KNTV signed on the air on September 12, 1955, originally operating as an independent station covering the entire north-central California coast from Monterey to San Francisco. It was the first television station in San Jose, and was originally operated by Standard Radio and Television Corporation, which was owned by Allen T. Gilliland. The station's studios and offices were adjacent to the Gilliland-owned Sunlite Baking Company on Park Avenue in downtown San Jose, and its antenna was originally located on Loma Prieta, some 60 miles (100 km) south of San Francisco. Channel 11 often aired shows from CBS, DuMont and NBC that were respectively turned down by San Francisco's KPIX (channel 5) and KRON-TV (channel 4), as well as some ABC shows that also aired on KGO-TV (channel 7). The station was not viable as an independent, and the going got even more difficult when Oakland-based KTVU (channel 2) signed on in 1958.
However, due to its antenna location, its signal could be received fairly well in the nearby areas of Monterey and Salinas. Taking advantage of this, KNTV sought and was granted the ABC affiliation for the Monterey Bay area in 1960, on the condition that the station reduced its transmitter power so as not to overlap with network-owned KGO-TV's signal. Previously, all three networks had been shoehorned onto Salinas-based KSBW-TV (channel 8). KNTV, therefore, became one of the few stations located outside the market it served.
Following the death of Allen T. Gilliland in 1960, ownership of KNTV was held by the executors of his estate, which included son Allen T. Gilliland Jr. The younger Gilliland acquired majority ownership in August 1966 and later operated it as part of Gill Industries, which also controlled San Jose's cable television system. Even as an ABC affiliate, KNTV occasionally preempted a few ABC programs. KGO-TV, meanwhile, aired ABC's entire programming schedule, so this often gave San Jose and Silicon Valley Area residents a second choice for viewing preempted ABC programming. Gill Industries sold KNTV to Norfolk-based Landmark Communications in 1978. Twelve years later, Landmark sold the station to a minority-owned firm, Granite Broadcasting.
In 1999, KGO-TV agreed to pay Granite a substantial fee to stop channel 11 from running ABC programming once the station's affiliation contract expired. ABC's corporate parent, the Walt Disney Company, saw the need to expand KGO-TV's exclusive advertising market share into San Jose for this reason, and it felt that KNTV was taking away from the share.
That same year, the deYoung family, owners of KRON-TV and the San Francisco Chronicle, put all of its media properties up for sale. NBC, which had been in the midst of renewing its affiliation agreement with KRON-TV, jumped into the bidding as it had sought to purchase channel 4 – then the network's largest affiliate by market size – for several years due to its status as one of the network's highest-rated affiliates. NBC was thought to be the favorite to buy KRON-TV, but lost a bidding war for the station to Young Broadcasting in November 1999. NBC responded by threatening to yank its programming from KRON unless Young agreed to run it under the conventions of an NBC-owned outlet, including disallowing the station from preempting NBC programs outside of breaking news coverage. The network also made the unprecedented demand that Young pay NBC $10 million annually to carry the network's programming – a form of reverse compensation. Young refused, and announced that it would end KRON-TV's 52-year relationship with NBC once its affiliation contract ended in December 2001.
In February 2000, Granite contacted NBC to negotiate an affiliation deal and offered to pay an average of $37 million annually (totaling roughly $362 million over 10 years) for the rights to broadcast NBC programs on KNTV. This agreement was groundbreaking and notable, as KNTV became the first major market affiliate to pay a network for programming, reversing a long-standing model where networks paid affiliates to carry their programming. NBC accepted the deal, which was due to take effect in January 2002. In preparation for this switch, KNTV boosted its signal to reach the entire San Francisco Bay Area. 7 million viewers now had access to KNTV, including 90% of the San Francisco Metropolitan area.
