KMWB (Channel 23 analog, 22 digital) is an affiliate of The WB Television Network serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota, owned and operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. The first broadcast on channel 23 in the area was by KTMA on September 22, 1982, as a scrambled pay-per-view UHF service. The call sign stood for "K-Twin Metro Area". After the pay service failed, the station began broadcasting low-budget programming highly reminiscent of the fictional "U62" channel portrayed in the "Weird Al" Yankovic movie UHF. The 1980s station would have been completely forgotten soon after if not for its sole lasting legacy—the cult television classic Mystery Science Theater 3000.
The pay-per-view broadcasts offered by KTMA in its early days featured sports (in the form of home games of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota North Stars), and films (including pornographic movies). This service lasted just two years before the station was sold to the United Cable TV Corporation, who in turn began asking for bids one year later in 1985. Radio station KTWN made a bid, and took some control of the channel for a while, broadcasting music videos. However, the eventual owner in 1986 was the KTMA-TV Acquisition Corp., which offered $12 million for the station. The station's new general manager Donald O'Connor soon transitioned to an independent format, broadcasting a number of old programs such as The Andy Griffith Show and Laurel and Hardy.
Despite a major marketing campaign, the station was only moderately successful at pulling in viewers and advertising dollars. In July 1987, Paramount pulled all of their programming from the station, leading to even lower-budget shows and, later that year, attempts at locally-produced material including comedy shows. Production manager Jim Mallon sought to fill a hole in the Sunday night lineup. He talked to his contacts in the local comedy community and ended up meeting Joel Hodgson. Together, they created Mystery Science Theater 3000, which began airing in 1988.
In December of that year, KTMA attempted to create a new regional network called the Minnesota Independent Network (MIN) along with a media group based in Fargo, North Dakota, and KXLI channel 41 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The network never got off the ground, but the parties involved spent a considerable amount of money in the planning and early development stages. This left KXLI teetering, forcing it to go off the air for two years. KTMA was also hit hard, leading the staff to file for bankruptcy in July 1989. This financial crisis forced MST3K to be canceled. Hodgson and Mallon eventually took the show to the Comedy Central cable television network, and later to the Sci-Fi Channel.
Through the bankruptcy, the station still maintained a low-budget format. They moved into the former studios of local PBS station KTCA in St. Paul, Minnesota in December 1989 (KTCA had constructed a new building). After nearly two more years of bankruptcy proceedings, O'Connor was fired as general manager by a court-appointed trustee. In November 1991, the station was purchased by Christian broadcaster Sonlight Broadcasting.
Sonlight started carrying "family friendly" programming, and changed the station's call letters to KLGT (for "light") in 1992. However, the new format was not very popular, so the station began broadcasting reruns and syndicated programs in 1993. Sports, this time in the form of the St. Paul Saints, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Minnesota Moose, returned to the channel in 1994.
Around this time, KLGT began an association with longtime area broadcaster WCCO channel 4. At first, the station merely carried news updates during prime time, but in 1995, the two stations worked together on an innovative newscast known as "News of Your Choice." Essentially, two different newscasts were produced at the WCCO studios simultaneously, each one covering different stories. At regular intervals, the news anchors would say what was coming up on the other channel, allowing viewers to pick the story they were more interested in. Due to declining ratings at WCCO at the time, the project was canceled after a year in January 1996. Also in 1995, KLGT became one of the original members of TV network The WB.
Following the sale of the station to Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) in 1998, the call sign was again changed to KMWB ("Minnesota's WB"). Programming has stayed fairly consistent over the last decade, airing courtroom shows like The People's Court, talk shows like Ricki Lake and The Jerry Springer Show, and dating shows like Elimidate. The station has continued to carry Minnesota Timberwolves basketball until recently (now carried by KSTC 45), and has broadcast M*A*S*H for many years.
The station was hit by the 2004 controversy surrounding the decision by corporate parent SBG to air the documentary Stolen Honor, which was critical of U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam War service record. Because of this, some Twin Citians made the decision to remove KMWB from the channel line-ups on their TVs and VCRs.
KMWB still broadcasts from the St. Paul studios, located near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, that they moved into in 1989. The station's transmitters are at the Telefarm installation in Shoreview, Minnesota.
- KMWB 23
- "TV23 History" (archived file downloaded October 2003 or earlier) from NebraskaRadio.com
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