3333 South 29th West Avenue
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74107-4213
Telephone: (918) 445-8888
Fax: (918) 445-9354
Web site: http://www.ktul.com
Subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
Founded: 1954 as KTVX
NAICS: 515120 Television Broadcasting
KTUL Licensee, LLC, operates the KTUL Channel 8 television station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A longtime leader in local news ratings, KTUL has been an affiliate of the ABC television network since the station first went on the air in 1954. It also offers three digital sub-channels: affiliates of the Comet network, offering science-fiction fare; Antenna TV, featuring classic television programs; and TBD, a digital broadcast network devoted to internet-based series and other digital content. KTUL is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
The KTUL call letters were originally assigned to a Tulsa radio station established in 1932 by businessman J. T. Griffin, who in 1908 had established Griffin Grocery Company with his brother. Following the death of his brother, Griffin moved the business, renamed Griffin Foods, to Muskogee, Oklahoma, some 50 miles southeast of Tulsa. After his passing in 1944, son John and son-in-law James C. Leake took over the management of the family enterprises, which included Tulsa Broadcasting Company, the operator of the KTUL radio station. Meanwhile, commercial television had begun in the summer of 1941, but further development had been delay by World War II. Following the war, interest in the new medium was revived. Deeming entry into the field to be premature, Tulsa Broadcasting was hesitant to apply for a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In 1948 the FCC imposed a freeze on the issuance of new licenses while the problem of overlapping signals and other issues were ironed out. Nevertheless, what was expected to last only a few months stretched into 1952. Beating the freeze, Oklahoma City's WKY-TV Channel 4 became Oklahoma's first television station, reaching the air in 1949 and spurring Tulsa Broadcasting's interest in television. Because one channel in Tulsa had already been secured and several groups were vying for the second VHF channel allocated by the FCC, Tulsa Broadcasting targeted channel 8 in Muskogee, the only other area license that was available. Two other groups sought the license as well, but in April 1954 Tulsa Broadcasting was granted the permit from the FCC. Griffin and Leake were involved with other television ventures as well. They were half owners in KWTV in Oklahoma City and KATV in Arkansas, both of which reached the air in 1954 ahead of the Muskogee station.
The manager of the KTUL radio station, John Esau, spearheaded the development of KTVX, which was initially housed in a former grocery store. A transmitter was constructed on Concharty Mountain in Stone Bluff, Oklahoma, midway between Tulsa and Muskogee, ensuring that the signal reached both markets. KTUL news chief Jack Morris was also appointed news director of the television station. The launch of KTVX was timed to coincide with the ABC television network broadcast of a college football game on Saturday, September 18, 1954, between the University of Oklahoma and the University of California, Berkeley. A 30-minute dedication ceremony preceded the telecast.
In addition to ABC, KTVX was also affiliated with the DuMont Network until 1955, when struggling DuMont was dropped and KTVX became a dedicated ABC station. Also that year, KTVX continued its encroachment on the Tulsa market by establishing what it called an auxiliary studio in the city. The existing television stations had previously objected to the location of the transmitter and now vehemently opposed this latest maneuver. The FCC considered the complaint but later in the year sided with KTVX. With a strong signal, broadcasting at 316,000 watts, the highest allowed power, and most of its advertisers in Tulsa, KTVX was essentially a Tulsa television station. In 1957 the station sought to make it official and filed a request with the FCC to move the station to Tulsa and change the call letters to KTUL-TV. The FCC approved the petition in August 1957. The change in call letters went into effect the following month.
In the meantime, Griffin and Leake sold their radio stations in 1956 in order to focus on television. In 1964 they bought out their partners in KWTV and in conjunction with that transaction, KWTV and KTUL became subsidiaries of KATV, Inc. The following year, the company adopted the name of Griffin-Leake TV, Inc. Griffin owned 55.81 percent of the stock and Leake and his wife 44.1 percent.
In 1963 KTUL applied to erect a new transmitting tower, which at 1,909 feet would become the second tallest in the United States. The new tower allowed KTUL to reach 33 additional communities in the station's four-state viewing area. Moreover, the station upgraded its transmission equipment to carry ABC's color programming. In July 1965 KTUL transmitted its first network colorcast from the new tower. The first local color program followed in February 1967.
In 1969 Griffin and Leake split their assets. Leake gained ownership of KTUL, as well as KATV, a cable television business, and a stake in a construction permit for a Puerto Rico television station. Leake TV Inc. owned KTUL until November 1982, when the station and KATV were sold to Allbritton Communications Co. for more than $80 million in cash. KTUL's new owner was established in 1975 by banker Joe L. Allbritton to purchase the Washington Star newspaper and its television and radio stations. Because of FCC ownership rules at the time, he was eventually forced to choose between the newspaper or Washington television station, WJLATV. In 1978 he sold the Star, which ceased publishing that same year. The addition of KTUL and KATV increased Allbritton's television portfolio to five VHF stations, the maximum then allowed by a single firm under federal regulations. The transaction received FCC approval in February 1983.
