NBC Red Network
|Availability||National, through regional affiliates|
|November 15, 1926|
The NBC Red Network is a defunct American radio network. Launched in 1926, it, along with the NBC Blue Network, were the two original radio networks of the National Broadcasting Company, and the first two commercial radio networks in the United States. CBS Radio was established a year later.
In 1943, NBC was required to divest itself of its Blue Network, which would eventually become the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The Red Network continued as the NBC Radio Network. The NBC Radio Network itself no longer exists under its original configuration, having been spun off and gradually dissolved into eventual corporate parent Westwood One.
- 1 Creation
- 2 Red Network and Blue Network
- 3 Notable programs
- 4 Affiliates
- 5 After the Golden Age of Radio
- 6 Divestiture
- 7 Rebranding
- 8 NBC News Radio
- 9 Former NBC-owned radio stations
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In 1923, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) acquired control of WJZ in Newark, New Jersey (now WABC), from Westinghouse, and moved the station to New York City. The same year, RCA obtained a license for station WRC in Washington, D.C. (now WTEM), and attempted to transmit audio between WJZ and WRC via low-quality telegraph lines, in an effort to make a network comparable to that operated by American Telephone & Telegraph.
AT&T had created its own network in 1922, with WEAF in New York serving the research and development function for Western Electric's research and development of radio transmitters and antennas, as well as AT&T's long-distance and local Bell technologies for transmitting voice- and music-grade audio over short and long distances, via both wireless and wired methods. WEAF's regular schedule of a variety of programs, and its selling of commercial sponsorships, had been a success, and what was known at first as "chain broadcasting" became a network that linked WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island (now WHJJ) and AT&T's WCAP in Washington, D.C. (now off the air).
Since AT&T refused access of its high-quality phone lines to competitors, RCA's New York-Washington operated with uninsulated telegraph lines which were incapable of good audio transmission quality and very susceptible to both atmospheric and man-made electrical interference. In 1926, however, the management of AT&T concluded that operating a radio network was incompatible with its operation of America's telephone and telegraph service, and sold WEAF and WCAP to RCA for approximately one million dollars. As part of the purchase, RCA also gained the rights to rent AT&T's phone lines for network transmission, and the technology for operating a quality radio network.
On September 13, 1926, RCA chairman of the board Owen D. Young and president James G. Harbord announced the formation of the National Broadcasting Company, Inc., to begin broadcasting upon RCA's acquisition of WEAF on November 15. "The purpose of the National Broadcasting Company will be to provide the best programs available for broadcasting in the United States. ... It is hoped that arrangements may be made so that every event of national importance may be broadcast widely throughout the United States," announced M.H. Aylesworth, the first president of NBC, in the press release.
Although RCA was identified as the creator of the network, NBC was actually owned 50% by RCA, 30% by General Electric, and 20% by Westinghouse.
The network officially was launched at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, November 15, 1926.
"The most pretentious broadcasting program ever presented, featuring among others, world famed stars never before heard on the air, will mark the Introduction of the National Broadcasting Company to the public Monday night," the press noted, with "a four hour radio performance by noted stars of opera, stage and concert hall". Carl Schlagel of the Metropolitan Opera opened the inaugural broadcast, which also featured Will Rogers and Mary Garden. The broadcast was made simultaneously on WEAF and WJZ. Some of NBC's programming was broadcast that evening on WEEI (Boston) WLIT (Philadelphia), WRC (Washington), WDAF (Kansas City), and WWJ (Detroit)., noted by the different background color. NBC Blue would utilize this logo until their 1942 sale.
Red Network and Blue Network
On January 1, 1927, NBC formally divided its programming along two networks. The two NBC networks did not have distinct identities or "formats." The NBC Red Network, with WEAF as its flagship station and a stronger line-up of affiliated stations, often carried the more popular, "big budget" sponsored programs. The Blue Network and WJZ carried a somewhat smaller line-up of often lower-powered stations and sold air time to advertisers at a lower cost. NBC Blue often carried newer, untried programs (which, if successful, often moved "up" to the Red Network), lower cost programs and un-sponsored or "sustaining" programs (which were often news, cultural and educational programs). In many cities in addition to New York, the two NBC affiliated stations (Red and Blue) were operated as duopolies, having the same owners and sharing the same staff and facilities.
