Histories Of The Broadcast Networks

Networks, Producers & Distributors

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Corporate Histories of the Networks from their founding to present day including major people, events, corporate performance and recent series.

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ABC, INC. (AMERICAN BROADCASTING SYSTEM, INC.)


ABC’s predecessor, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) owned two radio networks, the Blue and the Red. In 1941, the FCC decreed that the same company could not own two networks, so RCA incorporated the Blue under the name of American Broadcasting System and established it as an independent subsidiary. RCA then sold this network to Edward J. Noble, and in 1944, the name was changed to the American Broadcasting Company. ABC’s first television broadcast was on April 19, 1948 with “On the Corner.” Later in the year, ABC scored two “firsts”: the live broadcast of an opera (Verdi’s “Othello”) from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and a TV documentary, “The Marshall Plan.” ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres in 1952. This merger was engineered by Leonard H. Goldenson, then the President of UPT. The new company was called American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. During the 1950s, ABC began to operate at a profit although it had to struggle fiercely to acquire new affiliates. In 1954, ABC made a deal with Walt Disney to acquire a 35% interest in Disneyland and all TV programs produced by Disney. The following year, ABC signed an exclusive rights contract with Warner Bros. for TV programming.

In the Fall of 1962, ABC introduced color programming for the fall season which was expanded in 1966 to include full color broadcasting. In 1965, AB-PT’s name was changed to American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. The 1960s also introduced blockbuster theatrical movies to TV with spectacular ratings results when “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was viewed (in 1966) by 60 million Americans. In 1967, the ABC evening news was expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour, and Joey Bishop inaugurated ABC’s late-night talk show programming.

In 1972, ABC was able to operate at a profit for the first time in ten years. In the 1976-77 season, ABC had its first win in the ratings race. In 1976, Barbara Walters joined ABC, becoming the [continued]