The Commercial TV, aka BooB Tube was conceived on July 1. It was 70 years ago on July 1, 1941 that the first commercial TV station started broadcasting, turning a novelty into a business. 70 years later, and we have hundreds of channels, featuring news, sports, reality shows and dramas, far beyond what anyone could have imagined in 1941.
The first two stations were here in NYC. WNBT (now known as WNBC) and WCBW (now known as WCBS).
On July 1, it all started with the now-famous Bulova Watch blurb that WNBT aired at around 1:30 p.m. leading into its 2 p.m. telecast of a Philadelphia Phillies-Brooklyn Dodgers game from Ebbets Field. At 6:45p.m. there was a 15-minute newscast anchored by Lowell Thomas, followed by a hodgepodge of clips including a USO drive and a snippet of the game-show “Truth or Consequences” hosted by Ralph Edwards. WCBW wasn’t ready and didn’t jump into the commercial fray that day. Ron Simon, curator of TV and radio for the Paley Center, notes that some things about TV never change. Newscaster Thomas cracked a joke at the end of his broadcast, and the critics were rough on “Truth or Consequences.”
World War II turned off commercial TV, but eventually hit the mainstream in 1948 with “Texaco Star Theater.”
Those first broadcasts in 1941 called the new commercial TV networks “pretty corny.” Though In a world of The Gong Show, Kardashians, “Jersey Shore” and “The Biggest Loser,” some things never change.