The station began broadcasting in January 1988 as an ABC affiliate, replacing a translator of KGTV in San Diego. KYMA was granted its initial license on April 29, 1988. It originally operated from studio facilities located on South Pacific Avenue in Yuma. Yuma Broadcasting sold the station to Sunbelt Communications Company in June 1989. On February 1, 1991, it became an NBC affiliate in a swap with then-KYEL, which would become KSWT that September.