Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
DuMont Television Network
The DuMont Television Network was the first licensed American television network, beginning operation in 1946 and predating CBS, NBC, and ABC as networks. It owned and operated three television stations, WABD (named for Allen B. DuMont) in New York City, WDTV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and WTTG (named for Dr. Thomas T. Goldsmith, DuMont's Vice President of Research, and his best friend) in Washington, DC. It was owned by television set manufacturer Allen B. DuMont and the Paramount Pictures movie studio, which had previously had its fingers in the young CBS and would later come to be combined with CBS through Viacom.
Earliest station-to-station hookup
Prior to licensing as a network, DuMont's first "network" hookup, implemented by coaxial cable, was a simultaneous broadcast by the New York and Washington stations on August 9, 1945 of the announcement of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. DuMont was not the first to accomplish this, however; its hookup followed an earlier similar station-to-station hookup by NBC in 1943.
DuMont is perhaps most famous for introducing the skits that resulted in the show, The Honeymooners, starring Jackie Gleason, and for filming the first season of The Honeymooners, eventually on CBS. It also pioneered several forms of television programming. Its programming included Mary Kay and Johnny, the first television situation comedy, Faraway Hill, the first network-televised soap opera, The Cavalcade of Stars , a variety program hosted initially by Gleason, Life is Worth Living , Fulton J. Sheen's devotional program, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, Broadway Open House, a variety and talk show hosted by Morey Amsterdam, The Arthur Murray Party, a dance program, With This Ring, a panel show on marriage, professional wrestling programs, and reruns of the melodrama Big Town. Among its most successful shows were the initially hugely popular children's science fiction series Captain Video, Rocky Jones, Detective, and the camera's-eye-view detective series, The Plainclothesman. Towards the end of its life span, DuMont's schedule relied heavily on professional wrestling broadcasts.
Although the DuMont Network predated videotape, many of the DuMont programs were captured on kinescopes, which were films shot directly from live television screens. These kinescopes were reportedly stored in an ABC network warehouse until the 1970s. Actress Edie Adams, wife of comedian Ernie Kovacs who had done shows for DuMont, testified in 1996 before a panel of the Library of Congress on the preservation of television and video that as a clandestine aside to a business deal in the early 1970s to sell a successor network, it was arranged for all these kinescopes to be removed from the warehouse and dumped into the water of the Upper New York Bay in the dead of night.
Inability to grow
DuMont was already at a disadvantage to NBC and CBS because it did not have a radio network to use as a bulwark of revenue and affiliate loyalty. It aspired to grow beyond its three stations, seeking to acquire two more for a total of five VHF stations, the maximum allowed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at that time. Minority owner Paramount also owned two stations of its own, but didn't broadcast any of DuMont's programming on them. The FCC ruled, however, that the two Paramount stations were the equivalent of DuMont-owned stations, and since no owner could have more than five stations, DuMont could not acquire any additional ones. DuMont did not have many primary station affiliates for carrying all of its programming live, but mostly only secondary ones who could pick and choose which programs to carry, and so its growth was severely handicapped by the ruling. The FCC's Dr. Hyman Goldin said in 1960, "If there had been four VHF outlets in the top markets, there's no question DuMont would have lived and would have eventually turned the corner in terms of profitability. I have no doubt in my mind of that at all."
DuMont bought a distressed UHF station in Kansas City at the start of 1954 and ran it for just two months before shutting it down due to lack of viewership, incurring a tremendous fiscal loss. Its Pittsburgh station was sold to Westinghouse late that same year. All regularly-scheduled network programming was shut down between Spring and Autumn of 1955, with the vestige of the network carrying only occasional sporting events after that. The network facilities and the other two stations were sold in 1956 to John Kluge, who ran and expanded the network as Metromedia. DuMont's last broadcast event, a boxing match, occurred on August 8 (also reported as August 6), 1956.
What happened to the DuMont-owned stations?
All three are still on the air, and are now owned and operated stations for existing TV networks. Of the three, only Washington's WTTG still has its original call signs.
New York's WABD (now WNYW-TV) and D.C.'s WTTG, both on Channel 5, survived as independents in the Metromedia Group before being purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp for his then-fledgling Fox television network, making them Fox owned and operated stations.
WDTV in Pittsburgh was sold to Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric. The call signs were immediately changed to KDKA-TV, adopting the same call signs of the radio station in Pittsburgh that became the first commercially-licensed radio station in the world, also owned by Westinghouse. The station also took the CBS affiliation immediately after the sale. Westinghouse's acquisition of CBS in 1995 made KDKA-TV a CBS owned and operated station.
External references and link
- Bergmann, Ted, and Ira Skutch (2002). The DuMont Television Network: What Happened? Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4270-X.
- Hess, Gary Newton (1979). An Historical Study of the DuMont Television Network. New York: Ayer Publishers. ISBN 0-4051-1758-2.
- The DuMont Television Network Historical Web Site
- Who Killed Captain Video? How the FCC strangled a TV pioneer. Glenn Garvin, Reason, March 2005.
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