The Outlet Company
The Outlet Company was a corporation based in Providence, Rhode Island, which owned holdings in both retail and broadcasting. The centerpieces of the group was its flagship Providence store (The Outlet) and WJAR radio and television, also in Providence.
The Outlet Company was formed in 1891 when opened brothers Joseph and Leon Samuels opened a department store at 176 Weybosset Street in downtown Providence. Known as The Outlet, it quickly became a Providence landmark to the point of occupying an entire city block and attracting shoppers from all over southern New England. For decades, the store remained strong with its sole flagship location and dominated the field of retail in not only Providence, but Rhode Island as a whole.
With the changing field of retail in the mid-20th Century, the company diversified with opening suburban locations as well as buying some existing stores such as Philadelphia-based Phillipsborn and Bedya, the midwestern Hughes & Hatcher chain, and The Edw. Malley Co. department store chain in New Haven, Connecticut. However, the allure of building a broadcasting empire under the leadership of company president Bruce Sundlun led Outlet to leave the retail business in November 1980. In 1981, the Outlet Company sold the original downtown retail store (and other stores) to United Department Stores and the flagship Outlet location on Weybosset Street was shuttered in 1982. The building was destroyed by fire on October 16, 1986.
As with many northeastern department stores in the 1920s, Outlet entered radio as a means of promoting their products to a wide audience. In 1922, Outlet entered broadcasting with the sign on of WJAR, which in 1923 became the first affiliated station of the NBC Red Network. In 1949, Outlet entered television broadcasting with the launch of WJAR-TV on channel 11; the station moved to channel 10 in 1953.
Along with retail, Outlet saw a mass expansion into broadcasting in the 1960s and beyond. After the sale of the retail divisions, the company went into a failed merger attempt with Columbia Pictures before it was sold in 1984 to members of the Rockefeller family. Two years later, the company was sold again to a combination of Outlet executives and venture capitalists who renamed the company to Outlet Communications and began a complete withdrawal from radio followed by a slimming down the number of their TV stations to three. In early 1996, Outlet and its three stations (plus control of two others) were sold to NBC; the name lived on as a license name of their former stations for a while afterward.
After ten years, all three stations were put up for sale by NBC on January 9, 2006, with Media General buying the stations on April 6, 2006 (the sale was finalized on June 26, 2006). This virtually undid the NBC-Outlet merger of a decade earlier.
Former Outlet-owned stations
Note: Two boldface asterisks appearing following a station's call letters (**) indicate a station that was built and signed-on by the Outlet Company.
|City of license / Market||Station||Channel TV (RF)||Years Owned||Current Ownership Status|
|Stockton - Sacramento - Modesto||KOVR||13 (25)||1978–1986||CBS owned-and-operated (O&O)|
|Orlando - Daytona Beach - Melbourne||WDBO-TV/WCPX-TV||6 (26)||1969–1987||CBS affiliate, WKMG-TV, owned by Post-Newsweek Stations|
|Atlanta, Georgia||WATL||36 (25)||1985–1989||MyNetworkTV affiliate owned by Gannett Company|
|Indianapolis||WPDS-TV/WXIN||59 (45)||1984–1989||Fox affiliate owned by Tribune Broadcasting|
|Syracuse, New York||WNYS-TV||9 (17)||1962–1978||ABC affiliate, WSYR-TV, owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group|
|Goldsboro - Raleigh - Durham, N.C.||WYED-TV/WNCN||17 (17)||1993–1996||NBC affiliate owned by Media General|
|Columbus, Ohio||WCMH-TV||4 (14)||1976–1996||NBC affiliate owned by Media General|
|Providence, R.I. - New Bedford, MA||WJAR-TV **||10 (51)||1949–1996||NBC affiliate owned by Media General|
|San Antonio||KSAT-TV||12 (12)||1974–1986||ABC affiliate owned by Post-Newsweek Stations|
In 1994, Outlet signed local marketing agreements with the startup company Fant Broadcasting, which owned stations in two Outlet markets. Both of these stations were WB affiliates under Outlet control.
- WLWC (channel 28), New Bedford, Massachusetts, operated by WJAR-TV
- WWHO (channel 53), Chillicothe, Ohio, operated by WCMH-TV
Following its purchase of the remaining three Outlet stations, NBC kept involvement with the Fant stations until they orchestrated a three-way deal in which Fant sold the two stations to the original Viacom's Paramount Stations Group and, in return, NBC acquired Viacom/Paramount's WVIT in New Britain, Connecticut in 1997. Viacom/Paramount promptly added secondary affiliations with its UPN network; however, it was forced to run WLWC and WWHO as primary WB affiliates until 2000, when UPN became the primary affiliation, relegating WB to a secondary affiliation. The two stations were separated in March 2005 when Viacom sold WWHO to LIN TV. WLWC and WWHO both became affiliates of the CW Television Network, the result of a merger of UPN and WB, in the Fall of 2006. As of 2012, both WLWC and WWHO are operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, who owns WLWC outright and manages WWHO through joint sales and shared services agreements with that station's current owner Manhan Media.
|AM Stations||FM Stations|
|DMA#||Market||Station||Years owned||Current ownership|
|1977-1986||owned by Radio One|
|7.||Philadelphia||WIOQ/102.1||1979–1989||owned by Clear Channel Communications|
(WTOP now operates at 103.5 FM)
|1978–1993||owned by Hubbard Broadcasting|
|Bethesda, Maryland||WMMJ/102.3||1983–1986||owned by Radio One|
|1960s–1986||owned by Greater Media|
|39.||Providence - Warwick, R.I.||WJAR/920 **
|1922–1980||owned by Clear Channel Communications|
|1950s–1965||owned by Brown University|
|Taunton, Massachusetts||WSNE/93.3||1970s-86||owned by Clear Channel Communications|
|34.||Orlando||WDBO/580||1963–1982||owned by Cox Radio|
|1963–1982||owned by Cox Radio|
- History of the Outlet Company
- History of WJAR
- Outlet Company Records at the Rhode Island Historical Society
- "The Outlet Company, Providence. by Michael Bell". quahog.org. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "David L. Stackhouse accounts of WJAR Early history (1970)". Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "Reverse LBO's Bring Riches By Leslie Wayne". New York Times, April 23, 1987. 23 April 1987. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "Media General Completes Purchase of Four NBC Television Stations". Media General press release June 26, 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- Schneider, Michael (February 22, 2000). "Sharing the wealth". Variety. Retrieved April 22, 2012.