KPIX-TV signed on the air on December 22, 1948 as the first television station in northern California, as well as the 49th in the United States. It was originally owned by Associated Broadcasters, owners of KSFO (560 AM). Initially, channel 5's signal was transmitted from a tower on top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. It later moved to a shared transmitter tower with KGO-TV at the Sutro Mansion (which was located midway between Mount Sutro and Twin Peaks), and then to the Sutro Tower in 1973. KPIX's first studio was in the attic of the Mark Hopkins Hotel (just above the "Top of the Mark").
The station immediately joined CBS due to a deal KSFO's owners had worked out with the television network one year earlier. KSFO was CBS radio's Bay Area affiliate from 1937 to 1941, when Associated Broadcasters backed out of a deal for CBS to buy the station. When KSFO was still affiliated with CBS, it was originally slated to move to 740 AM, the dial position of San Jose's KQW. 740 AM was the last 50,000-watt frequency available in the Bay Area, and KSFO was to raise its power to 50,000 watts after moving to 740. However, after KSFO parted ways with CBS radio, the network moved its Bay Area affiliation to KQW and was not about to give up the advantage of owning the Bay Area's last available 50,000-watt station. After lengthy Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearings, KSFO won the 740 frequency, but later decided to stay at 560 and concentrate its efforts on building a television station. It traded the 740 frequency to CBS in return for getting the CBS television affiliation for the Bay Area. KQW remained at 740 and CBS changed its call sign to KCBS.
The station also carried programming from DuMont until that network folded in 1956. It even carried a few NBC programs until KRON-TV signed on in November 1949, and programs from the short-lived Paramount Television Network, such as Frosty Frolics, Time For Beany, Cowboy G-Men and Bandstand Revue.
When KPIX's first competitor, KGO-TV, signed on in May 1949, KPIX produced programs to welcome it into the Bay Area. KPIX cameras were used on the first episode of the CBS News program See It Now on November 18, 1951, which opened with the first live simultaneous coast-to-coast TV transmission from both the East Coast (the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor) and the West Coast (KPIX-produced images of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay), under the narration of Edward R. Murrow. Under its first general manager, Phil Lasky, KPIX gained an early reputation for news coverage, being noted for originating national CBS coverage of the Japanese Peace Conference of 1951 (the event which "officially" brought an end to World War II, similar to the function that the Treaty of Versailles served for World War I), held in San Francisco (for which Lasky was commended by then-CBS News president Sig Mickelson), as well as local news coverage of the 1953 crash of an Australian airliner while on approach to San Francisco International Airport, and a powder explosion a few weeks afterward at an explosives plant in suburban Hercules. In regards to sports programming, KPIX originated the annual college football East-West Shrine Game for DuMont, and was the flagship station of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League until 1954.
In 1952, KPIX and KSFO moved into a new building at 2655 Van Ness Avenue; KPIX moved out of the facility in 1979, when it relocated to a converted 1920s era warehouse on the corner of Battery and Broadway streets (refurbished by the architecture firm Gensler), where KPIX remains to this day (KSFO moved to studios in the Fairmont Hotel, across the hall from the Tonga Room, later in the 1950s). The studio on Van Ness Avenue (renamed to Bridge Studios after KPIX's departure) was the first building in San Francisco specifically built for television; the game show Starcade taped here after a pilot taped at KRON-TV's studios (it was demolished in 2006 to make way for a condominium complex).
Westinghouse Electric Corporation bought KPIX in 1954 and ran it as part of the company's Group W broadcasting unit. During Westinghouse's ownership, KPIX was the company's only television station on the West Coast. Additionally, it was one of two VHF stations (along with Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV) that didn't have a historic three-letter callsign, the only one to have a "K" callsign west of the Mississippi River, and along with WJZ-TV in Baltimore (until 2008) was the only one without a sister radio station with matching callsigns.
