CBS Broadcasting Inc. (CBS) a major US commercial broadcasting television network, started as a radio network, and continues to operate a radio network and a portfolio of large market television and radio stations. The name is derived from the initials of the network’s former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. It is the second largest broadcaster in the world behind the BBC. The network is sometimes referred to as the “Eye Network” in reference to the shape of the company’s logo. It has also been called the “Tiffany Network,” which alludes to the perceived high quality of CBS programming during the tenure of its founder William S. Paley. It can also refer to some of CBS’s first demonstrations of color television, which were held in a former Tiffany & Co. building in New York City in 1950.
CBS founder, William S. Paley
The network has its origins in United Independent Broadcasters Inc., a collection of 16 radio stations that was bought by William S. Paley in 1928 and renamed the Columbia Broadcasting System. Under Paley’s guidance, CBS would first become one of the largest radio networks in the United States and then one of the big three American broadcast television networks. In 1974, CBS dropped its full name and became known simply as CBS, Inc. The Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired the network in 1995 and eventually adopted the name of the company it had bought to become CBS Corporation. In 2000, CBS came under the control of Viacom, which ironically had begun as a spin-off of CBS in 1971. In late 2005, Viacom split itself and reestablished CBS Corporation with the CBS television network at its core. CBS Corporation is controlled by Sumner Redstone through National Amusements, its parent.
Since NBC was the broadcast arm of radio set manufacturer RCA, its chief David Sarnoff approached his decisions as both a broadcaster and as a hardware executive; NBC’s affiliates had the latest RCA equipment, and were often the best-established stations, or were on “clear channel” frequencies. Yet Sarnoff’s affiliates were mistrustful of him. Paley had no such split loyalties: his—and his affiliates’—success rose and fell with the quality of CBS programming.
Paley had an innate, pitch-perfect, sense of entertainment, “a gift of the gods, an ear totally pure,” wrote David Halberstam. “[H]e knew what was good and would sell, what was bad and would sell, and what was good and would not sell, and he never confused one with another.” As the 1930s loomed, Paley set about building the CBS talent stable. The network became the home of many popular musical and comedy stars, among them Jack Benny, (“Your Canada Dry Humorist”), Al Jolson, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Kate Smith, whom Paley personally selected for his family’s La Palina Hour because she was not the type of woman to provoke jealousy in American wives.
Kate Smith — not likely to provoke jealousy among American women tuning in to her show on CBS.
When, on a mid-ocean voyage, Paley heard a phonograph record of a young unknown crooner, he rushed to the ship’s radio room and “cabled” New York to sign Bing Crosby immediately to a contract for a daily radio show.
While the CBS prime-time lineup featured music, comedy and variety shows, the daytime schedule was a direct conduit into American homes—and into the hearts and minds of American women; for many, it was the bulk of their adult human contact during the course of the day. CBS time salesmen recognized early on that this intimate connection could be a bonanza for advertisers of female-interest products. Starting in 1930, astrologer Evangeline Adams would consult the heavens on behalf of listeners who sent in their birthdays, a description of their problems—and a box top from sponsor Forhan’s toothpaste. The low-key murmuring of smooth-voiced Tony Wons, backed by a tender violin, “made him a soul mate to millions of women” on behalf of the R. J. Reynolds tobacco company, whose cellophane-wrapped Camel cigarettes were “as fresh as the dew that dawn spills on a field of clover.” The most popular radio-friend of all was M. Sayle Taylor, The Voice Of Experience, though his name was never uttered on air. Women mailed descriptions of the most intimate of relationship problems to The Voice in the tens of thousands per week; sponsors Musterole ointment and Haley’s M–O laxative enjoyed sales increases of several hundred percent in just the first month on The Voice Of Experience.
When Charlie Chaplin decided it was time for the world to hear him speak — after 20 years of silent films — he did so on CBS.
As the decade progressed, a new genre joined the daytime lineup: serial dramas—soap operas, so named for the products that sponsored them, by way of the ad agencies that actually produced them. Although the form, usually in quarter-hour episodes, proliferated widely in the middle and late 1930s, they all had the same basic premise: that characters “fell into two categories: 1) those in trouble and 2) those who helped people in trouble. The helping-hand figures were usually older.” At CBS, Just Plain Bill brought human insight and Anacin pain reliever into households; Your Family and Mine came courtesy of Sealtest Dairy products; Bachelor’s Children first hawked Old Dutch Cleanser, then Wonder Bread; Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories was sponsored by Spry Vegetable Shortening.
Our Gal Sunday (Anacin again), The Romance of Helen Trent (Angélus cosmetics), Big Sister (Rinso laundry soap) and many others filled the daytime ether.
There was a reason the network’s daytime melodramas were called “soaps.”
- The CBS Building, the company’s West Coast HQ, located on Columbia Square in Hollywood.
Thanks to its daytime and primetime schedules, CBS prospered in the 1930s. In 1935, gross sales were $19,300,000, yielding a profit of $2,270,000. By 1937, the network took in $28,700,000 and had 114 affiliates, almost all of which cleared 100% of network-fed programming, thus keeping ratings, and revenue, high. In 1938, CBS even acquired the American Record Corporation, parent of its onetime investor Columbia Records.
In 1938, NBC and CBS each opened studios in Hollywood to attract movieland’s top talent to their networks – NBC at Radio City on Sunset and Vine, CBS two blocks away at Columbia Square.
The CBS Building, located on Columbia Square in Hollywood.
The extraordinary potential of radio news showed itself in 1930, when CBS suddenly found itself with a live telephone connection to a prisoner called “The Deacon” who described, from the inside and in real time, a riot and conflagration at the Ohio Penitentiary; for CBS, it was “a shocking journalistic coup.” Yet as late as 1934, there was still no regularly scheduled newscast on network radio: “Most sponsors did not want network news programming; those that did were inclined to expect veto rights over it.” There had been a longstanding wariness between radio and the newspapers as well; the papers had rightly concluded that the upstart radio business would compete with them on two counts—advertising dollars and news coverage. By 1933, they fought back, many no longer publishing radio schedules for readers’ convenience, or allowing “their” news to be read on the air for radio’s profit.
Radio, in turn, pushed back when urban department stores, newspapers’ largest advertisers and themselves owners of many radio stations, threatened to withhold their ads from print. A short-lived attempted truce in 1933 even saw the papers proposing that radio be forbidden from running news before 9:30 am, and then only after 9:00 pm—and that no news story could air until it was twelve hours old.
It was in this climate that Paley set out to “enhance the prestige of CBS, to make it seem in the public mind the more advanced, dignified and socially aware network.” He did it through sustaining programming like the New York Philharmonic, the thoughtful drama of Norman Corwin—and an in-house news division to gather and present news, free of fickle suppliers like newspapers and wire services. In the fall of 1934, CBS launched its independent news division, shaped in its first years by Paley’s vice-president, former New York Times man Ed Klauber, and news director Paul White. Since there was no blueprint or precedent for real-time news coverage, early efforts of the new division used the short-wave link-up CBS had been using for five years to bring live feeds of European events to its American air.
The legendary Edward R. Murrow
A key early hire was Edward R. Murrow in 1935; his first corporate title was Director of Talks. He was mentored in microphone technique by Robert Trout, the lone full-timer of the News Division, and quickly found himself in a growing rivalry with boss White. Murrow was glad to “leave the hothouse atmosphere of the New York office behind” when he was dispatched to London as CBS’s European Director in 1937, a time when the growing Hitler menace underscored the need for a robust European Bureau. Halberstam described Murrow in London as “the right man in the right place in the right era.” Murrow began assembling the staff of broadcast journalists—including William L. Shirer, Charles Collingwood and Eric Sevareid—who would become known as “Murrow’s Boys.” They were “in [Murrow’s] own image, sartorially impeccable, literate, often liberal, and prima donnas all.” They covered history in the making, and sometimes made it themselves: on March 12, 1938, Hitler boldly annexed nearby Austria and Murrow and Boys quickly assembled coverage with Shirer in London, Edgar Ansel Mowrer in Paris, Pierre Huss in Berlin, Frank Gervasi in Rome and Trout in New York. The News Round-Up format was born and is still ubiquitous today in broadcast news.
