The station grew out of the VHF "freeze", when three entities vying for the channel 13 assignment, including the Houston Chronicle, decided to merge as Houston Consolidated Television. They also bought the studio facilities of the defunct KNUZ-TV (channel 39), a DuMont affiliate which had gone dark. As the Chronicle was the largest shareholder in the company, the station went on the air on November 20, 1954 as KTRK-TV, derived from the Chronicle's radio station, KTRH. The station was an ABC affiliate; during the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
The original studio facilities were located at 4513 Cullen Blvd (at the defunct Texas Television Center district in the University of Houston campus); this studio later housed KHTV (later KHWB and KHCW, now KIAH, the present channel 39) and PBS member station KUHT (channel 8).
In 1955, the Chronicle bought out its partners. Although this theoretically left the paper free to change its calls to "KTRH-TV" to match its radio sister, it opted not to do so. However, for years it called itself "The Houston Chronicle Station." Soon afterward, the station moved to its current Bissonnet Street location. The studio was the first domed structure in town, preceding the better-known Astrodome by 10 years. Both projects were built by the same architect, Hermon Lloyd. Like many stations located on "unlucky" channel 13, it used a black cat as its mascot.
Early programs involved a heavy emphasis on local flavor and reflected themes of the day. Some of the more popular local shows included:
- Kitirik: a children's oriented program, hosted by an actress in a cat costume.
- Cadet Don: A Space-themed adventure program for children, focusing on the exploits of an interstellar adventurer and the locations he visited. His alien puppet friend Seymour was from the planet Katark
- Dialing for Dollars: A game show of sorts where a viewer would be phoned by the host and would win a cash prize by answering questions.
- Good Morning Houston: The successor to Dialing for Dollars which debuted in the late 1970s and expanded to include discussions on local events and topics important to viewer's lifestyles.
In 1967, the Chronicle sold KTRK to Capital Cities Broadcasting (later to become Capital Cities Communications).CapCities bought ABC in 1986, making KTRK an ABC-owned and operated station. With that distinction, KTRK would become the first network-owned station in Texas. After 1991, the station's only preemption was the first half-hour of The Home Show, an arrangement which continued when the show morphed into Mike and Maty.
Capital Cities/ABC was sold to the Walt Disney Company in early 1996. Not long after, the new Disney-led ownership directed KTRK-TV to clear the entire ABC schedule, though there have been times when local special events are aired in place of network programming (the annual running of the Chevron Houston Marathon is one notable example of this, when the Sunday edition of Good Morning America is pre-empted for live race coverage, anchored by the Eyewitness News team).
On April 30, 2000, a dispute between Disney and Time Warner Cable forced KTRK off cable systems within the Houston market for over 24 hours during the May sweeps period. Other ABC stations in markets served by Time Warner Cable, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Raleigh/Durham, were also affected by the outage as well before the FCC forced TWC to restore service to those areas on May 2.  In 2007, Time Warner traded the Houston franchise for Dallas-Fort Worth's Comcast.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|13.1||720p||16:9||KTRK-HD||Main KTRK programming/ABC|
|13.2||LIVWELL|| Live Well Network|
(letterbox on 13.3)
KTRK-TV ended programming on its analog signal, on VHF channel 13, on June 12, 2009, as part of the DTV transition in the United States. The station then moved back to channel 13 for its post-transition operations.
Network and syndicated programming
Under CapCities' ownership, KTRK preempted some ABC programming, though not nearly as much as other ABC affiliates, such as sister station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. The programs which channel 13 preempted were not widely run in many markets, though for many years KTRK pre-empted the first half-hour of Good Morning America in favor of a local newscast. This practice continued into the early 1990s, before the newscast was moved back to a pre-7:00am start time. Despite these preemptions, ABC was more than satisfied with KTRK, one of its strongest affiliates.
Channel 13 is also different from many ABC owned-and-operated stations in that it has never aired the syndicated versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Those programs have aired on CBS affiliate KHOU-TV (channel 11) since 1986, while they have been mainstays on most of ABC's owned-and-operated stations for years. Another such program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, was carried over KHOU for its entire 25-year run. In fact, at one point during the late 1980s to early 1990s, Donahue was the only daytime syndicated program on KTRK's lineup. This was largely due to its hour-long 6:00 p.m. newscast as well as its popular movie showcases and local programming at the time, including Good Morning Houston.
Since 2001, with the debut of the 4:00 p.m. newscast, Channel 13 no longer has enough syndicated daytime hours of programming to back up its strong news programming outside of network programming. Thus the remaining two hours are filled by these syndicated programs during weekdays: Live! with Kelly and Michael, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Katie (both of which are distributed by corporate cousin Disney-ABC Domestic Television), and Inside Edition.