In early 1996, Westinghouse merged with CBS, making KPIX a CBS-owned station and bringing it into common ownership with KCBS radio. Prior to this, KPIX had been CBS's longest-tenured affiliate (a distinction that now belongs to Washington, D.C.'s WUSA). KPIX was also one of two longtime CBS affiliates owned by Group W that became a CBS O&O, the other being KDKA-TV. Since May 2003, KPIX-TV and WJZ-TV are the only former Group W TV stations that still utilize the classic Group W font.
In May 2006, KPIX moved its San Jose news bureau to the Fairmont Tower at 50 W. San Fernando Street – which served as the original site of Charles Herrold's experimental radio broadcasts that were the precursor of KCBS. Although CBS was not aware of the significance of the San Fernando St. address when the move was planned, it quickly recognized and embraced its significance when informed, giving long-overdue credit to one of the inventors of radio broadcasting during the bureau's opening celebration.
KPIX's distinctive "5" logo dates back from the station's days under Westinghouse ownership, when the "Group W font" was standard on KPIX and its sister stations after about 1965. When Westinghouse merged with CBS, most of the former Group W stations eventually retired the font. KPIX, along with its Baltimore sister station WJZ-TV (an ABC affiliate during its pre-merger Group W history) would become the only two CBS-owned television stations to continue using this logo font.
KPIX was the only CBS-owned station on the West Coast not to follow the CBS Mandate for years after the merger, simply referencing itself as "KPIX-TV Channel 5". Between 1993 and 1996, it was branded simply as "KPIX 5", even dropping the Eyewitness News title for its newscasts and branding them as KPIX 5 News at the same time, before reverting. In 2005, KPIX fell in line with the mandate and rebranded as "CBS 5", and later to "CBS 5 Bay Area" (although some references to "CBS 5" were heard in station promos as early as 2003). On February 3, 2013, KPIX dropped the "CBS 5" branding and reverted to being branded as "KPIX 5".
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
KPIX-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, 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 29, using PSIP to display KPIX-TV's virtual channel as 5 on digital television receivers.
On October 21, 2014, CBS and Weigel Broadcasting announced the launch of a new digital subchannel service called Decades, scheduled to launch on all CBS-owned stations in 2015, including on KPIX-TV on channel 5.2. The channel will be co-owned by CBS and Weigel (owner of CBS affiliate WDJT-TV in Milwaukee), with Weigel being responsible for distribution to non-CBS-owned stations. It will air programs from the extensive library of CBS Television Distribution, including archival footage from CBS News.
KPIX originated the concept for the entertainment and lifestyle program, Evening Magazine. Evening Magazine debuted on the station in August 1976, and within a year, the concept expanded to the other Group W stations. By Fall 1978, the Evening Magazine format was syndicated to stations around the United States that were not owned by Group W as PM Magazine. The entire Evening/PM Magazine format was cancelled by the late 1980s, though Evening Magazine was later resurrected on KPIX in 1998. In 2005, Evening Magazine was retitled Eye On The Bay, to focus further on the San Francisco Bay Area. KBCW also aired day-behind reruns of the program in the early 2000s. In 2007, Eye on the Bay began broadcasting in high definition. Eye on the Bay ended its weekday broadcasts on September 7, 2012, and switched to a weekly program on Saturdays thereafter.
For most of the time before Westinghouse bought CBS, KPIX was the network's largest affiliate. Despite this, from the mid-1970s until 1994, it was standard practice for KPIX to pre-empt CBS's morning daytime programs such as The Price Is Right (for example, the first season of Tattletales was pre-empted for reruns of Perry Mason). Despite the pre-emptions, CBS was mostly satisfied with KPIX as it was among its highest rated affiliates. In 1995, when CBS signed a long-term affiliation deal with the Westinghouse stations (just before the two companies merged), KPIX began airing the entire CBS schedule without preemptions except for local news emergencies, as per the agreement between Westinghouse and CBS. However, it continued to run CBS primetime programming one hour earlier than typical for the Pacific Time Zone (from 7 to 10 p.m., instead of 8 to 11 p.m.), a practice dating back to 1992. This ended in 1998, and since then KPIX has aired the entire CBS schedule in pattern. KOVR in Sacramento adopted a similar practice after becoming a CBS affiliate in 1995, and continues this scheduling practice to this day, long after CBS bought the station in 2004. Any preempted shows air on CW O&O sister KBCW.
