WBAL-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 11, is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Baltimore, Maryland, United States. It is the flagship station of the Hearst Television subsidiary of Hearst Communications, and is co-owned with the company's sole radio properties, WBAL (1090 AM) and WIYY (97.9 FM). The three stations share studios and offices on Television Hill in the Woodberry section of Baltimore, near the transmitting tower that WBAL-TV shares with WIYY and several other Baltimore broadcast outlets.
On cable, WBAL-TV is carried on Comcast Xfinity channels 21 (standard definition) and 811 (high definition). In outlying areas of the market and on Verizon FiOS, DirecTV and Dish Network, the station is carried on channel 11.
WBAL-TV began operations on March 11, 1948, from its original studios on North Charles Street in Downtown Baltimore. The station's parent, the Hearst Corporation, also owned WBAL radio and two local afternoon newspapers, the Baltimore News-Post and The Baltimore American (which later merged as the News American in 1965 before shutting down in 1986, as one of the city's later three daily papers). WBAL-TV is one of two Hearst-owned broadcast properties to have been built and signed on by the company (the other being WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh), and the oldest to be continuously owned by Hearst through its various television subsidiaries through the years. At its launch, WBAL-TV was an NBC affiliate, owing to its radio sister's long affiliation with the NBC Red Network.
Early programming on channel 11 included Musical Almanac, Look and Cook and Know Baltimore, along with news and sports productions. In the 1950s, the station introduced Romper Room, a children's program produced locally by Bert and Nancy Claster that eventually became a nationally franchised and syndicated program. Another long-running show of the 1950s was the weekday Quiz Club, co-hosted by local personalities Brent Gunts and Jay Grayson. Baltimore Sun local history columnist Jacques Kelly described it at the time of Grayson's death in June 2000, as "pure 1950s live television ... executed on a low budget ... the genial hosts ... ruled the 1 p.m. airwaves".
WBAL-TV produced several local bowling shows in the 1960s and early 1970s, including Strikes and Spares, Pinbusters, Duckpins and Dollars, Bowling for Dollars and Spare Time. The station even went as far as building and installing several "duckpin" bowling alleys at its studios. It also launched several children's entertainment shows during this period, such as Rhea and Sunshine, Pete the Pirate, P.W. Doodle, Heads Up, and the teen-oriented rock and roll music and dance Kerby Scott Show.
WBAL-TV has boasted many television firsts, including becoming the first Baltimore television station to broadcast in color, the first station in Maryland (and the eighth in the world) to acquire a videocassette machine (of the U-Matic format); the first station in Baltimore to acquire a mobile satellite news-gathering system (dubbed "NEWSTAR 11") and the first Baltimore station to hire an African-American news anchor and a Black news director.
In the late 1970s, ABC steadily rose in the ratings to become the number one network in primetime. Accordingly, the network began to seek upgrades to its slate of affiliates, which included some stations that either had poor signals or poorly performing local programming. WBAL-TV had been invited to switch to ABC in 1977, but opted to remain with NBC out of concerns about the poor ratings for ABC's then-recently revamped evening newscasts.
On March 3, 1981, CBS announced that it would be ending its 33-year affiliation with WMAR-TV (channel 2), then owned by the A. S. Abell Company (then-publishers of the Baltimore Sun), and moving its programming to WBAL-TV. Among its reasons for making the switch, CBS cited channel 11's strength in local news ratings and overall non-network programming as opposed to WMAR-TV, which heavily preempted the network in favor of syndicated programs, local public affairs and sports coverage, and low ratings for the station's newscasts. WBAL-TV's first stint as an NBC affiliate ended on August 30, 1981, when the two station exchanged networks–the first affiliation swap to occur in Baltimore.
In 1994, the E. W. Scripps Company, present owners of WMAR-TV, negotiated with ABC to affiliate with its Baltimore station as part of a multi-station deal. ABC agreed to the deal as a condition of retaining its affiliations with WXYZ-TV in Detroit and WEWS-TV in Cleveland; CBS was seeking to affiliate with both of those stations, as it was about to lose its affiliates in Detroit and Cleveland to Fox in a separate affiliation deal with New World Communications. In response, CBS and Westinghouse Broadcasting formed a partnership which resulted in the CBS affiliation moving from WBAL-TV to Westinghouse's WJZ-TV (channel 13), Baltimore's longtime ABC affiliate. Largely by default, channel 11 rejoined NBC on January 2, 1995.
The station was a prominent feature in the 1982 movie Diner, set in Baltimore. One of the main characters' girlfriends worked at the station, and another character watches College Bowl, an NBC program that aired on WBAL-TV. It was also the primary setting for the 1991 film He Said, She Said, in which two newspaper columnists for the Baltimore Sun (Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins) serve as hosts of an opinion/debate segment on the station.
|TV stations in Maryland|
| WBAL, Baltimore|
|TV stations in Greater Baltimore|
| WMAR 2 (ABC) |
WBAL 11 (NBC)
WJZ 13 (CBS)
WMPT 22 (PBS)
WUTB 24 (MNTV)
WMJF-CD 39 (Ind)
WWDD-LD 40 (Daystar)
WBFF 45 (Fox)
W45DN-D 46 (IBN)
WNUV 54 (CW)
WFPT 62 (PBS)
WMPB 67 (PBS)
WQAW-LP 69 (AZA)