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Frederick William Ziv (August 17, 1905 – October 13, 2001, Cincinnati, Ohio) was an American broadcasting producer and syndicator who was considered as the father of television first-run syndication and once operated the nation's largest independent television production company. An obituary in the Cincinnati Enquired noted that Ziv "was known throughout the television industry for pioneering production, sales, promotion andmarketing of TV series."
Frederick Ziv was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to William and Rose Ziv. His parents were Jewish immigrants: his father William, a manufacturer of button holes for overalls, came to the US in 1884 from Kelm, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire) and his mother Rose from Bessarabia three years later. He had a sister named Irma. He graduated from Hughes High School.
Although he earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1928, Ziv didn't practice law, but instead opened an advertising agency. His natal city Cincinnati was an important center for radio in the 1920s. The nation's largest radio sponsor, Procter & Gamble, and one of its most powerful radio stations, WLW, were based there. Ziv and writer John L. Sinn, who later became his business partner and son-in-law, founded the Frederick W. Ziv Company. They produced pre-recorded radio shows such as Boston Blackie and The Cisco Kid and occasionally bought old shows for new syndicated rerun broadcast. The best known was the serial comedy Easy Aces in 1945.
In preparation for providing programming for television syndication, Ziv began purchasing film libraries. By July 1948, the company had bought four such libraries -- General, Miles, Kinogram and Forster -- providing a total of more than 13 million feet of film.
By that same year, 1948, the company had opened a television production subsidiary, Ziv Television Programs, Inc.; which produced some of America's best-remembered shows, including television versions of The Cisco Kid (1949), the first American television program filmed in color, and Mr. District Attorney, plus such original creations as Highway Patrol. Maybe the best remembered Ziv television production ever was I Led Three Lives, one of the few 1950s television crime dramas addressing the real or alleged Communist menace as an overt subject. Bat Masterson, fictionalizing the legendarily dapper marshal, gunfighter, and eventual sportswriter of his namesake, and Sea Hunt were also Ziv's first-run syndicated television productions.
Ziv Television Productions trademarks included odd for the times twists on the genres of his shows, twists such as a crime-fighting underwater explorer (Lloyd Bridges as Sea Hunt's protagonist Mike Nelson) and Highway Patrol, starred Broderick Crawford as Dan Mathews, maybe the first crime drama to show that large urban regions weren't the only places where criminals liked to roam. The company's closing logo, the name Ziv in large, Romanesque lettering, inside the frame of a television tube, was one of the most familiar sign-off logos of its time.
Ziv's fortunes shifted almost overnight in the mid-1950s. In 1955, they were America's leading and largest independent producer, with a reported two thousand employees at one point and Ziv was able to buy his own television production studio, after years of leasing from the Hollywood studios. The following year, in 1956, the Big Three television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, realized how successful they could be by syndicating their own previous hits, a negative move that cut deeply into the first-run syndication television market. Then Ziv began producing series for the networks, beginning with The West Point Story for CBS in the fall of that same year.
By 1959, the networks began taking control of what went on the air from sponsors, a major result of the quiz show scandals that exploded that same year, but Ziv was very unhappy about it. "They demanded script and cast approvals." - he was quoted as saying. "You were just doing whatever the networks asked you to do, but that wasn't my type of operation. I didn’t care to become an employee for the networks."
In 1960, Ziv sold 80% of his company to a group of investors and sold his own TV production subsidiary to United Artists renaming Ziv-United Artists, leaving the board of directors when United Artists decided to phase out Ziv Television Programs and reorganize as United Artists Television two years later.
Ziv lectured at the College of Mount St. Joseph and served as "distinguished Professor of Radio-Television and Theater Crafts" at the University of Cincinnati, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in performing arts in 1985. He then settled into full-time retirement.
Ziv died in 2001 at the age of 96. He was survived by a son and a daughter. The University of Cincinnati annually presents a broadcasting achievement award in his name. He is buried in United Jewish Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- "Obituary: Frederic Ziv, TV pioneer". Cincinnati Enquirer. October 15, 2001. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- 1920 census, Cincinnati, Hamilton Co.< Ohio, enumerator district 225, sheet 12A
- Broughton, Irv (1986). Producers on Producing: The Making of Film and Television. McFarland. pp. 17–22. ISBN 9780786412075. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- "General Film Library Is Purchased by Ziv" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 12, 1948. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
- William Boddy, Fifties Television: The Industry and its Critics (Urbana, Ill.: Illinois University Press, 1980).
- "Aces Up," Time, 8 September 1947.
- "A Homey Little Thing," Time, 19 December 1949.
- Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Network TV Shows--1946 to Present (First Edition).