KTSM-TV, virtual channel 9 (UHF digital channel 16), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to El Paso, Texas, United States and also serving Las Cruces, New Mexico. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group. KTSM-TV's studios are located on Oregon Street (near El Paso Community College) in northwest El Paso, and its transmitter is located atop the Franklin Mountains on the El Paso city limits.
The station first signed on the air on January 4, 1953. KTSM-TV was the second television station in the El Paso TV market, behind KROD-TV (channel 4, now KDBC-TV), which debuted in December 1952. KTSM-TV was owned by Tri-State Broadcasting, a nod to the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Channel 9 was co-owned with KTSM radio (then on 1380 AM, now at 690 AM) and 99.9 KTSM-FM. (The two radio stations are both now owned by iHeartMedia.)
The call sign stood for the company's original name, "Tri-State Music." The meaning has since changed to Tri-State Media. KTSM-TV claimed its broadcast tower at Ranger Peak, located within the Franklin Mountains, was the tallest VHF transmission tower in Texas, standing at 2,000 feet (610 m) above downtown El Paso, and 5,990 feet (1,830 m) above sea level.
Tri-State Broadcasting was controlled by El Paso broadcast pioneer Karl O. Wyler (1906-1990), who signed on KTSM (AM) in 1930. Wyler built the El Paso Aerial Tramway in the early 1960s to allow his staff to maintain the transmitters at Ranger Peak. The tramway was open to the public until the 1980s, when insurance laws in Texas became too costly for carrying people who were not employees. Wyler owned the station until his death in 1990, and donated his controlling stake in Tri-State Broadcasting to the El Paso Community Foundation. In 1991, the Foundation hired Richard E. Pearson, who served as station manager at ABC affiliate KVIA-TV (channel 7) at the time, to run the operations of the radio and television stations. Under Pearson's leadership, KTSM-TV flourished, and became a dominant force in the market, until the stations were sold to Communications Corporation of America in 1998.
Among KTSM-TV's most famous personalities was Ted Bender (1925–2013), who hosted numerous shows on the station including the local version of the Dialing for Dollars, which aired weekdays at 10:05 a.m., following a five-minute mid-morning newscast at 10:00 a.m. Bender gave four viewers a chance to win money while watching the station. Halfway through the calls, Bender (who was a city councilman) would interview a key figure in the El Paso community. Bender also served as KTSM-TV's lead weather forecaster, from the station's inception until his retirement in 1991.
Agreement with KDBC-TV
On October 19, 2009, Communications Corporation of America entered into a shared services agreement (SSA) with Titan Broadcast Management, owner of CBS affiliate KDBC-TV. KTSM-TV provided advertising sales and administrative services as well as some news resources for Channel 4. Titan retained KDBC-TV's license and both stations employed separate news departments. On April 24, 2013, ComCorp announced that it would sell all of its television stations, including KTSM-TV, to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. The sale was completed on January 1, 2015.
The acquisition, as well as the sale of KDBC-TV to the Sinclair Broadcast Group (which originally planned to transfer that station's license to partner company Cunningham Broadcasting), placed some uncertainty on the future status of the SSA between KTSM-TV and KDBC-TV, particularly as Channel 4 is now co-owned with Fox affiliate KFOX-TV (channel 14). The SSA was indeed terminated on October 16, 2014, at which point KDBC-TV began producing its newscasts in association with KFOX-TV.