WVLT-TV (VHF channel 8) is the CBS television network affiliate station serving Knoxville, Tennessee, the 58th DMA in America according to Nielsen Media Research. The station is owned and operated by Gray Television as part of a duopoly with CW affiliate WBXX-TV, with studios located on Papermill Drive (near I-40/I-75) on the city's westside and its transmitter is on Sharp's Ridge in North Knoxville. Syndicated programming on WVLT-TV includes The Dr. Oz Show, Entertainment Tonight, and The Andy Griffith Show.
WVLT-TV debuted on October 18, 1953 as WTSK-TV on channel 26. It was Tennessee's first UHF station, and the second television station in East Tennessee, signing on just a few hours after WROL-TV in Knoxville (channel 6, now WATE-TV). The station was a CBS affiliate, but also shared ABC programming with WROL-TV.
Channel 26 found the going difficult at first, since television manufacturers weren't required to build in UHF tuning capability at the time. Viewers needed an expensive converter to watch WTSK, and even then the picture quality was marginal at best. In addition, most of East Tennessee is very mountainous, and UHF signals at the time usually did not carry very well over rugged terrain. In 1954, the station's original local owners sold the station to South Central Communications, a radio company in Evansville, Indiana, who changed its calls to WTVK.
When WBIR-TV signed on in 1956 and took the CBS affiliation, WTVK became a full-time ABC affiliate. However, it spent most of the next 20 years as a very distant third in the ratings. While this was due in part to ABC being a much weaker network (it wouldn't be on par with CBS and NBC in terms of programming until the 1970s), another problem was the terrain issue. Many viewers didn't get a clear signal from channel 26 until cable arrived in Knoxville in the 1970s. In fact, many viewers got a better signal from WLOS-TV (channel 13) in Asheville, North Carolina; WLOS' transmitter is located almost 118 miles east of Knoxville.
In September 1979, the station swapped affiliations with WATE-TV and became an NBC affiliate. By this time, ABC had become the highest-rated network in the country, and was seeking to affiliate with stronger stations. Under the circumstances, ABC jumped at the chance to move its programming to long-dominant WATE-TV. Even as NBC dominated the ratings in the 1980s, channel 26 stayed in the local ratings basement. However, it did win the rights to broadcast a daily one-hour show from the 1982 World's Fair, held in Knoxville. The program was hosted by Jim Hess and Jim Hampton and featured news updates with WTVK news anchors including Melinda Kramer.
On September 10, 1988, the station returned to CBS, swapping affiliations with WBIR-TV; shortly afterward the station changed its calls to WKXT-TV and moved to channel 8, one of the last remaining VHF channel allocations in the U.S. (The WTVK call letters were later used by WXCW in Naples/Fort Myers, Florida, which used WTVK calls from 1995 to 2007). It became one of the few stations in America to have been a primary affiliate of all "Big 3" networks. Soon after the move to the VHF band, South Central sold the station to a local ownership group in 1992. Current owner Gray Communications, now Gray Television, bought the station in 1996. The new owners changed the callsign to the current WVLT-TV on February 10, 1997.
In 1998, when CBS regained National Football League rights, it became the primary American Football Conference broadcaster. WVLT has aired most Tennessee Titans (formerly Oilers) games since. WVLT also airs Tennessee Volunteers football and basketball games through CBS since 1988. Southeastern Conference football and basketball games originated from Raycom Sports (formerly Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln Financial Sports) from the 1990s until 2009, when ESPN Plus-oriented SEC Network (now SEC TV) took over from 2009 until 2014.The package was previously run on WBIR and/or WTNZ (then WKCH) throughout the 1980s and the early half of the 1990s until WVLT acquired local rights. WVLT carried the SEC TV package throughout its entire 2009-2014 existence, although it was shared with WVLT-DT2. However, due to the launch of the new cable-exclusive SEC Network as part of a multi-year contract between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN, SEC TV was dissolved because of the new cable network's launch. WVLT still airs a large number of SEC football games through CBS' SEC package. WVLT is currently serving as an affiliate of Raycom's ACC Network, which brings Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball, but the affiliation is currently shared with WBXX-TV.
On January 9, 2011, channel 8's 11 p.m. newscast became the first in the Knoxville market to originate in high definition. On April 20, 2013, WVLT became the last station in the market to add a weekend morning newscast.
Vol Network affiliation
In 2007, WVLT and the Vol Network, the broadcasting arm of the University of Tennessee's athletic department, entered into a new 10-year agreement for WVLT and MyVLT to be the exclusive home of all Vol TV Network programing in the Knoxville area. WVLT paid UT $4.95 million for the 10-year contract. This gives the two stations the exclusive rights to the weekly highlights shows featuring head football coach, head men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, head women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, and other UT athletic-related programs in the Knoxville market. With this, the Vol TV Network ended a 10-year relationship with NBC affiliate WBIR-TV.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||1080i||16:9||WVLT-DT||Main WVLT-TV programming / CBS|
Analog to digital conversion
WVLT-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, 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 remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 30. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 8.
As part of the SAFER Act, WVLT-TV kept its analog signal on the air until June 26 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.