|Type||Broadcast television network|
MeTV Montana (DT2)
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|July 1, 1954|
ABC (1954–1976, 1984–1990)
CBS (1965–1966, 1976–1984)
PBS (per program, 1976–1984)
This TV (until 2013)
NBC Montana is a regional network of three television stations in western Montana, all affiliated with NBC.
The flagship station is KECI-TV in Missoula, broadcasting on virtual and VHF digital 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 29), which directly repeats KTVM. All stations are owned and operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The stations air the same programming most of the time, but KCFW and KTVM air their own commercials and legal 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 southern Alberta, Canada near the U.S.–Canada border.
KECI's studios, which house master control and internal operations for all three stations, are 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.
On March 11, 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted Mosby's, Incorporated, owner of KGVO (1290 AM), a construction permit for a new television station on channel 13 in Missoula. Construction began in November 1953 on the road to the mountaintop facility, the first of its kind in the state and at the highest elevation of any television transmitter of the period in the northwestern United States; while two stations had gone on the air in Butte and a third in Billings, neither was located atop a mountain.
KGVO-TV began telecasting July 1, 1954. 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. While the studios were originally at the transmitter site, owner Arthur Mosby purchased an American Legion hall in downtown Missoula that had been gutted by fire and renovated it to serve as new studios. On December 1, 1956, the station's studios moved from its transmitter location to its radio sister's studios on West Main Street in downtown Missoula and concurrently changed its call letters to KMSO-TV, representing Missoula's airport code. By 1957, KMSO had added a secondary affiliation with NBC. Mosby sold KGVO radio to Dale Moore in 1959 but held on to KMSO-TV until 1964, when Moore bought channel 13 as well; upon taking over, he changed its call letters back to KGVO-TV.
Under Moore's ownership, KGVO-TV switched its primary affiliation to NBC in 1965, though it still carried some CBS and ABC programming. The transmitter was destroyed by fire in November 1966; the FCC permitted the installation of two interim translators to get the station back on air until the TV Mountain facility could be reconstructed.
Additionally, the station pursued a policy of regional expansion. It built a translator on channel 9 in Kalispell—which had been without a local broadcast service for six years since the folding of KGEZ-TV/KULR in 1959—that was the first authorized for 100 watts on the VHF band. That December, the FCC simultaneously approved a channel 6 translator for KGVO-TV in Butte and a translator for Butte's local station, CBS affiliate KXLF-TV, in Missoula. Both of these services were replaced with high-power, full-service repeaters of KGVO-TV. KCFW-TV began broadcasting on June 10, 1968, while the Butte translator was replaced with KTVM in May 1970. In 1976, primary coverage of ABC programs shifted from KECI to KXLF and its Missoula satellite, KPAX-TV.
Dale Moore's Western Broadcasting Company reached a deal to sell KECI, KCFW, and KTVM to Eagle Communications, Inc.—a company formed by former The Ed Sullivan Show producer Robert Precht and Advance Communications, owner of KFBB-TV in Great Falls—in 1977. Despite a protest from a citizens' group, Montanans for Quality Television, the deal received FCC approval in September 1978, and on November 1, KGVO-TV became KECI-TV. The new owners pledged to improve news coverage, in part under a pact with the citizens' group, The Eagle stations also aired Sesame Street for three years from 1978 to 1981, dropping the program due to a lack of underwriters.
Eagle demonstrated an increased commitment to the Butte area, which from the launch of KTVM in 1970 was not being served by any specific local programming. After expressing interest in establishing a Butte office in 1978, the station did so in 1982 and began producing local news reports for inclusion in KECI's newscasts. Precht Communications, a sister company to Sullivan Productions, acquired full control of Eagle Communications by 1981.
In 1984, KXLF and the other Montana Television Network stations became full-time CBS outlets. As a result, most ABC programs moved to the Eagle network. Between 1984 and 1989, KECI aired an 11 p.m. late local newscast—highly unusual in the Mountain Time Zone—which gave it more time to air ABC programs but created further scheduling headaches and put its late news at a disadvantage. Viewers cited confusion over the availability of programs, and returning the late news to 10 p.m. allowed Eagle to restore The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live to its lineup en route to becoming a sole NBC affiliate. A full-time ABC outlet, KTMF (channel 23), was established in 1990.
The 1980s also saw Eagle seek to increase its presence in Bozeman. It first attempted to buy the construction permit for KCTZ, a channel 7 station that had sought an ABC affiliation only to have its hopes dashed by Eagle's June 1984 acquisition of the ABC rights in the Missoula–Butte market. The opposition of two local residents and radio station owners caused the deal to languish for 16 months at the FCC until the green light was given in January 1986, and the deal fell apart. In 1989, Eagle purchased the construction permit for low-power K42BZ, which took to the air in 1993 as a separate station.
