WABI-TV, Bangor, officially signed on as Maine’s First Television Station on January 25, 1953. The station was launched by former Maine Governor Horace A. Hildreth. Hildreth had earlier acquired the license to Maine’s oldest radio station, WABI-AM, and the call letters conveyed to the new television station.
Originally a multi-network affiliate (CBS, NBC, ABC, and Dumont), TV5 began as a primary NBC affiliate, switching to CBS primary a little over a year after starting up (while still carrying ABC programming – shared with WTWO (WLBZ)), and becoming an official full-time CBS affiliate in 1959.
Anecdotally, we understand that the first full program aired on the station was a filmed episode of the syndicated series “Boston Blackie” starring Kent Taylor (several viewers recall that this is a fact, but we do not have a record of the broadcast log).
TV5 was home to Bangor’s “Bozo the Clown” and many other local favorites. Members of the “baby boomer” generation of TV5 viewers have fond memories of the annual Santa Claus shows (“Santa’s Workshop” & “Santa and His Friends”) of the 60’s and 70’s.
Years after the station stopped producing the Santa shows, local area post offices continued to direct mail addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole” to the Bangor studios of WABI-TV.
Today, WABI-TV stands as Maine’s only locally-owned television station, owned by Diversified Communications of Portland, Maine, and still controlled by the Hildreth family.
Local ownership has allowed local programming to flourish. In addition to weeknight local newscasts at 5, 6 and 11, and weekend evening newscasts at 6 and 11, TV5 is home to the area’s most popular morning news program, the locally-produced TV5 Morning News.
In September 2007, with the addition of a secondary digital channel, WABI DT2, affiliated with The CW network, TV5 added another original half-hour of weekday live, local news at 10:00 PM. WABI-DT2 also provides delayed broadcasts of TV5 News at Noon at 12:30 PM, and a half-hour segment of TV5 Morning News at 7:00 AM weekdays.
WABI-TV added an additional channel in 2015. DECADES affiliate WABI-DT3 soft-launched on Thursday, September 24, 2015, at 2:30 PM. A few “bugs” had to be worked out the first two days on the air, but the station was up and running well by the weekend. The official launch date was October 1, 2015.
TV5 also has a long history of live local public affairs and local sports broadcasts and is also to the local station for Maine’s only late night local talk show, The Nite Show with Danny Cashman, which airs Saturday nights at 11:30.
TV5 is proud to help local communities and public service organizations celebrate “The Spirit of Maine.” The station participates in a number of community initiatives throughout the year, in partnership with local service organizations, civic groups, and citizens groups.
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