KTRK-TV was the original television home of the Houston Astros, from the team's inaugural season in 1962 until 1971; however the station only televised Sunday afternoon road games.
Channel 13 has been the official television home of the Houston Texas since the expansion year in 2002. The station has televised all of the Texans' preseason games not carried on national networks since the team's inception. On Sundays during the Texans' season, it televises a post-game show, Houston Texans Inside the Game at 10:35 p.m. hosted by Bob Allen and Spencer Tillman, following its Sunday newscast. On Mondays during the regular season, it televises Look Back with Kubiak, in which sports director Bob Allen looks over the previous Sunday's game with Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, during its 6 p.m. newscasts. On Saturdays, its Extra Points sports show is converted to a special edition entitled Extra Points: Houston Texans Edition at 6:30 PM.
As ABC lost NFL rights at the end of the 2005 NFL season and with the Texans' regular season games broadcast on KHOU-TV (through the NFL on CBS), and sometimes KRIV (through Fox NFL Sunday and occasionally the NFL Network and ESPN Monday Night Football) and KPRC-TV (through NBC Sunday Night Football), the preseason games will be the only games broadcast on KTRK for the foreseeable future.
KTRK is widely noted for having the most experienced news team in Greater Houston, the tenth-largest media market in the United States. Many of the station's anchors and reporters have been at the station for at least 20 years, some even dating back to the station's days under Capital Cities ownership. Dave Ward has been the station's main anchor since 1965, longer than anyone in Houston television history. Two other notable long-time personalities are sports director Bob Allen, who has served in that position since 1974, longer than any other major-market sports director, and investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino, who has worked for KTRK since 1985 and has won many awards for a number of high-profile civic and consumer investigations with his 13 Undercover franchise.
KTRK also became known for its legendary consumer and investigative reporter, Marvin Zindler, whose week-long 1973 reports on a brothel in La Grange, Texas led to the closing of the Chicken Ranch, a bordello that was later immortalized in the musical and film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and ZZ Top's hit song "La Grange." Zindler was also widely noted in Houston for his Friday night Rat and Roach Report on Houston restaurants that failed health inspections, which ended with his trademark line "Slime in the Ice Machine". Zindler signed a lifetime contract with KTRK in 1988, making him the first person ever offered such a contract by then-owner Capital Cities, which was known as a financially frugal company. Zindler continued to work for the station until his death in 2007 from pancreatic cancer, even filing reports from his hospital bed during treatment. Since his death, Zindler's former producer, Lori Reingold has picked up where he left off. She was instrumental in helping find "Marvin's Angels", wrote much of his copy and will be continuing under the segment name, "Action's Angels".
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ward, along with Allen, Zindler, and weatherman Ed Brandon, led Houston's top-rated news team at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The lineup was later revised to include a female anchor, Shara Fryer in the 1990s, followed by current chief meteorologist Tim Heller in lieu of Brandon at 10 p.m. in 2002, and the replacement of Fryer with Gina Gaston the following year. In 2007, Brandon retired from the station after a 35-year career, but has occasionally filled in. On September 4, 2012, The lineup was revised to include a sports director Bob Allen, followed by current sports director Greg Bailey in lieu of Allen at 10 p.m.
The station's newscast, 13 Eyewitness News, has been number one in the Houston market for most of the last 30 years. It is also one of the highest-rated newscasts in the country. In recent years, however, KTRK has faced strong challenges from rival CBS affiliate KHOU-TV, often battling with KHOU for number one during its evening newscasts. In the beginning of 2005, CBS affiliate KHOU-TV stepped up its news operations, and overtook KTRK during evening newscasts and at one time ousted KTRK's longtime No. 1 position in the mornings. KHOU-TV's victory in the ratings was mainly credited to the turn to hard news, the switch to HD, and its dedicated news team with Greg Hurst and Lisa Foronda at the helm of channel 11. KTRK-TV recently took the lead again in the mornings, as well as at midday, and 5 p.m. The rivalry is so intense that KTRK has even gone as far as advertising its newscasts as the most watched in Houston in terms of total households for all of its newscasts. KTRK-TV has always led in household ratings, something it continues to do. It broadcasts more hours of local news than any other Houston television station with six hours on weekdays, two and a half hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday.
