NBC Montana is a network of three television stations in western Montana, all affiliated with NBC.

The flagship station is KECI-TV in Missoula, broadcasting on channel 13. It includes two semi-satellites: KCFW-TV, channel 9 in Kalispell and KTVM-TV, channel 6 in Butte. It also serves Bozeman via Class A translator KDBZ-CD, channel 42. KDBZ directly repeats KTVM.

The stations air the same programming most of the time, but KCFW and KTVM air their own commercials and identifications, as well as partially separate local newscasts.

The combined signal of the three full-power stations and numerous low-power transmitters provides at least Grade B coverage of approximately 45 percent of the state. The stations reach an estimated 200,000 households. The coverage area stretches from Salmon, Idaho through Helena to Bozeman in the east. It also includes parts of Alberta, Canada near the U.S.-Canada border.

KECI's studio is located on West Main Street in downtown Missoula, KCFW is based on 1st Avenue in downtown Kalispell, while KTVM is based on Dewey Avenue in Butte.

History

KECI hit the airwaves on July 1, 1954 as KGVO-TV, owned by Montana broadcasting pioneer Arthur Mosby along with KGVO radio (1290 AM). Originally, the station was a primary CBS affiliate, owing to its radio sister's long affiliation with CBS radio, but also carried programming from ABC and DuMont; it would lose DuMont when the network shut down in 1956. On December 1, 1956, the station's studios moved from its transmitter location into downtown Missoula (shared with KGVO radio on West Main Street), and concurrently changed its call letters to KMSO-TV. By 1957, KMSO had added a secondary affiliation with NBC. Mosby sold KGVO radio to Dale Moore in 1959, but held on to KMSO until 1964, when Moore bought channel 13 as well; upon taking over, he changed its call letters back to KGVO-TV.

KGVO-TV switched its primary affiliation to NBC in 1965, though it still carried some CBS programming. Then in March 1966, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) combined Missoula and Butte into a single television market, and KGVO became the combined market's primary NBC affiliate; the station retained a secondary ABC affiliation but ceded CBS to Butte's KXLF-TV. The station would eventually share ABC programming with KPAX-TV (channel 8), which signed on in 1970 as a satellite of KXLF. Channel 13 also offered a few PBS programs, particularly Sesame Street, from 1976 until KUSM (channel 9, now part of Montana PBS) in Bozeman signed on in 1984. Also in 1976, KGVO began sharing CBS programming with KPAX when that station took on a primary ABC affiliation; the change was reversed in 1984, after which the stations again split ABC programming in off-hours, an arrangement that ended when KTMF (channel 23) signed on in 1991.

Channel 13 took its current calls in 1978, after Moore's Western Broadcasting Company sold the station to Eagle Communications, a partnership of Advance Corporation (then owner of KFBB-TV in Great Falls) and Sullivan Productions, for $6.5 million. Although the sale separated the station from KGVO radio, KECI-TV is still based in the West Main Street studio. Precht Communications, a sister company to Sullivan Productions, acquired full control of Eagle Communications by 1981. In 1997, Precht sold the station to Lamco Communications, who in turn sold their stations to BlueStone Television in 2004. Bonten Media Group acquired the BlueStone stations in 2007.

KCFW signed on in 1968 as a semi-satellite of KGVO-TV. It is the only full-power station in the Flathead. KTVM was added in 1970, also as a semi-satellite of KGVO-TV. The Bozeman repeater signed on in 1990 as K42BZ. In 2014, it was upgraded to Class A status as KDBZ-CD.

Affiliated stations

Main TV affiliates

StationCity of license
(other cities served)
Channels
(TV / RF)
First air dateCall letters’
meaning
ERPHAATTransmitter CoordinatesFacility IDPublic license
information
KECI-TVMissoula, Montana13 (PSIP)
13 (VHF)
July 1, 1954 (1954-07-01)Eagle
Communications
Incorporated
30 kW663 m18084
KCFW-TVKalispell, Montana9 (PSIP)
9 (VHF)
June 10, 1968 (1968-06-10)Kalispell
Columbia Falls
Whitefish
(the three largest towns
in its broadcast area)
2.5 kW827 m18079
KDBZ-CDBozeman, Montana6 (PSIP)
42 (UHF)
1992 (1992)D BozeMan15 kW235 m18083
KTVM-TVButte, Montana6 (PSIP)
6 (VHF)
May 12, 1970 (1970-05-12)TeleVision
Montana
11.2 kW588 m18066

Translators

KECI-TV
KCFW-TV
KTVM-TV

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming
xx.11080i16:9KECI-DT
KCFW-DT
KTVM-DT
Main programming / NBC
xx.2480i4:3ME-TVMeTV
xx.3ThisTVMovies!

Analog-to-digital conversion

All stations shut down their analog signals on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital channel allocations post-transition are as follows:

  • KECI-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13; the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 40 to VHF channel 13.
  • KCFW-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9; the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 38 to VHF channel 9.
  • KTVM-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6; the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 33 to VHF channel 6.

Notable former on-air staff