Murrow’s nightly reports from the rooftops during the dark days of the London Blitz galvanized American listeners: even before Pearl Harbor, the conflict became “the story of the survival of Western civilization, the most heroic of all possible wars and stories. He was indeed reporting on the survival of the English-speaking peoples.” With his “manly, tormented voice,” Murrow contained and mastered the panic and danger he felt, thereby communicating it all the more effectively to his audience. Using his trademark self-reference “This reporter,” he did not so much report news as interpret it, combining simplicity of expression with subtlety of nuance. Murrow himself said he tried “to describe things in terms that make sense to the truck driver without insulting the intelligence of the professor.” When he returned home for a visit late in 1941, Paley threw an “extraordinarily elaborate reception” for him at the Waldorf-Astoria. Of course, its goal was more than just honoring CBS’s latest “star”—it was an announcement to the world that Mr. Paley’s network was finally more than just a pipeline carrying other people’s programming: it was now a cultural force in its own right.
Once the war was over and Murrow returned for good, it was as “a superstar with prestige and freedom and respect within his profession and within his company.” He possessed enormous capital within that company, and as the unknown form of television news loomed large, he would spend it freely, first in radio news, then in television, taking on Senator Joseph McCarthy first, then eventually William S. Paley himself, and with a foe that formidable, even the vast Murrow account would soon run dry.
On October 30, 1938, CBS gained a taste of infamy when Orson Welles and the The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (See below). Its unique format, a contemporary version of the story in the form of faux news broadcasts, had many CBS listeners panicked into believing invaders from Mars were actually devastating Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, despite three disclaimers during the broadcast that it was a work of fiction. The flood of publicity after the broadcast had two effects: an FCC ban on faux news bulletins within dramatic programming, and sponsorship for The Mercury Theatre on the Air—the former sustaining program became The Campbell Playhouse to sell soup. Welles, for his part, summarized the episode as “the Mercury Theater’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying ‘Boo!’”
As 1939 wound down, Bill Paley announced that 1940 would “be the greatest year in the history of radio in the United States.” He was right—times ten: the decade of the 1940s would indeed be the apogee of network radio by every gauge. Nearly 100% of 1939′s advertisers renewed their contracts for 1940; manufacturers of farm tractors made radios standard equipment on their machines. Wartime rationing of paper limited the size of newspapers—and hence advertisers—and when papers turned them away, they migrated to radio sponsorship. A 1942 act of Congress made advertising expenses a tax benefit and that sent even automobile and tire manufacturers—who had no products to sell since they had been converted to war production—scurrying to sponsor symphony orchestras and serious drama on radio. In 1940, only one-third of radio programs were sponsored, while two-thirds were sustaining; by mid-decade, the statistics had swapped—now two out of three shows had cash-paying sponsors and only one-third were sustaining.
The CBS of the 1940s was vastly different from that of the early days; many of the old guard veterans had died, retired or moved on. No change was greater than that in Paley himself: he had become difficult to work for, and had “gradually shifted from leader to despot.” He spent much of his time seeking social connections and in cultural pursuits; his “hope was that CBS could somehow learn to run itself.” His brief to an interior designer remodeling his townhouse included a requirement for closets that would accommodate three hundred suits, one hundred shirts and had special racks for a hundred neckties.
As Paley grew more remote, he installed a series of buffer executives who sequentially assumed more and more power at CBS: first Ed Klauber, then Paul Kesten, and finally Frank Stanton. Second only to Paley as the author of CBS’s style and ambitions in its first half-century, Stanton was “a magnificent mandarin who functioned as company superintendent, spokesman, and image-maker.” He had come to the network in 1933 after sending copies of his PhD thesis “A Critique Of Present Methods and a New Plan for Studying Radio Listening Behavior” to CBS top brass and they responded with a job. He scored an early hit with his study “Memory for Advertising Copy Presented Visually vs. Orally” which CBS salesmen used to great effect bringing in new sponsors. In 1946 Paley named Stanton President of CBS and promoted himself to Chairman. Stanton’s colorful, but impeccable, wardrobe—slate-blue pinstripe suit, ecru shirt, robin’s egg blue necktie with splashes of saffron—made him, in the mind of one sardonic CBS vice-president, “the greatest argument we have for color television.”
Despite the influx of advertisers and their cash, or perhaps because of them, the 1940s were not without bumps for the radio networks. The biggest challenge came in the form of the FCC’s chain broadcasting investigation—the “monopoly probe,” as it was often called. Though started in 1938, it only gathered steam in 1940 under new-broom chairman James L. Fly. By the time the smoke had cleared in 1943, NBC found itself shorn of its Blue network, which became ABC. CBS was also hit, though not as severely: Paley’s brilliant 1928 affiliate contract which had given CBS first claim on local stations’ air during sponsored time—the network option—came under attack as being restrictive to local programming. The final compromise permitted the network option for three out of four hours during certain day-parts, but the new regulations had virtually no practical effect, since most all stations accepted the network feed, especially the sponsored hours that earned them money. Fly’s panel also forbade networks from owning artists’ representation bureaus, so CBS sold its bureau to Music Corporation of America and it became Management Corporation of America.
Arthur Godfrey spoke directly to listeners individually, making him a foremost pitchman for CBS, right into the TV era￼
On the air, the war had an impact on most every show. Variety shows wove patriotism through their comedy and music segments; dramas and soaps had characters join the service and go off to fight. Even before hostilities commenced in Europe, one of the most played songs on radio was Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, popularized by CBS’s own Kate Smith. Although an Office of Censorship sprang up within days of Pearl Harbor, censorship would be totally voluntary. A few shows submitted scripts for review; most did not. The guidelines that the Office did issue banned weather reports, including announcement of sports rainouts, news about troop, ship or plane movements, war production and live man-on-the-street interviews. The ban on ad-libbing caused quizzes, game shows and amateur hours to wither for the duration.
Surprising was “the granite permanence” of the shows at the top of the ratings. The vaudevillians and musicians who were huge after the war were the same stars who had been huge in the 30s: Benny, Crosby, Burns and Allen, Edgar Bergen all had been on the radio almost as long as there had been network radio. A notable exception to this was relative newcomer Arthur Godfrey who, as late as 1942, was still doing a local morning show in Washington, D.C. Godfrey, who had been a cemetery-lot salesman and a cab driver, pioneered the style of talking directly to the listener as an individual, with a singular “you” rather than phrases like “Now, folks…” or “Yes, friends….” His combined shows contributed as much as 12% of all CBS revenues; by 1948, he was pulling down a half-million dollars a year.
In 1947, Paley, still the undisputed “head talent scout” of CBS, led a much publicized “talent raid” on NBC. One day, while Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were hard at work at NBC writing their venerable Amos and Andy show, a knock came on the door; it was Paley himself, with an astonishing offer: “Whatever you are getting now I will give you twice as much.” Capturing NBC’s cornerstone show was coup enough, but Paley repeated in 1948 with longtime NBCers Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and Red Skelton, as well as former CBS defectors Jack Benny, radio’s top-rated comedian, and Burns and Allen. Paley achieved this rout with a legal agreement reminiscent of his 1928 contract that caused some NBC station affiliates to jump ship and join CBS: CBS would buy the stars’ names as a property, in exchange for a large lump sum and a salary. The plan relied on the vastly different tax rates between income and capital gains, so not only would the stars enjoy more than twice their income after taxes, but CBS would preclude any NBC counterattack because CBS owned the performers’ names. As a result of this sortie, Paley got in 1949 something he had sought for twenty years: CBS finally beat NBC in the ratings.
But it wasn’t just to one-up rival Sarnoff that Paley led his talent raid; he, and all of radio, had their eye on the coming force that threw a shadow over radio throughout the 1940s—television.
In the spring of 1940, CBS staff engineer Peter Goldmark devised a system for color television that CBS management hoped would leapfrog the network over NBC and its existing black-and-white RCA system. The CBS system “gave brilliant and stable colors,” while NBC’s was “crude and unstable but ‘compatible.’” Ultimately, the FCC rejected the CBS system because it was incompatible with RCA’s; that, and the fact that CBS had moved to secure many UHF, not VHF, TV licenses, left CBS flatfooted in the early television age. In 1946, only 6,000 TV sets were in operation, most in greater New York where there were already three stations; by 1949, the number was 3,000,000, and by 1951, 12,000,000. Sixty-four American cities had TV stations, though most of them only had one.
