Friday, September 18, 2009

The Columbia Broadcasting System - The Early years


CBS can trace its origins to the creation, on January 27, 1927, of the "United Independent Broadcasters" network. Established by New York talent agent Arthur Judson, United soon looked for additional investors; the Columbia Phonographic Manufacturing Company (also owners of Columbia Records), rescued the company in April 1927, and as a result, the network was renamed "Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System." Columbia Phonographic went on the air on September 18, 1927, from flagship station WOR in Newark, New Jersey, and 15 affiliates.

Unable to sell enough air time to advertisers, on September 25, 1927, Columbia sold the network for $500,000 to William S. Paley, son of a Philadelphia cigar manufacturer. With Columbia Phonographic's removal, Paley streamlined the corporate name to "Columbia Broadcasting System". Paley believed in the power of radio advertising; his family's company had seen their "La Palina" cigar become a best-seller after young William convinced his elders to advertise it on Philadelphia station WCAU.

In November 1927, Columbia paid $410,000 to A.H. Grebe's Atlantic Broadcasting Company for a small Brooklyn station, WABC, which would become the network's flagship station.WCBS WABC was quickly upgraded, and the signal relocated to a stronger frequency, 860kHz. (In 1946, WABC was re-named WCBS; the station moved to a new frequency, 880 kHz, in the FCC's 1941 reassignment of stations.) It was where much of CBS's programming originated; other owned-and-operated stations were KNX Los Angeles, KCBS San Francisco (originally KQW), WBBM Chicago, WJSV Washington, DC (later WTOP, which moved to the FM dial in 2005; the AM facility today is WTWP, also a CBS Radio affiliate), KMOX St. Louis, and WCCO Minneapolis. These remain the core affiliates of the CBS Radio Network today, with WCBS still the flagship, and all but WTOP/WTWP (both Bonneville Broadcasting properties) owned by CBS Radio.

Later in 1928, another investor, Paramount Pictures (who ironically would eventually be co-owned with CBS, see below), bought Columbia stock, and for a time it was thought the network would be renamed "Paramount Radio". Any chance of further Paramount involvement ended with the 1929 stock market crash; the near-bankrupt studio sold its shares back to CBS in 1932.

As the third national network, CBS soon had more affiliates than either of NBC's two, in part because of a more generous rate of payment to affiliates. NBC's owner and founder of RCA, David Sarnoff, believed in technology, so NBC's affiliates had the latest RCA equipment, and were often the best-established stations, or were on "clear channel" frequencies. Paley believed in the power of programming, and CBS quickly established itself as the home of many popular musical and comedy stars, among them Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Kate Smith. In 1938, NBC and CBS each opened studios in Hollywood to attract movieland's top talent to their networks — NBC at Radio City on Sunset and Vine, CBS two blocks away at Columbia Square.

In the hard times of the early 1930s, CBS radio broadened its offerings; having refused an AP franchise for news, Paley launched an independent news division, shaped in its first years by Paley's vice-president, former New York Times man Ed Klauber, and news director Paul White. Another early hire, in 1935, was Edward R. Murrow, brought in as "Director of Talks." It was Murrow's reports, particularly during the dark days of the London Blitz, which contributed to CBS News' image for on-the-spot coverage. As European news chief and later head of the news division, Murrow assembled a team of reporters and editors that propelled CBS News to the forefront of the industry.

On October 30, 1938, CBS gained a taste of infamy when Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre broadcast an adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Its unique format, a contemporary version of the story in the form of faux news broadcasts, had many CBS listeners panicked into believing invaders from Mars were actually devastating Grovers Mill, New Jersey, despite three disclaimers during the broadcast it was a work of fiction. CBS would later revive the format for television in the 1990s for Without Warning, which told the story of asteroids crashing to Earth, but the television format allowed for disclaimers to air at every commercial break, avoiding a replay of what happened in 1938.

Also in 1938, CBS bought American Record Corporation, the parent of its former investor Columbia Records.

Prior to the onset of World War II, CBS recruited Edmund A. Chester from his position as Bureau Chief for Latin America at Associated Press to serve as Director of Latin American Relations and Director of Short Wave Broadcasts for the CBS radio network (1940). In this capacity, Mr. Chester coordinated the development of the Network of the Americas (La Cadena de las Americas) with the Department of State, the Office for Inter-American Affairs (as chaired by Nelson Rockefeller) and Voice of America. This network provided vital news and cultural programming throughout South America and Central America during the crucial World War II era and fostered benevolent diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the less developed nations of the continent. It featured such popular radio broadcasts as Viva America [1] which showcased leading musical talent from both North and South America.

