KLTV, virtual and VHF digital channel 7, is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Tyler, Texas, United States and also serving Longview. The station is owned by Gray Television. KLTV's studios are located on West Ferguson Street in downtown Tyler (between the Smith County and the United States courthouses), and its transmitter is located in rural northern Smith County (near the Wood County line).
KTRE (virtual and VHF channel 9) in Lufkin operates as a semi-satellite of KLTV; it clears all of KLTV's syndicated programming, but produces separate weeknight 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts, airs its own station identifications and Sunday morning religious programs, and maintains its own advertising sales department for commercials seen on KTRE. Master control and some internal operations for KTRE are based at KLTV's studios.
The station first signed on the air on October 14, 1954; it was founded by the locally based company Buford Television, which was owned by Lucille Buford. KLTV has been an ABC affiliate since its debut, however it initially carried the network as a shared primary affiliation with CBS and NBC; the station also aired programming from the DuMont Television Network on a secondary basis until 1955.
The station originally operated from studio facilities on Texas Loop 323 on the east side of Tyler. In 1964, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collapsed Lufkin and Nacogdoches into the Tyler market. Soon afterward, the Buford family bought KTRE and converted it into a semi-satellite of KLTV.
KLTV lost the CBS affiliation in September 1984, when Longview-based KLMG-TV (channel 51, now Fox affiliate KFXK-TV) signed on. It retained a secondary affiliation with NBC until KETK-TV (channel 56) signed on in March 1987, resulting in channel 7 becoming an exclusive ABC affiliate. Buford Television owned KLTV and KTRE until 1989 when it sold the stations to Jackson, Mississippi-based Civic Communications.
In 1996, KLTV relocated its operations from its longtime studios on Texas Loop 323 in eastern Tyler to a new facility downtown, located in a former savings & loan branch and office complex near the Smith County courthouse; the former studio facility was demolished in November 2007. Civic merged with Cosmos Broadcasting, a division of the Liberty Corporation in 2000. That same year, Liberty sold its insurance businesses to the Royal Bank of Canada, resulting in the retirement of the "Cosmos Broadcasting" banner. Liberty sold itself to Raycom Media in 2006.
In October 2004, KLTV celebrated its 50th anniversary.
At approximately 7:30 a.m. on February 3, 2006 (one day after Raycom officially took ownership of the station), KLTV's 1,078-foot (329 m) broadcast transmitter in Red Springs collapsed taking both its over-the-air analog and digital signals as well as radio station KVNE (89.5 FM) off the air; no one was reported injured as a result.
Cox Communications (which sold its East Texas systems to Suddenlink Communications in 2007) continued to carry KLTV's standard and high definition feeds via a fiber optic connection, however, DirecTV and Dish Network customers were not able to receive the station. KLTV re-established an analog signal at reduced power from its former studio and transmitter location in eastern Tyler within 13 hours of the collapse. No cause for the collapse has been disclosed to date.
A new Harris transmitter – on a tower slightly less than half the height of the one that collapsed – was installed the following day, allowing resumption of full-power broadcasts from the Tyler site, allowing over-the-air viewers to watch ABC's broadcast of Super Bowl XL over its analog signal; the digital signal was restored several days later.
KLTV restored its analog over-the-air signal from its original tower while also being restored on DirecTV, Dish Network and other area cable providers. Its analog transmitter equipment was not damaged and was supplemented at the original tower site with a newer transmitter. However, its over-the-air high definition and digital television transmission equipment was a total loss.
In March and April 2007, KLTV ran a "Flip the Switch" promotion to promote the completion of the new Red Springs tower. Viewers were urged to submit 30-second videos to show why they should be selected to turn on the tower, with the winner being selected by popular vote on the station's website. On April 17, 2007, at approximately 6:58 p.m., contest winner Jeff Heimer officially flipped the switch to turn on the new transmitter and tower.
In January 2011, KLTV started "KLTV in Your Community," a section of its website serving as a branch for citizen journalism, or community blogging; the blog sites are separated into fifteen East Texas communities with Tyler divided into four quadrants by city section.
Hudson Collins, an original KLTV employee, died in January 2016. Collins was KLTV's first chief engineer and was with the station for more than 3 decades. Not only was Collins a singular factor in getting KLTV going, but was dedicated to keeping it going through changes and advances in broadcasting technology. Collins was considered a "true pioneer", and had a way of making complicated things easy to understand. In the mid-1980s, Hudson Collins decided to retire from KLTV. At the time of his death, Collins was 94 years old.
Bob Buford, who would come to run Buford Television and KLTV after his mother's death in 1971, himself passed away in April 2018. He was CEO of the station's own company and headed it until 1999 when it was decided that Buford would sell its TV and other media assets. Bob Buford went on to make his mark in business leadership, faith-oriented opportunities and was a popular author. He was 78 at the time of his death.
On June 25, 2018, Gray Television announced that it was merging with Raycom, under the Gray name. When it was approved by the FCC and the Justice Department, it made KLTV (and KTRE) a sister station to adjacent market stations KXII in Sherman, KBTX in Bryan and KWTX in Waco in addition to the current Raycom sister stations, while separating it from KXXV. The sale was approved on December 20 and was completed on January 2, 2019.