Radio continued to be the backbone of the company, at least in the early 1950s, but it was “a strange, twilight period.” NBC’s venerable Fred Allen saw his ratings plummet when he was pitted against upstart ABC’s game show Stop The Music!; within weeks, he was dropped by longtime sponsor Ford Motor Company and was shortly gone from the scene. Radio powerhouse Bob Hope’s ratings plunged from 23.8 in 1949 to 5.4 in 1953. By 1952, “death seemed imminent for network radio” in its familiar form; most telling of all, the big sponsors were eager for the switch.
Gradually, as the television network took shape, radio stars began to migrate to the new medium. Many programs ran on both media while making the transition. The radio soap opera The Guiding Light moved to television in 1952 and ran another fifty-seven years; Burns & Allen, back “home” from NBC, made the move in 1950; Lucille Ball a year later; Our Miss Brooks in 1952 (though it continued simultaneously on radio for its full television life). The high-rated Jack Benny Program ended its radio run in 1955, and Edgar Bergen’s Sunday-night show went off the air in 1957. When CBS announced in 1956 that its radio operations had lost money, while the television network had made money, it was clear where the future lay. When the soap opera Ma Perkins went off the air November 25, 1960 only eight, relatively minor series remained. Prime time radio ended on September 30, 1962, when Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense aired for the final time.
The retirement of Arthur Godfrey in April 1972 marked the end of the long-form program on CBS radio; programming thereafter consisted of hourly news summaries and news features, known in the 1970s as Dimension, and commentaries, including the Spectrum series that evolved into the “Point/Counterpoint” feature on the television network’s 60 Minutes and First Line Report, a news and analysis feature delivered by CBS correspondents. The network also continued to offer traditional radio programming through its nightly CBS Radio Mystery Theater, the lone holdout of old-style programming, from 1974 through 1982. The CBS Radio Network continues to this day, offering hourly newscasts, including its centerpiece CBS World News Roundup in the morning and evening, weekend sister program CBS News Weekend Roundup, the news-related feature segment The Osgood File, What’s In the News, a one-minute summary of one story, and various other segments such as commentary from Seattle radio personality Dave Ross, tip segments from various other sources, and technology coverage from CBS Interactive property CNET.
CBS is the last of the original Big Four radio networks still owned and operated by its founding company; ABC Radio was sold to Citadel Broadcasting in 2007 (and is now a part of Cumulus Media) while Mutual (now defunct) and NBC Radio were acquired by Westwood One in the 1980s (Westwood One and CBS were under common ownership from 1993 to 2007; the former would be acquired outright by Dial Global in October 2011).
CBS’s first television broadcasts were experimental, often only for one hour a day, and reaching a limited area in and around New York City (over station W2XAB channel 2, later called WCBW and finally WCBS-TV). To catch up with rival RCA, CBS bought Hytron Laboratories in 1939, and immediately moved into set production and television broadcasting. Though there were many competing patents and systems, RCA dictated the content of the FCC’s technical standards, and grabbed the spotlight from CBS, DuMont and others by introducing television to the general public at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The FCC began licensing commercial television stations on July 1, 1941; the first license went to RCA and NBC’s WNBT (now WNBC); the second license, issued that same day, was to WCBW, (now WCBS). CBS-Hytron offered a color system in the 1940s, but it was not compatible with the black-and-white standards set down by RCA. At first, the FCC approved the non-compatible system, but—in time—the FCC rejected CBS’s technology in favor RCA’s compatible color system in 1953.
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 in the 1945–1947 period 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. 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 their 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. The “talent raid” on NBC of the mid-forties 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 re-cast 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, re-dubbed 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 the late 1940s, CBS offered the first live television coverage of the proceedings of the United Nations General Assembly (1949). This journalistic tour-de-force was under the direction of Edmund 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 the years 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 the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and All in the Family and its many spinoffs during this period.
One of CBS’s most popular shows at that time was M*A*S*H, a dramedy based on the hit Robert Altman film. It ran from 1972–1983, and was set, like the film, during the Korean War in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The final episode aired on February 28, 1983 and was 2½ hours long. It was viewed by nearly 106 million Americans (77% of viewership that night) which established it as the most watched episode in United States television history, a record which stood until the broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, also on CBS.
Upon becoming commercial station WCBW in 1941, the pioneer CBS television station in New York broadcast two daily news programs, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. weekdays, anchored by Richard Hubbell. Most of the newscasts featured Hubbell reading a script with only occasional cutaways to a map or still photograph. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on Sunday, December 7, 1941, WCBW (which was usually off the air on Sunday to give the engineers a day off), took to the air at 8:45 PM with an extensive special report. The national emergency even broke down the unspoken wall between CBS radio and television. WCBW executives convinced radio announcers and experts such as George Fielding Elliot and Linton Wells to come down to the Grand Central studios during the evening and give information and commentary on the attack. The WCBW special report that night lasted less than ninety minutes. But that special broadcast pushed the limits of live television in 1941 and opened up new possibilities for future broadcasts. As CBS wrote in a special report to the FCC, the unscheduled live news broadcast on December 7 “was unquestionably the most stimulating challenge and marked the greatest advance of any single problem faced up to that time.” Additional newscasts were scheduled in the early days of the war. In May 1942, WCBW (like almost all television stations) sharply cut back its live program schedule and the newscasts were canceled, since the station temporarily suspended studio operations, resorting exclusively to the occasional broadcast of films. This was primarily due to the fact that much of the staff had either joined the service or were redeployed to war related technical research, and to prolong the life of the early, unstable cameras which were now impossible to repair due to the wartime lack of parts. In May, 1944, as the war began to turn in favor of the Allies, WCBW reopened the studios and the newscasts returned, briefly anchored by Ned Calmer, and then by Everett Holles. After the war, expanded news programs appeared on the WCBW schedule—renamed WCBS-TV in 1946—first anchored by Milo Boulton, and later by Douglas Edwards. On May 3, 1948, Douglas Edwards began anchoring “CBS Television News,” a regular 15-minute nightly newscast on the rudimentary CBS Television Network, including WCBS-TV. It aired every weeknight at 7:30 PM, and was the first regularly scheduled, network television news program featuring an anchor (The nightly Lowell Thomas NBC radio network newscast was simulcast on television locally on NBC’s WNBT (now WNBC) for a time in the early 1940s and the previously mentioned Richard Hubbell, Ned Calmer, Everett Holles and Milo Boulton on WCBW in the early and mid-1940s, but these were local television broadcasts seen only in New York City). The NBC Television Network’s offering at the time “NBC Television Newsreel” (premiered February 1948) was simply film with voice narration. In 1950, the name of the nightly news was changed to Douglas Edwards with the News, and the following year, it became the first news program to be broadcast on both coasts, thanks to a new coaxial cable connection, prompting Edwards to use the greeting “Good evening everyone, coast to coast.” The broadcast was renamed The CBS Evening News when Walter Cronkite replaced Edwards in 1962. Edwards remained with CBS News with various daytime television newscasts and radio news broadcasts until his retirement on April 1, 1988.
Although CBS-TV was the first with a working color television system, they lost out to RCA in 1953, due in part because the CBS color system was incompatible with existing black-and-white sets. Although RCA, then-parent company of NBC, made its color system available to CBS, the network was not interested in boosting RCA’s profits and televised only a few specials in color for the rest of the decade. The specials included the Ford Star Jubilee programs (which included the first telecast ever of MGM’s 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz). Other specials were also shown: the 1957 telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Cole Porter’s musical version of Aladdin, and Playhouse 90’s only color broadcast, the 1958 production of The Nutcracker, featuring choreography by George Balanchine. This telecast was based on the famous production staged annually since 1954 in New York, and performed by the New York City Ballet. CBS would later show two other versions of the ballet, a semi-forgotten one-hour German-American version hosted by Eddie Albert, shown annually for three years beginning in 1965, and the well-loved Baryshnikov production from 1977 to 1981. (This production later moved to PBS.)
Beginning in 1959, The Wizard of Oz, now telecast by CBS as a family special in its own right (after the cancellation of Ford Star Jubilee), became an annual tradition on color TV. However, it was the success of NBC’s 1955 telecast of the musical Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin, the most watched television special of its time, that inspired CBS to telecast The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella and Aladdin.