As long as radio was the dominant advertising medium, CBS dominated broadcasting. All through the 1950s and 1960s, CBS programs were often the highest-rated. A much-publicized "talent raid" on NBC in the mid-1940s brought Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen and Amos 'n' Andy into the CBS fold. Paley also was an innovator in creating original programming; since broadcasting's earliest days, time had been sold to advertising agencies in half- or full-hour blocks. The ad agencies, not the networks, would then create the program to fill the time, thus it was " 'The Johnson's Wax Program', with Fibber McGee & Molly", or " 'The Pepsodent Show', with Bob Hope." At Paley's urging, beginning in the mid-1940s, CBS began creating its own programs; among the long-running shows that came from this project were You Are There (born as CBS Was There), My Favorite Husband (starring Lucille Ball; the show proved a kind of blueprint for her big CBS television hit I Love Lucy), Our Miss Brooks (whose star, Eve Arden, was encouraged personally by Paley to try out for the title role), Gunsmoke and The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. In time this idea was carried further, selling ad time by the minute, so ad agencies no longer had complete control over what went out over "Paley's air".

CBS moved at a deliberate pace into television; as late as 1950 it owned only one station; radio continued to be the backbone of the company. Gradually, as the television network took shape, big radio stars began to drift to television. The radio soap opera The Guiding Light moved to television in 1952 and still airs today; Burns & Allen made the move in 1950; Lucille Ball a year later; Our Miss Brooks in 1952 (though it continued simultaneously on radio for its full television life). The high-rated Jack Benny radio show ended in 1955, and Edgar Bergen's Sunday-night show went off the air in 1957. When CBS announced in 1956 that its radio operations had lost money, while the television network had made money, it was clear where the future lie. When the soap opera Ma Perkins went off the air November 25, 1960 only eight, relatively minor series remained. Prime-time radio ended on September 30, 1962 when, the legendary Suspense, aired for the final time.

After the retirement of talk-show pioneer Arthur Godfrey in 1972, CBS radio programming consisted of hourly news broadcast and an extensive schedule of news features, known in the 1970s as Dimension, and commentaries, including the well received Spectrum series of commentaries which evolved into the Point/Counterpoint feature on the television network's 60 Minutes and First Line Report, a well-regarded news and analysis feature delivered by CBS correspondents and offered to the CBS radio stations. The network also continued to offer traditional radio programming through its nightly "CBS Mystery Theater", the lone holdout of old-style programming. The CBS Radio Network continues to this day, but offers primarily its well-regarded newscasts, including its centerpiece World News Roundup in the morning and evening and news-related features like "The Osgood File" and "Harry Smith Reporting" as well as other talk properties like "Opie and Anthony"
The television years: expansion and growth
CBS's first television broadcasts were experimental, often only for one hour a day, and reaching a limited area in and around New York City (over station W2XAB channel 2, later called WCBW and finally WCBS-TV). To catch up with rival RCA, CBS bought Hytron Laboratories in 1939, and immediately moved into set production and color broadcasting. Though there were many competing patents and systems, RCA dictated the content of the FCC's technical standards, and grabbed the spotlight from CBS, DuMont and others by introducing television to the general public at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The FCC began licensing commercial television stations on July 1, 1941; the first license went to RCA and NBC's WNBT (now WNBC); the second license, issued that same day, was to WCBW, (now WCBS). CBS-Hytron offered a practical color system in 1941, but it was not compatible with the black-and-white standards set down by RCA. In time, and after considerable dithering, the FCC rejected CBS's technology in favor of that backed by RCA.

During the World War II years, commercial television broadcasting was reduced dramatically. Toward the end of the war, commercial television began to ramp up again, with an increased level of programming evident in the 1945-1947 period on the three New York television stations which operated in those years (the local stations of NBC, CBS and DuMont) But as RCA and DuMont raced to establish networks and offer upgraded programming, CBS lagged, advocating an industry-wide shift and re-start to UHF for their incompatible (with black and white) color system. Only in 1950, when NBC was dominant in television and black and white transmission was widespread, did CBS begin to buy or build their own stations (outside of New York) in Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities. Up to that point, CBS programming was seen on such stations as KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles, which CBS--as a bit of insurance and to guarantee program clearance in Los Angeles--quickly purchased a 50% interest in. CBS then sold their interest in KTTV and purchased outright Los Angeles pioneer station KTSL (Channel 2) in 1950, renaming it KNXT (after sister CBS radio station KNX), later to become KCBS. The "talent raid" on NBC of the mid-forties had brought over established radio stars; they now became stars of CBS television as well. One reluctant CBS star refused to bring her radio show, "My Favorite Husband," to television unless the network would re-cast the show with her real-life husband in the lead. Paley and network president Frank Stanton had so little faith in the future of Lucille Ball's series, re-dubbed I Love Lucy, that they granted her wish and allowed the husband, Desi Arnaz, to take financial control of the production. This was the making of the Ball-Arnaz Desilu empire, and became the template for series production to this day.

