About WOI ABC5WOI-TV first broadcast on February 21, 1950. It was Iowa's second television station (after WOC-TV, now KWQC-TV in Davenport) and the city's first. It began on channel 4 before moving to channel 5 in 1952. During the station's early years, programming came from ABC, CBS, NBC, and the DuMont network, although it was mostly a CBS affiliate. Because of KRNT radio's lengthy connection with CBS radio, NBC dropped from the schedule when WHO-TV (channel 13) signed on in 1954, and CBS disappeared when KRNT-TV (channel 8, now KCCI) signed on in 1955, leaving station 5 as the ABC affiliate. The station was also temporarily linked with the NTA Film Network in the late 1950s.
WOI-TV, along with sister nonprofit WOI radio stations (AM 640 and FM 90.1), was initially owned by Iowa State University in Ames, making it the first commercial television station in the United States to be owned by a major institution. As such, it aired limited instructional content until the Des Moines Public Schools (channel 11, now KDIN-TV) signed on in 1959. The residual funds from a government grant provided to the university for work on the Manhattan Project were used to cover the beginning expenditures for WOI-TV. The university employed WOI's capabilities to offer courses via satellite.