The station, along with WINK radio, began broadcasting on March 23, 1954. It was owned by the family of taxicab mogul and Cleveland Browns founder Mickey McBride (1240 AM, now WAXA at 1200 AM; and 96.9 FM). WINK-TV was the first television station in Southwest Florida and is the state's fifth-oldest station still in operation. Although the call letters appear to be a result of its CBS connection, they were merely carried over from its radio sibling, which adopted them in 1944—seven years before the CBS Eye debuted. During its first two decades, it broadcast programs from the four main networks of the time: CBS, NBC, ABC, and DuMont. It has, however, always been a key CBS affiliate.