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A Brief History of Television

By Derek Easley

Reed Hastings of Netflix said that linear TV would end in the next 5-10 years. But TV networks have been around for 94 years. I wanted to do a post responding w/ the history of TV.

Timeline of TV History Between the 1950s & 2000s

By Johnson Hur

Between the 1950s & 2000s, television turned from a niche technology into a critical form of communication found in living rooms across the nation. A vast number of changes and improvements took place in the second half of the 20th century to make the television into what it is today. Here’s a timeline:

1949: In January, the number of TV stations had grown to 98 in 58 market areas.

1949: The FCC adopted the Fairness Doctrine, which made broadcasters responsible for seeking out and presenting all sides of an issue when covering the controversy. This act was a supplement to the Communications Act of 1934, which required broadcasters to give equal airtime to candidates running in elections. We

1951: I Love Lucy, sponsored by Philip Morris, was born. The half-hour sitcom ranked as the number one program in the nation for four of its first six full seasons.

1951: On June 21, CBS broadcasted the first color program. As mentioned above, CBS’s color system only worked with a small number of TVs across America. Only 12 customers across America could see the first color TV broadcast. 12 million other TVs were blank for this program.

1952: Bob Hope takes his comedy from radio to TV as The Bob Hope Show debuts in October, 1952.

1952: By the end of 1952, TVs could be found in 20 million households across America, a rise of 33% from the previous year. U.S. advertisers spent a total of $288 million on television advertising time, an increase of 38.8% from 1951.

1953: RCA releases its color broadcasting system, which worked on 12 million TVs instead of 12.

1954: NBC launches The Tonight Show with comedian Steve Allen.

1955: Gunsmoke, the classic western TV show, began its 20 year run on CBS.

1979: ESPN, a network totally devoted to sports, debuts on cable. ESPN would go on to become the largest and most successful basic cable channel.

1980: Ted Turner launches Cable News Network (CNN), a channel devoted to showcasing news 24 hours a day.

1980: Music Television (MTV) makes its debut in August of 1980.

1986: After years of rising rates, ABC, CBS, and NBC have trouble selling commercial time for sports programs for the first time. Commercial rates for the 1986 NFL season dropped 15% from the 1985 season.

1989: Pay Per View begins to leave its mark on the television landscape, reaching about 20% of all wired households.

1992: Infomercials explode with growth. This year, the National Infomercial Marketing Association estimates infomercials generate sales of $750 million, double that of 1988.

1993: At the start of 1993, 98% of American households owned at least one TV, with 64% owning two or more sets.

1996: Digital satellite dishes 18 inches in diameter hit the market, becoming the bestselling electronic item in history next to the VCR.

2000: The Digital Video Disc (DVD) is introduced.

2004: DVDs outsell VHS tapes for the first time.

2005: Flat screen TVs and HDTVs are introduced for the first time.

2006: Flat screen TVs and HDTVs become affordable for the first time.

2006: Sony releases its Blu-ray disc format, capable of holding up to 27GB despite being the same size as a DVD.

2010: 3D televisions start hitting the market, spurred by popular 3D blockbusters like Avatar.

1958: 525 cable TV systems across America serve 450,000 subscribers. In response, CBS takes out a two-page

advertisement in TV Guide stating that “Free television as we know it cannot survive alongside pay television.” 1960: Four debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were broadcast throughout the year across the country, forever changing the way presidents would campaign. 1963: For the first time in history, television surpasses newspapers as an information source. In a poll this year, 36% of Americans found TV to be a more reliable source than print, which was favored by 24%. 1964: The FCC regulates cable for the first time. The FCC required operators to black out programming that comes in from distant markets and duplicates a local station’s own programming (if the local station demanded it). 1964: 73 million viewers watch The Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. 1965: NBC calls itself The Full Color Network and broadcasts 96% of its programming in color. 1969: Astronaut Neil Armstrong walks on the moon for the first time as millions of American viewers watch live on network TV. 1970: The FCC implements the Financial Interest Syndication Rules that prohibit the three major networks from owning and controlling the rebroadcast of private shows. This meant 30 minutes of programming each night were given back to local stations in the top 50 markets, encouraging the production of local programming. 1971: Advertisements transition from 60 seconds in average length to 30 seconds. 1979: Some people believe it’s the “beginning of the end for TV” as a poll indicated that 44% of Americans were unhappy with current programming and 49% were watching TV less than what they did a few years earlier.

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