Today in history – first commercial television station starts broadcasting

On this day, 66 years ago, the first commercial television station began broadcasting. Now known as WNBC, this New York station was originally broadcast as WNBT television station, operating under license from the FCC issued originally as W2XBS. The station was one of 10 authorized commercial television stations granted license by the FCC, and the first to go live.

NewsChannel 4 signed on the air as WNBT on July 1, 1941, at 1:29 p.m. This historic event was the beginning of commercial television in the United States.

At 2:30 p.m. the same day, WNBT again made history when 4,000 television sets were tuned to the station’s first telecast, a game at Ebbets Field between Brooklyn and Philadelphia, followed by the P&G sponsored “Truth or Consequences” and “Uncle Jim’s Questions Bee.”

The telecast also brought the first sponsor to the air. The Bulova clock filled the lower right hand quadrant of the test pattern and an announcer read the time. Bulova paid $4 for the first commercial and $5 for the use of facilities. And, America saw its first pair of televised dishpan hands — those of Irene Hubbard, the original star of the Ivory soap commercials. Operating out of Studio 3H, the first simulcast of a news program featured Lowell Thomas, in a Sunoco sponsored 15-minute report at 6:45 p.m. WNBT actually evolved from W2XBS, a pioneer RCA television lab and experimental station. W2XBS began in 1928, when RCA started operating from a transmitter in Van Cortlandt Park. On January 16, 1930, a television program originating from NBC’s Fifth Avenue studios was transmitted onto a six-foot screen for an audience at the Proctor Theater on Third Avenue and 58th Streets. NBC assumed control of the operation of W2XBS from RCA on July 30, 1930.

Also of note on this date, in reference to television, is the first commercial television station news telecast on WCBW, now known as CBS. This 15 minute broadcast started at 2:30 PM.

Note that these dates are for the first commercial television stations. There were television stations operating prior to this date, but they were considered experimental broadcasts by the FCC through the periods leading up to July 1st, 1941.

[tags]Today in history – first commercial television[/tags]