KALB-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 35), is an NBC/CBS/CW+-affiliated television station licensed to Alexandria, Louisiana, United States. The station is owned by Gray Television. KALB-TV's studios are located on Washington Street in downtown Alexandria, and its transmitter is located in Forest Hill. Its over-the-air signal can also be seen in most of the Lake Charles and Lafayette markets.
On cable, KALB-DT1 is available on Suddenlink channel 5 and in high definition on digital channel 730. KALB-DT2 can be seen on Suddenlink channel 2 (hence the CBS 2 branding) and in high definition on digital channel 715.
KALB began broadcasting on September 29, 1954 with NBC's airing of the 1954 World Series. It aired an analog signal on VHF channel 5. The station has been an NBC affiliate from day one, although it also carried programs from the classic big four networks, until DuMont folded in 1955 and cable penetration in the early 1960s provided various network affiliates from Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. The original owners were W. H. Allen and Shreveport businessman T. B. Lanford. In 1957, Lanford purchased Allen's stake in the station as well as its radio partners, and he owned it via his company, Red River Valley Broadcasting, making KALB a sister station to fellow NBC affiliate KPLC in Lake Charles (which coincidentally signed on the same day as KALB) until that station was sold in 1964. KALB also aired programming from ABC, such as Happy Days, on a secondary basis from 1954 until the early 1980s, shortly before rival station (and future ABC affiliate) KLAX-TV (channel 31) signed on. Furthermore, KALB also aired Sesame Street for a brief period of time from December 1970 until December 1971; the show was removed to much viewer backlash, but over-the-air viewers could receive the program via WBRZ and later KLTM prior to KLPA's sign on.
The station was a major beneficiary of a quirk in the FCC's plan for allocating stations. In the early days of broadcast television, there were twelve VHF channels available and 69 UHF channels (later reduced to 55 in 1983). The VHF bands were more desirable because they carried longer distances. Since there were only twelve VHF channels available, there were limitations as to how closely the stations could be spaced.
After the FCC's Sixth Report and Order ended the license freeze and opened the UHF band in 1952, it devised a plan for allocating VHF licenses. Under this plan, almost all of the country would be able to receive two commercial VHF channels plus one noncommercial channel. Most of the rest of the country ("1/2") would be able to receive a third VHF channel. Other areas would be designated as "UHF islands" since they were too close to larger cities for VHF service. The "2" networks became CBS and NBC, "+1" represented non-commercial educational stations, and "1/2" became ABC (which was the weakest network usually winding up with the UHF allocation where no VHF was available).
However, Alexandria was sandwiched between Shreveport (channels 3, 6, and 12) and Monroe–El Dorado (channels 8, 10, and 13) to the north, Lafayette (channels 3 and 10), Lake Charles (channel 7), and Baton Rouge (channels 2 and 9) to the south, and Northwestern Mississippi (channel 6), New Orleans (channels 4, 6, 8, 11, and 12), and Jackson (channels 3 and 12) to the east. This created a large "doughnut" in Central Louisiana where there could be only one VHF license. (When cable arrived in the market in the 1970s, companies supplemented the area with stations from those cities.) KALB was fortunate enough to gain that license, and consequently was the only television station to be based in Alexandria until KLAX and KLPA (channel 25) signed on in 1983.
KALB began broadcasting in stereo on November 28, 1986. Park Communications purchased KALB in 1993 and merged with Media General in 1997. KALB was Media General's first station west of the Mississippi River and the only station to hold that title until its purchase of Spartan Communications in 2000. On September 29, 1997, KALB began calling itself "Newschannel 5" and adopted a logo modeled after that company's flagship station, WFLA. The station launched its digital signal in 2002.
Regnal Wallace, the late public relations director of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation who created the television series This Week in Louisiana Agriculture, was from 1962 to 1969 a sportscaster at KALB.
For more than two decades, Ethma Odum, who hosted her own The Ethma Odum Show weekdays on KALB, was the most recognized regional television personality in Central Louisiana. She sometimes interviewed area politicians as well as actors and other celebrities passing through Alexandria. She often invited local singing groups to perform on the show. Her annual "Letters to Santa" program and her reading of Charles Tazewell's The Littlest Angel, were particularly popular. Various episodes had Odum milking a cow, visiting a shooting range, or interviewing a clown. Mainly, however, Odum geared the program to the homemaker. On closing each broadcast, she urged her viewers to obtain vital cancer screenings. Widely recognized from her lifetime of broadcasting, Odum retired from the station in 2002. She also did occasional "Special Reports" for the evening newscast.
From 1960 to 1966, Leverne Perry (1932–2016) hosted KALB's Leverne Perry and the Little Wranglers. He organized the Horses and Handicaps Program and was active in area rodeo events. He owned an Alexandria shoe store, was an elected member and former president of the Rapides Parish Police Jury, and in 1987 became the executive director of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association.
In January 2007, KALB launched a CBS affiliate on its second subchannel, then branded as CBS Alexandria. This gave Central Louisiana full service programming from the Big Four networks for the first time. Prior to that, CBS programming was provided on local cable by KLFY-TV in Lafayette, KNOE-TV in Monroe, or WAFB in Baton Rouge. The subchannel is now branded as CBS 2 given it is carried on Suddenlink channel 2 and also uses the fictitious callsign NALB. Suddenlink carried both NALB and KLFY in Alexandria before dropping the latter on May 1, 2015.
On October 29, 2007, Media General announced it was exploring the sale of KALB. On March 14, 2008, the company reached an agreement to sell the station and sister outlet WMBB in Panama City, Florida to Hoak Media. The deal was closed on July 16. KALB continued to use elements of its Media General-era presentation while owned by Hoak Media, keeping the news theme until 2011 and versions of the arc logo until 2014 (KALB made slight modifications to its logo and news theme in July 2012 upon launching its newscasts in high definition) On February 17, 2009, it turned off its analog signal on channel 5 and now only operates in digital on channel 35. However, through PSIP, digital tuners show the virtual channel as the former analog channel.
Originally, KALB aired a digital signal from a transmitter at its facilities in Downtown Alexandria. KALB is one of the country's most dominant stations in part because it was the only commercial station in town until KLAX-TV signed-on in 1983.
On November 20, 2013, Hoak announced the sale of most of its stations, including KALB-TV, to Gray Television. The sale was completed on June 13, 2014. At the end of 2014, the station adopted its current logo; aside from continuing to refer to itself as Newschannel 5, KALB's on-air look no longer included elements from the era of Media General ownership.