs syndicated offerings include The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Wheel of Fortune, and also carries two Tegna-produced programs - Daily Blast Live and Sister Circle - during the overnight hours. During the weekend, KHOU also carries Texas Country Reporter early Saturday evenings and off-network reruns of CBS dramas NCIS: New Orleans and Madam Secretary, as well as those of the Canadian drama Murdoch Mysteries, in late night.
Despite being in a market with an ABC-owned station KTRK-TV, Jeopardy! aired on KHOU from 1985 to 2015 and Wheel of Fortune has aired on KHOU since 1986 despite their presence on ABCs other network-owned stations along with another ABC O&O syndication staple, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which KHOU carried for its entire run from 1986 to 2011. Jeopardy! moved to KTRK on September 14, 2015, making it the last ABC-owned station to carry the quiz show. However, KHOU continues to carry Wheel of Fortune at 6:30 p.m., making Houston one of the largest television markets in the United States where both game shows air on separate stations; in most markets, both game shows are sold as a package, often airing next to one another on the same station in prime time access. Both shows rarely air next to each other in most markets in the Central and Mountain time zones, as most network affiliates often program a 6 p.m. newscast during the traditional access hour 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT before prime time, with KTRK itself having aired an hourlong 6 p.m. newscast in this hour since 1980.
Like most CBS affiliates prior to 1993, KHOU often carried syndicated programming including Entertainment Tonight and reruns of M*A*S*H in late night following its 10 p.m. newscast, as the networks late night offerings of the era were considered to be less lucrative compared to syndicated offerings. Beginning in 1993, KHOU like most CBS affiliates began carrying the Late Show then hosted by David Letterman at 11:05 p.m. CT, eventually moving it to immediately following its 10 p.m. newscast at 10:35 p.m. CT by 1995. However, prior to 2015 the station always aired The Late Show on a 30-minute delay beginning at 12:07 a.m. CT ever since the show first premiered in 1995, fitting a syndicated sitcom, game show or tabloid news program between the two shows. Because the latter programs original host, Tom Snyder, had a simulcast with the CBS Radio Network which aired locally on KPRC-AM and took calls from viewers during his stint as host, KHOU asked via disclaimer for Houston area viewers to not call the toll-free call-in number due to the tape-delay. However, on September 8, 2015, it began airing The Late Show at its network-approved time 11:37 p.m. CT following Stephen Colberts debut as host of The Late Show. The stations only CBS preemption is that of the second half-hour of the Sunday morning talk show Face the Nation, which is tape-delayed to 2:30 a.m. the following Monday morning due to KHOUs longstanding broadcasts of religious programs from Houston-based Lakewood Church and Second Baptist Church, with the former also airing on Sunday night following its 10 p.m. newscast and KHOU 11 Sports Extra see below.
KHOU serves as the local television broadcaster of Houstons annual Thanksgiving Day parade, the H-E-B Holiday Parade, preempting the CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade.
3.1. Programming Sports programming
In 2002, the Houston Texans joined the NFL as the leagues 32nd franchise, as part of the American Football Conferences newly-formed South Division. Being part of the AFC, most Texans games - including all road games against NFC opponents - are aired on CBS which has held the contract to carry AFC games since the 1998 season, and are therefore aired locally on KHOU. The station also served as the over-the-air outlet for all of the Texans appearances on Thursday Night Football until 2018 when Fox picked up the full rights to the Thursday night package, thus moving those telecasts locally to KRIV, and have aired simulcasts of ESPNs Monday Night Football in the past due to ABCs live broadcast of Dancing with the Stars on KTRK conflicting with the games. The Texans are one of two teams never to have been blacked out at home, the other being the Baltimore Ravens; this stands in contrast to the citys previous NFL team, the Houston Oilers, who were often blacked out at home in their twilight years in Houston before moving to Nashville in 1997 for reasons related to the teams controversial management under owner Bud Adams. Beginning in 2014, with the institution of cross-flex rules, games in which the Texans play an NFC opponent at home can be moved from Fox O&O KRIV channel 26 to KHOU.
Other notable appearances by Houston sports teams on KHOU have included the Houston Rockets 1981 and 1986 appearances in the NBA Finals both losses to the Boston Celtics; all Rockets games broadcast through CBS NBA broadcast contract were aired on KHOU from 1973 to 1990 and the University of Houston mens basketball teams two NCAA National Championship appearances in 1983 and 1984 - all via their national coverage by CBS Sports. KHOU also carried Southwest Conference football and mens basketball games with an emphasis on games involving the University of Houston and Rice University on Saturday afternoons before the conference folded in 1996, as well as CBS broadcasts of the 2011 NCAA Final Four and Super Bowls VIII 1974 and XXXVIII 2004 - all of which took place in Houston.
4. News operation
KHOU presently broadcasts 33½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week with 5½ hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and 2½ on Sundays. Unlike most CBS affiliates, the station did not air a newscast until January 5, 2020 when it launched a new Sunday Morning newscast from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. prior to CBS Sunday Morning, with the hour instead being filled by one of CBSs three hours of E/I programming which KHOU preempts to carry a Saturday morning newscast from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., resulting in the second hour of CBS This Morning Saturday being preempted to after the newscast. The station airs its 10 p.m. newscast for one full hour on weekends and also airs KHOU 11 Sports Extra, which features extensive Sunday night sports coverage and commentary, during the second half-hour of its Sunday 10 p.m. newscast.
KHOU has been widely regarded as a stepping stone for many well-known television news personalities, as many of its reporters have gone on to work for national networks. KHOUs best known former on-air staffers include former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, NBC News correspondent Dennis Murphy, newswomen Linda Ellerbee and Jessica Savitch, and sports anchors Jim Nantz now the lead announcer for CBS Sports, Harry Kalas later a legendary broadcaster for Major League Baseball and NFL Films and Ron Franklin later with ESPN. Outside of broadcasting, one of its former sports anchors, Dan Patrick, eventually became Lieutenant Governor of Texas.