From 1960 to 1965, CBS-TV limited its color transmissions to only a few specials such as The Wizard of Oz, and only then if the sponsor would pay for it. Red Skelton was the first CBS host to telecast his weekly programs in color, using a converted movie studio, in the early 1960s; he tried unsuccessfully to persuade the network to use his facility for other programs, then was forced to sell it. Color was being pushed hard by rival NBC. Even ABC had several color programs, beginning in the fall of 1962, but those were limited because of the network’s financial and technical situations. One famous CBS-TV special made during this era was the Charles Collingwood-hosted tour of the White House with First Lady Jackie Kennedy. It was, however, shown in black-and-white. Beginning in 1963, at least one CBS show, The Lucy Show, began filming in color at its star and producer Lucille Ball’s insistence; she realized that color episodes would command more money when they were eventually sold into syndication, but even it was broadcast in black and white through the end of the 1964–65 season. This would all change by the mid-1960s, when market pressure forced CBS-TV to add color programs to the regular schedule for the 1965–66 season and complete the changeover during the 1966–67 season. By the fall of 1967, nearly all of CBS’s TV programs were in color, as were NBC’s and ABC’s. A notable exception was The Twentieth Century, which consisted mostly of newsreel archival footage, though even this program used at least some color footage by the late 1960s.
In 1965, CBS telecast a new color version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This version, starring Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon in the roles formerly played by Julie Andrews and Jon Cypher, was shot on videotape rather than being telecast live, and would become an annual tradition for the next nine years.
In 1967, NBC outbid CBS for the rights to the annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz and the film moved to NBC. However, the network quickly realized their mistake in allowing what was then one of its prime ratings winners to be acquired by another network, and by 1976, the film was back on CBS, where it remained through the end of 1997. CBS showed it twice in 1991, in March and again the night before Thanksgiving. Thereafter, it was shown the night before Thanksgiving.
By the end of the 1960s, CBS was broadcasting virtually all of its schedule in color, but many of its shows (including The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., Petticoat Junction, Hee Haw and Green Acres) were appealing more to older and more rural audiences and less to the young, urban and more affluent audiences that advertisers sought to target. Fred Silverman (who would later head ABC, then NBC) made the decision to cancel most of those otherwise hit shows by mid-1971 in what became colloquially referred to as the “Rural Purge,” with Green Acres star Pat Buttram remarking that the network cancelled “anything with a tree in it.”
While the “rural” shows got the axe, new hits, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, Kojak and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour took their place and kept CBS at the top of the ratings through the early 1970s. The majority of these hits were overseen by then East Coast vice president Alan Wagner. Also, 60 Minutes moved to 7 pm ET on Sundays in 1976 and became an unexpected hit.
Silverman also first developed his strategy of spinning new shows off an established hit while at CBS, with Rhoda and Phyllis spun from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Jeffersons spun from All in the Family and Good Times from Maude.
After Silverman’s departure, CBS dropped behind ABC in the 1976–77 season, but still rated strongly, based on its earlier hits and some new ones: One Day at a Time, Alice, Lou Grant, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Dukes of Hazzard (suspiciously “rural”) and, the biggest hit of the early 1980s, Dallas.
By 1982, ABC had run out of steam, NBC was in dire straits with many failed programming efforts green-lighted by Silverman during his 1978 to 1981 tenure there, and CBS once more nosed ahead, courtesy of Dallas (and its spin-off Knots Landing), Falcon Crest, Magnum, P.I., Simon & Simon and 60 Minutes. CBS also broadcast the popular NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament every March beginning in 1982 (taking over for NBC). There were a few new hits – Kate & Allie, Newhart, Cagney & Lacey, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Murder, She Wrote—but the resurgence was short-lived. CBS had gone deeply into debt as a result of the failed effort by Ted Turner to take control over CBS. The battle was headed by CBS chairman Thomas Wyman. CBS sold its St. Louis station KMOX-TV and allowed the purchase of a large portion of its shares (under 25 percent) by Loew’s Inc. Chairman Lawrence Tisch. Consequently, collaboration between Paley and Tisch led to the slow dismissal of Wyman, Tisch becoming chief operating officer, and Paley returning as chairman.
In 1984, The Cosby Show and Miami Vice debuted on NBC and grabbed high ratings immediately, bringing that network back to first place by the 1985–1986 season along with other huge hits Family Ties, The Golden Girls, L.A. Law, and 227. ABC had in turn also rebounded with hits like Dynasty, Who’s the Boss?, Hotel, and Growing Pains. By the 1988–1989 season, CBS had fallen to third place behind both ABC and NBC, and had some major rebuilding to do.
Ironically, some of the groundwork had been laid as the network fell in the ratings, with hits Simon & Simon, Falcon Crest, Murder, She Wrote, Kate & Allie and Newhart still on the schedule from the most recent resurgence, and future hits Designing Women, Murphy Brown, Jake and the Fatman, and 48 Hours having recently debuted. Plus, CBS was still getting decent ratings from 60 Minutes, Dallas and Knots Landing. But the ratings for Dallas were a far cry from what they were in the early 1980s. During the early 1990s, the network would bolster its sports lineup by adding Major League Baseball telecasts and the Winter Olympics.
Under network president Jeff Sagansky, the network was able to get strong ratings from new shows Diagnosis: Murder, Touched by an Angel, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Walker, Texas Ranger, and a resurgent Jake and the Fatman during this period, and CBS was able to reclaim the first place crown briefly, in the 1992–1993 season, though its demographics skewed older than ABC, NBC or even Fox, with its relatively limited presence at that time. In 1993, the network made a breakthrough in establishing a successful late night talk show franchise to compete with NBC’s The Tonight Show when it signed David Letterman away from NBC after the Late Night host was passed over as Johnny Carson’s successor on Tonight in favor of Jay Leno. However, CBS would soon suffer a major blow in a move that would change American television forever.
In 1993, the fledgling Fox network outbid CBS for the rights to air the National Football League, resulting in several stations switching to Fox. The loss of the NFL, along with an ill-fated effort to court younger viewers, led to a drop in CBS’ ratings. The network also dropped its MLB coverage (after losing approximately US$500 million over a four-year span) in 1993 and NBC, which already aired the Summer Olympics, took over coverage of the Winter Olympics beginning with the 2002 Games.
Still, CBS was able to produce some hits, such as Cosby, The Nanny, and Everybody Loves Raymond, and would regain the NFL (taking over the American Football Conference package from NBC) in 1998.
Another turning point for CBS came in the summer of 2000 when it debuted the summer reality shows Survivor, and Big Brother which became surprise summer hits for the network. In January 2001, CBS debuted the second season of the show after its airing of the Super Bowl and scheduled it Thursdays at 8 pm ET, and moved the police procedural CSI (which had debuted that fall Fridays at 9 pm ET) to Thursdays at 9 pm ET and was both able to chip away at and eventually beat NBC’s Thursday night lineup, and attract younger viewers to the network.
CBS has had additional successes with police procedurals Cold Case, Without a Trace, Criminal Minds, NCIS, The Mentalist, and Person of Interest, along with CSI spinoffs CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, and sitcoms Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and 2 Broke Girls.
During the 2007–08 season, Fox ranked as the top-rated network, primarily due to its reliance on American Idol. However, according to Nielsen, CBS has been the top-rated network every season since then. The two tend to nearly equal one another in the 18–34, 18–49, and 25–54 demographics, although Fox typically wins these by the narrowest of margins.
During the 1960s, CBS began an effort to diversify, and looked for suitable investments. In 1965, it acquired electric guitar maker Fender from Leo Fender, who agreed to sell his company due to health problems. The purchase also included that of Rhodes electric pianos, which had already been acquired by Fender. This and other acquisitions led to a restructuring of the corporation into various operating groups and divisions; the quality of the products coming out of these acquired companies was extremely lower, hence the term “pre-CBS” (meaning higher, sought after quality) and “CBS” (mass-produced lower quality).
In other diversification attempts, CBS would buy (and later sell) sports teams (especially the New York Yankees baseball club), book and magazine publishers (Fawcett Publications including Woman’s Day, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston), map-makers, toy manufacturers (Gabriel Toys, Child Guidance, Wonder Products), and other properties.
As William Paley aged, he tried to find the one person who could follow in his footsteps. However, numerous successors-in-waiting came and went. By the mid-1980s, the investor Laurence Tisch had begun to acquire substantial holdings in CBS. Eventually he gained Paley’s confidence, and with his support took control of CBS in 1986.