At this time, most network programs were owned by the sponsors and produced by their advertising agencies. The networks did not control or "program" their own schedules as they do now (advertisers bought available time periods they wanted and chose the stations which would carry a particular program regardless of what other sponsors might broadcast in other time periods). Networks rented studio facilities to produce shows and sold air-time to sponsors. The only network produced programs were unsponsored programs used to fill unsold time periods (affiliated stations had the option to "break away" from the network to air a local program during these periods) but the network had the "option" to take back the time period if a network sponsor wanted the time period.
Legend has it that the color designations originated from the color of the push-pins early engineers used to designate affiliates of WEAF (red pins) and WJZ (blue pins), or from the use of double-ended red and blue colored pencils. A similar two-part/two-color strategy appeared in the recording industry, dividing the market between classical and popular offerings.
On April 5, 1927 NBC reached the West Coast with the launching of the NBC Orange Network, which rebroadcast Red Network programming to the Pacific states and had as its flagship station KGO in San Francisco. NBC Red then extended its reach into the midwest by acquiring two 50,000 watt clear-channel signals, Cleveland station WTAM on October 16, 1930 and Chicago station WMAQ (coincidentally, a CBS Radio Network charter affiliate) by 1931. On October 18, 1931, Blue Network programming was introduced along the NBC Gold Network, which broadcast from San Francisco's KPO. In 1936 the Orange Network name was dropped and affiliate stations became part of the Red Network. The Gold Network adopted the Blue Network name.
In a major move in 1931, RCA signed crucial leases with the new Rockefeller Center management that resulted in it becoming the lead tenant of what was to become in 1933 its corporate headquarters, the RCA Building, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Under the terms of the lease arrangement, this included studios for NBC and theaters for the RCA-owned RKO Pictures. The deal was arranged through the Center's founder and financier, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., with the chairman of GE, Owen D. Young, and the president of RCA, David Sarnoff.
In 1939 the FCC ordered RCA to divest itself of one of the two networks. RCA fought the divestiture order, but divided NBC into two companies in 1940 in case an appeal was lost. The Blue network became the "NBC Blue Network, Inc." (now known as ABC) and the NBC Red became "NBC Red Network, Inc." Effective January 10, 1942, the two networks had their operations formally divorced, and the Blue Network was referred to on the air as either "Blue" or "Blue Network," with its official corporate name being Blue Network Company, Inc. NBC Red, on the air, became known as simply NBC on September 1, 1942.
These notable programs were broadcast on the NBC Red Network and its successor, the NBC Radio Network.
- The A&P Gypsies
- A. L. Alexander's Goodwill Court
- The Abbott and Costello Show
- Abbott Mysteries
- Abie's Irish Rose
- The Adventures of Ellery Queen
- The Adventures of Frank Merriwell
- The Adventures of Maisie
- The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
- The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
- The Adventures of Sam Spade
- The Adventures of the Thin Man
- Against the Storm
- The Al Pearce Show
- The Alan Young Show
- The Aldrich Family
- The Amazing Mr. Malone
- America Dances
- The American Album of Familiar Music
- The American Forum of the Air
- American Portraits
- Arch Oboler's Plays
- Archie Andrews
- Arco Birthday Party
- The Army Hour
- The Atwater Kent Hour
- Aunt Mary
- Author's Playhouse
- The Baby Snooks Show
- Bachelor's Children
- Backstage Wife
- Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator
- Battle of the Sexes
- Beat the Band
- The Bell Telephone Hour
- The Bickersons
- The Big Show
- The Big Story
- Big Town
- Billy and Betty
- Bob and Ray
- The Bob Crosby Show
- Boston Blackie
- Break the Bank
- Breakfast in Hollywood
- The Brighter Day
- Bring 'Em Back Alive
- Burns and Allen
- Camel Caravan
- Campus Revue
- Can You Top This?