The stations newscasts have traditionally battled with KPRC for second among stations in the Houston area behind ABC-owned KTRK; however, their viewership usually has been strongest amongst 35- to 55-year-olds and suburban audiences - traditionally considered by advertisers to be the most crucial demographic groups for news ratings. This is noted since, as of 2011, KHOU is the only Houston area station whose traffic reports cover suburban areas, in addition to the Houston freeways, and frequently features outside webcam shots from suburban locations during its weather reports.
KHOU also has gained a reputation for its investigative reporting staff currently known as KHOU 11 Investigates, whose most notable stories include its 2000 investigation into defective tire designs by Firestone – which led to the mandatory recall of Wilderness AT, Firestone ATX and ATX II tires, as well as numerous lawsuits the defective tires resulted in a number of deaths, including that of KTRK reporter Stephen Gauvain, a story in the early 2000s that led to the shutdown of the Houston Police Departments crime lab, and allegations of dropout rate fraud in the Houston Independent School District, which resulted in the dismissal of several HISD officials. All of these stories were initially reported by investigative reporter Anna Werner, who eventually went on to become the chief investigative reporter for CBS News.
When Belo acquired KHOU in 1984, the station had fallen to third in the Houston news ratings behind dominant KTRK, then one of ABCs strongest affiliates which eventually became an owned-and-operated station of the network itself, and NBC affiliate KPRC, which usually placed a strong second and would further benefit in the decade from NBCs strong prime time programming of the 1980s. Its newscasts fared even worse than CBSs own floundering network programming itself at the time, occasionally even placing behind syndicated reruns on independent stations in the Houston market. Having achieved considerable success with the news department of its flagship station in Dallas, WFAA, since the 1970s, Belo sought to seek similar results for KHOU, and beginning in the late 1980s hired several high-profile people to its news team. The most notable was former National Hurricane Center director Dr. Neil Frank, who was hired as the stations chief meteorologist in July 1987. In another key move, KHOU also hired former KTRK morning anchor Sylvan Rodriguez then with ABC News West Coast bureau to anchor the stations early evening newscasts.
During this time, KHOU also commissioned an image rebrand using the "Spirit of Texas" slogan and initially TM Productions "Spirit" music package that originated at its Dallas sister station WFAA. In January 1989, KHOU revamped the appearance of its newscasts, with an image campaign that included full-page ads in the Houston Chronicle and Post, as well as an on-air promotional campaign that focused more on ordinary citizens throughout Greater Houston than on its news team. With anchors Steve Smith and Marlene McClinton, chief meteorologist Neil Frank and sports director Giff Nielsen as its main news team, along with a new set, graphics and theme music, KHOU began to mount a serious challenge to the other Houston newscasts, leading to a competitive ratings race during the 1990s. Its resurgent newscasts, combined with a strong syndicated programming lineup, helped to sustain the station through what would be a turbulent ratings period for CBS, which lost broadcast rights to NFL games in addition to several of its largest affiliates during this time.
1999 proved to be a breakout year for KHOU, with its newscasts reaching #1 in viewership in several timeslots during the May sweeps period, unseating KTRK during the midday hours, and at 5:00 it debuted in May 1974 and 6:00 p.m., which also coincided with CBSs resurgence to number one in prime time by that year. The stations ratings boost also included an exclusive interview with Serbian and Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic during the Kosovo War, just a month before his indictment. This news came despite the retirement of longtime anchor Steve Smith, anchor Sylvan Rodriguezs eventually fatal bout with pancreatic cancer and the abrupt resignation of fellow anchor Marlene McClinton during one of the stations newscasts on April 8, 2000. Two former local newscasters in New York City, Greg Hurst of ABC flagship WABC-TV and Len Cannon of Fox flagship WNYW the latter also a former NBC News correspondent and substitute anchor, would respectively join the station in 1999 when Hurst replaced Smith and 2006 when Cannon replaced Jerome Gray who went to rival KPRC-TV, with Cannon himself succeeding Hurst as lead anchor in 2016.
On February 4, 2007, following CBS coverage of Super Bowl XLI, KHOU began broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition, becoming the first station in the market to do so. On September 7, 2009, KHOU-TV expanded its weekday morning newscast with the addition of the 4:30 a.m. program First Look ; despite being the last station in the Houston market to launch a 4:30 a.m. newscast, KHOU was the first station in the market to announce its intentions to do so three of Houstons major network affiliates – KHOU, KTRK-TV and KPRC-TV – launched 4:30 a.m. newscasts within three weeks of each other in the late summer of 2009 with little fanfare. On August 1, 2011, KHOU debuted a new half-hour newscast at 4:00 p.m. on weekdays to replace The Oprah Winfrey Show ; this would expand to a full hour in 2015 after losing the Houston rights to Jeopardy! to KTRK. Recently, the station expanded its weekend 10 p.m. news broadcast to a full hour, including the aforementioned KHOU 11 Sports Extra on Sunday nights.
In 2018, the station rebranded its weekday morning newscasts as HTownRush, with a format emphasizing social media interaction including its own namesake hashtag, a summary of top stories during the first five minutes of each half-hour, and special segments including in-house features exclusive to Tegna stations such as Deal Boss, one-minute business/technology news briefs from Cheddar, and consumer reporter John Matareses Dont Waste Your Money consumer segments which usually air on stations owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. In June 2019, KHOU rebranded its 4 p.m. newscast as The 411, emphasizing a conceptual format and on-air graphics style similar to that of its morning newscast.