Tisch’s primary interest was turning profits. When CBS faltered, under-performing units were given the axe. Among the first properties to go was the Columbia Records group, which had been part of the company since 1938. Tisch also shut down in 1986 the CBS Technology Center in Stamford, which had started in New York City in the 1930s as CBS Laboratories and evolved to be the company’s technology research and development unit.
Columbia Records was a record label owned by CBS since 1938. In 1962, CBS launched CBS Records International to market Columbia recordings outside North America, where the Columbia name was controlled by others. In 1966, CBS Records was made a separate subsidiary of Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. CBS sold the CBS Records Group to the Japanese conglomerate Sony in 1988 initiating the Japanese buying spree of US companies (MCA, Pebble Beach Co., Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, et al.) that continued into the 1990s. The record label company was re-christened Sony Music Entertainment in 1991, as Sony had a short-term license on the CBS name.
Sony purchased from EMI its rights to the Columbia Records name outside the US, Canada, Spain and Japan. Sony now uses Columbia Records as a label name in all countries except Japan, where Sony Records remains their flagship label. Sony acquired the Spanish rights when Sony Music merged with Bertelsmann subsidiary BMG in 2004 as Sony BMG, co-owned by Sony and Bertelsmann. Sony bought out BMG’s share in 2008.
CBS entered the publishing business in 1967 by acquiring Holt, Rinehart & Winston, who published trade books, textbooks, and the magazine Field & Stream. The next year, CBS added the medical publisher Saunders to Holt, Rinehart & Winston. In 1971, CBS acquired Bond/Parkhurst, the publisher of Road & Track and Cycle World.
CBS greatly expanded its magazine business by purchasing Fawcett Publications in 1974, bringing in such magazines as Woman’s Day. It acquired the majority of the Ziff Davis publications in 1984.
CBS sold its book publishing businesses in 1985. The educational publishing division, which retained the name Holt, Rinehart & Winston, was sold to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; the trade book division, renamed Henry Holt and Company, was sold to the West German publisher Holtzbrinck.
CBS exited the magazine business by selling the unit to its executive Peter Diamandis. Diamandis sold the magazines to Hachette Filipacchi Médias in 1988, forming Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.
Forming the CBS Musical Instruments division, the company also acquired Fender (1965–1983), Electro-Music Inc. (Leslie speakers) (1965–1980), Rogers Drums (1966–1983), Steinway pianos (1972-), Gemeinhardt flutes, Lyon & Healy harps (in the late 1970s), Rodgers (institutional) organs, and Gulbransen home organs. The last musical purchase was the 1981 acquisition of the assets of then-bankrupt ARP Instruments, developer of electronic synthesizers.
Between 1965 and 1985 the quality of Fender guitars and amplifiers declined significantly. Encouraged by outraged Fender fans, CBS Musical Instruments division executives executed a leveraged buyout in 1985 and created FMIC, the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation. At the same time, CBS divested itself of Rodgers, along with Steinway and Gemeinhardt, all of which were purchased by Steinway Musical Properties. The other musical instruments properties were also liquidated.
CBS made a brief, unsuccessful move into film production in the late 1960s, creating Cinema Center Films. This profit-free unit was shut down in 1972; today the distribution rights to the Cinema Center library rest with Paramount Pictures for home video (via CBS Home Entertainment) and theatrical release, and with CBS Paramount Television for TV distribution (most other ancillary rights remain with CBS). It released such films as The Reivers (1969), starring Steve McQueen, and the musical Scrooge (1970), starring Albert Finney.
Yet ten years later, in 1982, CBS took another try at Hollywood, in a joint venture with Columbia Pictures and HBO called TriStar Pictures. Despite releasing such box office successes as The Natural, Places in the Heart, and Rambo: First Blood Part II, CBS felt the studio was not making a profit and in 1985, sold its stake in TriStar to The Coca-Cola Company, Columbia Pictures’ owner at the time.
In 2007, CBS Corp. announced its desire to get back into the feature film business slowly launching CBS Films and hiring key executives in the Spring of 2008 to startup the new venture. The name CBS Films was actually used once before in 1953 when the name was briefly used for CBS’s distributor of off-network and first-run syndicated programming to local TV stations in the United States and abroad.
CBS entered into the home video market, when joined with MGM to form MGM/CBS Home Video in 1978, but the joint venture was broken by 1982. CBS joined another studio: 20th Century Fox, to form CBS/Fox Video. CBS’s duty was to release some of the movies by TriStar Pictures under the CBS/Fox Video label.
CBS entered the video game market briefly, through its acquisition of Gabriel Toys (renamed CBS Toys), publishing several arcade adaptations and original titles under the name “CBS Electronics,” for the Atari 2600, and other consoles and computers, also producing one of the first karaoke recording/players. CBS Electronics also distributed all Coleco-related video game products in Canada, including the ColecoVision. CBS later sold Gabriel Toys to View-Master, which eventually ended up as part of Mattel.
On September 14, 2009, it was revealed that the international arm of CBS, CBS Studios International, struck a joint venture deal with Chellomedia to launch six CBS-branded channels in the UK during 2009. The new channels would replace Zone Romantica, Zone Thriller, Zone Horror and Zone Reality, plus timeshift services Zone Horror +1 and Zone Reality +1. On October 1, 2009, it was announced that CBS Reality, CBS Reality +1, CBS Drama and CBS Action would launch on November 16, 2009 replacing Zone Reality, Zone Reality +1, Zone Romantica and Zone Thriller respectively. On April 5, 2010, Zone Horror and Zone Horror +1 were rebranded as Horror Channel and Horror Channel +1.
By the early 1990s profits had fallen as a result of competition from cable companies and from video rentals, and in consequence of the high cost of programming. About 20 former CBS affiliates switched to the rapidly rising Fox Television Network in the mid-1990s, while many television markets across the United States (e.g. KDFX in Palm Springs, California and KECY in Yuma, Arizona reportedly the first to do so in August 1994) lost their CBS affiliate for awhile. CBS ratings were acceptable, but the network struggled with an image of stodginess. Laurence Tisch lost interest and sought a new buyer.
￼In 1995, Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired CBS for $5.4 billion. As one of the major broadcasting group owners of commercial radio and television stations (as Group W) since 1920, Westinghouse sought to transition from a station operator into a major media company with its purchase of CBS.
Westinghouse’s acquisition of CBS had the effect of suddenly turning the combined company’s all-news radio stations in New York (WCBS and WINS) and Los Angeles (KNX and KFWB) from bitter rivals to sister stations. While KFWB switched from all-news to news-talk in 2009, WINS and WCBS remain all-news stations, with WINS (which pioneered the all-news format in 1965) concentrating its news on the five core New York City boroughs and WCBS, with its much more powerful signal, covering the surrounding tri-state metro area.
In 1997, Westinghouse acquired Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, owner of more than 150 radio stations, for $4.9-billion. Also that year, Westinghouse began the CBS Cable division by acquiring two existing cable channels (Gaylord’s The Nashville Network (now Spike TV) and Country Music Television) and starting a new one (CBS Eye on People, which was later sold to Discovery Communications).
Following the Infinity purchase, operation and sales responsibilities for the CBS Radio Network was handed to Infinity, which turned management over to Westwood One, a company Infinity managed. WWO is a major radio program syndicator that had previously purchased the Mutual Broadcasting System, NBC’s radio networks and the rights to use the “NBC Radio Networks” name. For a time, CBS Radio, NBC Radio Networks and CNN’s radio news services were all under the WWO umbrella.
As of 2008, Westwood One continues to distribute CBS radio programming, but as a self-managed company that put itself up for sale and found a buyer for a significant amount of its stock.
CBS also owned CBS Telenoticias, a Spanish-language news network.
In that same year of 1997, Westinghouse changed its name to CBS Corporation, and corporate headquarters were moved from Pittsburgh to New York. And to underline the change in emphasis, all non-entertainment assets were put up for sale. Another 90 radio stations were added to Infinity’s portfolio in 1998 with the acquisition of American Radio Systems Corporation for $2.6 billion.
In 1999, CBS paid $2.5 billion to acquire King World Productions, a television syndication company whose programs include The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jeopardy!, and Wheel of Fortune. By the end of 1999, all pre-CBS elements of Westinghouse’s industrial past (beyond retaining rights to the name for brand licensing purposes) were gone.