- Candy Matson
- The Capitol Theatre Family Show
- The Carnation Contented Hour
- Cavalcade of America
- The Charlotte Greenwood Show
- The Chase and Sanborn Hour
- The Chesterfield Supper Club
- Cities Service Concerts
- Clara, Lu, and Em
- The Clicquot Club Eskimos
- Cloak and Dagger
- The Colgate Sports Newsreel
- Dan Harding's Wife
- Dark Fantasy
- A Date with Judy
- Death Valley Days
- Dick Tracy
- Dimension X
- Dr. I.Q.
- Dr. Sixgun
- The Dodge Victory Hour
- The Dreft Star Playhouse
- Drene Time
- Duffy's Tavern
- Easy Aces
- The Eddie Cantor Show
- The Eternal Light
- The Eveready Hour
- Everyman's Theater
- The Falcon
- Father Knows Best
- Fibber McGee and Molly
- The Fifth Horseman
- The First Nighter Program
- The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour
- Ford Theatre
- Four Star Playhouse
- The Frank Sinatra Show
- Gasoline Alley
- The General Electric Concert
- Girl Alone
- The Goldbergs
- The Goodrich Silvertown Orchestra
- Grand Central Station
- Grand Ole Opry
- The Great Gildersleeve
- Great Moments in History
- The Guiding Light
- The Halls of Ivy
- The Happiness Boys
- Harvest of Stars
- The High-Jinkers
- Hollywood Playhouse
- Hollywood Star Playhouse
- The Hoover Sentinels
- House of Myths
- I Love a Mystery
- Information Please
- The Ipana Troubadors
- It Pays to Be Ignorant
- It's Higgins, Sir
- Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy
- The Jack Benny Program
- Judy and Jane
- The Judy Canova Show
- The Jumbo Fire Chief Program
- Just Plain Bill
- Kraft Music Hall
- Laundryland Lyrics
- Let's Dance
- Li'l Abner
- Life Can Be Beautiful
- The Life of Riley
- Lights Out
- Little Orphan Annie
- Lonely Women
- Lorenzo Jones
- Lum and Abner
- Lux Radio Theatre
- Lyric Famous Challengers
- Ma Perkins
- Major Bowes Amateur Hour
- The Man Called X
- Manhattan Merry-Go-Round
- The March of Time
- The Marriage
- The Martin and Lewis Show
- Martin Kane, Private Eye
- Maxwell House Show Boat
- Mayor of the Town
- Meet Corliss Archer
- Meet the Press
- The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air
- Mr. and Mrs. North
- Mr. District Attorney
- Mr. I. A. Moto
- Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons
- Mystery House
- Name That Tune
- National Barn Dance
- NBC Presents: Short Story
- NBC University Theatre
- The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe
- Night Beat
- The O'Neills
- Old Gold on Broadway
- One Man's Family
- Palmolive Beauty Box Theater
- The Palmolive Hour
- The Parade of States
- The Passing Parade
- People are Funny
- Pepper Young's Family
- Pete Kelly's Blues
- The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
- Philo Vance
- Portia Faces Life
- Pot o' Gold
- Quiz Kids
- The Railroad Hour
- The Red Skelton Show
- Reg'lar Fellers
- Richard Diamond, Private Detective
- Ripley's Believe It or Not!
- Rising Musical Stars
- Rocky Fortune
- The Roy Rogers Show
- The Saint
- Screen Directors Playhouse
- The Screen Guild Theater
- Second Husband
- Shell Chateau
- The Six Shooter
- Snow Village Sketches
- The Spike Jones Show
- The Standard Hour
- The Standard School Broadcast
- Stella Dallas
- Stop Me If You've Heard This One
- Strike It Rich
- Stroke of Fate
- Tales of the Texas Rangers
- Terry and the Pirates
- This Is Your Life
- Today's Children
- Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou
- Truth or Consequences
- Uncle Walter's Doghouse
- The United States Steel Hour
- Vic and Sade
- The Vikings
- The Voice of Firestone
- Vox Pop
- We Hold These Truths
- What's My Name?