In the late 1940s, CBS offered imaginative and historic live television coverage of the proceedings United Nations General Assembly(1949). This journalist tour-de-force was under the direction of Edmund A. Chester, who was appointed to the post of Director for News, Special Events and Sports at CBS Television in 1948. The broadcast clearly underscored CBS's long term commitment to excellence in broadcast journalism in the post World War II era.

As television came to the forefront of American entertainment and information, CBS dominated television as it once had radio. By the late 1950s, the network often controlled seven or eight of the slots on the "top ten" ratings list. This would continue for many years, with CBS bumped from first place only by the rise of ABC in the mid-1970s. Perhaps because of its status as the top-rated network, during the late 1960s and early 1970s CBS felt freer to gamble with controversial properties like the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and All in the Family and its many spinoffs during this period.


CBS "Eye" Logo in 1966.William Paley was a buyer of art, and a backer of New York's Museum of Modern Art. CBS offices were filled with original works. Paley shared this interest with Frank Stanton (1908-2006), CBS President (1946-1971), who carried this belief over into the design elements surrounding the network. When CBS bought Los Angeles station KNX in 1936 for a west-coast production headquarters, Frank Stanton demanded that architect William Lescaze be hired to create Columbia Square, a distinctive, modern broadcasting center on Sunset Boulevard. Similarly, when CBS commissioned Eero Saarinen to design a new corporate center in New York in the 1960s, Stanton supervised every aspect of the project, even dictating what could be displayed in employee offices and on desktops. This belief in art, graphics and branding carried over to such things as the CBS Television's logo, the unblinking eye logo (designed by William Golden and introduced in 1951). An example of CBS's graphic-design particularity: on all official CBS letterhead, a tiny dot (at most a point in diameter) was pre-printed to indicate to a secretary where the typewriter carriage should be positioned for the salutation of a letter.
Color Telecasts
Although CBS-TV was the first with a working color television system, they lost out to RCA in 1953, due in part because the CBS color system was incompatible with existing black-and-white sets. Although RCA made its color system available to the CBS, the network only televised a few specials in color for the rest of the decade. The specials included such their 1957 telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Cole Porter's Aladdin, their annual telecasts of The Wizard of Oz, and Playhouse 90's only color broadcast, the 1958 production of The Nutcracker.

By the early 1960s, CBS-TV was void of transmitting anything in color - save for a few specials and only if the sponsor would pay for it. Red Skelton was the first CBS host to telecast his weekly programs in color, using a converted movie studio, in the early 1960s; he tried unusuccessfully to persuade the network to use his facility for other programs, then was forced to sell it. Color was being pushed hard by rival NBC. Even ABC-TV had several color programs in 1962. One famous CBS-TV special made during this era was the tour of the White House with First Lady Jackie Kennedy. It was, however, shown in black-and-white. This would all change by the mid-1960s, when market pressure forced CBS-TV to add color programs to the regular schedule for the 1965-66 season. By 1969, all of CBS's TV programs were being shown in color, as they were on NBC and ABC.
The conglomerate
During the 1960s, CBS began an effort to diversify, and looked for suitable investments. In 1965 it acquired electric guitar maker Fender from Leo Fender, who agreed to sell his company due to health problems (The purchase also included that of Rhodes electric pianos, which had already been acquired by Fender). This and other acquisitions led to a restructuring of the corporation into various operating groups and divisions.

In other diversification attempts, CBS would buy (and later sell) sports teams (especially the New York Yankees baseball club), book and magazine publishers (Fawcett Publications including Woman's Day, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston), map-makers, toy manufacturers (Gabriel Toys, Child Guidance, Wonder Products), and other properties.

As William Paley aged, he tried to find the one person who could follow in his footsteps. Over the years any number of accomplished, successful businessmen were recruited, loudly praised to the press, only later to be summarily dismissed.