By the 1990s, CBS had become a broadcasting giant, but in 1999 entertainment conglomerate Viacom—a company that ironically was created by CBS in 1952 as CBS Films, Inc. to syndicate old CBS series and was spun off and renamed Viacom in 1971—announced it was taking over its former parent in a deal valued at $37 billion. Following completion of this effort in 2000, Viacom was ranked as the second-largest entertainment company in the world.
Coincidentally, Viacom had bought Paramount, which as mentioned earlier once invested in CBS, in 1994.
Having assembled all the elements of a communications empire, Viacom found that the promised synergy was not there, and at the end of 2005 it split itself in two. CBS became the center of a new company, CBS Corporation, which included the broadcasting elements, Paramount Television’s production operations (currently named CBS Television Studios), UPN (which later merged with Time Warner’s The WB into The CW), Viacom Outdoor advertising (renamed CBS Outdoor), Showtime, Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Parks, which the company sold in May 2006. It is the legal successor to the old Viacom.
The second company, keeping the Viacom name, kept Paramount Pictures, assorted MTV Networks, BET, and (until May 2007) Famous Music, which was sold to Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
As a result of the aforementioned Viacom/CBS corporate split, as well as other acquisitions over recent years, CBS (under the moniker CBS Studios) owns a massive film and television library spanning nine decades; these include not only acquired material from Viacom and CBS in-house productions and network programs, but also programs aired originally on competing networks. Shows and other material in this library include I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners, Hawaii Five-O (both the original and current remake), Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, The Love Boat, Little House on the Prairie (US TV rights only), Star Trek, The Brady Bunch, Cheers, Becker, Family Ties, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (distribution rights on behalf of copyright holder Lucasfilm), Evening Shade, Duckman, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs, the CBS theatrical library (My Fair Lady, Scrooge, etc.), and the entire Terrytoons library from 1921 forward, among others.
Both CBS Corporation and the new Viacom are still owned by Sumner Redstone’s company, National Amusements. As such, Paramount Home Media Distribution (formerly Paramount Home Entertainment) continues to handle DVD distribution for the CBS library.
ACNielsen estimated in 2003 that CBS can be seen in 96.98% of all American households, reaching 103,421,270 homes in the United States. CBS has 204 VHF and UHF affiliated stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions. CBS is also carried on cable television across Canada, via its affiliates, as well as in Bermuda, via local affiliate ZBM-TV.
CBS unveiled its Eye Device logo on October 20, 1951. Before that, from the 1940s through 1951, CBS Television used an oval spotlight on the block letters C-B-S. The Eye device was conceived by William Golden based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign as well as a Shaker drawing. (While commonly attributed to Golden, there is speculation that at least some design work on the symbol may have been done by another CBS staff designer, Georg Olden, one of the first African-Americans to attract some attention in the postwar graphic design field.) The Eye device made its broadcasting debut on October 20, 1951. The following season, as Golden prepared a new “ident,” CBS President Frank Stanton insisted on keeping the Eye device and using it as much as possible. (Golden died unexpectedly in 1959, and was replaced by one of his top assistants, Lou Dorfsman, who would go on to oversee all print and on-air graphics for CBS for the next thirty years.)
An example of CBS Television Network’s imaging (and the distinction between the television and radio networks) may be seen in a video of The Jack Benny Program from 1953; the video appears to be converted from kinescope, and “unscoped” or unedited. One sees the program very nearly as one would have seen it live on CBS. Don Wilson is the program announcer, but also voices a promo for Private Secretary, which starred Ann Sothern and alternated weekly with Jack Benny on the CBS schedule. Benny continued to appear on CBS radio and television at that time, and Wilson makes a promo announcement at the end of the broadcast for Benny’s radio program on the CBS Radio Network. The program closes with the “CBS Television Network” ID slide (the “CBS eye” over a field of clouds with the words “CBS Television Network” superimposed over the eye). There is, however, no voiceover accompanying the ID slide. It is unclear whether it was simply absent from the recording or never originally broadcast (a staff announcer may have provided a voiceover message, if so, it was not recorded on this clip).
The CBS eye is now an American icon. While the symbol’s settings have changed, the Eye device itself has not been redesigned in its entire history. In the network’s new graphic identity created by Trollbäck + Company in 2006, the eye is being placed in a “trademark” position on show titles, days of the week and descriptive words, an approach highly respecting the value of the eye. The eye logo has frequently been copied or borrowed by television networks around the world, notable examples being the Austrian Broadcasting System (ORF) which used to use a red version of the eye logo, Associated TeleVision in the United Kingdom, Frecuencia Latina in Peru, Nippon Television in Japan and Rede Bandeirantes in Brazil. The logo is alternately known as the Eyemark, which was also the name of CBS’s domestic and international syndication divisions in the mid-to-late 1990s before the King World acquisition and Viacom merger.
Through the years, CBS has developed several notable image campaigns, and several of the network’s most well-known slogans date from the 1980s. 1981′s “Reach for the Stars” used a space-themed campaign to capitalize on both CBS’s stellar improvement in the ratings and the historic launch of the space shuttle Columbia. 1982′s “Great Moments” juxtaposed scenes from classic CBS programming such as I Love Lucy with scenes from the network’s then-current classics such as Dallas and M*A*S*H. From 1983 through 1986, CBS (by now firmly atop the ratings) featured a campaign based on the slogan “We’ve Got the Touch.” Vocals for the campaign’s jingle were contributed by Richie Havens (1983–84; one occasion in 1984–85) and Kenny Rogers (1985–86). The 1986–87 programming season ushered in the “Share the Spirit of CBS” campaign, the network’s first to use full-out computer graphics and DVE effects. Unlike most network campaign promos, the full length version of Share the Spirit not only showed a brief clip preview of each new fall series, but also utilized the CGI effects to map out the entire fall schedule by night. The success of that campaign led to the 1987–88 “CBS Spirit” (or CBSPIRIT) campaign. Most CBS Spirit promos utilized a procession of show clips once again. However, the new graphic motif was a swirling (or “swishing”) blue line, that was used to represent “the spirit.” The full length promo, like the previous year, had a special portion that identified new fall shows, but the mapped-out fall schedule shot was abandoned.
For the 1988–89 season, CBS unveiled its new image campaign, officially known as “Television You Can Feel” but more commonly identified as “You Can Feel It On CBS.” The goal was to convey a more sensual, new-age image through distinguished, advanced-looking computer graphics and soothing music, back-grounding images and clips of emotionally powerful scenes and characters. However, it was this season in which CBS began its ratings free fall, the deepest in the network’s history. CBS ended the decade with “Get Ready for CBS.” The 1989–90 version was a very ambitious campaign that attempted to elevate CBS out of last place (among the major networks); the motif was network stars interacting with each other in a remote studio set, getting ready for photo and TV shoots, as well as for the new season on CBS. The high-energy promo song and the campaign’s practices saw many variations across the country as every CBS affiliate participated in it, as per a network mandate. Also, for the first time in history, CBS became the first broadcast network to team with a national retailer to encourage viewership, with the CBS/Kmart Get Ready Giveaway.
For the 1990–91 season, the campaign featured a new jingle—The Temptations offered an altered version of their hit “Get Ready.” The early 1990s featured less-than-memorable campaigns, with simplified taglines such as “This is CBS” (1992) and “You’re On CBS” (1995). Eventually, the advertising department gained momentum again late in the decade with Welcome Home to a CBS Night (1996–1997), simplified to Welcome Home (1997–1999) and succeeded by the spin-off campaign The Address is CBS (1999–2000).
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, CBS’s ratings resurgence was backed by their “It’s All Here” campaign, and their strategy led, in 2005, to the proclamation that they were “America’s Most Watched Network.” Their most recent campaign, beginning in 2006, proclaims “We Are CBS” with the voice of Don LaFontaine. As of 2009, the network has shifted to a campaign entitled “Only CBS” in which the network proclaims several unique qualities it has. In 2011, CBS returned to the usage of “America’s Most Watched Network.”
Especially during the 1960s, the three major networks, NBC, CBS and ABC, would show elaborate promos during the summer months of their upcoming fall schedule of that year. In 1961, CBS took the unusual step of airing a program entitled CBS Fall Preview Special: Seven Wonderful Nights, using, not the usual television voiceovers, but stars of several CBS shows to promote the upcoming shows, stars such as Ed Sullivan (The Ed Sullivan Show), Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone), and Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale (Perry Mason). The stars would appear and show previews of the entire lineup for one specific day of the week.
