CBS is a major radio and television network in the United States. CBS was one of the three commercial television networks that dominated broadcasting in the United States before the rise of cable television. In the days of radio, it grew to acquire one of its original founders, Columbia Records, which it sold many years later; ironically, it was more recently acquired by a company itself founded by CBS, Viacom, who owns it today.
CBS unveiled its eye logo on October 17, 1951. Designed by William Golden, and first drawn by graphic artist Kurt Weiss, it made its broadcasting debut on October 20, 1951. The CBS eye is now an American icon and a worldwide recognised logo. The symbol has not been re-designed in its 50 year history.
The network was the second channel out of three major networks to transition to color; most of the channel did so in the fall of 1965.
What became CBS was founded as The "Columbia Broadcasting System" in 1927 as a joint venture by Columbia Records and New York City talent agent Arthur Judson. It originally went on the air on September 18, 1927 as The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System with 47 radio stations.
In November of 1928, Columbia paid $390,000 to A.H. Grebe's Atlantic Broadcasting Company for what would become its New York flagship station, WABC, which moved to a clear channel frequency, 860 kHz, on November 8. WABC would finally become WCBS on November 3, 1946. (The classic CBS owned-and-operated station lineup from the late 1930s through the 1980s consisted of WCBS New York, KNX Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, WTOP Washington, KMOX St. Louis, and WCCO Minneapolis.)
This radio network lost money in its first year, and on January 18 1929 Columbia Records sold out its interests in the radio network to a group of private investors for US$400,000, headed by William S. Paley, a Philadelphia cigar manufacturer. The radio network was renamed The Columbia Broadcasting System. For the next nine years Columbia Records and CBS were independent unrelated companies.
This third radio network soon had more affiliates than either of the NBC networks, though the signals were weaker than NBC Red. (Ironically, the radio network now called "NBC" is owned by Westwood One, the operations of which are conducted under a management contract by Viacom. Although Viacom now owns many of the original NBC Red Network radio stations, the current "NBC Radio" is not related to the original NBC radio networks.)
Founder Paley saw an opportunity to win audiences through news programming, and spent substantial amounts of money to achieve dominance in that area. He hired Edward R. Murrow as "Director of Talks" as part of this effort. Together with William L. Shirer, Murrow practically invented broadcast journalism as we know it today.
Expansion and businesses
CBS first broadcast television in 1939, with 1 hour of programing per day in New York City. CBS made the first color broadcasts the following year, but using technology incompatible with existing black-and-white television. This technology was rejected by the FCC a few years later in favor of a competing color television standard developed by RCA. Television would remain a minor part of CBS until after World War II.
Under the leadership of Paley and Frank Stanton, CBS was known for its strong, distinctive standards of branding and graphic design. Many of the hallmarks of this design live on today, such as CBS Television's unblinking eye logo (designed by William Golden), while others have gone by the wayside. (For example, in the Paley/Stanton era, it would never have been acceptable to use the CBS television eye in association with a CBS radio station or service, whereas today their eye logo is used for everything.) One well-known example of CBS's graphic-design particularity: on all official CBS letterhead, a tiny dot (at most a point in diameter) was pre-printed to indicate to a secretary where the typewriter carriage should be positioned for the salutation of a letter. (Elements of the CBS eye logo later inspired the logo for Lew Grade's British television company, ATV.)
From the 1940s until the 1970s, CBS was considered the most prestigious of the three major television networks and as a result was known as the Tiffany network. Much of the success for this is attributible to the hard-charging CBS network president, James T. Aubrey, Jr., who served from 1959 to 1965. CBS's dominance was broken in the 1970s by ABC, although CBS retook the top ratings spot from 1979 to 1984 and again during periods in the early 1990s and 2000s.
In 1988, CBS sold the CBS Records Group (including the venerable Columbia label) to Sony, which renamed the group Sony Music Entertainment. The company's corporate name had already been shortened to "CBS Inc." in the early 1970's.
By the early 1990s, profits had fallen as a result of competition from cable companies videorentals, and the high cost of programming. In 1995 Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired CBS for $5.4 billion. An industrial giant for much of the 20th century, Westinghouse sought to transform itself into a major media company with its purchase of CBS. It continued its expansion in 1997 with the $4.9-billion purchase of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, one of the largest owners of radio stations in the United States (second only to Clear Channel Communications). Also that year Westinghouse acquired two television channels, The Nashville Network (TNN) and Country Music Television (CMT)
In late 1997 Westinghouse changed its name to CBS Corporation and moved its corporate headquarters from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New York City. In 1998 CBS added to its broadcasting empire by paying about $2.6 billion to acquire American Radio Systems Corporation, a company that owned more than 90 radio stations. A year later CBS paid $2.5 billion to acquire King World Productions, a television syndication company which programs include The Oprah Winfrey Show and Wheel of Fortune. By 1999 CBS Corporation had shed the last of the industrial businesses of the old Westinghouse.
In 1999 entertainment conglomerate Viacom, Inc., once part of the CBS television network, announced its intention to acquire CBS Corporation in a deal valued at $37 billion. The merger was completed in 2000 and made the combined firm the second largest entertainment company in the world.
- List of programs broadcast by CBS
- List of United States television networks
- List of CBS affiliates
- List of assets owned by Viacom
- List of CBS slogans
- CBS website
- Background on CBS
- Columbia Broadcasting Service page on museum.tv
- Screen captures of CBS logos past and present, as well as footage of vintage promos