history of the vital relationship between Hollywood and television
begins in the 1920s, as radio broadcasting created new opportunities
for showmanship and entertainment. Film entrepreneurs eagerly pursued
the possibilities radio awoke for various aspects of the film business,
including production, promotion, and exhibition. One of the earliest
was Samuel L. Rothafel, manager of the Capitol Theater in New York
city, owned by the Loews Corporation. "Roxy", as he was known, took
to the air on 19 November 1922, over WEAF as host of The Capitol
Theater Gang, a regular Sunday night broadcast of the Capitol
Theater's pre-feature stage show. Roxy soon became one of radio's
first celebrity personalities, and Loew's flagship theater and films
received the benefit of national promotion as WEAF became the central
hub of the fledgling NBC network. This mutual publicity and benefit
showed what a strategic alliance of the two media could accomplish.
L. Warner parlayed his interest in sound film technology into a
Warner Brothers radio station, KFWB, in 1925, proposing that other
studios recognize the potential in this new medium as well. Loew's
New York station, WHN, provided one of the few consistent venues
for black jazz musicians in the 1920s and early 1930s. Despite some
exhibitors' objections, both Paramount and MGM announced their intentions
to form radio networks in the late 1920s. Paramount eventually became
half-owner of CBS until forced to sell back its stock in 1932; MGM
went on to participate in radio program origination with The
Maxwell House Showboat in the 1930s; and in a reversal of this
pattern RCA, parent of NBC, acquired its own film studio, RKO, in
the entry of advertising agencies into radio production in the early
1930s, the somewhat stuffy potted-palm aesthetic of NBC gave way
to Hollywood-based showmanship, and film stars and properties made
up an increasing proportion of radio's daily schedules. Hollywood
became a major broadcast production center in the mid-1930s, with
such programs as Hollywood Hotel, the Lux Radio Theater
(hosted by Cecil B. DeMille), and most major variety shows featuring
Hollywood talent originating from the West Coast studios of NBC,
CBS, and major agencies. In turn, as radio developed its own roster
of stars, the studios capitalized on a long series of radio pictures,
from Amos and Andy's Check and Double Check in 1932 and the
Big Broadcast films to the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" movies
of the 1940s. The studios also capitalized on the promotional capacity
of radio in the form of spot advertising, using audio-only trailers
as an important part of film promotion.
This lucrative and mutually beneficial relationship, combined with
FCC regulation, kept Hollywood from developing its potential for
competition with network broadcasting by restricting the use of
recorded material for syndication. Not until the advent of television
did film itself present a strong alternative to provision of live
programming via networks. Though Paramount, Warner Brothers, Loew's-MGM
and 20th Century-Fox had all opened stations or applied for television
station licenses in the late 1940s, indications from the FCC that
movie studios would not be looked upon favorably in post-freeze
allocations led to experimentation with other methods.
studios plunged into television on three fronts: first, in the development
of pay television systems in the late 1940s, designed to provide
feature films on a box-office basis; second, in experiments with
theater television, a method for projecting television onto movie
theater screens; and third, in direct production for television,
both network and syndicated. Paramount experimented with its Telemeter
pay-per-view system, along with Zenith's Phonevision and the Skiatron
Corporation's over the air technology; FCC discouragement of this
potentially powerful competition to network broadcasting prevented
pay television from becoming a reality and allowed the cable industry
to find a foothold. Both Fox and Paramount attempted to develop
theatre television but the expansion of individual TV set sales,
combined with the FCC's refusal to allocate part of the mostly unused
UHF band for transmission, brought this short-lived technology to
a halt. By the early 1950s the studios had turned to television
production, led by Hollywood independents but culminating in the
Disney/ABC alliance that produced Disneyland in 1954. Warner
Brothers and MCA/Universal followed, as network expansion and consolidation
allowed a shift from live programming to filmed series. By 1960,
40% of network programming was produced by the major Hollywood studios
and the proportion continued to grow.
of the financial interest and syndication rules in the mid-1970s
finally allowed the production companies to break free of network
dominance of the lucrative syndication market. Combined with the
growth of cable, where the must-carry rule helped provided new audiences
for independent stations, the market for Hollywood-produced series,
specials, miniseries and movie packages skyrocketed in the 1980s.
Pay cable companies such as HBO and Showtime provided new funds
for production capital.
the late 1980s history had come full circle, as Rupert Murdoch's
vertically integrated Twentieth Century-Fox corporation formed the
first successful fourth network in broadcasting history. The new
FOX network capitalized on a ready supply of in-house programming,
newly powerful independent stations, niche marketing to youth and
favorable FCC regulation to prove that the Hollywood film industry
and network television broadcasting had only remained separate for
forty years as a result of heavy legislative intervention. Paramount
and Warner Brothers were not slow to take heed, starting up two
new networks, the United Paramount Network (drawing on the success
of the syndicated Star Trek series) and the WB (an almost
exact imitation of FOX), in January 1995. Disney's purchase of ABC
in 1996 confirmed the studio-network alliance. By the late 1990s,
as cable, telephone, computer and broadcasting companies struggled
for favorable alliances with Hollywood-based creative organizations,
the relationship of Hollywood and television continued its cruise
at warp speed into the integrated and interactive sphere of cyberspace.
Christopher. Hollywood TV: The Studio System in the Fifties.
Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1994.
Balio, Tino, editor. Hollywood in the Age of Television.
Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
Michele. Hollywood and Broadcasting: From Radio to Cable.
Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1990.
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