WTVD, channel 11, is an ABC owned-and-operated television station, licensed to Durham, North Carolina, USA. The station is owned by ABC Owned Television Stations, a unit of the Disney-ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company. The station serves the areas of Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, known as the Triangle, and Fayetteville. WTVD's main studios, offices and newsroom are located on Liberty Street in downtown Durham, along with additional studio facilities in both Raleigh and Fayetteville. The station's transmitter is located in Garner, North Carolina.
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, this was followed by You Bet Your Life. It was originally a primary NBC affiliate, with a secondary ABC affiliation. 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), owned by the locally based 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 1,500-foot (460 m) tower at its present transmitter site in Auburn to increase its signal coverage in the market. 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 members 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.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|11.1||720p||16:9||WTVD-D1||Main WTVD programming / ABC|
|11.2||WTVD-D2||Live Well Network|
WTVD discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, at 12:30 p.m. 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 signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 52, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to its analog-era VHF channel 11. On September 23, 2009, the station filed an application to the Federal Communications Commission to increase its effective radiated power from 20.7 to 45 kilowatts.
Out-of-market cable and satellite carriage
In recent years, WTVD has been carried on cable in multiple areas outside of the Raleigh media market. That includes cable systems within the Greensboro, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Wilmington markets in North Carolina, and the Roanoke market in Virginia. On DirecTV, WTVD has been carried in Alamance County, which is within the Greensboro market.
WTVD presently broadcasts 41½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, and 4½ hours each on Saturdays and Sundays); in regards to the number of hours devoted to news programming, it is the highest local newscast output of any television station in the Triangle market. For most of the last four decades, WTVD has been a solid second in ratings across the market, behind WRAL. This is in contrast to most of its ABC stablemates (including former Capital Cities sisters WPVI-TV in Philadelphia and KFSN-TV in Fresno), which dominate their markets' news ratings. However, it is still one of the strongest ABC stations in the country. In recent years, WTVD has had to fend off a spirited challenge for second place from a resurgent WNCN.
As with ABC's other owned-and-operated stations, WTVD features forecasts provided by AccuWeather for the weather segments of its newscasts. It operates its own weather radar, called "First Alert Doppler XP", at its transmitter site in Garner. In addition to its main studios, the station operates bureaus in Fayetteville on Green Street and Raleigh on Fayetteville Street. WTVD has a fleet of regular news vans and trucks as well as a yellow Toyota FJ Cruiser which carries the name "Breaking News One". WTVD also has a helicopter for newsgathering, which it refers to as "Chopper 11 HD".
Principal anchor Larry Stogner began working with station in 1976, and served as weeknight anchor from 1982 to 2015. On January 23, he announced his retirement after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His co-anchor for much of the 1980s and 1990s, Miriam Thomas, abruptly left WTVD after nineteen years in November 2001. Notable former members of WTVD's news staff include musicians John Tesh and John D. Loudermilk, as well as former Good Morning America co-host David Hartman. Others who were interns with the station that went on to notable careers in broadcasting include late ESPN personality Stuart Scott and Nightline host Byron Pitts.
From 1973 to 1984, WTVD used the Eyewitness News brand for its newscasts, though its format was very similar to the Action News format pioneered by sister station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. The arrangement was similar to those used at WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York and KFSN. For a time, all three stations used the same theme song, Move Closer to Your World, and a nearly identical opening sequence. WRAL was also using the Action News brand during that time period. It called its newscasts simply WTVD 11 News from 1984 to 1993. WTVD called itself NewsChannel 11 from 1993 to 2000, when it changed back to Eyewitness News. WTVD was among the last stations to use the Cool Hand Luke Tar Sequence theme in its broadcasts (which was also used on WRAL for a period in the 1970s). However, the station debuted the theme soon after the Capital Cities/ABC merger and retired it in 1993. Like sister stations WABC, KABC, and KGO-TV, the theme was used only in the opens.
On June 26, 2006, WTVD debuted a new primetime newscast for WB affiliate WLFL (channel 22) entitled Eyewitness News at 10 on WB 22. This happened after WLFL's owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, ended the controversial News Central format on its stations and shut down WLFL's established in-house news department. This newscast runs directly against the WRAL-produced 10 p.m. newscast on WRAZ (channel 50). On September 17, concurrent with WLFL's affiliation switch to The CW, the newscast changed its name to Eyewitness News at 10 on CW 22. On April 21, 2008, WTVD became the second television station in the Triangle behind WRAL and the eighth ABC-owned station to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. The primetime news on WLFL was included in the upgrade. WTVD debuted an hour-long 4 p.m. newscast on May 26, 2011 to fill the void left by The Oprah Winfrey Show, whose long run in that time slot after Oprah's syndication run came to an end.
Notable current on–air staff
- Liz Horton - weekend evening meteorologist; also reporter for weather segments