On August 12, 2007, KTRK began fully producing Eyewitness News in HD (HD helicopter and HD tower cam since mid-2006), making KTRK the second Houston station after KHOU and the seventh ABC owned-and-operated station after KABC in Los Angeles, WPVI in Philadelphia, WABC in New York City, WLS in Chicago, KGO in San Francisco and KFSN in Fresno to make the transition, although technically, KTRK had the first HD images broadcast during its newscasts (helicopter and weather camera) before any other station in Houston.
The victory for Channel 11 ended in 2007, as it slipped into the #2, and even #3 in some time slots. Since November 5, 2007, KTRK has reclaimed its victory as Houston's most watched station from sign-on to sign-off. Station promos state based on Nielsen's October 2007 ratings, 13 Eyewitness News is Houston's #1 newscast in Eyewitness News This Morning (5:00–7:00 am), Eyewitness News at 4 (4:00–5:00 pm), Live at Five (5:00–5:30 pm), Eyewitness News at 6 (6:00–7:00 pm) and Eyewitness News Tonight (10:00–10:35 pm). However KTRK wasn't able to recover from its 11am newscast, which came in second to KHOU's noon newscast (channel 13 was #1 at 11am though; but not for the entire midday block) until 2009, when it took the midday time slot from channel 11 which runs a noon newscast. The station also had major victories for 2008 election night and 2009 inauguration day, all the victories were won by a wide margin. This widens channel 13's lead over all other stations in the market, marking 30+ years that KTRK has remained number 1 in Houston. In the November 2009 sweeps period, Channel 11 regained the midday news lead. ABC 13 continues to dominate its competition in every other dayparts, except midday. In addition, KTRK ranks #1 among various demographics such as young women (25-35), African Americans, and suburban audiences.
On August 17, 2009, it was the first station in the market to begin airing a 4:30 AM newscast, beating KPRC by one week and KHOU by three.
Skyeye 13 HD
Skyeye HD is owned by Helicopters Inc. and leased to Metro Networks/Westwood One. On October 13, 2008 around 11 AM, Skyeye HD crashed in W.G. Jones State Forest located near the intersection of FM 1488 and Peoples Road in southern Montgomery County, Texas. The aircraft, operated by a contractor, was in route to a breaking news story on a reported shooting when it went down. Pilot John Downhower and photographer/reporter Dave Garrett were killed in the accident. Hooks Airport, the closest airport to the crash site, confirmed that no distress call was heard prior to the crash. The last images fed to KTRK were before the crash, which showed the landing skid as the helicopter banked hard to the right. An investigation by the NTSB concludes the loss of power came from an undetermined source. When asking an accident reconstructionist about the preliminary report, he pointed to a device that didn't function properly that would have prevented an emergency landing. The malfunctioning part wasn't mentioned in the final report without an explanation.
- KTRK Television Newsreel (1954–1962)
- The Texas News (1962–1964)
- Channel 13 Information Center (1964-1965)
- Channel 13 News (1965–1971)
- Channel 13 Eyewitness News (1971–present; used as 13 Eyewitness News since 1971)
- 13 Eyewitness News (1998–present)
- 13 Eyewitness News HD (2007–present)
- "The Houston Chronicle Station" (1954–1971)
- "Let's Get Together on Channel 13" (1970-1971; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "This is The Place to Be on Channel 13" (1971-1974; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Houston's Choice for News" (1971–1984; news slogan)
- "Hello Houston, Hello Channel 13" (1974-1975; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Welcome to the Bright New World on Channel 13" (localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Let Us Be The One on Channel 13" (1976-1977; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "We're Still the One, on Channel 13" (1977-1980; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Channel 13`s The One You Can Turn To (1978-1979; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "You and Me and Channel 13" (1980-1981; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Come on Along with Channel 13" (1982–1983; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "That Special Feeling on Channel 13" (1983–1984; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "You`ll Love It on Channel 13" (1985-1986; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Houston's Great!" (1985–1987; used during period station used Frank Gari's "Turn To News")
- "Together On Channel 13" (1986-1987; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Something's Happening on Channel 13" (1987-1990; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- "Together We Care" (1987–1992; primarily for PSAs)
- "Caring Makes The Difference" (1989–1992)
- "Houston's Watching KTRK" (1990-1992; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- "If It's Houston, It Must Be Channel 13" (1992-1994; localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- "13 Cares About Texas" (1992–present; often read as "We Care About Texas", still used for PSAs)
- "Share the Experience" (1993–1994)
- "Watched By More Houston Channel 13, ABC" (1993-1996; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "Houston's News Leader" (1995–present)
- "Nobody Does It Like ABC-13" (1996-1997; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "TV is Good, On ABC-13" (1997-1998; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "We Love TV, on ABC-13" (1998-1999; localized version of ABC campaign)
- "ABC-13, Start Here (2007-present; localized version of current ABC campaign)
- Tom Abrahams - Saturdays at 6:00, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10:00 p.m.; also weekday reporter
- Erik Barajas - weekdays at 4:00 p.m.; also weeknight reporter
- Ilona Carson - weekdays at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Gina Gaston - weeknights at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
- Tom Koch - weekday mornings (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Melanie Lawson - weekdays at 11:00 a.m. and weeknights at 5:00 p.m.
