KRTV, virtual channel 3 (VHF digital channel 7), is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Great Falls, Montana, United States. The station is owned by the E. W. Scripps Company, and is part of the Montana Television Network, a statewide network of CBS-affiliated stations. KRTV's studios and transmitter are located on Old Havre Highway in Black Eagle, just outside Great Falls.

Great Falls, Montana
United States
BrandingKRTV: KRTV 3 (general)
KXLH-LD: KXLH 9 (general)
MTN News (newscasts)
SloganMontana's News Leader
ChannelsDigital: 7 (VHF)
Virtual: 3 (PSIP)
TranslatorsKXLH-LD 9 (VHF) Helena
(see article for others)
Affiliations3.1: CBS (1969–present)/MTN
3.2: CW+
3.3: Grit
3.4: Ion Television
OwnerE. W. Scripps Company
(Scripps Broadcasting Holdings LLC)
First air dateOctober 5, 1958 (1958-10-05)
Call letters' meaningKRTV: K GReat Falls TeleVision
KXLH-LD: KXLF Helena (based on original parent station KXLF-TV)
Sister station(s)KTVH-DT
Former channel number(s)Analog:
3 (VHF, 1958–2009)
Former affiliationsNBC (1958–1969)
Transmitter power28.5 kW
Height153.5 m (504 ft)
Facility ID35567
Transmitter coordinates47°32′7.5″N 111°17′5.5″W
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license informationProfile

KRTV also operates a low-powered semi-satellite in Helena, Montana, KXLH-LD (channel 9), which simulcasts all CBS network and syndicated programming as provided by KRTV but airs separate local weeknight newscasts, commercial inserts and station identifications. It also inserts local weather segments into KRTV's newscasts, and shares studios with NBC affiliate KTVH-DT (channel 12) on West Lyndale Avenue in Helena. Master control and some internal operations of KXLH-LD are based at KRTV's facilities.


KRTV began broadcast on June 27, 1958. That same day, high winds destroyed its broadcasting antenna, and the station was off the air until October 5, 1958.[1] The station was primarily an NBC affiliate with some ABC programming. When KFBB-TV took on a primary ABC affiliation in February 1966, KRTV started carrying CBS programming; it replaced KFBB as part of the Skyline Network (now MTN). Over the next ten years KRTV gradually phased in more CBS programming. By the summer of 1969, CBS programming exceeded that of NBC, which meant that KRTV was now a primary affiliate of CBS—and still is. The station became a full-time CBS affiliate in 1976, when KTCM (now KTVH) expanded its coverage to become (until 1986) the default NBC affiliate in a large part of Montana, including Great Falls.

In 2005, KRTV took over the operations of KXLH in Helena, which had previously been a semi-satellite of KXLF-TV in Butte. In 2010, KXLH began airing separate weeknight newscasts at 5:30 and 10 p.m. newscast, with a separate anchor. KXLH was previously known as KXLH-LP channel 25—the station would later flash cut and relocate to channel 9 in 2010.

KRTV offers The CW on its digital signal and is known as Great Falls CW. The subchannel is not seen on KXLH, as the CW affiliate in Helena is a subchannel of KTVH-DT (until 2015, CW programming in Helena was seen on KMTF).

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[2][3]
3.11080i16:9KRTVMain KRTV programming / CBS
3.2720pCWGreat Falls CW
3.3480i4:3Grit TVGrit
3.4IONIon Television

Analog-to-digital conversion

KRTV shut down its analog signal (VHF channel 3) on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 7.[4] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.

Emergency Alert System intrusion

On February 11, 2013, at approximately 2:33 p.m. MST, an unknown hacker reportedly gained access to the station's Emergency Alert System, and sent out a Local Area Emergency over the main signal, as well as the CW subchannel, explaining in a pitch-altered voice that "the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living" and that the bodies were considered "extremely dangerous", apparently referencing The Walking Dead. The voice also asked viewers to tune to 920 AM for further information after the station ended operations (no station exists on 920 AM in the Great Falls market).[5][6] Within minutes, station staff informed the public of the system intrusion and that there was no emergency.[7][8]

A similar, possibly related hacking occurred later on the night of February 11 on WNMU and WBUP in Marquette, Michigan.[9][10][11]

On the morning of February 12, DJs from WIZM-FM in La Crosse, Wisconsin were discussing the KRTV EAS intrusion. As part of the segment, they aired a clip of the actual EAS intrusion (including the tones), which triggered not only the radio station's EAS, but also that of their sister TV station, WKBT-TV, which resulted in the same message being seen to viewers of WKBT.[12]

Notable former on-air staff

  • Norma Ashby - 26-year career with KRTV
  • Fred Pfeiffer -15 year career with KRTV, longest continuous weatherman with the station
  • Nick Miller - Weekend weather forecaster from 1999 to 2003, now working as BBC Weather forecaster


Call sign history

The KRTV callsign was originally used for a UHF station on Channel 17 in Little Rock, Arkansas, affiliated with both CBS and NBC, that was Arkansas' first TV station when it signed on in 1953. However, it went off the air a year later as VHF stations KARK-TV and KTHV were preparing to take its network affiliations. The local ABC affiliate, KATV (previously of Pine Bluff), then moved to Little Rock and took over its studio until it burned down in 1957.

Coincidentally, KRTV wasn't the only station in Great Falls whose callsign was once used in Arkansas; its now-defunct competitor KLMN used the original call letters of Fort Smith station KFTA-TV.


  1. Guide to the KRTV Papers at the University of Montana
  2. "RabbitEars.Info".
  3. "RabbitEars.Info".
  4. "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  5. Howerton, Jason (11 February 2013). "Local Station Breaks Into Programming With Emergency Zombie Apocalypse Alert". Mediaite. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  6. Paymer, Alan (February 12, 2013). "4 channels up north, plus 1 in the OC, hacked with notice of zombies". Orange County Register. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  7. Station release (11 February 2013). "Bogus emergency alert message transmitted". KRTV. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  8. Highsmith, Aisha (February 11, 2013). "A Powerful Prankster Could Become One of the Jailing Dead". WNEM-TV. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  9. Archived 2013-02-15 at the Wayback Machine Emergency Broadcast System Hacked
  10. "Remember, Remember the 11th of February". Damn Interesting. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  11. "Bogus Walking Dead Notice Interrupts Programming on 3 Marquette Stations". The Flint Journal. February 12, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  12. News 8 Determines Cause of Strange Message About Zombies
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