About KEYCKEYC-TV signed on October 5, 1960, just in time to broadcast the first game of the World Series that night from NBC. It was owned by Lee Enterprises which also started nearby KGLO-TV (now KIMT) in Mason City, Iowa. Less than a year later, KEYC switched its affiliation to CBS which has been maintained to this day. Lee Enterprises, intending to purchase KOIN-TV in Portland, Oregon, was forced to sell KEYC to United Communications in 1977 due to ownership limits imposed by the FCC. During UPN's existence, the station carried some of that network's programming through a secondary arrangement.
KEYC was a major beneficiary of an exception to the FCC's "2½ + 1" plan for allocating VHF television bandwidth. In the early days of broadcast television, there were twelve VHF channels available, and 69 UHF channels (which was later reduced to 56 with the removal of high-band channels 70-83 in the early 1980s). The VHF bands were more desirable because signals broadcasting on that band traveled a longer distance. Because there were only twelve VHF channels available, there were limitations as to how closely the stations could be spaced. With the release of the FCC's Sixth Report and Order in 1952, the Commission outlined a new allocation table for VHF licenses and opened up the UHF band. Through these initiatives, almost all of the United States would be able to receive two commercial VHF channels plus one non-commercial allocation. Most of the rest of the country ("1/2") would be able to receive a third VHF channel. Other areas of the country would be designated as "UHF islands," since they were too close to larger cities for VHF service.