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In September 1981, Metromedia sold KMBC-TV and the lease to the Lyric Theatre to New York City-based Hearst Broadcasting in a deal worth million for the television station alone.
Under Hearst ownership, the station heavily invested in its news department and expanded its local news programming, which increased from seven hours per week at the time of the purchase to 20 hours by 1990.
Hearst-Argyle Television continued to maintain operational responsibilities for KCWE until 2001, when its parent company, the Hearst Corporation, bought the channel 29 license outright by way of an indirect subsidiary (doing business as "KCWE-TV Company") separate from its broadcasting division.
In July 2005, Hearst-Argyle announced plans to construct a new 53,000-square-foot (4,900 m) facility at the Winchester Business Center (located at 6455 Winchester Avenue, near Swope Park) in southeastern Kansas City, Missouri to house the operations of KMBC and KCWE.
As part of the deal, Meredith agreed to affiliate KCMO-TV (channel 5, now KCTV) with CBS, as compensation for sister station KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona (which rejoined CBS in September 1994) losing its affiliation with the network to KOOL-TV (now Fox owned-and-operated station KSAZ-TV).
KMBC-TV subsequently signed an affiliation agreement with ABC, granting it assumption of the Kansas City affiliation rights to that network from KCMO-TV, which had carried the network since its September 1953 sign-on in a dual-affiliation arrangement (KCMO also initially carried select programs from the Du Mont Television Network on a part-time basis until the network ceased operations in August 1956).
In June 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the proposal made by the Cook/Midland venture, and awarded the individual licenses for which the two companies had applied.
On cable, KMBC-TV is available on Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity and Consolidated Communications channel 12, and Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse channel 9.Construction of the facility – which was designed in the mold of the Spanish-inspired architectural style of Country Club Plaza, and built by Oklahoma City-based architecture firm Rees and Associates, which also designed the studio facilities of sister stations WDSU in New Orleans and WESH in Orlando – began later that month, and was completed in early August 2007.The modern purpose-built concrete and glass studio facility incorporates a master control facility with digital and high definition transmission processing equipment; a two-story 4,500-square-foot (420 m) newsroom; a satellite management center supporting downlink and uplink capabilities; a helistop for the station's "News Chopper 9" helicopter; and surface parking for station employees and guests.The licensees borrowed the call letters of their shared television station from their respective radio properties: the Midland-owned station was assigned the call letters KMBC-TV and the Cook-owned station was assigned the calls WHB-TV.The combined operation shared the local affiliation rights to CBS, which had moved its programming from WDAF-TV (channel 4, now a Fox affiliate), a station that had carried the network on a part-time basis since it signed on as Kansas City's first television station in October 1949.
Similar to the split-station arrangement that WHB radio had maintained three decades earlier with WDAF radio (610 AM, now KCSP; the WDAF calls on radio now reside on 106.5 FM), KMBC-TV and WHB-TV would each maintain 90 minutes of programming airtime on an alternating basis throughout its broadcast day, which initially ran daily from a.m. (the WHB/WDAF radio sharing arrangement originated in 1922, when both stations transmitted on 730 AM and transferred frequencies when both moved to 680 AM in 1924; the timeshare ended when WHB radio moved to 710 AM in 1927).