- When a Girl Marries
- The Whisperer
- Who Said That?
- X Minus One
- You Bet Your Life
- Young Widder Brown
- Your Family and Mine
- Your Hit Parade
The network provided a rich variety of classical concert broadcasts including performances by the Metropolitan Opera (1931–40):455 and the NBC Symphony Orchestra (1937–54) conducted by Arturo Toscanini.:174–180 Notable series include the General Motors Concerts (1929–37) and The Eastman School of Music Symphony (1932–42).:176–177
From 1935 to 1950 the network also presented numerous live remote broadcasts of popular music from ballrooms, hotels, supper clubs and Army camps. Among the band leaders with regular time slots on NBC were Carmen Cavallaro, Nat King Cole, Xavier Cugat, Tommy Dorsey, Eddy Duchin, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Guy Lombardo, Glenn Miller, Leo Reisman and Paul Whiteman.:60–74
NBC radio news included regular broadcasts by journalists and commentators including Morgan Beatty, Alex Dreier, Pauline Frederick, Floyd Gibbons, John Gunther, Richard Harkness, George Hicks, H. V. Kaltenborn, John MacVane, Adela Rogers St. Johns, Dorothy Thompson, Edward Tomlinson and Hendrik Willem van Loon.:489–506
By 1939, NBC's Red and Blue Networks, and the Columbia and Mutual Broadcasting Systems, offered nationwide coverage. NBC advertising rate cards of the period listed "basic" and "supplemental" affiliated stations. Advertisers were encouraged to buy time for their programs on the full "basic" line-up (plus any "supplemental" stations they wished) but this was open to negotiation. It was not unusual for Red Network advertisers to place shows on Blue Network stations in certain markets (and the other way around). Supplemental stations were generally located in smaller cities away from the network trunk lines. Such stations were usually offered to advertisers as "supplemental stations" on both the Red and Blue Network line-ups.
- KARK (Little Rock)
- KFDM (Beaumont, TX)
- KGKO (Dallas)
- KGNO (Dodge City, KS)
- KRIS (Corpus Christi, TX)
- KTHS (Hot Springs, AR)
- KTOK (Oklahoma City)
- KTSM (El Paso)
- KVOO (Tulsa)
- WALA (Mobile, AL)
- WAVE (Louisville)
- WBAP (Fort Worth, TX)
- WFAA (Dallas)
- WFBC (Greenville, SC)
- WFLA (Tampa)
- WIOD (Miami)
- WIS (Columbia, SC)
- WJAX (Jacksonville)
- WKY (Oklahoma City)
- WOAI (San Antonio)
- WPTF (Raleigh, NC)
- WSM (Nashville)
- WSOC (Charlotte, NC)
- WSUN (Tampa)
- WTAR (Norfolk, VA)
- WWNC (Asheville, NC)
After the Golden Age of Radio
Development of FM and television
NBC and RCA were one of the key forces in the development of television in the 1930s and 1940s, dating back to New York City experimental station WX2BS in 1928. Before the American entry into World War II in 1941, WX2BS was officially licensed as WNBT. By the late 1940s, NBC would complement most of their owned-and-operated stations with an adjunct FM signal and a television counterpart.
By the end of 1950, NBC's owned-and-operated stations were located in New York City (WNBC-AM-FM, changed from WEAF in 1946, and WNBT); Chicago (WMAQ-AM-FM and WNBQ); Cleveland (WTAM-AM-FM and WNBK); Washington, D.C. (WRC-AM-FM and WNBW); Los Angeles (KNBH television); Denver (KOA, purchased in 1941 and KOA-FM); and San Francisco (KNBC-AM-FM). NBC had also sought a TV sister for KNBC in San Francisco, but lost in a comparative bidding war to the San Francisco Chronicle, whose KRON-TV signed on as an NBC affiliate in 1949; that station maintained its association with the network until 2001. NBC sold the Denver outlets to a group that included one of its radio stars, Bob Hope, in 1952.
