About WATE ABC6Channel 6, WROL-TV, was the first television station in East Tennessee, signing on the air at 8 p.m. on October 1, 1953. The race to be the first television station in the eastern part of the state was won by WROL-TV when the 300-foot (91 m) tower of WJHL-TV in Johnson City (which is now a sister station to channel 6) collapsed a few months earlier. Despite this, WROL-TV claimed the title of first station by only 25 days. Its first studios were located underneath the 800-foot (244 m) self-supporting tower on Sharp's Ridge, which was one of the tallest man-made structures in Tennessee at the time. WROL-TV was signed on by Greater East Tennessee TV, Inc., a company owned by local insurance executive Paul Mountcastle and a small group of investors, along with WROL-AM 950. At the time, Mountcastle was chairman of the board of the Life and Casualty Insurance Company of Tennessee of Nashville, which signed on WLAC-TV (now WTVF) in that city in 1954. The stations were not considered to be co-owned.
WROL-TV signed on as a primary NBC affiliate due to the longstanding affiliation of WROL-AM with NBC Radio, and also shared ABC programming with CBS affiliate WSKT-TV (now WVLT-TV). Although NBC held a strong presence on WROL, DuMont tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to get a secondary affiliation with the station when it was not broadcasting NBC and ABC. To fill its non-network schedule, channel 6 opted for local programming, as required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). DuMont was forced to join WTVK on a secondary basis. CBS also made numerous attempts to secure a primary affiliation.