KXAS Dallas-Fort Worth Marks 75 Years

WBAP's launch in 1948
WBAP's launch in 1948 (Image credit: KXAS)

KXAS Dallas-Fort Worth, known as NBC 5, got its start 75 years ago when WBAP went live on September 27, 1948. It represented Texas’s first TV station. 

Amon G. Carter, Sr., publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the time, was behind the station launch. Carter was also behind radio station WBAP. The new TV station was affiliated with NBC from day one, KXAS reports, and is owned by NBCU today. 

Initial plans had WBAP-TV going live at 7 p.m. on September 29, but President Harry S. Truman was in Fort Worth September 27, so WBAP launched a couple days earlier to broadcast the visit. Viewers got a 49-minute look at Truman in Fort Worth. 

Two days later, Carter and Harold Hough, the first general manager at WBAP-TV, gave speeches officially introducing the station. NBC contributed an introductory film, the Flying X Ranch Boys had a western variety show, the film The Scarlet Pimpernel aired, and newscast Texas News did, too.

Fort Worth Press reporter Jack Gordon wrote, “A part of Fort Worth’s inaugural television show last night looked like our first roll of home movie film. But a good deal more of it was excellent — enough so to convince the stubbornest critic that television is here to stay.”

KXAS reported that WBAP’s programming output went from 15 hours a week at launch to 35 to 40 hours a week six months later. Local programming included Saturday Night Barn Dance and See-Saw Zoo

In April 1954, WBAP broadcasted color programming from NBC. A month later, the station featured a three-hour studio color telecast. 

In 1970, WBAP began producing Texas ‘70s, which KXAS calls the first local TV news magazine. It was a monthly 30-minute show. 

In late 1974, the station was sold to LIN Broadcasting, and became KXAS, the XAS a tip of the Stetson to Texas. 

In 1993, KXAS became the first station in the U.S., according to KXAS, to provide a local weather station with 24-hour local updates. The station’s first HD broadcast was a Texas Rangers-Chicago White Sox game on March 31, 1997. Since then, NBC programming has been in HD, and local HD followed in 2007. 

NBC bought the station in 1998 and renamed it NBC 5. 

NBC 5 and KXTX (Telemundo 39) relocated to CentrePort Business Park in Fort Worth in late 2013. The address is 4805 Amon Carter Boulevard, reflecting the year the station went live, its channel number, and its founder. 

NBC teamed up with the University of North Texas to make the station’s video archives available to all through an initiative known as The Portal to Texas History

“As the first TV station in the Southwest, KXAS has had the privilege of bringing so much history to North Texas audiences since 1948, while also making its fair share of history with a long list of highlights, innovations and industry firsts,” said Tony Canales, president and general manager of KXAS-KXTX. “However, what we’re most proud of is the impact this station has had on our communities going back several generations, and the deep and lasting connection that’s developed. We’re committed to continuing that great legacy of service through KXAS and KXTX, which now reach millions of North Texans across a number of media platforms in both English and Spanish.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.