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WRAL-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 48), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to Raleigh, North Carolina, United States and serving the Triangle region (Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill–Fayetteville). It is the flagship station of the locally based Capitol Broadcasting Company, which has owned the station since its inception. WRAL-TV's studios are located at Capitol Broadcasting Company headquarters on Western Boulevard in West Raleigh, directly opposite the campus of North Carolina State University, and its transmitter is located in Auburn.

WRAL-TV is co-owned with Fox affiliate WRAZ (channel 50, also licensed to Raleigh) and radio stations WRAL-FM (101.5 MHz), WCMC-FM (99.9 MHz), WDNC (620 kHz), and WCLY (1550 kHz). The operations of WRAZ and the radio stations are co-located at WRAL-TV's studios. WRAL-TV is available on cable channel 3 in most of the Triangle, except in outlying areas of the market, where it is carried on channel 5. It is also available on cable in large portions of eastern areas of the state.

The station has been affiliated with NBC since February 29, 2016, when it ended a 30-year affiliation with CBS (the CBS affiliation has since been picked up by Goldsboro-licensed WNCN, channel 17). This is channel 5's second stint with NBC; it was affiliated with that network for six years at the station's inception, followed by a secondary affiliation with NBC for the next six years.


Early years[]

WRAL-TV began broadcasting on December 15, 1956. The first program aired was the movie Miracle on 34th Street. A. J. Fletcher’s Capitol Broadcasting Company, which first licensed WRAL Radio (AM 1240, now WPJL) in 1938, won the TV license in an upset over the much larger Durham Life Insurance Company, then-owners of radio station WPTF.

WRAL was originally an NBC affiliate, taking that network from Durham-based WTVD (channel 11, which included Fletcher's son, Floyd, among its founders). When WNAO-TV (channel 28), the Triangle's ABC affiliate, went dark at the end of 1957, WRAL shared ABC with WTVD until August 1, 1962, when channel 5 took the ABC affiliation full-time. This was unusual for a two-station market. ABC was at the time the smallest and weakest of the three major networks; it would not be on par with NBC and CBS in terms of ratings or affiliated stations until the early 1970s. WRAL did continue to carry The Huntley-Brinkley Report until January 3, 1967, when ABC's own evening newscasts expanded to 30 minutes. WRAL also continued to carry My Three Sons for several years after that show switched to its eventual affiliate network of CBS.

From 1960 until his election to the United States Senate in 1972, Jesse Helms was an editorialist on WRAL-TV's news broadcasts. His conservative commentaries were both controversial and popular with many viewers.

Switch to CBS[]

In March 1985, WTVD's owner, Capital Cities Communications, purchased ABC, resulting in WTVD becoming an owned-and-operated station of that network. The CBS affiliation moved to WRAL-TV on August 4, 1985. Within six months of the switch, WRAL-TV had become one of the strongest CBS affiliates in the country. It is one of the few stations in the country to have been a primary affiliate of all of the "Big Three" networks.

In December 1989, WRAL was knocked off the air when a severe ice storm caused the collapse of the station's 2,000-foot (610 m) transmitter tower. Within hours, channel 5 cut a deal with the then-struggling Fayetteville independent station WKFT-TV (channel 40, now Univision O&O WUVC-DT), allowing WRAL to return to the air in only three hours. WKFT ran the entire WRAL schedule during this time. The station's new, stronger tower was activated on October 25, 1990, at which point WKFT reverted to broadcasting its own programming.

In the early 1990s, WRAL distributed its programming via C-Band satellite as part of the Primetime 24 package, reaching viewers in the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as the few rural areas of the United States and Canada where local over-the-air broadcast signals were not available. It was replaced in the late 1990s with fellow CBS affiliate WSEE-TV from Erie, Pennsylvania primarily because of preemptions of network programming due to ACC basketball.

Return to NBC[]

On January 15, 2016, WRAL-TV announced that it would switch to NBC on February 29, 2016. Concurrently, CBS announced that the existing NBC station, Media General-owned and Goldsboro-licensed WNCN (channel 17), would replace WRAL-TV as the Triangle's CBS affiliate the same day. Capitol Broadcasting president and CEO Jim Goodmon stated that CBS would only renew its affiliation with WRAL if it entered into a reverse compensation agreement—under which Capitol would be required to pay the network for the local rights to air its programming. NBC, on the other hand, took the line that an affiliation deal was a partnership. Goodmon saw the switch to NBC as "a business decision for the future."

WRAL officially rejoined NBC at 7 a.m. on February 29. In a ceremony at the end of the morning newscast, Goodmon pressed a button decorated with the NBC peacock to switch to Today.

Meredith College professor Doug Spero suggested that WRAL's overall dominance in the Triangle was so absolute that it was in a position to become one of NBC's strongest affiliates, much as it was one of CBS' strongest affiliates. The feeling was mutual; according to NBC News correspondent Harry Smith, NBC officials felt like they had "just won the lottery" when they learned WRAL was rejoining NBC. Indeed, on the first day of WRAL's return to NBC, several dayparts saw NBC jump from third to first in the Triangle ratings at one stroke. Notably, Today, the NBC Nightly News, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon immediately saw major ratings gains in the market after their move to WRAL. The former two shows tallied their highest ratings on record in the Triangle on the day channel 5 officially returned to NBC, showing gains of well over 200 percent compared to their previous showings on WNCN. By contrast, CBS' competing programs lost more than half their audience share.

The delay in the affiliation switch kept CBS' coverage of Super Bowl 50, which featured the Carolina Panthers (based in nearby Charlotte) as champions of the National Football Conference, on WRAL-TV. As an NBC station, channel 5 carried the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, making it one of the few stations that aired the Super Bowl and Olympics from different networks in the same year.

TV stations in North Carolina
WRAL, Raleigh

WCNC, Charlotte
WXII, Winston-Salem
WECT, Wilmington
WITN, Washington

TV stations in North Carolina's Research Triangle region, including Raleigh, Durham, and Fayetteville
WUBX-CD 13 (Ind)
WLFL 22 (CW)
W24CP-D 24 (3ABN)
WHIG-CD 31 (Ind)
WNCR-LD 41 (Youtoo)
WHFL-CD 43 (Rel)
WYBE-CD 44 (Ind)
W46EU-D 46 (HSN2)
WRPX 47 (Ion)
WRAZ 50 (Fox)
WFPX 62 (Court TV)
WWIW-LD 66 (Daystar)