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KIVA (defunct)
Yuma, Arizona/El Centro, California
Channels Analog: 11 (VHF)

<tr><th style="vertical-align: top; text-align: right;">Affiliations</th><td style="text-align: left;">defunct</td></tr>

Owner Valley Telecasting Company,
Merrill Telecasting Company

<tr><th style="vertical-align: top; text-align: right;">Founded</th><td style="text-align: left;">February 26 1953
Ceased operations
January 31 1970
</td></tr><tr><th style="vertical-align: top; text-align: right;">First air date</th><td style="text-align: left;">October 8 1953</td></tr><tr><th style="vertical-align: top; text-align: right;">Former affiliations</th><td style="text-align: left;">independent,NBC, CBS (until 1963), ABC, DuMont</td></tr>

KIVA was a full-service television station in Yuma, Arizona, broadcasting locally on VHF channel 11, initially as an independent station, selecting programming from each of the networks, and later as the NBC affiliate. It was the first local television station in Yuma, and for more than half of its existence, the only local station. It signed on October 8 1953 and signed off January 31 1970. For most of its existence, KIVA was owned by Valley Telecasting, albeit under several owners, and was owned by Merrill Telecasting from 1967 until sign-off.


The Imperial Valley received news of its first television station on March 26 1953 when the FCC announced that it had awarded a construction permit to Valley Telecasting to build a television station on VHF channel 11.[1] The original studios and transmitter would be located at Pilot Knob in California about ten miles west of Yuma.[2] On October 6, 1953, the station, which had by that time acquired the call letters KIVA, sent out a very faint test pattern by accident, but it was received by several people.[3] Two days later, the station was broadcasting a full-strength test signal, and began regularly scheduled service on October 18.[4] It was the first television station in Arizona outside of Phoenix or Tucson. As the only local television station in the market, it was independent, and carried select programming from NBC, ABC, CBS, and DuMont. It operated on Pacific Time, so the program start times in Yuma were an hour later than typical, as Yuma was on Mountain Time.[5] At first, KIVA broadcast eight hours a day, from test pattern sign-on at 3 PM until sign-off at 11 PM, then slowly expanded the broadcast day until reaching a full daily schedule in August 1956.[6][7]

One of the station's notable owners was Bruce Merrill, a cable television pioneer who had come to the Imperial Valley in the late 1950s, intending to build a cable television system to bring Phoenix and Los Angeles signals into the market. KIVA was losing money, and its owner, Harry Butcher, believing Merrill's venture would compete with his, put up strong opposition. Not able to convince Butcher otherwise, Merrill bought him out and built the cable television system.[8] Just as Merrill had anticipated, KIVA began to prosper as well. The station built new studios in Yuma at the site of the current KSWT facilities.[9] It served Yuma with its primary signal, and El Centro, California and Mexicali, Mexico on a repeater via microwave, but its success became a two-edged sword, as it attracted competition. The FCC approved three additional construction permits for the market, one for KBLU-TV (now KSWT) in July 1962 and two others for stations to serve El Centro on channels 7 and 9 in April 1963.[10] Merrill, who believed that the market could not support multiple local television stations, fought KBLU-TV and the El Centro stations.[11][12] He claimed that KIVA "would probably go out of business with in a year if KBLU-TV were allowed to open."[13] While the competition did hurt KIVA's profits, conditions were not quite as bleak as Merrill predicted, and the station continued to operate well after KBLU-TV's sign-on in December 1963. In 1967, Merrill spun off the cable television business and became sole proprietor of KIVA as Merrill Telecasting. A third television station, KECC-TV (now KECY-TV) entered the market in December 1968, and KIVA eventually became unable to sustain business. On January 14 1970, Merrill announced that KIVA it would leave the air at the end of the month.[14] Its NBC affiliation passed to KBLU-TV.[15] There would not be another television station in Yuma on channel 11 until 1988, when KYMA took to the air.


For its first ten years in existence, KIVA was the only television station in the market and was able to select programming from all of the networks. After KBLU-TV took the CBS affiliation upon sign-on, KIVA retained the NBC and ABC affiliations; after KECC-TV signed on as the ABC affiliate, KIVA was left with the NBC affiliation.

By the late 1950s, KIVA had its own children's show, called The S.S. KIVA. Set aboard a ship that sailed on sand because the sight of water made the crew seasick, it was first hosted by "Commodore" Don Kenny with his sidekick, "Binnacle Bill", played by Elmore Eaton. In 1964, while Kenny was on vacation, then-operations director Bob Hardy filled in, taking the name "Captain Almost" in an ad lib remark, because he was "almost a seaman". Shortly afterward, Kenny departed the station and Hardy, who had previously been a popular entertainer in Indiana as "Uncle Bob", stepped in full-time as Captain Almost.[16][17] Captain Almost, Binnacle Bill and The S.S. KIVA were quite popular with the children, and had a successful run until 1968, when KIVA temporarily suspended the show for coverage of the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, but then did not pick it up again after the games were completed.


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