For the Japanese content to reach the majority demographic of Hawaii, KIKU partners with various companies to provide English subtitles.
The original KIKU was quite popular with Hawaii's children throughout the 1970s, televising several Japanese tokusatsu shows, including Kamen Rider V3, Kikaida, Rainbowman, Ganbare!! Robocon, and Himitsu Sentai Goranger.
The Cushmans of San Diego, in partnership with TV Asahi and ten local investors, formed Mid-Pacific Television Associates and bought KIKU on April 9, 1979. Japanese programming was pared-down and moved to late evening; KIKU switched to a "kid vid" format, scoring success with The Children's Hour and Professor Fun.
In 1984, KIKU was renamed KHNL-TV. In 1986, KHNL-TV was sold to King Broadcasting Company of Seattle, Washington, a large privately owned television company. Along with the purchase, KHNL-TV became the local affiliate for Fox. However, KHNL-TV still retained its Asian roots, and continued to broadcast content—mostly sumo matches—from those countries.
In 1992, King Broadcasting was sold to Providence Journal Broadcasting Corporation and its financial partner, Kelso & Company. Some major changes occurred at KHNL-TV as a result of the purchase, including the conversion of its local affiliate status from Fox to NBC.
In October 2003, General Manager Gregg Mueller left KIKU after a three-year tenure.
On November 1, 2004, KIKU became a secondary affiliate of the UPN television network. UPN was previously seen in the Honolulu market on KFVE from 1995 to 2002, and then on KHON and KGMB from 2002 to 2004 (also as secondary affiliations).
The station returned to having no national network affiliation in September 2006, when UPN merged with The WB to form The CW Television Network. Although UPN fans anticipated KIKU becoming an affiliate of The CW so they can continue to watch their favorite shows, KIKU announced they would not be doing so.
On September 18, 2006, KIKU became one of the few terrestrial affiliates of the FUNimation Channel. From September 2006 to September 2007, KIKU ran 2 hours of anime programs every Monday through Friday from 6-7 pm and 10-11 pm local time; the anime lineup changed every so often. In September 2007, due to low viewership, KIKU decided to discontinue the anime lineup.
The late afternoon timeslots formerly reserved for UPN programming are now filled with informercials and the syndicated courtroom shows Judge Alex and Divorce Court. In 2007 it added reruns of Law & Order: Criminal Intent to its lineup, airing daily at 18:00. Other English-language fare KIKU airs include Soul Train and Critter Gitters, both on weekends.
In the April 2006 hardcopy publication Kokiku Magazine, fans have expressed their displeasure of KIKU continuing to air old travel TV shows such as そこが知りたい. In the following May issue, Phyllis Kihara, General Manager of KIKU, defended the station's position, saying that in the 7:00pm Monday through Friday time-slot, Soko has higher ratings in the local Nielsen Ratings than some of the major network shows.