By the mid-1980s, the investor Laurence Tisch had begun to acquire substantial holdings in CBS. Eventually he gained Paley's confidence, and then his blessing, taking control of CBS in 1986. But Tisch had no dreams of quality or of "Tiffany" networks; he expected a return on his investment.

When CBS faltered, under-performing units were given the axe. Among the first properties to go, and among the most prestigious, was the CBS Records group, which had been part of the company since 1938. Tisch also shut down in 1986 the CBS Technology Center in Stamford, CT, which had started in New York City in the 1930s as CBS Laboratories and evolved to be the company's technology R&D unit.
CBS Records group
CBS Records was a record label group (as Columbia Records in the US and Canada) owned by CBS since 1938. CBS sold CBS Records to Sony in 1988 and the record label company was re-christened Sony Music Entertainment in 1991, as Sony had a short term license on the CBS name. Eventually the entity known as Sony Music Entertainment would become Sony BMG Music Entertainment when Sony and BMG merged in 2004.

Sony purchased from EMI its rights to the Columbia Records name outside the US, Canada and Japan. Sony BMG now uses Columbia Records as a label name in all countries except Japan.

CBS Corporation revived CBS Records in 2006.
CBS Musical Instruments division
Forming the CBS Musical Instruments division, the company also acquired Steinway pianos, Gemeinhardt flutes, Lyon & Healy harps, Rodgers (institutional) organs, Gulbransen home organs, Electro-Music Inc. (Leslie speakers), and Rogers drums. The last musical purchase was the 1981 acquisition of the assets of then-bankrupt Arp Instruments, developer of electronic synthesizers.

Between 1965 and 1985 the quality of Fender guitars and amplifiers declined significantly. Encouraged by outraged Fender fans, CBS Musical Instruments division executives executed a leveraged buyout in 1985 and created FMIC, the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation. At the same time, CBS divested itself of Rodgers, along with Steinway and Gemeinhardt, all of which were purchased by Steinway Musical Properties. The other musical instruments properties were also liquidated.
Film production
It made a brief, unsuccessful move into film production in the late 1960s, creating Cinema Center Films. This profit-free unit was shut down in 1972, today the distribution rights to the Cinema Center library rest with Paramount Pictures for home video (via CBS DVD) and theatrical release, and with CBS Paramount Television for TV distribution (most other ancillary rights remain with CBS).

Yet ten years later, CBS was talked into another try at Hollywood, in a joint venture with Columbia Pictures and HBO called Tri-Star Pictures.
Home video
CBS entered into the home video market, when joined with MGM to form MGM/CBS Home Video in 1978, but the joint venture was broken by 1983. CBS joined another studio: 20th Century Fox, to form CBS/Fox Video. CBS's duty was to release some of the movies by Tri-Star under the CBS-FOX Home Video label.
Gabriel Toys
CBS entered the video game market briefly, through its acquisition of Gabriel Toys (renamed CBS Toys), publishing several arcade adaptations and original titles under the name CBS Electronics for the Atari 2600 and other consoles and computers. CBS Electronics also distributed all Coleco-related video game products in Canada, including the ColecoVision. CBS later sold Gabriel Toys to View-Master.
New owners
By the early 1990s, profits had fallen as a result of competition from cable companies, video rentals, and the high cost of programming. CBS ratings were acceptable, but the network struggled with an image of stodginess. Laurence Tisch lost interest and sought a new buyer.
CBS's Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, home to the Late Show with David Letterman.Westinghouse Electric Corporation
In 1995, Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired CBS for $5.4 billion. As one of the major broadcasting group owners of commercial radio and television stations (as Group W) since 1920, Westinghouse sought to transition from a station operator into a major media company with its purchase of CBS. This was followed in 1997 with the $4.9-billion purchase of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, owner of more than 150 radio stations. Also that year, Westinghouse acquired two cable channels, Gaylord's The Nashville Network (TNN), (now Spike TV), and Country Music Television (CMT). Following the Infinity purchase, the remains of the CBS Radio network was handed to Infinity 's Westwood One subsidiary. CBS also owned CBS Telenoticias, a Spanish-language news network.

Still more activity in the busy year of 1997: Westinghouse changed its name to CBS Corporation, and corporate headquarters were moved from Pittsburgh to New York. And to underline the change in emphasis, all non-entertainment assets were put up for sale. Another 90 radio stations were added to Infinity's portfolio in 1998 with the acquisition of American Radio Systems Corporation for $2.6 billion.