In 1997, Precht sold the Eagle system to Lamco Communications, which in turn sold its stations to Bluestone Television in 2004. Bonten Media Group acquired the BlueStone stations in 2007. Under Bonten, K42BZ was upgraded to Class A status as KDBZ-CD.
On April 21, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its intent to purchase the Bonten stations for $240 million. The sale was completed September 1.
Historically, the stations aired a mix of local and regional news programming. From the outset in 1968, KCFW produced its own early evening newscast; it was not until the mid-1980s that one was established at KTVM in Butte. By 1993, the three Eagle network stations aired regional newscasts from Missoula at 5 and 10 p.m. and local news programs for their specific areas at 6 p.m. That year, the company underwent a major restructuring of its news operations, untangling the stations from each other to produce local 6 and 10 p.m. programs, and it announced the addition of a fourth local news service for Bozeman. The weekend newscasts for Bozeman were that city's first; the only other news operation in the city, at KCTZ, aired five days a week.
The Bozeman newscast debuted October 4, 1993. Just 25 days later, citing costs, Eagle opted to shutter the Butte operation and originate news for both areas from Bozeman, firing the 15 news and production staffers it had in the Mining City. At the same time, KECI anchor Jill Valley defected to crosstown competitor KPAX, causing the station to plunge in the ratings—especially in Missoula itself.
|Station||City of license||Channels
(VC / RF)
|First air date||Call letters’
|ERP||HAAT||Transmitter coordinates||Facility ID||Public license information|
|July 1, 1954||Former owner Eagle Communications, Incorporated||41.3 kW||610 m (2,001 ft)||18084||Profile|
|June 10, 1968||Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish, the three largest towns in its broadcast area||2.5 kW
17 kW (CP)
|850 m (2,789 ft)
67 m (220 ft) (CP)
|May 12, 1970||"Television Montana"||19.2 kW||591.3 m (1,940 ft)||18066||Profile|
|1992||From former K42BZ translator call sign||15 kW||235 m (771 ft)
206.7 m (678 ft) (CP)
|City of license||Callsign||Translating||Channel||ERP||HAAT||Facility ID||Transmitter coordinates||Owner|
|Basin||K11LA-D||KTVM||11||0.015 kW||−316 m (−1,037 ft)||4044||Basin TV Association|
|Boulder||K13KP-D||13||0.019 kW||−149 m (−489 ft)||6522|
|Dillon||K25OA-D||25||0.159 kW||145 m (476 ft)||18086||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Drummond||K26KA-D||KECI||26||0.167 kW||−137 m (−449 ft)||183078||Granite County TV District|
|Eureka||K02AO-D||KCFW||2||0.018 kW||188 m (617 ft)||18071||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Ferndale||K24ID-D||24||0.108 kW||85 m (279 ft)||64282||Swan Hill TV District|
|Frenchtown||K14IU-D||KECI||14||0.351 kW||461 m (1,512 ft)||18067||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Hot Springs||K05AH-D||5||0.005 kW||9 m (30 ft)||27685||Hot Springs TV District|
|Lake McDonald||K05FC-D||KCFW||628 m (2,060 ft)||16754||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Libby||K18KD-D||18||0.431 kW||84 m (276 ft)||37220||Libby Video Club, Inc.|
|Philipsburg||K25LF-D||KECI||25||0.015 kW||475 m (1,558 ft)||183064||Granite County TV District|
|K11JP-D||11||0.042 kW||36 m (118 ft)||52778||Plains-Paradise TV District|
|Polaris||K09MY-D||KTVM||9||0.026 kW||−3 m (−10 ft)||24904||Grasshopper TV Association|
|Polson||K16GJ-D||KECI||16||0.061 kW||11 m (36 ft)||52912||Blacktail TV Tax District|
|Sula||K05ML-D||5||0.006 kW||114 m (374 ft)||181578||Sula TV District|
|Superior||K03DT-D||3||0.005 kW||−99 m (−325 ft)||64031||Superior TV Translator District|
|Thompson Falls||K11FQ-D||11||0.033 kW||309 m (1,014 ft)||66962||Thompson Falls TV District|
|K25OS-D||25||0.053 kW||−270 m (−886 ft)||181907|
|Trout Creek||K12QT-D||KECI||12||0.019 kW||239 m (784 ft)||181548||Trout Creek-Heron-Noxon TV District|
|Virginia City||K10HL-D||KTVM||10||0.012 kW||154 m (505 ft)||18075||Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Weeksville||K29ID-D||KCFW||29||0.914 kW||884 m (2,900 ft)||52775||Paradise-Plains TV District|
|Leadore, ID||K16KO-D||KECI||16||0.154 kW||−245 m (−804 ft)||186646||Salmon TV Translator District|
|Salmon, ID||K11TY-D||11||0.018 kW||−294 m (−965 ft)||58704|
|K30PW-D||30||0.11 kW||846 m (2,776 ft)||58698|
|K27MM-D||27||0.386 kW||531 m (1,742 ft)||58709|
The stations' digital signals are multiplexed:
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: