FOX31 Denver is the FOX television affiliate in Denver, Colorado, broadcasting 8 1/2 hours of live programming each weekday.
KDVR, virtual channel 31 (UHF digital channel 32), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Denver, Colorado, United States. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company, as part of a duopoly with CW affiliate KWGN-TV (channel 2).
The two stations share studios on East Speer Boulevard in Denver's Speer neighborhood (to the immediate south of the studios of ABC affiliate KMGH-TV [channel 7]); KDVR's transmitter is located atop Lookout Mountain, near Golden. On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity channel 13 and CenturyLink Prism channel 31.
KDVR operates a full-time satellite station in Fort Collins, KFCT (virtual channel 22, UHF digital channel 21), whose transmitter is located atop Horsetooth Mountain, just outside Fort Collins. KFCT covers areas of northern Colorado, being that area's only full-power television station, that receive a marginal to non-existent signal from KDVR, though there is significant overlap between the coverage areas of both KDVR and KFCT's signals otherwise (including in Fort Collins proper and the nearby cities of Greeley, Windsor, and Longmont).
KFCT is a straight simulcast of KDVR; on-air references to KFCT are limited to Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-mandated hourly station identifications during newscasts and another programming. Aside from the transmitter, KFCT does not maintain any physical presence locally in Fort Collins.
The station first signed on the air on August 10, 1983. Founded by a local ownership group, KDVR was the first commercial television station to sign on in the Denver market since KCNC-TV (channel 4) debuted in December 1953, and was the first full-service UHF television station in the state of Colorado. The station originally operated from studio facilities located near 7th Avenue and Auraria Parkway.
Denver had a fairly long wait to receive a second independent station to compete with the longer-established KWGN (now a CW affiliate), especially for a market of its size. On paper, the market's population had been large enough to support two independents since the early 1960s.
However, the Denver market is geographically one of the most expansive in the country, stretching across large and mountainous swaths of eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming, and western Nebraska. Denver's four major commercial stations, as well as PBS member KRMA-TV, operated extensive translator networks to cover the vast area and the expense of building so many translators to extend a new station's signal to these areas scared off potential owners.
Additionally, the only available allocations were on the UHF band, and UHF stations do not cover mountainous territory very well.
By the late 1970s, however, cable television—then as now, a must for acceptable television reception in some parts of the market, even in the digital era—had gained enough penetration to make a second independent viable. Also around this time, satellite television providers also began to upload Denver stations nationwide via C-band, allowing those stations to cover the entire market with less infrastructure and translators more confined to population centers than a traditional translator network would have required in the past.
TV Guide had listed a channel 31 in its Denver edition earlier in 1983 (as KX2AEG); however, this was a translator station rebroadcasting the Spanish International Network (now Univision). KDVR has never considered KX2AEG as part of its history. It was only in October 1990 that Univision finally gained a full-power affiliate of its own in Denver in KCEC (channel 50).
KDVR originally operated as a typical general entertainment independent station, running a lineup of cartoons, classic sitcoms, drama series, movies, and religious programming. After KWGN turned down an offer to affiliate with the new Fox network prior to its launch in 1986, KDVR stepped in and became a charter affiliate of Fox when it launched on October 6 of that year. KDVR eventually changed its on-air branding to "Fox 31" in the late 1980s. The station's original local owners sold KDVR to Chase Broadcasting in 1990; Chase subsequently merged with Renaissance Broadcasting in 1992.
On September 1, 1994, Renaissance signed on KFCT (channel 22) in Fort Collins (located 63.5 miles (102.2 km) north of Denver) to serve as a full-time satellite to improve KDVR's over-the-air coverage in northern portions of the market (expanding its coverage area north to the Wyoming border) that could not receive its signal.
Prior to KFCT's sign-on, the UHF channel 22 allocations in Fort Collins had been occupied by DuMont affiliate KNCO, which signed on in 1954. That station was hampered by low viewership as only a small percentage of television sets in the area were even capable of receiving UHF stations since set manufacturers were not required to equip televisions with UHF tuners until the Federal Communications Commission passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961, although UHF tuners were not included on all newer sets until 1964.
In addition, the terrain of the area made matters even more difficult, as UHF station signals had poorer reception in very mountainous areas. As a result, KNCO shut down in 1956.
Fox Television Stations ownership
Renaissance sold KDVR and KFCT to Fox Television Stations for $70 million on November 15, 1994, in exchange for acquiring that network's owned-and-operated station in Dallas–Fort Worth, KDAF (which was set to lose Fox programming to that market's longtime CBS affiliate, KDFW, as a result of a ten-station affiliation deal with New World Communications); As part of a series of attempts to prevent News Corporation (the parent company of Fox at the time) from acquiring additional stations, NBC filed a request to the FCC to reject the trade, on the grounds that the company was in violation of foreign ownership rules (which prohibit a foreign-owned company from maintaining more than a 25% interest in a U.S. television station).
However, the deal was approved by the FCC and subsequently finalized on July 3, 1995, effectively making channel 31 a Fox owned-and-operated station and the second O&O of a major English language network in the Denver market (KCNC had been owned by NBC from 1986, when the station's owner General Electric added it to NBC's owned-and-operated stations division, until September 9, 1995, when it was traded to CBS along with KUTV in Salt Lake City (which was acquired by NBC the year before) as part of a multi-station trade deal that also involved WCAU and KYW-TV in Philadelphia and the transmitter facilities of WCIX (now WFOR-TV) and WTVJ in Miami due to a multi-part affiliation deal between the network and KYW-TV's then-parent Westinghouse Electric Corporation, thru its broadcasting division Group W, which has resulted in all three companies' owned stations becoming CBS affiliates).
The deal with New World that spurred Fox's trade of KDAF with KDVR would play a factor in the Denver market on September 10, 1995, when CBS affiliate KMGH-TV (channel 7) switched to ABC, NBC affiliate KCNC-TV took over the CBS affiliation, and ABC affiliate KUSA-TV (channel 9) switched to NBC; with the sale to Fox being finalized on July 3, 1995, KDVR was not affected by the switches (it is currently the only television station in the Denver market to have never changed its network affiliation).
Fox never intended to hold on to KDVR for long; it initially planned to divest the station to Qwest Broadcasting (a company backed by Quincy Jones and Tribune Broadcasting) and move its affiliation to KWGN. In turn, KDVR would have inherited KWGN's WB affiliation. However, this deal never came to fruition.
After becoming a Fox-owned station, KDVR added first-run talk and reality shows to its daytime schedule, while continuing to carry sitcoms during the evening and late-night hours. In September 2006, KDVR, along with other Fox-owned stations, had their websites migrated to the MyFox platform, featuring expanded multimedia and social networking features.
Local TV and Tribune ownership
On December 22, 2007, Fox Television Stations entered into an agreement to sell KDVR and seven other Fox owned-and-operated stations to Local TV (a holding company operated by private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners), adding to the nine stations that the group had acquired in May of that same year when it bought the broadcasting division of The New York Times Company.
The sale was finalized on July 14, 2008. On September 17, 2008, Tribune Broadcasting announced that Local TV would begin managing KWGN under a local marketing agreement and consolidate its operations with KDVR effective October 1, as a result of the formation of a "broadcast management company" that was created to provide management services to stations owned by both Tribune and Local TV.
KWGN vacated its longtime studios in Greenwood Village and consolidated its operations with KDVR at its Speer Boulevard facility. As part of the Local TV-Tribune partnership, on January 22, 2009, KDVR's website switched from the MyFox platform to a website platform managed by Tribune Interactive. Tribune bought KDVR outright on July 1, 2013, as part of its $2.75 billion acquisition of Local TV; the sale was finalized on December 27, forming a legal duopoly between KDVR and KWGN.
Aborted sale to Sinclair; pending sale to Nexstar; possible resale to Fox
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune, pending regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. On December 15, 2017, it was speculated that Sinclair would then resell KDVR back to Fox Television Stations. On April 24, 2018, Sinclair announced that KDVR would be one of 23 stations sold to obtain approval for the merger, though it was one of seven stations for which a buyer was not disclosed.
On May 9, 2018, it was officially confirmed that Fox Television Stations would indeed buyback KDVR, as part of a $910-million deal that also involved six other Tribune-owned stations (Fox affiliates KTXL, KCPQ/Seattle, KSWB-TV/San Diego, WJW/Cleveland and KSTU/Salt Lake City, and CW affiliate WSFL-TV/Miami).
Three weeks after the FCC's July 18 vote to have the deal reviewed by an administrative law judge amid "serious concerns" about Sinclair's forthrightness in its applications to sell certain conflict properties, on August 9, 2018, Tribune announced it would terminate the Sinclair deal, intending to seek other M&A opportunities.
Tribune also filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that Sinclair engaged in protracted negotiations with the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division over regulatory issues, refused to sell stations in markets where it already had properties and proposed divestitures to parties with ties to Sinclair executive chair David D. Smith that were rejected or highly subject to rejection to maintain control over stations it was required to sell.
The termination of the Sinclair sale agreement places uncertainty for the future of Fox's purchases of KSTU and the other six Tribune stations included in that deal, which was predicated on the closure of the Sinclair–Tribune merger.
On December 3, 2018, Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group announced it would acquire the assets of Tribune Media for $6.4 billion in cash and debt. The deal—which would make Nexstar the largest television station operator by total number of stations upon its expected closure late in the third quarter of 2019—would put KDVR and KWGN-TV under common ownership with Nexstar's existing properties in Colorado Springs–Pueblo (Fox affiliate KXRM-TV and CW affiliate KXTU-LD and Grand Junction, MyNetworkTV affiliate KGJT-CD and CBS affiliate KREX-TV as well as its Montrose-based satellite KREY).
However, reports preceding the purchase announcement stated that, as it did during the group's failed purchase by Sinclair, Fox Television Stations may seek to acquire certain Fox-affiliated stations owned by Tribune—with the KDVR/KWGN duopoly potentially being a candidate for resale—from the eventual buyer of that group. It was later reported that, as part of Fox's affiliation renewal with Nexstar-owned stations, it was indeed looking at reacquiring KDVR alongside WJW and KCPQ from the previous Sinclair-Tribune-Fox deal (though it is not known if KWGN-TV will be part of the deal), with the remaining stations either remaining with Nexstar (KTXL and KSWB-TV) or being sold to KMGH-TV parent E. W. Scripps Company (KSTU and WSFL-TV); KUSA parent Tegna Inc. is also buying stations from Nexstar.