The station first signed on the air on November 7, 1953. The station's first telecast was a college football game between the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina. The station was originally owned by the Broadcasting Company of the South, a subsidiary of the Liberty Life Insurance Company, owners of WIS radio (560 AM, now WVOC). Charles Batson signed the station on the air, and remained the station's president and general manager until his retirement in 1983. It was the fourth television station to sign on in South Carolina and the third in the Columbia market, signing on just four months after WCOS-TV (channel 25)—which ceased operations in 1956—and two months after WNOK-TV (channel 67, now WLTX on channel 19, where it moved in 1961). WIS is the third-longest continuously operating station in the state, behind WCSC-TV in Charleston and WNOK/WLTX.