On July 3, 2000, KNTV terminated its ABC affiliation after 40 years with the network; it then temporarily carried programming from The WB Television Network in a part-time simulcast with then co-owned KBWB-TV (channel 20, now KOFY-TV), which was the full-time WB affiliate for the San Francisco Bay Area. The move cost the Monterey Bay area an over-the-air ABC affiliate. In order to compensate for the loss, KGO-TV was then added on cable providers in that market, with certain syndicated programs carried by the station replaced due to syndication exclusivity rules. This did not pose as much of a problem as it may seem due to the very high penetration of cable and satellite in the Monterey Bay area. ABC would not return over-the-air to the area until KSBW began carrying ABC programming on the station's second digital subchannel on April 18, 2011.
In September 2000, Nielsen Media Research reclassified KNTV to the designated market area (DMA) of San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland. In March 2001, the FCC officially recognized KNTV as a San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland station.
For Granite Broadcasting, the deal with NBC was expensive; the company showed a net loss of $44 million for the first three quarters of 2001, more than double its losses during the same period the previous year. In an attempt to reduce debts, Granite started looking for a buyer for Detroit WB affiliate WDWB (now WMYD) in October 2001; that station would not be sold until 2014.
On December 17, 2001, NBC announced another twist on the deal: it bought KNTV from cash-strapped Granite for $230 million, effectively separating itself from KBWB (which remains under Granite ownership). The network already owned San Jose-based Telemundo station KSTS-TV, and wanted to create a duopoly in the Bay Area. KNTV officially joined NBC at 11:35 p.m. Pacific Time on December 31, 2001. Jay Leno officially welcomed NBC's newest station in a ceremony on The Tonight Show (leading an area-wide 10-second countdown, then inaugurating NBC 3 with the words "Welcome, NBC 3, WE'RE UP NEXT!", as the show served as KNTV's first NBC program), followed later that morning by a segment on the Today show in which Al Roker introduced KNTV's anchors. With NBC's move to channel 11, it became the only major network in the Bay Area to switch from one station to another (KNTV is the third Bay Area station to affiliate with NBC, as primary CBS affiliate KPIX-TV had carried the network as a secondary affiliation upon its sign-on in 1948 until KRON debuted the following year). NBC formally took control of KNTV in April 2002.
After the affiliation switch to NBC, KNTV changed its branding to "NBC3" to reflect its position on cable channel 3 on nearly every cable provider in the Bay Area. However, due to potential confusion with Sacramento's NBC affiliate, KCRA-TV (which broadcast on channel 3), NBC rebranded the station as "NBC11" in September 2002. Initially, KNTV newscasts were perceived to be infotainment due to the focus on crime and entertainment news, but by late 2002 the newscasts began focusing on Bay Area affairs. The station added on a San Francisco bureau and studio in a 25,000 square foot facility on Battery Street in San Francisco.
During the 2004 Summer Olympics, the station heavily promoted channel 11 through its "i11uminating" marketing campaign (with the number "11" used in place of the "L" letters). Even in its early years as the new NBC affiliate, KNTV aired NBC's soap opera lineup much later in the afternoon than most affiliates; KRON had done this for years as an NBC affiliate. Soon enough by August 2004, KNTV fell in line with the network's recommended time slot and now airs Days of Our Lives (NBC's remaining afternoon daytime drama) at the recommended 1 p.m. timeslot.
In 2004, NBC converted a vacant office space in northern San Jose into a state-of-the-art, all-digital facility for KNTV and KSTS. On December 13 of that year, KNTV moved from its original studios on Park Avenue to the new location. As part of a corporate-wide environmental initiative (known today as "Green is Universal"), the facility is entirely powered by wind energy. Following its acquisition by NBC, KNTV continued to broadcast from its longtime transmitter location on the summit of Loma Prieta (located between San Jose and Santa Cruz), but did not increase its power to improve signal coverage in San Francisco and Oakland; as a result, the signal could not be seen over the air in much of the Bay Area north of San Mateo County, including much of San Francisco itself. The affiliation and market switches also resulted in many cable providers in the Monterey Bay area either dropping KNTV entirely or blocking its NBC programming under syndication exclusivity guidelines; even so, the signal still overlapped with KSBW.
