KNWA-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station for Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas River Valley. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 50 (virtual channel 51.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter southeast of Garfield. Owned by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group, the station is sister to the Fort Smith-based Fox affiliate KFTA-TV. The two stations share a studio on Dickson Street in Downtown Fayetteville. It also operates a satellite studio in Rogers, its city of license, as well as on Kelley Highway in Fort Smith.
Syndicated programming on KNWA includes Anderson, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Entertainment Tonight, Judge Judy, The People's Court, and The Doctors. KNWA also airs the statewide news program Arkansas Today, along with Nexstar sister stations KARK, KTAL, and KTVE.
The station began on October 1, 1989 as KFAA-TV as a satellite of KPOM-TV in Fort Smith. Both stations were owned by the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based Griffin Television. Its sign-on marked the first time that NBC had been seen over-the-air in much of the northern part of the market since KFSM-TV lost the area's NBC affiliation to KPOM in 1983. KPOM only provided Grade B coverage of Fayetteville and could not be seen at all in Rogers and points north. In 2004, Griffin Television sold KPOM-TV and KFAA-TV to Nexstar, and the stations changed their calls to KNWA-TV and KFTA-TV respectively in 2004 and KNWA became the main station. At the same time, the two stations' operations both were merged in a new studio located in the historic Campbell-Bell building on South Block Avenue in Downtown Fayetteville. KFTA's original studio on Kelley Highway in Fort Smith remained in use as KNWA's Arkansas River Valley bureau.
In April 2006, Nexstar announced that it would sell KFTA to Mission Broadcasting, though it would continue to operate the station under a local marketing agreement with KNWA. Under the plan, KFTA would become the Fox-affiliate for the area leaving KNWA as the sole NBC-affiliate for Northwest Arkansas. Equity Broadcasting, owner of the Class A Fox-affiliate KPBI-CA, challenged the sale of KFTA to Mission with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Nonetheless, the separation occurred on August 28 while both were under Nexstar ownership. Until the sale of KFTA to Mission was approved, the stations continued to simulcast from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. KFTA now runs a separate programming schedule from KNWA, even though Nexstar (As of May 19, 2013) still owns both KNWA and KFTA outright. This station took its analog transmitter off-the-air for a few days in mid-August to relocate it to another site for improved coverage.
This did not pose as much of a problem as it may have seemed, given the high penetration of cable and satellite service in this area. The only station that has adequate coverage throughout the market from a single transmitter is Arkansas Educational Television Network's KAFT. Cable and satellite are all but essential for acceptable television in Northwest Arkansas due to its rugged terrain. For example, Dish Network and DirecTV carried KPBI-CA while it was the Fox affiliate even though those carriers usually do not offer low-power stations. After the split, KPBI-CA was dropped in favor of KFTA. On the other hand, the split improved Fox's coverage and enables high definition Fox programming in this market as KPBI-CA is low-power and does not have a digital transmitter, unlike KNWA and KFTA. According to their FCC filings, both stations have digital transmitters licensed for one million watts each compared to five million watts for an analog UHF transmitter. Thus, their digital coverage areas well exceed the analog coverage areas of both KFTA (2.5 million watts) and especially KNWA.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|51.1||1080i||16:9||KNWA-DT||Main KNWA-TV programming / NBC|
|51.2||720p||KFTA-SD||Simulcast of KFTA-TV / Fox|
KNWA and KFTA each carry the other's signal in standard definition as subcarriers of their digital stations alongside their main signals in high definition. This is necessary because KNWA's analog signal only aired at 182,000 watts. KFTA has a transmitter south of Artist Point.
KNWA-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 51, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 50, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 51.
KPOM and KFAA relaunched a local newscast in 1999. An earlier local broadcast had aired under various titles until 1992. In 2003 after Morris Multimedia sold KARK in Little Rock to Nexstar, the company eventually consolidated most sports operations from that station with KNWA. The two NBC affiliates share certain news resources with some reports filed by KARK personnel occasionally used during KNWA broadcasts. In 2007, the two stations began co-produced a daily newscast at Noon Monday through Friday, Arkansas at Noon, with news anchors in Little Rock and Fayetteville. Eventually, KARK began airing its own broadcast at that time. Since then, this station has not aired a midday newscast. KFTA maintains a bureau at its original studios on Kelley Highway in Fort Smith.
On April 2, 2012, KNWA debuted a half-hour weekday noon newscast titled Arkansas Today, produced by Little Rock sister station KARK-TV (anchor Mallory Hardin and meteorologist/co-host Greg Dee also appear on KARK's weekday morning newscast); the statewide newscast features news stories filed by reporters from all four Nexstar-owned NBC stations serving Arkansas as well as a KNWA-produced sports segment focusing on University of Arkansas athletics, called Razorback Nation. KNWA also provides a weather insert for northwest Arkansas during the broadcast. In addition to airing on KARK and KNWA, the program is also simulcast on KTAL-TV/Shreveport-Texarkana and KTVE/Monroe-El Dorado (the coverage areas of KTVE and KTAL include several counties in southern Arkansas (ten in KTAL's viewing area, fourteen in KTVE's), though both stations primarily serve parts of northern Louisiana and KTAL also serves parts of northeast Texas). On October 24, 2012, KNWA and KFTA started producing its newscast in high definition.