During the 1987-88 season, KPIX ran a 90-minute block of court shows from 4:30 to 6 p.m.: Superior Court, The People's Court and The Judge.
KPIX was also known for the locally produced morning talk show, People are Talking, which began in 1978 with Ann Fraser and Ross MacGowan, and ran until 1991 (the People are Talking format was also syndicated to other Group W stations during this period). On KPIX, the show pre-empted The Price Is Right for a few years; the game show aired instead on independent stations in the Bay Area such as KOFY-TV. At one point, a more celebrity-driven People Are Talking in the Afternoon aired with a small house band. Prior to the launch of the People are Talking franchise, Ann Fraser hosted The Morning Show (essentially a half-hour version of People Are Talking), which replaced The Kathryn Crosby Show, another half-hour talk show hosted by Bing Crosby's wife, Kathryn.
During the 1980s, KPIX was the flagship station for the Oakland Athletics baseball team (at times pre-empting or delaying CBS network shows for the live broadcasts), before the A's broadcasts moved to then-NBC affiliate KRON-TV the early 1990s. KPIX was also the television home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team during the 1990s. KPIX-TV was also the exclusive home of the Bay to Breakers, before it moved to KRON.
From 1956 to 1993, KPIX carried most San Francisco 49ers games locally as part of CBS's broadcast rights to the NFL, which covered the entire pre-merger league until 1970, and the National Football Conference from 1970 to 1993. Two of the 49ers' Super Bowl victories aired locally on KPIX: Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XXIV. KPIX lost the 49ers to KTVU in 1994 (a year after fan favorite Joe Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs), when the NFC package moved to Fox. However, in 1998, the American Football Conference package moved to CBS from NBC, and KPIX has aired most Oakland Raiders games since. However, KPIX will still air 49ers afternoon games if the team plays against an AFC team at Levi's Stadium, which under NFL broadcast rules, forces the Raiders to play on national TV, or have a bye week. KPIX has also broadcast 49ers games in the immediate Bay Area market if the team plays on Monday Night Football or more recently on Thursday Night Football, produced by NFL Network, in partnership with CBS Sports.
During the 1950s, KPIX produced a local children's program, Captain Fortune, on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In addition to a number of live segments with an in-studio children's audience, the program featured the pioneering animated television episodes of Crusader Rabbit. Brother Buzz, a feature from the Latham Foundation with marionettes created and operated by Ralph Chesse and company were a weekly feature starting in 1952. The "captain" sometimes drew pictures to illustrate his stories. He had a segment called "wiggly lines" where he would ask a child to draw a wiggly line and ask him or her what they wanted Captain Fortune to draw and he would convert the line into the drawing. He was actually a talented artist named Peter Abenheim. Abenheim authored a book, published in 1959 by Nourse Publishing of San Carlos, California, Captain Impossible at Sea. Abenheim wrote the screenplay for a 1962 science fiction film, This Is Not a Test (also released as Atomic War Bride). He was born in England on January 26, 1912. He came to San Francisco in 1932 and attended the California School of Fine Arts. He worked as an educational filmmaker. He died in San Francisco on May 2, 1988.
From 1956 to 1959, Davenport, Iowa native Dick Stewart (born 1927) hosted a weekday variety program at KPIX. Due to the popularity of the film Gidget in 1959, the station decided to run a "Miss Gidget" contest on Dick Stewart's television program. The contest was won by Barbara Bouchet, who would become one of the "Regulars" on his later program Dance Party. She would later go on to be a famous star in her own right.
From 1959 to 1963, Stewart hosted Dance Party for KPIX, a program that invited local teenagers to come and dance to recorded music in the KPIX studios. Besides playing current recordings, Stewart sometimes welcomed popular recording stars to the program. Following the custom of American Bandstand, the singers would lip-synch to their recordings. Stewart also hosted a number of "High School Salute" programs on Saturdays that spotlighted area high schools with interviews with students and faculty, as well as filmed segments from each school.
