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WTVD, virtual and VHF digital channel 11, is an ABC owned-and-operated television station licensed to Durham, North Carolina, United States and serving the Research Triangle region (Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill–Fayetteville). The station is owned by the ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. WTVD's main studios, offices, and newsroom are located on Liberty Street in downtown Durham, along with additional studio facilities and news bureaus in both Raleigh and Fayetteville. The station's transmitter is located in Auburn, North Carolina. On-air branding uses ABC 11 as a station identifier, with the call letters taking a secondary role.

On cable, the station is carried on channel 9 in the Raleigh area, and channel 6 in Durham and Chapel Hill. In most outlying areas of the market, the station is carried on channel 11. On Charter Spectrum, WTVD is shown in high definition on digital channel 1200.


Early years[]

In 1952, two rival companies each applied for a construction permit to build a television station in Durham on the city's newly allotted VHF channel 11 – Herald-Sun Newspapers (publishers of the Durham Morning Herald and the Durham Sun as well as the owners of radio station WDNC) and Floyd Fletcher and Harmon Duncan, the then-owners of WTIK radio. In December 1953, the two sides agreed to join forces and operate the station under the joint banner Durham Broadcasting Enterprises. Originally christened with the "WTIK-TV" call letters, the station had to make a name change after the partners sold WTIK radio as a condition of the permit grant. Ownership chose WTVD and was granted the change, but they had to wait – the call sign had been used in the 1953 20th Century Fox film Taxi for a fictional television station appearing in the movie. At the time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed unassigned call letters to be used in fictional works for an exclusive two-year period, making them unavailable for actual broadcast use.

Ten months after being granted its permit, on September 2, 1954, WTVD began broadcasting with a black-and-white film of The Star Spangled Banner, followed by You Bet Your Life. It was originally a primary NBC affiliate, with secondary ABC and CBS affiliations. Channel 11 is the Triangle's oldest surviving television station, having signed on a few months after CBS affiliate WNAO-TV (channel 28). The station's initial studios were located in a former tuberculosis sanitorium at Broad Street in Durham, with a transmitter located atop Signal Hill in northern Durham County.

WRAL-TV (channel 5), based in Raleigh and locally owned by the Capitol Broadcasting Company, debuted in December 1956 and took over as the Triangle's NBC affiliate, leaving channel 11 with only ABC. WNAO-TV ceased operations at the end of 1957 due to financial difficulties, and CBS moved its primary affiliation to WTVD. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.

On May 22, 1957, the station's original owners sold their interest in WTVD to Albany, New York-based Hudson Valley Broadcasting Company, owners of WCDA-TV (now WTEN), to form Capital Cities Television Corporation (predecessor of Capital Cities Communications). Around 1958, WTVD built a 1,549-foot (472 m) tower at its present transmitter site in Auburn to increase its signal coverage for the entire Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville market; at the time this was the tallest man-made structure in the U.S. That same year, the station first began broadcasting network programs in color, although it would not be until 1966 before the same was true for local programming.

After WRAL-TV took the ABC affiliation full-time in 1962, WTVD was forced to shoehorn CBS and NBC programming onto its schedule. This was a very unusual arrangement for what was then a two-station market. The Triangle was, at least on paper, big enough even then to support three full network affiliates. However, the only other VHF license in the market, channel 4, had already been taken by National Educational Television outlet WUNC-TV. UHF was not considered viable at the time. Not only were television manufacturers not required to include UHF tuning capability until 1964, but the available UHF frequencies were not thought to be nearly strong enough to cover a market that stretched from Chapel Hill in the west to Goldsboro in the east. This situation was similar to that of WAPI-TV (now WVTM-TV) in Birmingham, Alabama. However, unlike WAPI-TV, WTVD managed to find room for The Ed Sullivan Show, the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Although the market got a third commercial station six years later when a new channel 28 signed on as WRDU-TV (now WRDC), WTVD continued to "cherry pick" the most popular CBS and NBC programs for another three years, leaving WRDU with the lower-rated shows from both networks. In 1971 the FCC, intervening on behalf of WRDU's owners and in the interest of protecting the development of UHF, ordered WTVD to select one network. Channel 11 decided to go with CBS full-time, allowing WRDU to become an exclusive NBC station (it is now affiliated with MyNetworkTV).

In 1978, WTVD attempted to expand its broadcast coverage to the Fayetteville area, which had been without a television station of its own for nearly two decades. Its studios were relocated to their current location on Liberty Street in downtown Durham on a parcel of land it shares with the Durham County Library; it also built its current 2,000-foot (610 m) tower in Auburn. A fire on March 4, 1979 caused extensive damage to the newly built studio building; however, the newsroom and a number of other key components had been rebuilt within a month. By that time, much of WTVD's operations had returned to normal, although it had resorted to temporary setups during the interim such as holding the newscasts in one of the meeting rooms that survived the fire unscathed.

Switch to ABC[]

On March 18, 1985, WTVD's owner, Capital Cities, announced it was purchasing ABC. Five months later, on August 4, 1985, WTVD traded networks with WRAL-TV and became an ABC affiliate. At that time, WTVD and WRAL-TV joined the small list of stations that have held primary affiliations with all of the "Big Three" networks. The transaction was finalized on January 3, 1986, making WTVD an ABC owned-and-operated station, the first network-owned television station in North Carolina. In 1996, The Walt Disney Company acquired Capital Cities/ABC.

On the night of December 6, 1991, a helicopter carrying a pilot and three WTVD employees from a high school football game in Wilmington, North Carolina crashed, killing three of the four people on board. Sports reporter Tony Debo was the only survivor.

On April 30, 2000, a dispute between Disney and Time Warner Cable forced WTVD off cable systems within the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville market for over 24 hours during the May sweeps period. Other ABC stations in markets served by Time Warner Cable, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Houston, were also affected by the outage as well before the FCC forced TWC to restore service to those areas on May 2. In July 2010, Disney announced that it was involved in another carriage dispute with Time Warner Cable which involved four ABC owned-and-operated stations (including WTVD), Disney Channel and the networks of ESPN. If a deal was not in place, the entire Disney cluster would have been removed from Time Warner and Bright House cable systems across the country. On September 2, 2010, Disney and Time Warner Cable reached a long-term agreement to keep the Disney family of channels on its systems.


TV stations in North Carolina
WTVD, Durham

WSOC, Charlotte
WLOS, Asheville
WXLV, Winston-Salem
WWAY, Wilmington
WCTI, Jacksonville

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)