As of fall 2010, CBS operates on an 87½-hour regular network-programming schedule. It provides 22 hours of prime time programming to affiliated stations: 8–11 p.m. Monday to Saturday (all times ET/PT) and 7–11 p.m. on Sundays. Programming is also provided 10 am–3 p.m. weekdays (game shows The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, soaps The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, and talk show The Talk); 7–9 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays (CBS This Morning); CBS News Sunday Morning, nightly editions of the CBS Evening News, the Sunday political talk show Face the Nation, a 2½-hour early morning news program Up to the Minute and CBS Morning News; the late night talk shows Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson; and a three-hour Saturday morning live-action/animation block under the name Cookie Jar TV.
In addition, sports programming routinely appears on the weekends, although with a somewhat unpredictable schedule (mostly between noon and 7:00 pm ET).
CBS’s daytime schedule is the home of the long-running game show The Price Is Right. The Price is Right, which began production in 1972, is notable as the longest continuously running daytime game show on network television. After being hosted by Bob Barker for 35 years, the show has been hosted by actor/comedian Drew Carey since 2007. The network is also home to a new version of the game show Let’s Make a Deal, hosted by singer/comedian Wayne Brady. As of 2012, CBS is the only network still producing daytime game shows.
CBS introduced a new talk show titled The Talk on October 2010. The show is similar to ABC’s The View with a panel of hosts including Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood.
As of August 2012, CBS Daytime airs two daytime soap operas each weekday: the hour long series The Young and the Restless and the half-hour series The Bold and the Beautiful.
CBS has aired the most soap operas of the Big Three networks. It aired 3½ hours of soap operas from 1982 to 2009. With the ending of Guiding Light in September 2009, ABC overtook CBS as the network with the most daily hours dedicated to soap operas. CBS reclaimed this distinction in January 2012, after ABC canceled two of its three remaining soap operas.
Other than Guiding Light, notable daytime soap operas that once aired on CBS include As the World Turns, Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, The Secret Storm, The Edge of Night and Capitol.
Notable daytime game shows that once aired on CBS include Match Game, Tattletales, The $10/25,000 Pyramid, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks, Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune. CBS games that also aired in prime time include Beat the Clock, To Tell the Truth and Password. Two long-running primetime-only games were the panel shows What’s My Line?, and I’ve Got a Secret.
CBS broadcast the live action series Captain Kangaroo on weekday mornings from 1955 through 1982, and on Saturdays through 1984. From 1971 through 1986, the CBS News department produced one-minute In the News segments broadcast between other Saturday morning programs. Otherwise, in regards to children’s programming, CBS has aired mostly animated series for children, such as reruns of Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry cartoons, as well as the original version of Scooby-Doo, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 1997, CBS began broadcasting Wheel 2000 (a children’s version of the syndicated game show Wheel of Fortune), and was broadcasting it simultaneously with GSN.
In September 1998, CBS began contracting out to other companies to provide programming and material for their Saturday morning schedule. The first of these special blocks was CBS Kidshow, which featured programming from Canada’s Nelvana studio. It aired on CBS Saturday mornings from 1998 to 2000, with shows like Anatole, Mythic Warriors, Rescue Heroes, and Flying Rhino Junior High. Its tagline was, “The CBS Kids Show: Get in the Act.”
In 2000, CBS’s deal with Nelvana ended. They then began a deal with Nickelodeon (owned by CBS’s former parent company Viacom, which at one time was a subsidiary of CBS) to air its Nick Jr. programming under the banner Nick Jr. on CBS. From 2002 to 2005, Nick’s non-preschool series aired on it as well, under the name Nick on CBS.
In 2006, after the Viacom-CBS split (as described above), CBS decided to discontinue the Nick Jr. lineup in favor of a lineup of programs produced by DIC Entertainment and later, the Cookie Jar Group, as part of a three-year deal which includes distribution of selected Formula One auto races on tape delay. KOL Secret Slumber Party on CBS premiered in September of that year; in the inaugural line-up, two of the programs were new shows, one aired in syndication in 2005 and three were pre-2006 shows. In mid-2007, KOL withdrew sponsorship from CBS’s Saturday Morning Block and the name was changed to KEWLopolis on CBS. Complimenting CBS’s 2007 line-up was Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Sushi Pack. On February 24, 2009, it was announced that CBS renewed its contract with Cookie Jar for another three seasons, through 2012. On September 19, 2009, KEWLopolis has been changed into Cookie Jar TV.
CBS was the original broadcast network for the animated primetime holiday specials based on the comic strip Peanuts, beginning with A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965. Over thirty holiday Peanuts specials (each for a specific holiday such as Halloween) were broadcast on CBS from that time until 2000, when ABC acquired the broadcast rights. CBS also aired several primetime animated specials based on the work of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), beginning with How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1966, as well as several specials based on the comic strip Garfield over the course of the 1980s (which led to Garfield getting his own Saturday morning cartoon on the network, Garfield and Friends, from 1988 to 1995). Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced in stop motion by the Rankin/Bass studio, has been another annual holiday staple of CBS since 1972, but that special originated on NBC in 1964. As of 2011, Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman are the only two pre-1990 animated specials remaining on CBS; Charlie Brown and The Grinch moved to ABC, while cable network ABC Family owns the Garfield specials.
All of these animated specials, from 1973 until 1990, began with a fondly remembered opening animated logo (about seven seconds long), which showed the words “A CBS Special Presentation” in colorful lettering (the ITC Avant Garde typeface, widely used in the 1970s, was used for this logo). The word “SPECIAL,” in all caps and repeated multiple times in multiple colors, slowly zoomed out from the frame in a spinning counterclockwise motion against a black background, and rapidly zoomed back into frame as a single word, in white, at the end; the logo was accompanied by a jazzy yet majestic up-tempo fanfare with dramatic horns and percussion (which was edited incidental music from the CBS crime drama Hawaii Five-O, titled “Call to Danger” on the Capitol Records’ soundtrack LP). This opening sequence appeared immediately before the beginning of all CBS specials of the period (such as the Miss USA pageants and the annual Kennedy Center Honors presentation), not just animated ones. (This opening was presumably designed by, or under the supervision of, longtime CBS creative director Lou Dorfsman, who oversaw print and on-air graphics for CBS for nearly thirty years, replacing William Golden, who died in 1959.)
CBS was also responsible for telecasting the series of Young People’s Concerts conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Telecast every few months between 1958 and 1972, first in black-and-white and then switching to color in 1966, these programs introduced millions of children to classical music through the eloquent commentaries by Maestro Bernstein. They were nominated for several Emmy Awards, and were among the first programs ever broadcast from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Over the years, CBS has broadcast three different productions of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet The Nutcracker – two live telecasts of the George Balanchine New York City Ballet production in 1957 and ’58 respectively, a little-known German-American filmed production in 1965 (which was subsequently repeated three times and starred Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, and Melissa Hayden), and beginning in 1977, the Baryshnikov staging of the ballet, starring the Russian dancer along with Gelsey Kirkland – a version that would become a television classic, and remains so today. This production later moved to PBS.
In April 1986, CBS presented a slightly abbreviated version of Horowitz in Moscow, a live piano recital by Vladimir Horowitz, arguably the greatest pianist of the 20th century. It marked Horowitz’s return to Russia after more than sixty years. The program was shown as an episode of the series CBS News Sunday Morning (9:00 am in the U.S. is 4:00 pm in Russia). It was so successful that CBS repeated it a mere two months later by popular demand, this time on videotape, rather than live. In later years, the program was shown as a stand-alone special on PBS, and the current DVD of it omits the Charles Kuralt commentary, but includes additional selections not heard on the CBS telecast.
In 1986, CBS telecast Carnegie Hall: The Grand Reopening in primetime, in what was now a rare move for a commercial network station, since most primetime classical music specials were now relegated to PBS and A&E. The program was a concert commemorating the re-opening of Carnegie Hall after its complete renovation. It featured, along with luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, popular music artists such as Frank Sinatra.
