WBTV, virtual channel 3 (UHF digital channel 23), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. The station is owned by Gray Television. WBTV's studios are located off Morehead Street, just west of Uptown Charlotte, and its transmitter is located in north-central Gaston County. In addition, WBTV's studios continue to house the operations of its former sister radio stations now owned by Entercom: WBT-AM/FM and WLNK, as well as WFNZ, which was previously owned by CBS Radio prior to its purchase by Entercom in late 2017.

On cable, WBTV is carried on Charter Spectrum channel 2 in the immediate Charlotte area (channel 3 in Kannapolis, Concord and on legacy Charter systems), Comporium Communications channel 105 and AT&T U-verse channel 3.

History[edit | edit source]

The station first signed on the air on July 15, 1949. When it debuted, WBTV was the 13th television station in the United States and the first in the Carolinas; it is the oldest television station located between Richmond and Atlanta. Veteran Charlotte broadcaster Jim Patterson was the first person seen on the station, and remained employed there until his death in 1986. WBTV was originally owned by the Greensboro-based Jefferson Standard Insurance Company, owners of WBT (1110 AM), the city's oldest radio station and the first fully licensed station in the South. At the time, the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company also had a 16.5% interest in the Greensboro News and Record newspaper, licensee of WFMY-TV, Greensboro which signed on the air two months after WBT-TV. Jefferson Standard had purchased WBT from CBS in 1947. Shortly before the television station went on the air, its call letters were modified from WBT-TV to WBTV. Jefferson Standard merged with Pilot Life in 1968 (although it had owned controlling interest since 1945) and became Jefferson-Pilot Corporation. In 1970, the media interests were folded into a new subsidiary, Jefferson-Pilot Communications.

WBTV received one of the last construction permits issued before the Federal Communications Commission's "freeze" on new television licenses, which lasted until the Commission released its Sixth Report and Order in 1952. As such, it was Charlotte's only VHF station for eight years, carrying affiliations with all four major networks of the time – CBS, NBC, ABC and DuMont. However, WBTV has always been a primary CBS affiliate, owing to WBT radio's long affiliation with the CBS Radio Network. It is the only commercial television station in the market that has never changed its primary affiliation.

Channel 3 had originally operated from a converted radio studio in the Wilder Building, alongside its sister radio station. In 1955, WBT and WBTV moved to a then state-of-the-art facility on a hill atop Morehead Street, where both stations are still based today. The studio address, One Julian Price Place, is named in honor of a longtime Jefferson Standard/Jefferson-Pilot executive.

WBTV's only competition in its early years came from a UHF station on channel 36, known as WAYS-TV and then WQMC-TV, which broadcast briefly from 1953 to 1955. It was nominally an NBC affiliate, sharing a secondary ABC affiliation with channel 3. However, channel 36's signal was severely weak, and NBC continued to allow WBTV to cherry-pick its stronger programming. Channel 36 went dark in March 1955, and DuMont shut down roughly a year later in August 1956. The three remaining networks continued to have some of their programming shoehorned on channel 3 for over a year until Charlotte's second VHF station, WSOC-TV (channel 9), took the NBC affiliation when it signed on in April 1957. Channel 36 returned to the air in November 1964 as WCCB (later moving to channel 18 in November 1966), carrying certain CBS programs that WBTV turned down in order to carry ABC programs. ABC programming continued to be split among the three stations until 1967, when WCCB became a full-time ABC affiliate.

From 1958 to 1974, WBTV's studio facilities served as the home for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling telecasts. Since its completion in 1984, WBTV's signal has been transmitted from a 2,000-foot (610 m)-high guy-wired aerial mast transmitter tower located in north-central Gaston County, North Carolina, which is also shared with former radio sister WLNK.

When WAGA-TV in Atlanta, which signed on the air four months before WBTV, switched to Fox in December 1994, WBTV became the longest-tenured CBS affiliate located south of Washington, D.C. WFMY-TV in Greensboro, the second-oldest station in the Carolinas, is the network's second-longest tenured affiliate south of the capital; it signed on three months after WBTV. Two years later, after KPIX-TV in San Francisco became a CBS owned-and-operated station (due to owner Westinghouse Electric Corporation's merger with CBS), WBTV became the second longest-tenured affiliate that was not owned by the network, behind only Washington's WUSA.

Over the years, Jefferson Standard/Jefferson-Pilot acquired several other radio and television stations across the country, with WBTV serving as the company's flagship station. In 2006, Jefferson-Pilot merged with the Philadelphia-based Lincoln National Corporation. Lincoln Financial retained Jefferson-Pilot's broadcasting division, which was renamed Lincoln Financial Media, with WBTV retaining its status as the flagship station.

