KTVH-DT is a full-service television station serving Helena, Montana and the surrounding area as an NBC affiliate, broadcasting on digital channel 12. The station ceased its analog broadcasts on November 10, 2008. The station is owned by Cordillera Communications. KTVH is simulcast on KBGF-LD channel 50 (Bresnan cable 6) in Great Falls.
KTVH was the first television station in Helena, signing on the air on January 1, 1958 as KXLJ-TV, a semi-satellite of KXLF-TV in Butte. It has always been an NBC affiliate. In December 1962, Bob Magnus and two partners bought the station, weaned it from KXLF, and changed the call letters to KBLL-TV.
In 1969, former Montana Governor Tim M. Babcock bought the station and changed the station's call letters to KTCM (Television for the Capitol of Montana). In 1976, KTCM built a new tower and expanded its coverage to include Missoula, Butte, and Great Falls; until 1986, it was effectively the default NBC affiliate for a large portion of Montana. Babcock sold the station to Lynn Koch in 1979, and the station changed call letters again, this time to KTVG. A few years later, Koch sold the station to Don Bradley, who again changed the call letters to KTVH (TeleVision for Helena - the calls were previously used on a Wichita, Kansas station now known as KWCH-DT), which remain to this day.
By 1988, the station was in financial trouble and Bradley sold it to John Raddeck and Big Sky Broadcasting Limited Partnership. Big Sky Broadcasting restored the station's financial health and in 1997, sold KTVH to Beartooth Communications Company, a subsidiary of Sunbelt Communications Company. Soon after the sign-on of satellite KBGF, Sunbelt rebranded KTVH and its various satellites as "Beartooth NBC," after the Beartooth Mountains.
On May 7, 2014, Intermountain West Communications Company (the former Sunbelt Communications) announced that it would sell KTVH-DT to Gray Television; Gray also purchased Helena CW affiliate KMTF (channel 10), which has long been operated by KTVH, through a failed station waiver. Gray took over KTVH's operations through a local marketing agreement on June 1. The sale of KTVH to Gray closed on November 3, 2014. After the sale closed, Gray dropped the "Beartooth NBC" brand in favor of "KTVH/KBGF."
On July 1, 2015, Gray announced that it would sell KTVH-DT to Cordillera Communications; concurrently, sister station KMTF will be donated to Montana State University and join the Montana PBS network, with its CW programming being transferred to a KTVH subchannel. The sale was completed on October 30. Upon the completion of Cordillera's purchase of KTVH, it makes it a sister station to CBS affiliate KXLH-LD (channel 9), as well as reunite the station with KXLF-TV.
An original construction permit was granted on November 16, 2004 to Charles C. Townsend, III of Aloha Partners, to build a low-power television station serving Great Falls, Montana. The station being constructed on channel 50 was given call letters K50IQ. In April 2005, Townsend sold the permit to Beartooth Communications, who immediately changed the call letters to KBGF-LP. The station was licensed on December 5, 2005 and is a translator for KTVH. KBGF had its own office in Great Falls, but it has since closed. KBGF-LP was included in the 2014 sale of KTVH-DT to Gray Television. On December 16, 2014, the station was licensed for digital operation, under the call sign KBGF-LD. KBGF-LD is included in the 2015 sale of KTVH-DT to Cordillera Communications; the deal make it a sister station to CBS affiliate KRTV (channel 3).
On December 8, 1997, Sunbelt Communications Company obtained an original construction permit to build a full-service television station in Havre, Montana. KBBJ channel 9 became the first television station for Havre and north central Montana on December 5, 2001 when it was licensed as a satellite of KTVH. Sunbelt assigned the station's license to subsidiary Beartooth Communication Company in 2005. KBBJ went silent in 2008. On July 8, 2009, Sunbelt requested that the license for KBBJ be cancelled.
Beartooth Communications Company was granted an original construction permit on December 12, 1997 to build a full-service television station to serve Lewistown and surrounding areas in central Montana. On July 18, 2001, KBAO channel 13 was licensed as a satellite of KTVH, and as Lewistown's first television station. The station expanded its reach when the four translator television stations serving Phillips County in northern Montana became repeaters for KBAO. KBAO went silent in 2008. On July 9, 2009, Sunbelt requested that the license for KBAO be cancelled.
The following stations were rebroadcasting the signal of KBAO prior to going silent:
- K15AS-D Malta, Montana
- K20BP-D Phillips County, Montana
- K34DN-D Whitewater, Montana
- K36CW-D Dodson, Montana
KTVH-DT runs a news operation out of its studios in Helena, with newscasts on weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. Unlike most NBC affiliates, KTVH does not run morning or weekend newscasts.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|12.1||1080i||16:9||KTVH-DT||Main KTVH programming / NBC|
|12.2||480i||4:3||KMTF||Helena CW 10|
KTVH shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 12, on November 10, 2008. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 14 to VHF channel 12 for post-transition operations. KTVH is the first station in Helena to broadcast programming in high definition.
In August 2014, Gray filed an application for a digital companion channel for KBGF-LP operating on channel 19, contingent on its purchase of the station. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted special temporary authority to Intermountain West Communications on October 20 to construct this facility; this authority ensured that it could be constructed prior to winter, and allowed channel 19 to come on the air on October 26, mapping to channel 50.19 through PSIP.