The change in ownership brought an end to the tenure of one of the few women general managers of a U.S. television station, Saidie Adwon. She originally worked for the KTUL radio station, joining in 1945 as an assistant promotion director. Because of the meager pay, she was on the verge of quitting before being given a chance to earn commissions through advertising sales. She proved to be a natural at sales and in 1954 joined the television station as an account executive. She again excelled and in 1968 was named “advertising man of the year” by Tulsa's Advertising Federation. She was elected president of American Women in Radio and Television in 1976. Adwon was then appointed general manager of KTUL in 1980. After the change in ownership three years later, she relinquished the post and went to work in sales at KWTV, finally retiring in 1991.
KTUL remained part of the ABC family, and in April 1996 Allbritton signed a new 10-year affiliation agreement to extend the relationship. In 1998 KTUL almost became an ABC-owned-and-operated station. The Walt Disney Company, ABC's parent, made an offer for the Allbritton station group, but the negotiations soon fell apart.
At the local level, KTUL was the leader in news. To help maintain a narrow edge over its nearest rival, KOTV Channel 6, the station opened a new $3 million, 13,800-square-foot, digital-ready facility in 1999. In addition to a newsroom incorporated into an improved news set, it included an upgraded weather center with a state-of-the-art tornado tracker. With Tulsa in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” weather was key to any successful local newscast. The station also introduced new theme music and an on-air logo, as well as a change of name from Oklahoma Channel 8 to News Channel 8.
In the 21st century, KTUL continued to revamp its news operations, which produced four hours of live news each day. The result was a great deal of material to be cataloged and saved indefinitely, about 100 gigabits of content each week. In 2007 the station installed a new media archive library, featuring cartridges each able to store more than 15 terabytes of information, or about three years of media. Also during this period, KTUL made the transition to digital transmission. As mandated by the FCC, the station completed the conversion in June 2009 and its analog signal was turned off.
Digital technology also provided television stations with the option of digital sub-channels. In 2004 KTUL launched its first digital sub-channel, virtual channel 8.2, carrying a weather service under the “First Alert Weather 24/7” banner. Another digital sub-channel became an affiliate of the Retro Television network in 2008. Local high-definition broadcasting took longer to adopt. Two other Tulsa stations began broadcasting their newscast in high definition before KTUL made the transition in August 2011.
In 2013 Allbritton put KTUL and its other television stations up for sale. In July of that year, an agreement was reached to sell KTUL and six sister Allbritton stations to the fast-growing Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group. The $985 million transaction closed a year later after regulatory issues were finally settled. KTUL remained a local news leader, but as part of the Sinclair Group it would be required to air occasional “must run” segments on its newscasts espousing the parent company's conservative political views. In some cases, anchors were required to read corporate-provided copy as if they had written it themselves, thus lending their personal credibility to what were Sinclair's editorial opinion pieces.
Under new ownership, KTUL continued to revamp its digital sub-channel lineup. In 2015 channel 8.2 became an affiliate of the Comet network, a provider of science-fiction content. The following year, channel 8.3 joined the Antenna TV network, offering classic television programming from the 1950s to the first decade of the 21st century. In 2017 channel 8.4 joined TBD, a new Sinclair-owned network that focused on internet-based series, user-generated content, and other digital fare. KTUL's core affiliation, however, remained the ABC network. It was set to expire at the end of 2017, but an agreement was reached to extend the contract to 2022.
Cox Media Group, Inc.; Griffin Communications, LLC; Trinity Broadcasting Network, Inc.
Arnold, Kyle. “KTUL Sold to Sinclair Group.” Tulsa World, July 30, 2013.
“KTVX Is Signal of Channel 8.” McIntosh County Democrat (Checotah, OK), April 14, 1954.
“KTVX to Be on Air Saturday.” Stilwell (OK) Democrat-Journal, September 18, 1954.
Malone, Michael. “Sinclair's Deal for Allbritton Closes.” Broadcasting and Cable, August 1, 2014.
Shaw, Russell. “KTUL Starts from Scratch.” Electronic Media, December 13, 1999, 24.
Stelter, Brian, and Leslie Kaufman. “Sinclair Group Is Buying 7 Allbritton TV Stations.” New York Times, July 30, 2013.
“Tulsa's KTUL-TV Undergoes Name Change.” Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), June 7, 1959.
Wolfe, Ron. “Broadcast Exec Hits ‘Off’ Button on 46-Year Career.” Tulsa World, June 24, 1991.