WTVD signed on the air on September 2, 1954, as a joint affiliate of NBC and ABC.
With the sign-on of WRAL-TV in 1956, WTVD became a full-time ABC affiliate as WRAL joined NBC.
In 1957, WTVD was merged with WTEN in Albany to form Capital Cities Television. WTVD joined CBS in 1957, due to original affiliate WNAO-TV going off-air. WTVD lost its ABC affiliation to WRAL-TV, which joined its network affiliation.
Between 1962 and 1971, WTVD maintained a secondary affiliation with NBC.
In March 1985, Capital Cities announced the purchase of ABC. With that, on August 4, 1985, WTVD and WRAL swapped affiliations, giving WRAL CBS. WTVD returned to ABC. The Capital Cities/ABC deal was completed at the start of 1986, and WTVD became an ABC owned-and-operated station.