|Austin/Albert Lea/Rochester, Minnesota-Mason City, Iowa|
|City of license||Austin|
|Branding||ABC 6 (general)
ABC 6 News
|Slogan||It's About You|
|Channels||Digital: 36 (UHF)
Virtual: 6 (PSIP)
6.2 This TV
|Translators||33 Mason City, IA|
|First air date||August 17, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||Austin/Albert Lea|
|Sister station(s)||KSTP-TV, KSTC-TV, KSAX/KRWF, WDIO-DT / WIRT-DT|
|Former callsigns||KMMT (1953-1968)
|Former channel number(s)||6 (VHF analog, 1953-2009)
33 (UHF digital, 2001-2009)
|Former affiliations||CBS (primary, 1953-1954)
DuMont (secondary, 1953-1955)
|Transmitter power||620 kW|
KAAL is the ABC-affiliated television station for the Driftless Area of Southeastern Minnesota and North-Central Iowa. Licensed to Austin, Minnesota, the station broadcasts a digital signal on UHF channel 33 (or virtual channel 6.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter southeast of Grand Meadow, Minnesota in Eastern Mower County. The station can also be seen on Mediacom and Charter channel 6. There is a non-high definition feed offered on Charter digital channel 786 and Mediacom digital channel 806.
Owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, KAAL has studios on 10th Place Northeast along I-90/US 218 in Austin. It operates a secondary facility on Superior Drive Northwest in Rochester. Syndicated programming on the station includes Entertainment Tonight, The Rachael Ray Show, America's Funniest Home Videos, and Live! with Kelly and Michael among others. In addition to its main signal, KAAL operates a low-powered digital fill-in translator licensed to Mason City, Iowa. This airs on UHF channel 33 from a transmitter in Garner, Iowa along US 18.
The station signed-on August 17, 1953 as KMMT and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 6. Its first owners were local businessmen Martin Busted, Harry Smith, and Palmer Ulland. Originally, the station was a primary CBS affiliate with secondary ABC and DuMont relations. After KGLO-TV (now KIMT) launched from Mason City in late-1954, KMMT switched its primary network to ABC. DuMont would eventually be dropped in 1956 after that network shut down operations. This station is the longest-tenured ABC affiliate in the Upper Midwest.
During the late-1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.1 It shared studios with KAUS radio (AM 1480 and FM 99.9) on MN 105 in Austin where the two radio stations continue to operate today. The television station produced a few local programs most notably The Family Hour hosted by Christian Pastor Joe Matt. The program aired until April 2001 and was one of the longest-running, locally-produced religious shows in the United States.
KMMT was purchased by Waterloo, Iowa-based Blackhawk Broadcasting sometime between 1956 and 1957. The station would add color television in 1967. It calls became KAUS-TV (for AUStin) in 1968 to match its radio sisters. The outlet would begin carrying the yearly Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon in 1973 and remains the area's affiliate to this day. KAUS-TV-AM-FM separated operations in 1974 after the television station moved to its current location on 10th Place Northeast along I-90. The building previously housed a Volkswagen dealership and showroom. Blackhawk would sell KAUS to the News-Press & Gazette Company of St. Joseph, Missouri in 1980. The call sign became KAAL-TV on December 1, 1982 referring to Austin and Albert Lea.
In December 1985, Dix Communications acquired the station and the new company added stereo programming in November 1990. Another ownership change occurred in 1997 after Grapevine Communications of Atlanta, Georgia purchased KAAL. It would eventually drop the use of the -TV suffix on September 23, 1998. Grapevine, in turn, divested the station to GOCOM on January 1, 2000. Exactly a year later, current owner Hubbard Broadcasting assumed control. The year 2001 also saw the launch of KAAL's digital signal on UHF channel 33. As part of the DTV transition on June 12, 2009, KAAL turned-off its analog transmitter and moved its digital signal to UHF channel 36.
Its previous digital allotment would eventually be used to sign-on a fill-in translator to cover Mason City. During the analog era, its signal used an FM audio carrier which could be heard at 87.75 in areas where the video signal could be received (and some where it could not). The same practice was true of all analog channel 6 television stations in North America. However, this analog FM carrier no longer exists for full-powered stations after the conversion to digital-exclusive transmission.
At 8 p.m. on June 17, 2009, Austin was struck by an EF2 tornado in the city's north side. It passed one half mile to the north of KAAL's studios. This tornado was powerful enough to take out power for the entire city including this station. However, it continued to cover the severe weather event with a backup generator only able to power a few lights, computers, and camera set up in the weather center. The station would remain without electricity until 2 p.m. the next day. Normal operations resumed with the 5 p.m. newscast on June 18. The EF2 tornado caused structural damage to buildings on the north side of the city from US 218 near 4th Street Northwest to the golf country club.2 Since KAAL is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to broadcast out of Austin, the station can not move all of its operations to the Rochester facility.
Local news, weather, and sports have been provided on the station since its first day of broadcasting in 1953. Under News-Press & Gazette Company control in he early-1980s, its news department was significantly expanded complete with new equipment for live reporting from the field. Most of KAAL's operations are currently based at its main studios in Austin. However, the secondary facility in Rochester allows the station to have a solid presence in that area as opposed to a smaller bureau. For several years during its weeknight newscasts, the station has maintained special technology to offer the unique practice of producing live news segments from its Rochester studios while also featuring live weather forecasts and sports highlights originating from Austin.
- Regional Roundup (1953–1958)
- The Upper Midwest Report (1958–1962)
- Television 6 Reports (1962–1964)
- TV 6 News/Channel 6 News (1964–1989)
- News 6 (1989–1996)
- Region 6 News (1996–2002)
- 6 News (2002–2004)
- 6 News First (2004–2007)
- ABC 6 News (2007–present)
- The Spirit of the Heartland (1990–1996)
- When You Need To Know (1996–2006)
- Your News and Weather Source (2006–2009)
- It's About You (2009–present)
ABC 6 NEWS ANCHORS
- Kenny King - weekday mornings
- Ellery McCardle - weekday mornings
- Laura Lee - weeknights at 10 p.m.; also reporter
- Betsy Singer - weeknights at 5 and 6 p.m.
- James Wilcox - weeknights at 6 and 10 p.m.; also reporter
Storm Tracker 6 Weather Team
- Chris Kuball - Chief Meteorologist; weeknights 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
- Jim Peterson - meteorologist; weekday mornings
- Justin Thompson-Gee- meteorologist; weekend evenings
ABC 6 SPORTS TEAM
- Caleb Ostrander - sports director; weeknights at 6 and 10 p.m. (Also Sports Zone Host)
- Chelsea Burn - sports anchor; weekend evenings (Also Sports Zone Host)
- Dan Conradt
- Katie Eldred
- Dietrich Nissen
- Gordon Severson
- Steph Crock
- David Springer - also news director