Sale to Raycom Media[edit | edit source]

On November 12, 2007, Lincoln Financial announced its intention to sell WBTV, sister stations WWBT in Richmond and WCSC-TV in Charleston, South Carolina and Lincoln Financial Sports, to Raycom Media for $583 million. Lincoln Financial also sold its Charlotte radio stations to Braintree, Massachusetts-based Greater Media, effectively breaking up Charlotte's last co-owned radio/television station combination. According to Charlotte Observer TV critic Mark Washburn, Lincoln Financial decided soon after taking over the former Jefferson-Pilot properties that it would never really be able to integrate them with the rest of the company's assets, and had decided to sell them as soon as possible. WBT-AM-FM and WLNK continue to share the Julian Price Place facility with WBTV. The sale of the radio stations was finalized on January 31, 2008. However, WBTV still shares the Julian Price Place studio with its former radio sisters, and they also retain a news partnership.

The FCC approved the sale of WBTV on March 25, 2008, and Raycom formally took control of the station on April 1. With the purchase, WBTV became Raycom's second-largest station by market size, behind the Cleveland, Ohio duopoly of WOIO and WUAB. Since Raycom Sports is headquartered in Charlotte, WBTV had a very important role in Raycom Media's operations, and it shared its flagship status with NBC affiliate WSFA, located in the company's homebase of Montgomery, Alabama.

In early 2008, Raycom Sports and Lincoln Financial Sports officially merged under the Raycom Sports banner. The merger coincided with the start of the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference basketball season. WBTV has served as Charlotte's home station for ACC sporting events since C.D. Chesley piped in North Carolina's historic win in the 1957 NCAA tournament to channel 3 and several other television stations in the state. Raycom had produced ACC basketball games in partnership with Jefferson-Pilot/Lincoln Financial since 1982. The partnership was extended to football in 2004; Jefferson-Pilot/Lincoln Financial had been the sole producer of ACC football telecasts since 1984. Since 2010, they have been branded as the ACC Network.

In mid-May 2008, the former Jefferson-Pilot/Lincoln Financial stations launched redesigned websites, powered by the Local Media network division of WorldNow (which operates nearly all of the websites of Raycom's stations), assuming web platform operations from Broadcast Interactive Media. However, WBTV and WWBT retain their Jefferson-Pilot/Lincoln Financial-era logos and branding (WCSC has since changed its logo and graphics, following its switch to high definition newscasts).

On November 15, 2013, both WBTV and WBT were dedicated with a North Carolina historical marker at the corner of Tryon and Third Streets (reading "WBT/WBTV - Oldest broadcast stations in North Carolina established 1922. WBT radio long hosted live country music. WBTV sign-on, July 15, 1949. Studios here until 1955"). The Wilder Building, which was demolished in 1983, served as WBTV's studio facilities from 1949 to 1955.

Sale to Gray Television[edit | edit source]

On June 25, 2018, Atlanta-based Gray Television announced it had reached an agreement with Raycom to merge their respective broadcasting assets (consisting of Raycom's 63 existing owned-and/or-operated television stations, including WBTV), and Gray's 93 television stations) under Gray's corporate umbrella. The cash-and-stock merger transaction valued at $3.6 billion – in which Gray shareholders would acquire preferred stock currently held by Raycom – will result in gaining new in-state sister stations, including NBC affiliate WITN-TV in the Washington-Greenville market, in addition to its current Raycom sister stations. The sale was approved on December 20, and was completed on January 2, 2019.


TV stations in North Carolina
WNCN, Goldsboro

WBTV, Charlotte
WFMY, Greensboro
WWAY-DT2, Wilmington
WNCT, Greenville

TV stations in the Charlotte, North Carolina area
WBTV 3 (CBS)
WSOC 9 (ABC)
WHKY 14 (Ind)
WCEE-LP 16 (ESTRELLA)
WUNE 17 (PBS)
WCCB 18 (CW)
W21CK-D 21 (3ABN)
WHWD-LD 21 (Daystar)
WDMC-LD 25 (Daystar)
WGTB-CD 28 (Ind)
WNSC 30 (PBS)
WCNC 36 (NBC)
WVEB-LD 40 (Cozi)
WHEH-LD 41 (AZA)
WTVI 42 (PBS)
WJZY 46 (Fox)
WMYT 55 (MNTV)
WUNG 58 (PBS)
WAXN 64 (Ind)
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