Many NBC radio stars gravitated to television as it became more popular in the 1950s. Toscanini made his ten television appearances on NBC between 1948 and 1952. In 1950, the network sanctioned The Big Show, a 90-minute radio variety show that harked back to radio's earliest musical variety style but with sophisticated comedy and drama and featuring stage legend Tallulah Bankhead as its host. It aimed to keep classic radio alive as television matured and to challenge CBS's Sunday night lineup—much of which had jumped there from NBC in the late 1940s, including (and especially) Jack Benny. But The Big Show's initial success didn't last despite critics' praises; the show endured only two years, with NBC said to lose a million dollars on the project.
To reflect RCA's ownership of NBC, some of their radio and television stations call letters were changed to "RCA"-derived callsigns in October 1954. WNBC/WNBT in New York became WRCA-AM-FM-TV, WNBW television in Washington became WRC-TV, and KNBH television in Los Angeles became KRCA. By 1960, the New York flagship radio outlets reverted to WNBC-AM-FM and the television station became WNBC-TV. In 1962 KRCA in Los Angeles became KNBC (TV), while the former KNBC-AM-FM in San Francisco became KNBR-AM-FM. WNBQ television in Chicago would become WMAQ-TV in 1964.
During this period NBC Radio purchased three additional stations: WKNB in New Britain, Connecticut in late 1956; and WJAS and WJAS-FM in Pittsburgh, in 1957. The acquisition of WJAS was made to offset the defection of KDKA from the network several years earlier, while WKNB was a throw-in along with its sister television station. NBC had no interest in owning WKNB, a daytime-only station in the shadow of WTIC, its powerful Hartford affiliate. The network finally sold WKNB in 1960; the Pittsburgh outlets were sold in 1972.
1956 trade with Westinghouse
In 1956, NBC sought to get an owned-and-operated television station in the Philadelphia market, so it forced a station ownership/call sign swap with Westinghouse Broadcasting. NBC acquired Westinghouse's KYW radio and WPTZ television in Philadelphia (which became WRCV-AM-TV, for the "RCA Victor" record label) while Westinghouse received NBC's WTAM-AM-FM and WNBK television in Cleveland (all of which took the KYW call signs). Westinghouse also received $3 million in cash compensation.
After Westinghouse expressed its unhappiness with the arrangement, the United States Department of Justice took NBC to court in late 1956. In a civil antitrust lawsuit filed against NBC and RCA, Westinghouse claimed the network threatened to pull their TV affiliation from Westinghouse's Philadelphia and Boston stations, and withhold an affiliation from their Pittsburgh TV property if Westinghouse did not agree to the trade. In August 1964 NBC's license for WRCV radio and television was renewed by the FCC—but only on the condition that the 1956 station swap be reversed. Following nearly a year of appeals by NBC, the Supreme Court declared the trade null and void in June 1965; the KYW call letters were moved back to Philadelphia with Westinghouse while NBC rechristened the Cleveland stations as WKYC-AM-FM-TV, a derivative of KYW. NBC kept ownership of the Cleveland radio stations until 1972 before selling them off to Ohio Communications; the AM station reverted to its original WTAM call sign in July 1996.
NBC Radio's last major programming push, in 1955, was Monitor, a continuous, all-weekend mixture of music, news, interviews and features with a variety of hosts, including such well-known television personalities as Dave Garroway, Hugh Downs, Ed McMahon, Joe Garagiola and Gene Rayburn. The potpourri also tried to keep vintage radio alive in featuring segments from Jim and Marian Jordan (in character as Fibber McGee and Molly), Ethel and Albert and iconoclastic satirist Henry Morgan.
Monitor was a success for a number of years, but after the mid-1960s, local stations, especially in larger markets, became increasingly reluctant to break from their established formats to run non-conforming network programming. After Monitor went off the air in early 1975, there was little left of NBC Radio beyond hourly newscasts, news-related features and the half-hour-long Sunday morning religious program The Eternal Light. This, combined with ABC Radio's split into four separate radio services in 1968, left NBC outnumbered with their affiliate count in comparison to ABC, CBS Radio and Mutual.
