An Afterthought On The Network Upfronts

By Ken Foote, CBSDFW.COM
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Ken Foote

After watching all of the network “upfront” presentations, I got to thinking about how all of the major networks — Black Rock (CBS), Hard Rock (ABC), 30 Rock (NBC), and FOX — got their start so here we go (no CW, MNT, or even the failed DUMONT Network listed here):

CBS: started in 1927 as a radio company founded by William S. Paley. While he is credited with the successful launch of the CBS Television Network, it was really CBS President Frank Stanton that pushed Paley to give the green light to go into television. Even the late comedienne Lucille Ball said that in her conversations with Paley, he never mentioned television to her at all, only radio. If CBS had not had Frank Stanton running the day to day operations, who knows what would have happened!

ABC: we can thank a United States Supreme Court ruling in 1943 that created ABC, a radio network company original that was one of NBC’s networks. The Court upheld that owning two networks was anti-competitive and violated federal antitrust rules. It was the ABC owned and operated radio stations that kept ABC afloat in the 1950’s and 1960’s before the ABC Television Network hit its stride in the 1970’s. ABC was run by a former theatre attorney named Leonard Goldenson and its president was former KABC TV General Manager Elton Rule. These guys rocked!! Who would have thought that a governmental decree would have formed a new network!

NBC: part of RCA Corporation for over 60 years. Its founder, David Sarnoff, loved equipment and folklore has him in a picture supposedly telegraphing for help and/or receiving a telegraph during the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. NBC was first in the hunt and as a result remained first for a number of years both in network radio and network television until CBS began its decades of dominance over them, starting with the “Paley Raids” on NBC’s creative talent.

FOX: started coming of age in 1985 when an Australian newspaper mogul named Rupert Murdoch purchased the 20th Century Fox Film Corporation from oilman Marvin Davis and then seven television stations from Metromedia, a company owned by John Kluge. Murdoch viewed American television as stale and needing shaking up. His formula of LCD—or “least common denominator”—had worked in selling newspapers in Australia and the UK. In 1986, the FOX Television Network premiered.

As for me, I am so glad that Mr. Paley decided to buy an hour of time on that Philadelphia radio station to promote his family’s cigar business, that the advertising worked, and that he found a new love. Otherwise who knows what would have happened. And I am so glad Dr. Stanton was able to convince Mr. Paley that television was CBS’s future. I have often wondered what history would have looked like if these events didn’t take place!

See you next time.

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