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CBS Corp. history, profile and corporate video

CBS Corp. operates as a mass media company, which creates and distributes content across a variety of platforms to audiences around the world. The company operates through five segments: Entertainment, Cable Networks, Publishing, Local Broadcasting and Outdoor Americas. The Entertainment segment is composed of the CBS Television Network, CBS Television Studios, CBS Global Distribution Group, CBS Films and CBS Interactive. The Cable Networks segment is composed of Showtime Networks, CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Networks. The Publishing segment is composed of Simon & Schuster, which publishes and distributes consumer books under imprints such as Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books, Scribner and Free Press. The Local Broadcasting segment is composed of CBS Television Stations and CBS Radio, through which the company owns and operates radio stations in various United States markets. The Outdoor Americas segment provides space for advertisers on various structures in North America and South America, including billboards, transit shelters and benches, buses, rail systems, mall kiosks, stadium signage, and in retail stores principally through CBS Outdoor. CBS was founded by Sumner Murray Redstone on December 31, 2005 and is headquartered in New York, NY.

CBS History

Radio years

The origins of CBS date back to January 27, 1927, with the creation of the “United Independent Broadcasters” network in Chicago by New York talent-agent Arthur Judson. The fledgling network soon needed additional investors though, and the Columbia Phonograph Company, manufacturers of Columbia Records, rescued it in April 1927; as a result, the network was renamed “Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System”. Columbia Phonographic went on the air on September 18, 1927, with a presentation by the Howard Barlow Orchestra from flagship station WOR in Newark, New Jersey, and fifteen affiliates.

Operational costs were steep, particularly the payments to AT&T for use of its land lines, and by the end of 1927, Columbia Phonograph wanted out. In early 1928, Judson sold the network to brothers Isaac and Leon Levy, owners of the network’s Philadelphia affiliate WCAU, and their partner Jerome Louchenheim. None of the three were interested in assuming day-to-day management of the network, so they installed wealthy 26-year-old William S. Paley, son of a Philadelphia cigar family and in-law of the Levys, as president. With the record company out of the picture, Paley quickly streamlined the corporate name to “Columbia Broadcasting System”. He believed in the power of radio advertising since his family’s “La Palina” cigars had doubled their sales after young William convinced his elders to advertise on radio. By September 1928, Paley bought out the Louchenheim share of CBS and became its majority owner with 51% of the business.

Television years: expansion and growth

CBS’s involvement in television dates back to the opening of experimental station W2XAB in New York City on July 21, 1931, using the mechanical television system that had been more-or-less perfected in the late 1920s. Its initial broadcast featured New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, Kate Smith, and George Gershwin. The station boasted the first regular seven-day broadcasting schedule in American television, broadcasting 28 hours a week.

Announcer-director Bill Schudt was the station’s only paid employee; all other talent was volunteer. W2XAB pioneered program development including small-scale dramatic acts, monologues, pantomime, and the use of projection slides to simulate sets. Engineer Bill Lodge devised the first synchronized sound wave for a television station in 1932, enabling W2XAB to broadcast picture and sound on a single shortwave channel instead of the two previously needed. On November 8, 1932, W2XAB broadcast the first television coverage of presidential election returns. The station suspended operations on February 20, 1933, as monochrome television transmission standards were in flux, and in the process of changing from a mechanical to an all-electronic system. W2XAB returned with an all-electronic system in 1939 from a new studio complex in Grand Central Station and a transmitter atop the Chrysler Building broadcasting on channel 2. W2XAB transmitted the first color broadcast in the United States on August 28, 1940.

On June 24, 1941, W2XAB received a commercial construction permit and program authorization as WCBW. The station went on the air at 2:30 p.m. on July 1, one hour after rival WNBT (channel 1, formerly W2XBS and now WNBC), making it the second authorized fully commercial television station in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued permits to CBS and NBC at the same time and intended WNBT and WCBW to sign on simultaneously on July 1, so no one station could claim to be the “first”.