Other programming attempts
Later in 1975, NBC launched the NBC News and Information Service (also referred to as "NIS"), which provided up to 55 minutes of news per hour around the clock to local stations that wanted to adopt an all-news format. Not surprisingly, NIS achieved clearances on NBC's FM stations in New York (WNBC-FM, which became WNWS), Chicago (WJOI, the former WMAQ-FM which was renamed WNIS) and San Francisco (KNAI, the former KNBR-FM). WRC in Washington also picked it up, migrating their Top 40 format onto FM sister station WKYS (which would be blown up weeks later in favor of disco music). Other major affiliates for the NIS service included WBAL-FM in Baltimore, KHVH in Honolulu, and KQV in Pittsburgh.
The NIS service attracted several dozen subscribers, but not enough to allow NBC to project that it would ever become profitable, and it was discontinued after two years. (KQV, however, has successfully retained their all-news formats with local production to the present day.) After the demise of NIS, NBC installed a talk radio format at WRC and went with music on the FMs in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, respectively renaming them as WYNY, WKQX, and KYUU.
Near the end of the 1970s, NBC started "The Source", a modestly successful secondary network that provided news and short features to FM rock stations. In 1981, NBC created NBC Talknet, an advice-oriented talk radio network designated for the late night hours. It was one of NBC's most successful ventures in years and lasted well into the 1990s, led by advice host Sally Jessy Raphael (until her 1987 departure) and personal finance talker Bruce Williams.
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In February 1984, NBC sold WRC in Washington to Greater Media for $3.6 million. WRC was later rechristened WWRC, and this sale ultimately would be the start of NBC's exit from the radio business altogether.
General Electric would reacquire NBC's parent company, RCA, in early 1986. Shortly thereafter, GE announced intentions to sell off the entire radio division. The reasons for this were threefold: first, the radio network and station group had struggled to make a profit for the past several years (compounded by flagship station WNBC having been in a severe ratings crisis due to a dayparted patchwork format). Secondly, FCC ownership rules at the time did not allow a new owner outside of broadcasting – as General Electric was a manufacturer – to own both radio and television stations in the same market. Thirdly, GE had already divested their existing radio properties (including the aforementioned WJIB), deciding that the radio business, as well as RCA's, did not fit their strategic objectives. The remainder of RCA was divided and spun off to Bertelsmann and Thomson SA. Prior to 1986, operating NBC Radio was done almost out of tradition by RCA and was considered to be in the "public good," an attitude that started to change with the advent of deregulation (including the repeal of the "Fairness Doctrine").
On July 20, 1987, Westwood One acquired the programming assets of the NBC Radio Network, The Source and Talknet in a $50 million deal. The NBC-owned stations were sold to various buyers over the next two years, in the following manner:
- Chicago: WMAQ was acquired by Westinghouse Broadcasting in November 1987. The new owners were allowed to retain both WMAQ's call sign and plans to move into new studios at the NBC Tower in Chicago, which opened in 1989. WMAQ's talk programming was replaced by an all-news format patterned after Westinghouse's all-news outlets in New York City, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. WKQX was packaged along with four other stations to Emmis Communications of Indianapolis in February 1988 and notably held a modern rock format from 1992 until 2011.
- Washington, D.C.: In April 1988, WKYS was sold to minority-controlled Albimar Communications, who would keep the station's urban contemporary format intact. Albimar would go on to encounter many financial troubles while owning WKYS, resulting in the station's sale to a local firm, the nascent Radio One in late 1994. WKYS would end up becoming one of the flagship stations in the minority-owned broadcast chain.