That all changed on September 12, 2005, when KNTV was able to finally move its transmitter 52 miles (83 km) northwest to San Bruno Mountain, giving it a signal comparable to the Bay Area's other major stations. The move came after years of objection from KRON's owner Young Broadcasting. KRON made numerous filings with the FCC, alleging that thousands of San Jose residents would lose over-the-air coverage of KNTV if it moved closer to San Francisco.
Some San Francisco residents, especially in the Sunset and Richmond districts of the city, still found it difficult to receive an adequate over-the-air signal, because they are shielded by San Bruno Mountain. Most of the other Bay Area stations operate from Sutro Tower, which has a better overall view of San Francisco proper, although at the expense of those in northern San Mateo County, where San Bruno Mountain acts as a shield. However, most of the Bay Area is covered with a strong signal from all of the stations. The year closed, however, with a devastating fire at the retired transmitting facility on Loma Prieta. The fire was quickly extinguished on the afternoon of December 31; however, the fire reignited after firefighters had left the scene, and destroyed the former primary analog and digital transmitters, which had only been retired a few months earlier and were in backup status, as well as a variety of other communications equipment.
In January 2007, CNBC moved its Silicon Valley bureau — formerly located at the Wall Street Journal's bureau in Palo Alto — into KNTV/KSTS's San Jose studios. Former KNTV and KRON reporter Jim Goldman is the bureau chief, and the main CNBC reporter covering business stories concerning the Silicon Valley; the set used for daily broadcasts on CNBC occupies part of KNTV's newsroom. In 2009, KNTV changed its on-air branding from "NBC11" to "NBC Bay Area"; additionally the station's website was relaunched on October 16 of that year, as part of a larger revamp of the Web sites of NBC's entire O&O station group.
In April 2010, KNTV entered into an arrangement with former NBC affiliate KRON-TV to broadcast network programs during instances in which KNTV has to preempt them for special programming such as telecasts of San Francisco Giants games. Incidentally, KRON's owner, Young Broadcasting discussed entering KRON into a shared services agreement with KNTV's owner NBCUniversal, which ultimately never materialized. KRON's default carriage of preempted NBC shows ended in 2012, when KICU-TV (then owned by Cox Enterprises as a sister station to KTVU) resumed those duties until the sale of both KICU and KTVU to Fox Television Stations in 2014; pre-emptions are now handled in-house with a move of NBC programming to KNTV's COZI TV subchannel. On April 13, 2010, KNTV became the subject of Stephen Colbert's program, The Colbert Report, where Colbert played a clip read by weekend anchor Diane Dwyer on the issue of "unpaid internships". Colbert would eventually use that given clip to set the stage for laughs based on unpaid interns.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
KNTV also has a Mobile DTV feed of subchannel 11.1, broadcasting at 1.83 Mbit/s.
On December 20, 2012, KNTV began broadcasting Cozi TV, a digital subchannel network that airs a mix of movies, first-run lifestyle programming, and classic television series from the 1950s through the 1980s. The service is a retooling of NBC Nonstop (which operated a regional service called NBC California Nonstop that debuted in January 2011 on KNTV, and sister stations KNBC/Los Angeles and KNSD/San Diego), which carried news and lifestyle-oriented programs, some of which have been carried over to Cozi.
KNTV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, 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 VHF channel 12, using PSIP to display KNTV's virtual channel as 11 on digital television receivers. KNTV is now the largest NBC affiliate on the VHF band – and the only NBC O&O to broadcast on VHF.
Syndicated programming on KNTV currently includes Access Hollywood (and it's live counterpart), Steve Harvey, Extra, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show among others. The earlier two are distributed by NBCUniversal Television Distribution.
