|City||San Francisco, California|
|Channels||Digital: 28 (UHF)|
Virtual: 44 (PSIP)
|Branding||KBCW 44 Cable 12 (general)|
MeTV Bay Area (DT3)
|Slogan||Dare to Defy|
|Owner||CBS Television Stations|
(a subsidiary of ViacomCBS)
(San Francisco Television Station KBCW Inc.)
First air date
|January 2, 1968|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
44 (UHF, 1968-2009)
45 (UHF, 1998-2020)
Call sign meaning
|A portmanteau of:|
Kaiser Broadcasting and
Bay Area CW
(reflects original owner and current affiliation)
|HAAT||490.3 m (1,609 ft)|
Public license information
KBCW, virtual channel 44 (UHF digital channel 28), is a CW owned-and-operated television station licensed to San Francisco, California, United States, serving the San Francisco Bay Area as the network's West Coast flagship outlet. The station is owned by the CBS Television Stations subsidiary of ViacomCBS, as part of a duopoly with CBS owned-and-operated station KPIX-TV (channel 5), also licensed to San Francisco. The two stations share studios at Broadway and Battery Street, just north of San Francisco's Financial District; KBCW's transmitter is located atop Sutro Tower. The station is available on channel 12 on most cable providers in the Bay Area and has equally promoted this channel placement in its branding for decades. There is no separate website for KBCW; instead, it is integrated with that of sister station KPIX-TV.
The station first signed on the air on January 2, 1968, as KBHK-TV (standing for Kaiser Broadcasting/Henry Kaiser); it was originally owned by Kaiser Broadcasting (established by steel/aluminum and shipbuilding industrialist Henry J. Kaiser [1882-1967]) and which owned other UHF independent stations in Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Cleveland. KBHK-TV was the third independent station in the San Francisco Bay area behind San Jose-based KGSC-TV (channel 36, now KICU-TV) and Oakland-based KTVU (channel 2), and the first independent licensed to San Francisco.
The station was originally based in studios located at 650 California Street. Several key scenes from the Robert Redford-starring political election intrigue movie The Candidate (1970) were filmed in KBHK's studio at 420 Taylor Street (originally NBC "Red Network" Radio Studios). Many of KBHK's technicians appeared in the movie as themselves. Kaiser Broadcasting later merged with Chicago-based Field Communications (Marshall Field, (1834-1906, founder of empire including famous department store chain and later descendants branching into media with broadcasting flagship TV station WFLD among others, and daily newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times and defunct tabloid Chicago Daily News) in 1973 as part of a joint venture between the companies. In 1977, Kaiser sold its interest in the stations to Field, making Field the sole owner of KBHK. Field later put its stations up for sale in 1982, and KBHK was sold to United Television in 1983. KBHK maintained a general entertainment program schedule that included morning and afternoon children's blocks, off-network sitcoms (such as The Brady Bunch), feature films, and public affairs programming. At one point, KBHK advertised itself as the "Bay Area's Movie Station" and aired a movie in prime time six nights a week. At various times during the 1970s and 1980s, KBHK was the flagship TV affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, pre-empting regular programming to telecast the baseball games.
Several local programs produced at KBHK were syndicated nationally including Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Memories (distributed by Paramount Television) and The Twilight Zone Special (distributed by Viacom). In 1993, the station began carrying programs from the Prime Time Entertainment Network programming service (which was owned jointly by Chris-Craft/United Television and Warner Bros. Entertainment) which it carried until January 1995.
In 1994, Chris-Craft/United Television partnered with Paramount Television to launch the United Paramount Network (UPN). As a result of Chris-Craft/United's interest in the network, UPN signed affiliation deals with both the company's independent stations (along with those owned by the Paramount Stations Group) to become charter owned-and-operated stations of the network. KBHK joined UPN when it launched on January 16, 1995. The station continued with its programming format, essentially continuing to program similarly to an independent as UPN would not expand to five nights a week of programming until 1998. The older sitcoms and cartoons (such as The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest and Sailor Moon) were gradually replaced during the late 1990s and early 2000s with more recent sitcoms, talk shows, game shows, court shows and reality shows.
In 2000, Viacom bought Chris-Craft's 50% ownership interest in UPN (which Chris-Craft had wholly owned, until Viacom acquired a stake in the network in 1996), stripping KBHK's status as an O&O. On August 12 of that year, Chris-Craft sold its UPN stations to the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of News Corporation for $5.5 billion; the deal that was finalized on July 31, 2001. Fox subsequently traded KBHK-TV to Viacom in exchange for KTXH in Houston and WDCA in Washington, D.C., thus returning KBHK's status as an O&O. Viacom had purchased CBS a year earlier, resulting in the creation of a duopoly between KBHK and CBS O&O KPIX.