During the World War II years, commercial television broadcasting was reduced dramatically. Toward the end of the war, commercial television began to ramp up again, with an increased level of programming evident from 1945 to 1947 on the three New York television stations which operated in those years (the local stations of NBC, CBS and DuMont) But as RCA and DuMont raced to establish networks and offer upgraded programming, CBS lagged, advocating an industry-wide shift and restart to UHF for their incompatible (with black and white) color system; the FCC putting an indefinite “freeze” on television licenses that lasted until 1952 also didn’t help matters. Only in 1950, when NBC was dominant in television and black and white transmission was widespread, did CBS begin to buy or build their own stations (outside of New York) in Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities. Up to that point, CBS programming was seen on such stations as KTTV (channel 11) in Los Angeles, which CBS – as a bit of insurance and to guarantee program clearance in Los Angeles – quickly purchased a 50% interest in, partnering with the Los Angeles Times newspaper. CBS then sold its interest in KTTV (which today is the West Coast flagship of the Fox network) and purchased outright Los Angeles pioneer station KTSL (channel 2) in 1950, renaming it KNXT (after CBS’s existing Los Angeles radio property, KNX), later to become KCBS-TV. In 1953, CBS bought pioneer television station WBKB in Chicago, which had been signed on by former investor Paramount Pictures(and would become a sister company to CBS again decades later) as a commercial station in 1946, and changed their call sign to WBBM-TV, moving the CBS affiliation away fromWGN-TV.

WCBS-TV would ultimately be the only station (as of 2013) built and signed on by CBS. The rest of the stations would be acquired by CBS, either in an ownership stake or outright purchase. In television’s early years, the network bought Washington, D. C. affiliate WOIC (now WUSA) in a joint-venture with the Washington Post in 1950, only to sell their stake to the Post in 1954 due to then-tighter FCC ownership regulations. CBS would also temporarily return to relying on its own UHF technology by owning WXIX in Milwaukee (now CWaffiliate WVTV) and WHCT in Hartford, Connecticut (now Univision affiliate WUVN), but as UHF was unviable at the time, CBS decided to sell those stations off and affiliate with VHF stations WITI and WTIC-TV (now WFSB), respectively. (Ironically, CBS would later be forced back onto UHF in Milwaukee due to the 1994 United States broadcast TV realignment; it is now affiliated with WDJT-TV in that market.) More long-term, CBS bought stations in Philadelphia (WCAU, now owned by NBC) and St. Louis (KMOX-TV, now KMOV), but CBS would eventually sell these stations off as well; before buying KMOX-TV, CBS had attempted to purchase and sign on the channel 11 license in St. Louis, now KPLR-TV.

CBS did attempt to sign on a station in Pittsburgh after the “freeze” was lifted, as Pittsburgh was then the sixth-largest market but only had one commercial VHF station in DuMont-owned WDTV, while the rest were either on UHF (the modern-day WPGH-TV and WINP-TV) or public television (WQED). Although the FCC turned down CBS’s request to buy the channel 9 license in nearby Steubenville, Ohio and move the license to Pittsburgh (that station, initially CBS affiliate WSTV-TV, is now NBC affiliate WTOV-TV), CBS did score a major coup when Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric (a co-founder of NBC with RCA) bought WDTV from struggling DuMont and opted to affiliate the now-rebranded KDKA-TV with CBS instead of NBC (like KDKA radio) due to NBC extorting and coercing Westinghouse to trade KYW radio and WPTZ (now KYW-TV) for Cleveland stations WTAM, WTAM-FM (now WMJI), and WNBK (now WKYC); the trade ended up being reversed in 1965 by order of the FCC and the United States Department of Justice after an eight-year investigation. Had CBS not been able to affiliate with KDKA-TV, it would have affiliated with eventual NBC affiliate WIIC-TV (now WPXI) once it signed on in 1957 instead. This coup would eventually lead to a much stronger relationship between Westinghouse and CBS decades later.

The “talent raid” on NBC of the mid-1940s had brought over established radio stars; they now became stars of CBS television as well. One reluctant CBS star refused to bring her radio show, My Favorite Husband, to television unless the network would recast the show with her real-life husband in the lead. Paley and network president Frank Stanton had so little faith in the future of Lucille Ball’s series, redubbed I Love Lucy, that they granted her wish and allowed the husband, Desi Arnaz, to take financial control of the production. This was the making of the Ball-Arnaz Desilu empire, and became the template for series production to this day.

In 1949, CBS offered the first live television coverage of the proceedings of the United Nations General Assembly. This journalistic tour-de-force was under the direction ofEdmund A. Chester, who was appointed to the post of Director for News, Special Events and Sports at CBS Television in 1948.

As television came to the forefront of American entertainment and information, CBS dominated television as it once had radio. In 1953, the CBS television network would make its first profit, and would maintain dominance on television between 1955 and 1976 as well. By the late 1950s, the network often controlled seven or eight of the slots on the “top ten” ratings list with well-respected shows like Route 66. This success would continue for many years, with CBS bumped from first place only by the rise of ABC in the mid-1970s. Perhaps because of its status as the top-rated network, during the late 1960s and early 1970s CBS felt freer to gamble with controversial properties like theSmothers Brothers Comedy Hour and All in the Family and its many spinoffs during this period.”

*Information from Forbes.com and Cbscorporation.com

**Video published on YouTube by “CBS