The station first signed on the air on April 15, 1954; KARK is Little Rock's second-oldest continuously operating television station, after KATV (channel 7), which beat KARK to the air by almost five months. It first operated from studios located on Spring Street in Little Rock. The Barton family sold the station to Mullins Broadcasting, then-owner of KBTV (now KUSA) in Denver in 1966. After the company's owner John C. Mullins died in 1969, the Mullins estate sold both KBTV and KARK to Combined Communications in 1972. In 1976, the station moved to a new facility located on West 3rd Street in downtown Little Rock. Combined's television station properties would eventually be acquired by the Gannett Company seven years later in 1979, in what was the largest media merger in United States history at the time. In 1983, Gannett sold KARK to Southwest Media, a subsidiary of United Broadcasting, a one-time owner of WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire and also owner of KDBC-TV in El Paso, Texas and WTOK-TV in Meridian, Mississippi; Gannett would re-enter the Little Rock-Pine Bluff market when it acquired rival CBS affiliate KTHV (channel 11) from the Arkansas Television Company in December 1994.