In order to compete with NBC, which produced the now-legendary televised version of the Mary Martin Broadway production of Peter Pan, CBS responded with Cinderella, with music by Richard Rodgers and a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based upon the classic French fairy tale Cinderella, it is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written for television. It was originally broadcast live in color on CBS on March 31, 1957 as a vehicle for Julie Andrews, who played the title role; that broadcast was seen by over 100 million people. It was subsequently remade by CBS in 1965; that version starred Lesley Ann Warren, Stuart Damon, Ginger Rogers and Walter Pidgeon among others, and added a new song, “Loneliness of Evening,” which had been composed for South Pacific in 1949 but not sung in that musical. This version was rebroadcast several times on CBS into the early 1970s, and is occasionally broadcast on various cable networks to this day. Both versions are available on DVD.
From 1949 until 2002, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, a national cooking contest held annually, was broadcast on CBS as a special. Hosts included Arthur Godfrey, Art Linkletter, Bob Barker, Gary Collins and Alex Trebek.
The Miss USA beauty pageant aired on CBS from 1963 until 2002, and during a large portion of that period was known for having a CBS game show host as pageant host. John Charles Daly hosted the show from 1963–1966, Bob Barker from 1967 until 1987 (at which point he quit in a dispute over fur coats), Alan Thicke in 1988, Dick Clark from 1989–1993, and Bob Goen from 1994–1996. The show’s highest ratings were in the early 1980s, when it regularly topped the Nielsen ratings. Viewership dropped sharply from the 1990s to the 2000s, from an estimated viewership of 20 million to an average of 7 million from 2000–2001. In 2002, owner Donald Trump brokered a new deal with NBC, giving them half-ownership of the Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA and moving them to NBC on an initial five-year contract. The pageants were first shown on NBC in 2003.
On June 1, 1977, it was announced that Elvis Presley had signed a deal with CBS for a new television special. It was agreed that CBS would videotape concerts during the summer of 1977. It was filmed during Presley’s final tour in the cities of Omaha, Nebraska, on June 19, 1977, and Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 21, 1977. On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died in his Graceland mansion. On October 3, 1977, CBS showed a posthumous 1977 TV special starring Elvis Presley. It was released nearly two months after the death of Elvis.
CBS programs are shown outside the US. For instance, CBS News is shown for a few hours a day on satellite channel Orbit News in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The CBS Evening News is shown in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Italy on Sky News, despite the fact that Sky is part of News Corporation (owners of Fox News Channel).
In the UK, CBS took over 6 of Chello Zone’s channels in 2009. These were the first channels branded CBS outside the US. The channels are called CBS Action, CBS Drama, and CBS Reality, while CBS Reality has a timeshifted (+1) channel as well. Other channels as part of the deal are The Horror Channel and its timeshifted channel.
In Australia, Network Ten has an output deal with CBS Paramount giving them rights to carry the programs Jericho, Dr. Phil, Late Show with David Letterman, NCIS and Numb3rs as well access to stories from 60 Minutes (the rights of which have been sold to the Nine Network which broadcasts their own 60 Minutes), while Network Ten reporting is used in the United States for Australian topics.
In Bermuda, there is a CBS affiliate owned by the Bermuda Broadcasting Company using the call sign ZBM.
In Canada, CBS, like all major American TV networks, is carried in the basic program package of all cable and satellite providers. The broadcast is shown almost exactly the same in Canada as in the United States. However, CBS’s programming on Canadian cable and satellite systems are subject to the practice of “simsubbing,” in which a signal of a Canadian station is placed over CBS’s signal, if the programming at that time is the same. As well, many Canadians live close enough to a major American city to pick up the over the air broadcast signal of an American CBS affiliate with an antenna.
NOTE: Simultaneous substitution (known also as simsubbing or signal substitution) is a practice mandated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requiring Canadian cable, direct broadcast satellite, Internet protocol television, and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service television distribution companies to distribute the signal of a local or regional over-the-air station in place of the signal of a foreign or non-local television station, when the two stations are airing identical programming simultaneously. Although the policy officially applies to any foreign signal, in actual practice the distant signals are virtually always of American origin.
The practice has become controversial because its implementation will often pre-empt the signals of US networks available through Canadian cable and satellite providers such as those of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Simsubbing usually receives nationwide attention in the days leading up to the annual broadcast of the Super Bowl football championship, where the famed high-profile US Super Bowl commercials are virtually blocked from viewing on Canadian television. The Canadian network broadcasting the championship is eligible to request that the US broadcaster’s signal be replaced in Canada with its own signal, so long as both broadcasts are aired simultaneously.
The CRTC first commissioned simsubbing in 1972, and it is sometimes erroneously called simulcasting, the name of a practice different from simultaneous substitution in that there is no signal replacement. According to the CRTC, the practice of simultaneous substitution is necessary “to protect the rights of broadcasters, to enable TV stations to draw enough advertising dollars and to keep advertising dollars in the Canadian market.” Canadian broadcast television networks. They must request each and every substitution on an individual basis, have been criticized for exploiting the regulation and not investing enough money into Canadian content.
In Hong Kong, The CBS Evening News is aired live in the early morning and the local networks have an agreement to rebroadcast sections 12 hours later to fill up the local news programs when they have insufficient content to report.
The CBS Evening News is seen in the Philippines via satellite on Q-TV (a sister network of broadcaster GMA Network) while CBS This Morning is shown in that country on the Lifestyle Network. Studio 23 and Maxx, channels owned by broadcaster ABS-CBN in the Philippines show the Late Show with David Letterman.
In India CBS licenses their brand to Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd. for use with three CBS-branded channels, named Big CBS Prime, Big CBS Spark, and Big CBS Love.
In 1995, CBS refused to air a segment of 60 Minutes that would have featured an interview with a former president of research and development for Brown & Williamson, the nation’s third largest tobacco company. The controversy raised questions about the legal roles in decision-making and whether journalistic standards should be compromised despite legal pressures and threats. The decision nevertheless sent shock waves throughout the television industry, the journalism community, and the country. This incident was the basis for the 1999 film by Michael Mann, The Insider.
In 2001, Bernard Goldberg, who was a reporter with CBS for 28 years, had his book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, published. This book heavily criticized the media, and some CBS reporters and news anchors in particular, such as Dan Rather. Goldberg accused CBS of having a liberal bias in most of their news.
In 2004, the FCC imposed a record $550,000 fine on CBS for its broadcast of a Super Bowl half-time show (produced by then sister-unit MTV) in which singer Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly exposed. It was the largest fine ever for a violation of federal decency laws. Following the incident CBS apologized to its viewers and denied foreknowledge of the event, which was broadcast live on TV. In 2008, a Philadelphia federal court annulled the fine imposed on CBS, labeling it “arbitrary and capricious.”
CBS aired a controversial episode of 60 Minutes, which questioned U.S. President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard. Following allegations of forgery, CBS News admitted that documents used in the story had not been properly authenticated. The following January, CBS fired four people connected to the preparation of the news-segment. Former network news anchor Dan Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS in 2007, contending the story, and his termination, were mishandled. Parts of the suit were dismissed in 2008, the suit was dismissed, and his motion to appeal was denied in 2010. These documents aside, however, questions remain regarding many of the circumstances of George W. Bush’s National Guard service.
In 2007, retired Army Major Gen. John Batiste, consultant to CBS News, appeared in a political ad for VoteVets.org critical of President Bush and the war in Iraq. Two days later, CBS stated that appearing in the ad violated Batiste’s contract with them and the agreement was terminated.
In January 2013, CNET named Dish Network’s “Hopper with Sling” digital video recorder as a nominee for the CES “Best in Show” award (which is decided by CNET on behalf of its organizers, the Consumer Electronics Association), and named it the winner in a vote by the site’s staff. However, CBS Interactive, part of CBS, disqualified the Hopper, and vetoed the results because the company was in active litigation with Dish Network. CNET would announce that it would no longer review any product or service provided by companies that CBS was in litigation with. The new vote subsequently gave the Best in Show award to the Razer Edge tablet instead. On January 14, 2013, CNET editor-in-chief Lindsey Turrentine addressed the situation, stating that CNET’s staff was in an “impossible” situation due to the conflict of interest posed by the situation, and promised that she would do everything within her power to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. The conflict also prompted one CNET senior writer, Greg Sandoval, to resign. As a result of the controversy, the CEA announced on January 31, 2013 that CNET will no longer decide the CES Best in Show award winner due to the interference of CBS (the position will be offered to other technology publications), and the “Best in Show” award was jointly awarded to both the Hopper with Sling and Razer Edge.