- New York City: Emmis Communications purchased both WNBC and WYNY, but as Emmis already owned an AM/FM combination in New York (WFAN and WQHT) the company was required to sell off two frequencies. Emmis chose to move its existing stations to the former NBC frequencies, sparking a somewhat complicated frequency switch that occurred in two parts during the fall of 1988. On September 22, WQHT moved to WYNY's former home at 97.1 FM, and Westwood One acquired WYNY's intellectual property (call letters and format) and WQHT's former dial position (103.5 FM) from Emmis. Then, on October 7, WNBC was shut down and WFAN's intellectual property took over the 660 kHz frequency. (WFAN's previous 1050 kHz frequency was eventually sold to the publishers of The Jewish Daily Forward). WFAN hired WNBC's Don Imus and grafted his morning show onto their station, and also inherited WNBC's play-by-play rights to the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks. In addition to WFAN's existing contract with the New York Mets, the switch to 660 AM helped to boost that station's fledgling sports radio format.
- Boston: WJIB went to Emmis in the same deal, and its beautiful music format was replaced with smooth jazz in 1990, along with a call letter change.
- San Francisco: Upon Emmis' takeover of KYUU, the new owners changed the station's format to contemporary hit radio from adult contemporary, and changed the call sign to KXXX. Emmis sold the station within two years after it failed to make ratings headway. KNBR was the final radio property owned by NBC when it was unloaded in March 1989 to Susquehanna Radio Corporation. A year later KNBR adopted an all-sports format built around The Rush Limbaugh Show and the San Francisco Giants and modeled after WFAN, the successor of KNBR's former sister station WNBC.
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In 1989, the NBC Radio Network as an independent programming service ceased to exist, becoming a brand-name for content produced by Westwood One. The Sunday morning religious program The Eternal Light, for years the only non-news program on the networks' lineup, also ended its long run at the same time. NBC Radio's news and engineering operations in New York were moved to Arlington and combined with the Mutual Broadcasting System, which Westwood One had acquired in 1985 and essentially merged with NBC Radio. However, both networks' newscasts remained separate and distinct; while field reporters were shared, each network had different formats and anchors.
By 1992, however, both NBC Radio and Mutual's newscasts were streamlined further and took on similar formats. The two networks aired their own newscasts between 6 am and 10 pm eastern time weekdays, but one newscast would be produced each hour for use on both networks on overnights and weekends. The only differences between those newscasts were the recorded introductions, commercials and concluding network identifications. NBC Radio's and Mutual's distinct weekend sportscasts were canceled in favor of "The Scoreboard," a generic, one-minute hourly sportscast, airing seven times each on Saturdays and Sundays. As a result, most major-market NBC Radio affiliates eventually switched over to either CBS, ABC or CNN Radio throughout the 1990s, leaving only small-market and rural stations or stations that aired only the network-fed commercials.
Only one new program was ever introduced by NBC following the sale: an early morning news magazine and talk show by the name of First Light, hosted by Dirk Van, which was intended as a complement to Mutual's like-formatted "America In The Morning." "The Source" and "Talknet" services would continue on for several years under the "NBC" brand. Throughout the late 1990s, the latter consisted solely of Bruce Williams' talk show until his departure from the network on June 15, 2001, thereby ending the "Talknet" service for good.
Westwood One entered into an operations agreement with Infinity Broadcasting in 1994, agreeing to handle syndication for both Don Imus and Howard Stern, while Infinity would take over Westwood One's management, sales and operations, and by December 1996, CBS's new parent company, Westinghouse, acquired Infinity for just shy of $5 billion. The direct descendants of the three original U.S. network companies – NBC, CBS and Mutual – had merged. On August 31, 1998, Mutual/NBC's Arlington operation closed, leaving CBS Radio staff directly responsible for the production of "Mutual" and "NBC"-branded newscasts from CBS' New York facilities.
Westwood One decided to retire the Mutual brand name as a programming service on May 17, 1999. On that same day, the production of "NBC"-branded newscasts also were limited to weekday mornings (5 a.m. – 10 a.m. EST), while CNN Radio newscasts were fed to affiliates during the rest of the day and weekends. These "NBC" newscasts, still produced by CBS Radio staff, were now just generic newscasts which had a terse "This is the NBC Radio Network" identification at the newscasts' conclusion. Otherwise, no mention of NBC was given beyond the introductory sounder at the beginning. Westwood One still promoted the NBC Radio Network on their corporate website, mentioning that "The NBC Network delivers a large audience of adult female listeners ... comprised of Adult Contemporary, Country, Oldies, Nostalgia and Jazz music stations."