- Katie McCall - weekend mornings (5:30-6:00 Saturdays and 6:00-7:00 + 8:00-10:00 a.m. weekends); also weekday morning reporter
- Sharron Melton - weekday mornings (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Art Rascon - weeknights at 5:00 p.m.
- Elissa Rivas - weekend mornings (5:30-6:00 Saturdays and 6:00-7:00 + 8:00-10:00 a.m. weekends); also weekday morning reporter
- Adela Uchida - Saturdays at 6:00, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10:00 p.m.; also weekday reporter
- Dave Ward - weeknights at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
13 Eyewitness Weather
- Tim Heller (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
- Casey Curry - meteorologist; weekday mornings (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
- Travis Herzog (member, AMS; member, NWA) - meteorologist; weekdays at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- David Tillman (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - meteorologist; weekend mornings (5:30-6:00 Saturdays and 6:00-7:00 + 8:00-10:00 a.m. weekends), Saturdays at 6:00, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10:00 p.m.
- Bob Allen - sports director emeritus; weeknights at 6:00 p.m.
- Greg Bailey - sports director; weeknights at 10:00 p.m.
- Tim Melton - sports anchor; Saturdays at 6:00, Sundays at 5:30 and weekends at 10:00 p.m.
- Bob Slovak - sports reporter; also fill-in sports anchor
- David Nuno - sports anchor; fill-in
- Sonia Azad - general assignment reporter
- Wayne Dolcefino - investigative reporter
- Christine Dobbyn - general assignment reporter
- Jeff Ehling - consumer reporter
- Demond Fernandez - general assignment reporter
- Samica Knight - general assignment reporter
- Crystal Kobza - general assignment reporter
- Pooja Lodhia - general assignment reporter
- Patricia Lopez - consumer reporter
- Christi Myers - health reporter
- Don Nelson - weekday morning traffic (4:30-7:00 a.m.) and entertainment reporter
- Ted Oberg - "InFocus" feature reporter
- Kevin Quinn - general assignment reporter
- Miya Shay - general assignment reporter
- Jessica Willey - general assignment reporter
- Deborah Wrigley - general assignment reporter
Notable former on-air staff
- Chris Adams – (retired)
- Dan Ammerman – anchored the news with Dave Ward - one of the founders of the Ammerman Experience - actor - played different characters on "Dallas"
- Vicente Arenas – (currently with KHOU)
- Elma Barrera – Houston's first female Hispanic reporter
- Tedd Bennett – weather on 7am news
- Paul Boesch – hosted Friday night wrestling show - wrestling show later moved to Channel 39 in Houston
- Kitty Borah – hostess of "Kitty's Corner" a morning children's program
- Bob Boudreaux – weekend anchor
- Leslie Brinkley- Reporter Now at KGO-TV in San Francisco
- Doug Brown – weekday mornings, then weekend morning anchor (retired)
- Ed Brandon – chief meteorologist (1972–2002); 6PM meteorologist (2002–2007; now retired, but still appears as fill-in)
- Jan Carson – 6 and 10 p.m. co-anchor (until 1980; later at KGO-TV in San Francisco, then returned to Houston in the late 1980s as co-anchor at KPRC)
- Katishia Cosley – reporter (2007–2008; now with KIAH-TV)
- Mary Ellen Conway – first female reporter
- Chris Curle – reporter (mid 1970s)
- Joe Diaz – meteorologist
- Thom Dickerson – reporter
- Debra Duncan (now at KHOU; Duncan also had a locally based talk show (1998–2002); plans for ABC/Disney to pick it up fell through)
- Troy Dungan – meteorologist (To 1976; hosted "Dialing for Dollars" and "Turn On" on KTRK; later at WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth; retired)
- Tom Evans – weather anchor (early-mid 1960s)
- Lis Exon – police/investigative reporter (1990s; now news manager at OETA in Tulsa, Oklahoma)
- Diana Fallis – KTRK's first African American female anchor (later served as a media relations liaison with Prairie View A & M University)
- Howard Finch – news anchor on 7am news
- Shara Fryer – 6 and 10pm anchor
- Mark Garay – weekend morning anchor
- Roland Galvan – meteorologist (mid-1980s; died December 2005)