KPIX-TV presently broadcasts 30 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, and 2½ hours on Saturdays and Sundays). KPIX-TV also produces a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast for CW owned-and-operated sister station KBCW, which debuted on March 3, 2008 and competes against a longer-running newscast in that same timeslot on Fox O&O KTVU. KPIX is home to one of the higher rated newscasts among CBS-owned stations; however for most of the last 30 years, KPIX has been runner-up to KGO. KPIX utilizes a doppler weather radar system called "Hi-Def Doppler" during weather segments, which is located on Mount Vaca.
KPIX was a pioneer in local television news coverage in the Bay Area. Like most television stations, it presented a 15-minute evening news program until 1963, when the networks began expanding their evening newscasts to 30 minutes. One of KPIX's innovating program directors, Ray Hubbard, created The Noon News. The anchors were John Weston, "Channel 5's Guy on the Go", and Wanda Ramey (one of the first female news anchors on U.S. television), "Channel 5's Gal on the Go". From 1965 to 1994 and again from 1995 to 2013, KPIX used the Eyewitness News format originally adopted by Philadelphia sister station KYW-TV. KGO-TV also uses a similar format for its newscasts, but KPIX had the Eyewitness News name first; KGO adopted its version of the format from its New York City sister station WABC-TV. In 1966, KPIX hired the first African-American news reporters in the San Francisco television market: Ben Williams, who had been the first Black reporter for the San Francisco Examiner a few years earlier, and Belva Davis, the first female African-American reporter on the West Coast.
The station moved its 11 p.m. newscast to 10:00 p.m. and expanded the program to one hour in 1993, as part of KPIX's "Early Prime" programming experiment which moved CBS's primetime lineup one hour early. Then-NBC affiliate KRON-TV also experimented with a 7-10 p.m. primetime block and ran a newscast at 10 p.m. during this time, but its newscast ran for only a half-hour before reverting to the standard 8-11 p.m. primetime scheduling after only a year; KPIX did not revert to the standard Pacific Time Zone primetime scheduling until 1998, after failing to make a dent in the ratings for long-dominant KTVU's 10 p.m. newscast.
KPIX was also home to 30 Minutes Bay Area, a half-hour news magazine created by 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt after he retired from the national show. The "30 Minutes" concept was originally planned to air on many CBS-owned stations, but KPIX was the only station to implement the concept. 30 Minutes Bay Area was discontinued in early 2007; however, it continues to air as a special as of 2010. KPIX also was one of the first U.S. television stations to provide full-time environment reporting in its newscasts – "The Greenbeat" ran from 2007 to 2010, and featured reports by Jeffrey Schaub on environmental sustainability, green technology and earth awareness issues.
In 2007, Wendy Tokuda (who co-anchored channel 5's evening newscasts from 1978 to 1992), returned to KPIX and brought it "Students Rising Above" feature reports that she originated during her nine-year tenure with KRON-TV to the station; Tokuda founded the "Students Rising Above" student scholarship program in 1998. On January 28, 2008, KPIX became the third Bay Area television station to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition (behind KGO-TV and KTVU); most field reports were initially still broadcast in 4:3 standard definition (albeit pillarboxed), KPIX started using HD cameras for its field reports in September 2010, however, not all of the station's news footage is shot in HD.
In September 2010, KPIX introduced new graphics for its newscasts, a standardized package that was also rolled out to CBS's other news-producing O&O stations; this included the addition of "The Enforcer" music package by Gari Media Group, the basic theme of which has been used on many CBS-owned stations since the mid-1970s, when it was introduced by WBBM-TV. In January 2011, KPIX expanded its weekday morning newscast by a half-hour to 4:30 a.m. On January 8, 2012, KPIX began producing a Sunday morning newscast for sister station KBCW.Ken Bastida – anchor
Elizabeth Cook – anchor/reporter
Veronica De La Cruz – anchor
Paul Deanno – meteorologist
Don Ford – reporter
Dennis O'Donnell – sports director
Emily Turner – reporter
Jackie Ward – reporter
Julie Watts – consumer reporter