Champion Television Group is the predecessor of Sabana American Broadcast Holdings. Champion Television Group was founded in 1943 by President Lee W.B. Winston. Carl H. Winston was Champion's Chief Operations Officer (COO), and the company's Chief Executive Officer was Donald D. Winston. Camile P.J. Doral was Champion's secretary/treasurer. Throughout its time, Champion opened over 300 television stations and owned over five television brands, those of which still remain under the SABH banner, others closing or bought by other companies.
It was Lee Winston's vision to bring entertainment to the home viewers without the cliche material most pre and post-World War II footage had at the time. It was an enormous task undertaken by many of Champion's staff. In a press release, Winston wrote the following:
It is my vision that Champion Television Group will be the best organization to represent the Western United States and beyond. It is my hope that we bring to the viewers at home the best in high quality entertainment and that they are satisfied with our services. It is my vision that we only produce programming that is appropriate and suitable to the consumer's ideals and liking. We at Champion Television Group believe in our peers to suggest and to help maintain our presence in the community. We are eager to see what will become of this organization in the years to come. I am very proud to represent Champion Television Group along with Mr. Carl Winston, Mr. Donald Winston, Mrs. Camile Doral, Mr. Jack Laverty, Mr. Henry K. Sabana and Mrs. Candaline Lacey (Champion's first Director of Quality Control). Your support will greatly bolster our future and affect the communities we serve in the near future.
- Lee W. B. Winston
Champion's early years on the air
On July 3, 1943, one day before Independence Day, Champion Television Group launched its first owned and operated television station, KKBY. It was also the first day of Champion's parent company, American Television Company, the predecessor to American Broadcast Network. It began at 12:30 PM Pacific Standard Time with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the studios in downtown Seattle and at KKBY's transmitter site two miles to the south of the city.
The first children's show was called Cat Tales, which ran for six seasons between August of 1943, and July of 1948 to August of 1952. Due to World War II, Cat Tales was on a four year hiatus before returning back on the air on July 5, 1948. Cat Tales transitioned to the Champion Green and Yellow Radio Network, a strong competitor of NBC's Red and Blue Networks.
Frederick Winston provided the news in the Northwest region on KKBY from opening day to March 4, 1964 when KKBY became what is now KABN, SABH's flagship television station. Winston retired the day after KABN signed on after a 21 year run.
Henry Sabana, grandfather of SABH owner, Richard Sabana, provided the sports coverage for the Seattle Commodores (now known today as the Seattle Thunder) Major League Football team, Vancouver Islanders basketball, and Rangers baseball team between 1948 to 1974, a 26-year run before his passing a year later in 1975. Sabana called the memorable moments and was the first man to broadcast in both the Champion Television Group and Sabana-Winston Television Company era. Sabana also co-founded the ABN Sports network in 1964.
Champion's prominent live performances included The Jack Laverty Show, of which today, is survived by the nighttime talk show The Late Show with Vince Laverty, hosted by Jack Laverty's grandson.
The passing of the torch: Champion becomes SWTD
Lee Winston passed away in 1963 and passed the ownership to Don Winston, Jr., who then rebranded Champion Television Group as Sabana-Winston Television Distribution. It was the primary owner of ABN until the rebranding in 1985 to the present Sabana-American Broadcast Holdings.