Founded by businessman Ed Urner, channel 17 first broadcast on November 8, 1959 as KLYD, an affiliate. The station originally operated from studios located on Eye Street in Bakersfield. It was co-owned with KLYD-AM 1350 (now ), and is one of very few TV stations to be started by a daytime-only radio station. The call letters changed to KJTV in 1969. In October of that year, Urner sold the station to Atlantic States Industries. In 1974, KJTV swapped affiliations with , becoming a affiliate.

's Gillett Broadcasting bought the station from ASI Communications in 1978. The station's call letters changed again to KPWR-TV on September 27, 1978, when it increased its power to 5,000,000 watts. The purchased the station in 1983. On February 1, 1984, the station changed its calls to the present day "KGET-TV", coinciding with an affiliation swap with to become Bakersfield's NBC affiliate a month later, an affiliation which continues to the present day. It is one of a handful of stations in the United States to have held a primary affiliation with all three of the "Big Three" television networks. It was sold to in 2001.

KGET stands for "Kern Golden Empire Television," a moniker coined by the station's longtime vice president and general manager, , who was elected to the in 2002. The current KGET Manager is Derek Jeffery.

On April 20, 2007, Clear Channel entered into an agreement to sell its entire television stations group to , a broadcasting holding company controlled by . However, Providence Equity Partners owns a 19 percent share of the Spanish-language media company , the owner of affiliate . In addition, with only five full-power stations, Bakersfield does not have enough to legally support a co-owned duopoly operation. As a result, the granted conditional approval of the sale, provided that Providence Equity Partners divest either KGET or its stake in Univision as soon as the deal was finalized. That happened on March 14, 2008.

In May 2008, Newport Television agreed to sell KGET and five other stations to High Plains Broadcasting, Inc. due to the aforementioned ownership conflict. The sale closed on September 15, 2008; Newport continued to operate KGET under a . Newport agreed to sell KGET and sister affiliate , as well as in , to on November 5, 2012. The FCC approved the sale on January 23, 2013; and the sale was completed on February 19.

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is :

17.1KGET-DTMain KGET-TV programming / {}
17.2CW {}
TELMSimulcast of / {}

Analog-to-digital conversion

KGET-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over channel 17, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 25. Through the use of , digital television receivers display the station's as its former UHF analog channel 17.