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.
Channel 9 formally switched to ABC, becoming the market's first full-time affiliate of that network, in September of that year.
In the winter of late 1958, Cook Paint and Varnish purchased KDRO-TV (channel 6) in Sedalia; the company subsequently changed that station's call letters to KMOS-TV on January 28, 1959.
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.
Channel 9 would gain a sister television station in 1997, when Hearst Broadcasting – which was renamed Hearst-Argyle Television after Argyle Television Holdings II merged with Hearst's broadcasting unit (now named Hearst Television) that year – entered into a local marketing agreement to manage the operations of KCWB (channel 29, now CW affiliate KCWE), which signed on the air in September 1996 as the market's original affiliate of The WB (it would later assume the UPN affiliation from KSMO-TV (channel 62, now a My Network TV affiliate) in August 1998, as part of a swap that resulted from then-owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's multi-station affiliation agreement with The WB).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).Eventually, the companies reached an agreement to combine their individual inquiries for the permit and jointly bid for the license.Under the proposed deal, Cook Paint and Varnish and Midland Broadcasting agreed to an arrangement in which the two licensees would share the channel 9 allocation as well as a transmitter facility; although each company would structure their common television property as two separate stations, individually maintaining operational stewardship of their respective stations and operating from different studio facilities within the metropolitan area.