The station first signed on the air on April 1, 1955, becoming the third television station in Tampa Bay (after WSUN-TV—channel 38, frequency now occupied by WTTA, and WFLA-TV, channel 8), it is also currently the second-oldest surviving station in the market (behind WFLA). Operating as a CBS affiliate, WTVT was originally owned by Tampa Bay radio veteran Walter Tison and his Tampa Television Company. The Federal Communications Commission originally awarded the construction permit to build a station on channel 13 to the now-defunct Tampa Times newspaper, which owned WDAE radio (then at 1250 AM, now at 620 AM). However, the FCC reversed its decision and awarded the license to the Tison group, which intended to open a studio facility in nearby St. Petersburg. The Times appealed the FCC's decision, but lost. Although it appears that the station's call letters stand for TeleVision Tampa, they actually stand for the initials of Walter Tison and his wife, Virginia. Like many other stations located on "unlucky" channel 13, WTVT used a black cat as its mascot for several years.