The station began on October 1, 1989 as KFAA-TV, a satellite of KPOM-TV in Fort Smith. Both stations were owned by the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based Griffin Television. Its sign-on marked the first time that NBC had been seen over-the-air in much of the northern part of the market since KFSM-TV (channel 5) lost the area's NBC affiliation to KPOM in 1983. KPOM only provided Grade B coverage of Fayetteville and could not be seen at all in Rogers and points north. In the early 2000s, KPOM and KFAA began a regional local newscast targeting the Fort Smith and Fayetteville areas, Arkansas NBC News. The newscast was anchored by Don Elkins, Rhonda Justice and Donna Bragg, weather by Steve Gibbs and Rick Katzfey, and sports with Mike Nail. Justice, Bragg, Gibbs, and Nail were all formerly of rival station KHBS (channel 40). The newscast was unable to break into the market successfully however and in 2004, Griffin Television sold KPOM-TV and KFAA-TV to Nexstar. The stations changed their calls to KNWA-TV and KFTA-TV respectively on August 13, 2004 and KNWA became the main station. At the same time, the two stations' operations both were merged in a new studio located in the historic Campbell-Bell building on South Block Avenue in Downtown Fayetteville. KFTA's original studio on Kelley Highway in Fort Smith remained in use as KNWA's Arkansas River Valley bureau.