Channel 3 signed on October 19, 1953 as WSVA-TV (for We Serve Virginia Agriculture). It was owned by Frederick L. Allman and his Shenandoah Valley Broadcasting Corporation along with WSVA radio (AM 550 and FM 100.7, now WQPO). The station was a primary NBC affiliate, with secondary CBS and ABC affiliations. The station also carried DuMont programs. It was the only commercial station between Richmond and Roanoke until WVIR-TV signed on from Charlottesville in 1973. Although it was owned by one of Virginia's leading broadcasters, WSVA-TV operated on a shoestring budget. Station engineers switched to and from the signals of the three network affiliates in Washington, D.C. because it was unable to afford direct network feeds. The station did not air any locally produced programs (except for local newscasts) until 1956, when it built a studio along U.S. Route 33 in unincorporated Rockingham County. That year, Allman sold the WSVA stations to Transcontinent Television of Buffalo, New York, with NBC executive Hamilton Shea as a minority partner. Allman earned a handsome return on his original investment into WSVA radio in 1935. In 1959, the Washington Evening Star, owner of WMAL AM-FM-TV in Washington, acquired Transcontinent's controlling interest, as well as 1% of Shea's stake. The CBS affiliation was dropped in 1963.