History Of TV

The First Television Stations in America

The world’s first television stations first started appearing in America in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The First Television Sets in America

It would take until 1938, however, before American electronic television sets were produced and released commercially. They were an instant hit after release.

The First Remote Control for Television Sets

The world’s first television remote control was called the Tele Zoom, and it can barely even be categorized as a remote control. The Tele Zoom was only used to “zoom in” to the picture on the television. You could not use it to change any channels or turn the TV on or off. The Tele Zoom was released in 1948. The first “true” remote control was produced by Zenith and released in 1955. This remote control could turn the television on or off and change the channel. It was also completely wireless.

The First Television Program in America

Today, American networks play thousands of different programs every day. Every single one of these programs, however, owes its existence to America’s first television program, which was called The Queen’s Messenger. That program was first shown in 1928 by WRGB station. We’re not 100% sure that The Queen’s Messenger was the first TV program shown in America. In 1928, the program was thought to be broadcast only to four television sets. Not 400. Not 4,000. Four. Thus, we have some ambiguity and debate over whether this was actually the first television program.

America’s First Television Commercial

The first television station in America started broadcasting in 1928. For the first 13 years of its existence, television remained blissfully commercial-free. The first commercial broadcast in America did not take place until July 1, 1941, which is when the first American advertisement aired. The ad was for a Bulova watch and lasted for 10 seconds. It aired on NBC.

Color Television in America

Color television traces its roots as far back as 1904, when a German inventor received a patent for color television. However, that inventor did not actually have a working color television – it was just a patented idea. A conceptualized color television system appeared in 1925 from inventor Vladimir Zworykin. However, this system was never converted into reality. All attempts to convert it into reality did not succeed. Color television was placed on the backburner for about 20 years. In 1946, the idea of color television was renewed in earnest. By 1946, the Second World War was history, and people in America wanted to make up for all the time lost to the war. Black and white television was thought of as old and it was time to do something new. This is when color television systems first began to be considered seriously. The color television war in America was fought between two industry giants: CBS and RCA. CBS was the first company to create a color television set. However, the main drawback was that it was a mechanical television based on John Baird’s original system. Thus, it was not compatible with black and white TV sets in use across America. Despite this major flaw, the FCC declared that the CBS color television was going to be the national standard.

RCA protested, stating that it was unfair to make CBS color TV the standard when it could even be used by millions of customers across America (most of whom owned RCA televisions). Unfazed, RCA continued to develop their own color television system that would be compatible with its customers RCA sets. In 1953, the FCC acknowledged that RCA’s color TV system was better. Starting in 1954, color RCA TV systems were sold across America.

Color TV had a similar initial problem as 3D TV and other technologies: people owned the color TV technology, but broadcasters weren’t producing color TV content. Few people owned color TV sets between 1954 and 1965. However, starting in 1966, color TV programming was broadcast across America, leading to a surge in sales of color television sets.

Timeline of TV History Between the 1950s and 2000s

Between the 1950s and 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 controversy. This act was a supplement to the Communications Act of 1934, which required broadcasters to give equal airtime to candidates running in elections.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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