Since being purchased by NBCUniversal, KNTV has produced its own programs for both local broadcast and for distribution nationally on the NBC television network and in syndication. Two of KNTV's national and regional programs that are distributed to NBC stations are Tech Now! (a weekly show that debuted on September 19, 1998 under Granite Broadcasting ownership that covers the latest in technology and gadgets, and is hosted by Scott Budman and produced by Scott McGrew and was at one time popular in Ghana) and In Wine Country (a weekly series focusing on the Napa Valley wine community). KNTV is one of six NBC O&O stations to distribute programs to other stations or to the network itself as of 2016, along with Los Angeles's KNBC, New York City's WNBC, Miami's WTVJ, Hartford's WVIT and Philadelphia's WCAU. The station is also the local broadcaster of the San Jose Holiday Parade each December.
On October 12, 2010, KNTV hosted its first political debate since becoming owned by NBCUniversal. Its 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscast was broadcast live at San Rafael's Dominican University of California, though the latter newscast were used as a wrap-up of the debate. The debate between California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown was moderated by NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw. This program was simulcast on several other NBC stations within California including fellow NBC O&Os KNBC and KNSD, as well as on Hearst Television-owned KCRA-TV and KSBW.
On November 1, 2007, KNTV entered into a three-year broadcast contract with the San Francisco Giants through 2010, replacing the team's longtime broadcaster KTVU, which had carried Giants games since 1961, three years after the team moved to the Bay Area and KTVU first began broadcasting. The team's first game broadcast on KNTV aired on April 1, 2008. KNTV broadcasts 20 to 40 Giants baseball games a year, which are produced by sister network Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. In addition, KNTV airs Giants Clubhouse each weekend during the MLB season. All of the Giants broadcasts are carried in high definition. The station has preempted Giants telecasts during the Summer Olympics due to NBC currently holding the television rights to the Olympics. The Giants' contract with KNTV concluded at the end of the 2010 season, however, the broadcast rights were renewed prior to the 2011 season.
KNTV also occasionally runs special editions of its newscasts or Sports Sunday, to cover San Francisco 49ers and/or Oakland Raiders NFL games that are broadcast as part of NBC Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. On January 23, 2014, NBCUniversal, Comcast, and the San Francisco 49ers announced a 10-year partnership that will include new additions to the future Levi's Stadium. The partnership spans multiple business units that will include KNTV, ComcastSportsNet Bay Area, its VoiceEdge, ethernet, and Xfinity services, as well as building a new studio only four miles from where KNTV is based. It also will produce 400 hours of programming on KNTV and CSN Bay Area.
KNTV presently broadcasts 32½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and 3½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays). The station also produces a local sports highlight and discussion program on Sunday nights called Sports Sunday, which is hosted by sports reporter Laurence Scott – who is usually joined by guest co-hosts in-studio; a secondary program, Xfinity Sports Sunday Primetime, is co-hosted by Jerry Rice and Nnamdi Asomugha during the fall, when NBC provides football coverage in primetime.
In September 1998, KNTV began producing an hour-long 10 p.m. newscast for then-WB affiliate KBWB-TV (now KOFY-TV). Upon becoming a WB affiliate in July 2000, KNTV increased its local news programming; it retained all of its existing newscasts and added two hours to its weekday morning newscast, an hour-long news and technology-focused program at noon, an additional half-hour to its 6 p.m. newscast and a simulcast of the KBWB 10 p.m. newscast. The 7–9 a.m., 6:30 and 10 p.m. newscasts were dropped once KNTV switched to NBC in January 2002.
For the first half of 2009, the recession forced NBC to cut costs at KNTV. Several rounds of layoffs occurred, forcing KNTV to shed some well-known personalities, including chief weather anchor John Farley, who left the station in March 2009; after Farley's departure, weekend weather segments originated from the studios of Los Angeles sister station KNBC. The station also closed news bureaus in Sacramento and Oakland. KNTV's news helicopter (which was purchased in 2006) was also suspended from use on April 30, 2009. On May 22, 2009, former NBC Weather Plus meteorologist Jeff Ranieri was named KNTV's new chief meteorologist. On June 29, 2009, layoffs continued with the firings of reporters Noelle Walker, Ethan Harp, Christien Kafton and San Jose reporter Daniel Garza, along with several behind-the-scenes jobs.