Since News Corporation also owned the Fox network at the time (the company split in two in 2013; the company that now owns the network is Fox Corporation); the trade protected the former Cox-owned KTVU as the Bay Area's Fox affiliate (Fox would later purchase KTVU and sister station KICU in exchange for their Boston station WFXT and Memphis station WHBQ-TV in October 2014). The Viacom purchase also reunited KBHK with Detroit's WKBD, which had been purchased by Paramount Stations Group (which was in the process of being sold to Viacom, through that company's acquisition of Paramount) in 1993. After its purchase by Viacom was finalized, KBHK moved from its original longtime studios on California Street in the Nob Hill area and integrated its operations with KPIX at their studios on Battery Street.
On January 24, 2006, the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner and CBS Corporation announced that the two companies would shut down The WB and UPN and combine the networks' respective programming to create a new "fifth" network called The CW. On the day of the announcement, the network signed a ten-year affiliation deal with 11 of CBS Corporation's 15 UPN stations, including KBHK. However, it is likely that KBHK would have been chosen even without the affiliation deal. Network representatives were on record as preferring the "strongest" WB and UPN affiliates in terms of viewership, and KBHK had been well ahead of WB affiliate KBWB-TV (channel 20, now KOFY-TV) in the ratings for virtually all of UPN's run.
KBCW holds the distinction of being The CW's West Coast flagship station, even though this position is normally assigned to a Los Angeles station; CBS Corporation does not own a CW station in that market--the company owns KCAL-TV, which it runs as an independent station, while L.A.'s CW affiliate KTLA (owned by Nexstar Media Group) serves as its largest station in the West Coast (in terms of market size). With the launch of The CW, KBCW became the Bay Area's only major English-language network (and network-owned) station on the UHF dial. To reflect the new affiliation, KBHK officially changed its call letters to KBCW on July 1, 2006. In June 2013, the station changed its logo from the generic design used since The CW's launch to a version utilizing the station's call letters (also being utilized by The CW's Des Moines, Iowa affiliate KCWI).
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|44.1||1080i||16:9||KBCW-DT||Main KBCW programming / The CW|
KBCW shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 44, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 45, using PSIP to display KBCW's virtual channel as 44 on digital television receivers (KTVU, virtual channel 2, utilized physical channel 44 from 2009 until 2019 for their digital channel allocation). In 2019, KBCW relocated to digital channel 28 as part of the FCC's spectrum reallocation.
In the first years of the existence of digital television (pre-dating the 2004 establishment of the PSIP standard), the station promoted both its analog and digital channel positions with equal weight within its logo, having been among the first digital television stations in the nation (and by that virtue among the first to carry UPN programming in HD), and launching service in 1998.
In addition to the CW network schedule, syndicated programming on KBCW includes The Goldbergs, The People's Court, 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men and Family Feud among others. The station is considered an alternate CBS affiliate, and as such, KBCW may air CBS network programs as time permits in the event that KPIX is unable to in the event of extended breaking news coverage or special event programming, such as San Francisco 49ers preseason games; the CBS Dream Team Saturday morning children's block, for example, at one time occasionally aired on KBCW due to live CBS Sports coverage on KPIX that airs on the network in the early afternoon in the Eastern Time Zone (the Dream Team block would itself pre-empt The CW's One Magnificent Morning block). KBCW also used to air rebroadcasts of CBS News programs Face the Nation and CBS Sunday Morning, and local programs produced by KPIX such as Eye on the Bay and the Last Honest Sports Show.
Over the years at various times, KBHK served as the television home of Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics, the NBA's Golden State Warriors, the now-defunct California Golden Seals NHL franchise and preseason games from the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. In 2022, the station will begin broadcasting the home games of the Oakland Panthers of the Indoor Football League.
The station attempted to produce a nightly newscast in the 1970s, only to eventually cancel the program due to low ratings. On March 3, 2008, KPIX began producing a nightly half-hour primetime newscast at 10:00 p.m. for KBCW; this program competed against KTVU's longer-established and hour-long newscast, whose viewership is generally the largest among all the market's late newscasts from 10:00-11:35 p.m. The KBCW program had been produced in high definition since its debut. In July 2014, the weeknight newscast was renamed Bay Area Nightbeat while the weekend newscast stayed as KPIX 5 News, while the newscast came to an end on December 6, 2019, the station provided an hour of CBSN Bay Area weeknights at 10 until cancelling it in June 2020. In January 2012, KPIX-TV began producing an hour-long extension of its weekend morning newscast for KBCW airing on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. but dropped it in June 2015. In early 2015, KBCW began to simulcast Good Day from Sacramento sister CW station KMAX on weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. and weekends from 8 to 11 a.m., but cancelled it less than a year later. In July 2018, KBCW briefly carried an extension of KPIX's weekday morning newscast from 7 to 8 a.m. before cancelling it. As of 2020, the only news KBCW carries is a simulcast of KPIX's morning news weekdays from 4:30 - 7 a.m.