A year later CBS paid $2.5 billion to acquire King World Productions, a television syndication company whose programs include The Oprah Winfrey Show and Wheel of Fortune. By 1999, all pre-CBS elements of Westinghouse's industrial past were gone.
Viacom
CBS had become a broadcasting giant and in 1999, entertainment conglomerate Viacom, a company long-before created to syndicate old CBS series, announced its was taking over CBS in a deal valued at $37 billion. Following completion of this effort in 2000, Viacom was ranked as the second-largest entertainment company in the world.
CBS Corporation and CBS Studios
Having assembled all the elements of a communications empire, Viacom found that the promised synergy was not there, and at the end of 2005 it split itself in two. CBS became the center of a new company, CBS Corporation, which included the broadcasting elements, Paramount Television's production operations (renamed CBS Paramount Television), Viacom Outdoor advertising (renamed CBS Outdoor), Showtime, Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Parks, which the company sold in May 2006.

The second company, keeping the Viacom name, kept Paramount Pictures (ironically a former share holder in CBS, see above, also owned a stake in the DuMont Television Network, whose Pittsburgh O&O is now CBS-owned KDKA-TV), assorted MTV Networks, BET, and, until May 2007, Famous Music, which was sold to Sony-ATV Music Publishing.

As a result of the aforementioned Viacom/CBS corporate split, as well as other acquisitions over recent years, CBS (under the moniker CBS Studios) owns a massive television library spanning over six decades, including I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners, Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, Little House on the Prairie, Star Trek, The Brady Bunch, and , among others.

Both CBS Corporation and the new Viacom are still owned by Sumner Redstone's company, National Amusements. Corporate tidbitsA.C. Nielsen estimated in 2003 that CBS can be seen in 96.98% of all American households, reaching 103,421,270 homes in the United States. CBS has 204 VHF and UHF affiliated stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions. CBS is currently the most watched television network in the United States, with the prime draws being the and Survivor franchises. Logos

CBS unveiled its Eye Device logo on October 17, 1951. Prior to that, from the 1940s through 1951, CBS Television used an oval spotlight on the block letters C-B-S. See an illustration of this early logo at [2] The Eye device was conceived by William Golden based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign as well as a Shaker drawing. Possibly designed by Graphic Designer Georg Olden it made its broadcasting debut on October 20, 1951. The following season, as Golden prepared a new ident, CBS President Frank Stanton insisted on keeping the Eye device and using it as much as possible.


CBS' older logo, with Times New Roman-like font letteringAn example of CBS Television Network's imaging (and the distinction between the television and radio networks) may be seen in a video of the Jack Benny Program (undated) which aired on the television network. The video appears to be converted from kinescope, and "unscoped" or unedited. One sees the program as very nearly one would have seen it on live television. Don Wilson is the program announcer, but also voices a promo for "Private Secretary", which alternated weekly with Jack Benny on the television network schedule. Benny continued to appear on CBS radio and television at that time, and Wilson makes a promo announcement at the end of the broadcast for Benny's radio program on the CBS Radio Network. The program closes with the "CBS Television Network" ID slide (the "CBS eye" over a field of clouds with the words "CBS Television Network" superimposed over the eye). There is, however, no voiceover accompanying the ID slide. It is unclear whether it was simply absent from the recording or never originally broadcast. See the video at The Jack Benny Program

The CBS eye is now an American icon. While the symbol's settings have changed, the Eye device itself has not been redesigned in its entire history. It has frequently been copied or borrowed by television networks around the world, notable examples being the Austrian Broadcasting System (Österreichischer Rundfunk) which uses a red version of the eye logo and Associated TeleVision in the United Kingdom. The logo is alternately known as the Eyemark, which was also the name of CBS's domestic and international syndication divisions in the mid to late 90s before the King World acquisition and Viacom merger. ProgrammingCBS presently operates on an 87½-hour regular network programming schedule. It provides 22 hours of prime time programming to affiliated stations: 8-11pm Monday to Saturday (all times ET/PT) and 7-11pm on Sundays. Programming will also be provided 11am-4pm weekdays (The Price Is Right and soaps The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, As the World Turns and Guiding Light); 7-9am weekdays and Saturdays (The Early Show); CBS News Sunday Morning, nightly editions of the CBS Evening News, the Sunday political talk show Face the Nation, a 2½-hour early morning news program Up to the Minute and CBS Morning News; the late night talk shows Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson; and a three-hour Saturday morning live-action/animation block under the name KOL Secret Slumber Party on CBS.

In addition, sports programming routinely appears on the weekends, although with a somewhat unpredictable schedule (mostly between noon and 7 p.m. ET).
Prime time
Further information: List of programs broadcast by CBS
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