In December 2010, sports director Raj Mathai transitioned to weeknight news anchor, though he continued to host Sports Sunday for a short time after the change. On December 21, 2010, KNTV's newscasts moved to a temporary set while the main news set underwent renovations, traffic and sports reports were also done in the newsroom. Meteorologist Rob Mayeda also announced his move to the weekend evening newscast. The station added additional personnel including former KOB reporter Marla Tellez, meteorologist Nick O'Kelly, and freelance sports anchors Justin Allen and Christine Nubla (all of whom, except for Tellez, previously worked for KNTV).
On April 20, 2011, KNTV announced that Comcast SportsNet Bay Area would begin producing sports segments for the station starting on June 13, 2011, to be produced from a dedicated set at the cable channel's studios. This made KNTV the first NBC-owned station to have its sports segments produced by the regional sports network. On August 10, 2011, Janelle Wang replaced Jessica Aguirre as weeknight anchor of the 5 p.m. newscast. Wang and Raj Mathai are the only Asian American weekday anchor team outside of Hawaii.
On July 16, 2016, KNTV became the eighth NBC owned station and the first station in the West Coast to begin using "Look N" graphics following seven NBC-owned stations in the East Coast began using the new graphics in Summer of 2016, prior to this, KNTV along with sister stations KNBC and KNSD revamped their websites on July 1, 2016. As of January 2017, KNTV is the only NBC-owned station and one of the two stations in the San Francisco Bay Area don't have its 4:00 p.m. newscasts since the NBC Affiliation taken over from KRON-TV in 2002; some 4 owned stations already haved its 4:00 p.m. newscasts, the other NBC-owned stations in New York, Miami and Hartford began its 4:00 p.m. newscasts in June, the other 2 stations in Los Angeles and Chicago revived its hour-long 4:00 p.m. newscasts in the Summer of 2016 and the final station in Boston begin its hour-long 4:00 p.m. newscasts in January 2017.Jessica Aguirre – anchor; also host of NBC Class Action
Raj Mathai – anchor
Janelle Wang – anchor/reporter
Jeff Ranieri (AMS Seal of Approval) – chief meteorologist
Rob Mayeda (AMS Seal of Approval) –meteorologist; also weekday fill-in and host of Of Thin Ice
Brodie Brazil – sports anchor/reporter; Comcast SportsNet Bay Area contributor
Jim Kozimor – sports anchor; Comcast SportsNet Bay Area contributor
Scott McGrew – business and technology reporter, Tech Now producer/reporter, "Press Here" host/moderator and weekday anchor
Vicky Nguyen – general assignment, investigative and "In Depth" reporter; also host of "NBC At Work"
Stephen Stock – investigative reporter
Garvin Thomas – "Bay Area Proud" reporter; also fill-in anchor
Chauncey Bailey – reporter (1970–1971); later Post editor, murdered in Oakland in 2007
Marc Brown – 1985–1987; now at KABC in Los Angeles
Allen Denton – anchor (2000–2007); now at KUSI/San Diego
T. J. Holmes – anchor (2003–2006); later at CNN; now with BET Networks
Jon Kelley – anchor
Lisa Kim – anchor (1999–2010)
David Lee – sports anchor (1993–1998)
Jess Marlow – retired; Passed away in 2014
Shannon O'Donnell – weekend/morning meteorologist (2001–2007); now with KOMO-TV in Seattle
Victoria Recaño – anchor/reporter (2002); now correspondent for Inside Edition
Ric Romero (1977–1978)
Ted Rowlands – reporter (1997–1999); now at CNN
Tony Kovaleski – chief investigative reporter (2011–15); now at KMGH-TV
Catt Sadler – entertainment reporter (1998–2002); now correspondent for E!
Marla Tellez – anchor; now with KTTV
Dave Feldman-sports anchor