Paramount Television Network - End of Network

End of Network

In May 1951, ABC chairman Edward Noble and United Paramount Theatres president Leonard Goldenson announced a proposed merger between their companies. The plan was to merge ABC and its five television stations with United Paramount Theatres, a company only recently spun off from Paramount Pictures. UPT also owned the Chicago station, WBKB; that station would have to be sold in order for the merged company to stay under the five-station cap. Because the proposed merger involved the sale of a television station, it required the approval of the FCC, which opened a hearing on the issue that August. The proposed deal was complex, and would affect many parties involved in television broadcasting, including Paramount, DuMont, and CBS (CBS executives wanted to purchase WBKB). During the hearing, Allen DuMont asked the FCC to force Paramount to sell its share of the DuMont Network. He stated that Paramount in effect owned two television networks, the PTN and DuMont; the FCC had similarly forced NBC to sell off one of its two radio networks eight years earlier due to concerns about multi-network ownership. Paramount executives, however, denied ever having operated a television network. Evidence presented against Paramount included network affiliation contracts and advertisements for the Paramount Television Network from 1951. Despite Paramount executives' testimony, advertisements for the Paramount Television Network ran as late as 1952.

After a grueling 18-month trial, the federal agency allowed the ABC-UPT merger, but never ruled on Paramount's partial ownership of a second network; Paramount was allowed to retain its shares in DuMont. Leo Resnick, hearing examiner for the Commission, concluded that Paramount did not control DuMont, but the FCC rejected this portion of Resnick's findings, restricting Paramount and DuMont to a total of five stations. The commissioners had not forgotten Paramount's previous anti-trust violations, and believed Paramount executives were attempting to control television by operating two television networks. According to White, the FCC's ruling "ensured that television broadcasting would be controlled by the same three companies that had dominated radio broadcasting, thus fostering a lack of diversity in both station and network ownership".

The 1953 merger of ABC and United Paramount Theatres lead to the divestiture of WBKB (now WBBM-TV), which was sold to CBS. Paramount retained KTLA and applied to the FCC for a new station in Boston, but the construction permit was never granted. By this time, Paramount's television arm was called Paramount TV Productions, Incorporated; Paramount ceased using the PTN name. The company continued to distribute programs nationally, however, and continued to sign network affiliation agreements with local television stations.

With just one owned-and-operated station, Paramount's program service never gelled into a true television network; television historians such as Alex McNeil (1996) consider Paramount programs syndicated rather than network series. While the Paramount series Hollywood Wrestling and Time For Beany were widely seen on stations across the United States, most other Paramount television programs aired in only a handful of markets (another exception, Hollywood Reel, aired in fourteen major cities in 1950).

Paramount's revenues were much smaller than those of a true television network, and gradually Paramount began losing program sponsors or ended production on formerly-popular television series. American Vitamin Corporation, Paramount's sponsor for both The Spade Cooley Show and Frosty Frolics, pulled its $25,000 weekly sponsorship in October 1951. In June 1953 it was announced that Time For Beany and Paramount Television Productions were "calling it a day". Paramount ended production of its flagship series in October 1953; rival Los Angeles station KTTV and independent distributor Consolidated Television took over production and distribution, respectively, of Time For Beany. Independent distributor Cinema-Vue took over Hollywood Wrestling. By late 1955, Billboard reported the Paramount Network consisted of just 15 stations airing Bandstand Revue. Billboard called this a "sort of" network. Management changes at KTLA, coupled with low local ratings, caused the cancellation of Bandstand Revue in October 1956. Klaus Landsberg, who had produced many of the series for KTLA, died in September 1956 and the new station manager made what Billboard called "sweeping changes" at the station.

By Autumn 1955, Hollywood insiders were predicting that Paramount would launch a major television network using KTLA and the DuMont stations. Articles reported that Paramount was seeking television scripts and was constructing theaters and studios which rivaled those of ABC, CBS, and NBC. In a dramatic move, Paramount's board of directors seized control of DuMont Laboratories in a boardroom coup in August 1955. Paramount executives replaced DuMont's board of directors, Dr. DuMont was removed as president of the company, and DuMont Network operations ceased the following year. However, no combined Paramount-DuMont network ever materialized; according to television historian Timothy White, by this time "a television network was no longer among Paramount's plans for exploitation of the small screen". Paramount sold its interest in DuMont (by this time renamed "Metropolitan Broadcasting Company") in 1959; the sale ended Paramount's first ventures into network television.

Read more about this topic:  Paramount Television Network

Famous quotes containing the word network:

    A culture may be conceived as a network of beliefs and purposes in which any string in the net pulls and is pulled by the others, thus perpetually changing the configuration of the whole. If the cultural element called morals takes on a new shape, we must ask what other strings have pulled it out of line. It cannot be one solitary string, nor even the strings nearby, for the network is three-dimensional at least.
    Jacques Barzun (b. 1907)