- Stephen S. Gauvain (died in 1996 when a Ford Explorer SUV flipped over during the coverage of the Hilton Crawford murder trial in Huntsville, TX; the cause of the accident, a defective Firestone tire, would later lead to an investigation exposed by rival KHOU that led to numerous lawsuits and a complete recall of the tires)
- Stephanie Guadian – weekend evening anchor/reporter (2002-2008, now morning anchor at KFOX-TV in El Paso
- Nydia Han – fill-in Anchor/consumer reporter (now with WPVI-TV in Philadelphia)
- Alan Hemberger – midday and 5pm anchor (1989–1998; now at KIAH-TV)
- Corin Hoggard – fill-in anchor/reporter (currently reporter at KFSN in Fresno, California)
- John Nigel Davenport (died in 1991)
- James Irby – reporter (2000–2004; now weekend anchor at KTBC in Austin)
- Eric James- reporter (2006-2009)
- Debbie Johnson – weekend anchor
- Heidi Jones – 11AM and 4PM Weather anchor (now doing weather at WABC in New York)
- Larry Kane – host of The Larry Kane Show (1959–1971) - later moved to KPRC-TV in Houston
- Cheryle Keck – morning anchor (deceased)
- Ed Kilgore – sports anchor/reporter (1971–1973; now at WGRZ-TV in Buffalo)
- Don Kobos – reporter (19??-2000; later became KTRK's assistant news director)
- Andrea Lucia- reporter (2009)
- Dan Lovett – sports anchor (left in 1974 for WABC-TV in New York; also later anchored at KGO in San Francisco, has since returned to Houston)
- Darren Lyn (left to become a Houston-based reporter for ABC's corporate cousin ESPN. Now reporter with WSB-TV in Atlanta)
- Tim Malloy – anchor (1989–1994; now at WPTV in West Palm Beach)
- Jeff McShan – reporter (1992–1993; now at KHOU)
- Doug Murphy – weekend sports anchor (moved to KPIX-TV in San Francisco (1980–2005); died in 2005 in a house fire in Lafayette, California)
- Patrick Nolan – reporter (2000–2003; now evening anchor at WFTX in Fort Myers, Florida)
- Gene Norman – weekend meteorologist (now chief meteorologist at KHOU-TV)
- Bunny Orsak – host of The Kitirik Show (1954–1972; first woman on-screen for KTRK)
- Minerva Perez – morning and 11AM anchor (resigned after contract dispute)
- Charles Porter – reporter
- Dan Rather – reporter (later at CBS News)
- Sylvan Rodriguez – anchor (1977–1987; later at KHOU-TV, deceased)
- Betty Rogers – co-host of Dialing for Dollars (mid-1960s to mid-1970s)
- Jim Rosenfield (later at WCBS-TV in New York City; retired from TV)
- Tim Ryan – reporter (1981–1983; now at KDFW-TV in Dallas)
- Guy Savage – sports director/anchor (mid 1960s; deceased)
- Lisa Trapani – co-host of Good Morning Houston (1991–2000; now marketing director at KHOU)
- Alvin Van Black – entertainment/nightlife reporter, particularly "Alvin at Night" segments during 10 p.m. newscasts on Friday nights (1987–1998; died in 2001)
- Evangelina Vigil-Piñón - host and producer of Community Close Up: Viva Houston, which aired Sundays
- Laura Whitley – reporter (2004–2009)
- Marvin Zindler – consumer anchor (1973–2007; died in 2007)
- David Strickland - vice president of news
- Henry Florsheim - station president
KTRK's "Circle 13" logo is loosely patterned after the Circle 7 logo long used by ABC stations and affiliates. It is similar to that of former sister station WTVG in Toledo, Ohio, only that KTRK calls itself ABC 13 while WTVG is known as 13 ABC (also WTVG's version of the logo does not include a design of the Texas state flag).
Its previous logo, which ran from 1971 until 1995, was a crooked "Circle 13." It recalled livestock branding of the Old West and was set in Helvetica font, with the bottom of the "3" trailing off out of the circle (similar also to the way the stem of the number 7 terminates at the bottom of the Circle 7 logo). In 1986 because of the Capital Cities/ABC Merger, the trailing portion was "trimmed" as the logo was turned slightly horizontal in a similar fashion to today's version. Since July 3, 1992, both logos have been superimposed over a stylized version of the Texas state flag.
- ABC13.com - Official Website
- KTRK-TV mobile
- 8. http://www.ammermanexperience.com/bios.htm
- 9. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0025064/
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