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The American Broadcasting Company, which is known as ABC, and styled in its logo as abc since 1962, is a trailblazer in the history of television networks with its slogan “The only place to be, ABC.” ABC is an American commercial broadcast television network established in the United States by Edward John Noble. The principal offices are located in the General Electric Building in New York City. It was founded on October 12, 1943. The ABC is part of the Walt Disney Company. The Walt Disney Company, known as Disney, is a popular American enterprise recognized for the quality of the products generated by its film studio. It is the largest and best-known studio in Hollywood. The ABC is the fifth-oldest major network in the world.
The Radio Corporation of America (now the RCA Corporation) is the major American electronics and transmitting unit of General Electric. RCA, along with Westinghouse Electric Corporation and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), banded together to establish the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), an American commercial broadcast TV and radio network, in 1926 to operate a nationwide radio broadcasting network that officially began transmission on November 15. In early 1927, NBC split into two separate networks as a market strategy. These networks were called the Red and Blue Networks. NBC Red was committed to testing drama series in the major cities, whereas NBC Blue was dedicated to testing new programs, nonsponsored events, and those less important programs not served by NBC Red. These two networks soon offered radio coverage across the nation. In 1934, the Mutual Broadcasting System (an American radio network in operation from 1934 to 1999), the Columbia Broadcasting System (an American commercial broadcast television network that started as a radio network and is now the world’s second-largest major network), and the NBC were the three broadcasting corporations that controlled radio transmissions in the United States.
Because of a complaint registered by a rival competitor, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an autonomous office of the U.S. federal government that regulates all interstate and foreign communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable, declared in 1939 that no company owns the right to have more than one radio network. In 1941, RCA authorized the sale of NBC Blue to Mark Woods as appeals for divestiture to the FCC were rejected. The NBC Blue Network was then changed into an independent subsidiary by RCA in 1942. In 1943, NBC sold the Blue Network, which was of lesser prominence, to Edward John Noble, an American broadcasting pioneer and chairman of the board of the Life Savers Company from New York. Initially, Noble changed the name of the Blue Network to American Broadcasting Company. Until December 1949, Woods was the president and chief executive officer of ABC. Before leaving ABC on June 30, 1951, he also became vice chairman of the board.
ABC slowly entered the world of commercial television in 1948. After constructing five television stations, ABC was able to discontinue leasing studio facilities but experienced difficulty in achieving success in the television industry until it combined with the United Paramount Pictures (UPT; the first and the most successful of the Hollywood motion picture studios). In 1951, Noble was approached by Leonard Goldenson, president of UPT, to purchase ABC. But this proposition was not possible until 1953 owing to lack of approval by the FCC. On February 9, 1953, ABC was sold to UPT for $25 million, and the company name was changed to American Broadcasting–Paramount Theatres, Inc. ABC signed deals with Hollywood producers to compete with the quality of the programs of the Columbia Broadcasting System and NBC. Walt Disney was the first of these producers.
At the close of 1953, Walt Disney and his brother Roy contacted Goldenson for a deal to exchange Disney’s production of a video broadcast by allowing ABC to finance part of the Disneyland project they were planning. The ABC network agreed to Disney’s terms. In 1954, the Disneyland anthology series premiered on ABC, becoming a huge commercial success and drawing in many big advertisers and expanding its record of local partners. A partnership with Warner Brothers also helped the network to gain more profit and a good many successful programs like the popular Western Maverick (1957–62), the private eye series 77 Sunset Strip (1958–64), and others. In 1955, ABC also launched the record label ABC–Paramount. A company called World Vision Enterprises for a broader overseas association was created by ABC International in 1959. Life magazine in May 1961 criticized the public’s interest in such shows and the sponsors for supporting them at the expense of news programming.
On September 30, 1960, The Flintstones, a primetime animated cartoon series, was aired by ABC. Initially, it was broadcast in black-and-white and later in color. The Flintstones, with its huge ratings and profits, made ABC unique in its presentation of children’s programs and also helped the network change to a more family-oriented approach. In 1959, the Disney company purchased ABC’s shares of Disneyland for $7.5 million. The ABC network also developed a unique place in sports programming and attained success through its series Wide World of Sports (1961–98), along with the revolutionary weeknight telecast of National Football League games in Monday Night Football (1970–2005) and on its cable subsidiary ESPN beginning in 2006—all under the leadership of ABC Sports president Roone Arledge.
ABC’s Golden Era
With the entry of its programming executive Fred Silverman in 1975, ABC’s golden era had begun. Many successful shows like The Six Million Dollar Man, Happy Days, Three’s Company, Laverne and Shirley, and others were scheduled during this period. ABC was the first world-class network to hire a woman (Barbara Walters) as its evening news anchor, bringing the company extensive news coverage. The current-events series 20/20 (1978– ) and Nightline (1980– ) further increased ABC’s appeal. The Disney company acquired ABC for $19 billion in 1995.
- ABC-TV Network. http://abc.go.com (Accessed October 2014).
- Goldenson, Leonard Beating the Odds: The Untold Story Behind the Rise of ABC: The Stars, Struggles, and Egos That Transformed Network Television by the Man Who Made It Happen. New York: Scribner’s, 1991.
- Quinlan, Sterling. Inside ABC: American Broadcasting Company’s Rise to Power. New York: Hastings House,
- Sugar, Bert Randolph. “The Thrill of Victory”: The Inside Story of ABC New York: Hawthorn, 1978.
- Williams, Huntington. Beyond Control: ABC and the Fate of the Networks. New York: Athenaeum, 1989.