The station debuted on July 14, 1953, as KROC-TV, becoming the first in Southern Minnesota and the third in the state after KSTP-TV and WTCN-TV in the Twin Cities. The Gentling family and their Southern Minnesota Broadcasting Company owned it, and it was sister station to KROC radio (AM 1340 and FM 106.9). The original studios and transmitter of the station were located on Hennessey Hill, two miles (3.2 kilometers) west of Rochester. The station aired programs from all four commercial networks of the 1950s, including ABC, CBS, and DuMont, but was primarily an NBC affiliate. G. David Gentling, son of family patriarch Gregory P. Gentling, started the station. The station relocated to a new facility on First Avenue Southwest in Downtown Rochester in November 1966.