Meanwhile, Westwood One also began to distribute Fox News Radio in 2001 in an arrangement with the cable network of the same name, with "First Light" host Dirk Van as their first morning-drive anchor. After that arrangement ended, Westwood One launched NBC News Radio in its place on March 31, 2003, consisting of news updates read by CNBC anchors and reporters, but with the content written by Westwood One staff. (Eventually, the newscasts would come to be written and anchored by staff from NBC News and MSNBC.) In addition, these are brief one-minute news updates fed only on weekdays from 6 am – 10 p.m. EST, as opposed to the original five-minute-long newscasts. Those original "NBC"-branded newscasts, overlapped with NBC News Radio's newscasts until finally ceasing production at or around May 2004.
Dial Global acquired the majority of Westwood One's assets on October 21, 2011, including the distribution rights to NBC News Radio. Only one program from the original NBC Radio Network remains on the air: First Light, and had the NBC peacock embedded into the show logo well into the late 1990s. After the "NBC"-branded newscasts were generally phased out, the show was then branded as a Westwood One product, but host Dirk Van would still make the brief announcement, "From Westwood One, this is NBC Radio" at the halfway point and conclusion of every show.
This practice officially ended in the middle of the October 27, 2011 program, as Dial Global's purchase of Westwood One resulted in a wholesale re-branding of all Westwood One programming. First Light became entirely identified as a "Dial Global Radio Network" program the next day, thereby removing (at least temporarily) the very last trace of the original network from active use.
NBC News Radio
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On March 2, 2012, Dial Global announced they would discontinue distributing newscasts from CNN Radio and instead make NBC News Radio a full-time operation. As NBC owns the content but not the distribution system, this marks the first time since 2004 that full-length radio news would be presented under the "NBC" banner. On-the-hour newscasts will be up to 6 minutes long and reports on the half hour will be 3 minutes in length. In a reversal of the original NBC Radio Network's dismantlement, the majority of CNN Radio affiliates were switched to NBC on April 1, 2012.
Prior to this announcement, on the November 28, 2011 program, First Light began being identified once again as coming "on NBC Radio from Dial Global/the Dial Global Radio Network," this time throughout the program. While the conclusion airs the Dial Global network sounder (an audible chime not identifiable with NBC) this marks a re-emphasis of the "NBC" brand and likely combination with NBC News Radio.
Dial Global also distributes the audio simulcast of Meet The Press, the monologues of NBC's late night television programming, CNBC radio reports, and distribution of localized forecasts for The Weather Channel, which effectively unites all of NBC's programming under one syndicator.
Dial Global reverted to the name Westwood One in September 2013 when Cumulus Media (which itself controls the former ABC Radio Network and station group, as well as distribution rights to ABC News Radio) acquired a share of the network.
Westwood One would retire the NBC News Radio brand on December 15, 2014, concurrent with the soft launch of a news service provided by the syndicator and its parent company, Cumulus Media, following a news content/actuality sharing deal between Westwood One and CNN. While the NBC name is still being used on NBC Sports Radio, there is no longer any hourly newscast produced with the "NBC Radio" name. In addition, on December 18, 2014, First Light, the lone remaining program from the original "NBC Radio Network", discontinued use of the "NBC Radio" name on-air, being branded exclusively as a Westwood One program since that day. The long 88-year history of the original NBC Red/Radio Network - including the then-current NBC News Radio era - came to an end.
Also as a result of this shutdown and dissolution, this left only ABC and CBS as the lone-remaining radio networks to still have an association with Cumulus/Westwood One from December 18, 2014 to January 1, 2015. However, ABC (through its parent company, The Walt Disney Company) severed all ties from Cumulus/Westwood One starting January 1, 2015 and once again is an in-house radio network under the helm of Disney. As a result of this, Cumulus/Westwood One is CBS-exclusive for the foreseeable future as rival network Fox Broadcasting Company has an exclusive deal with its chief competitor, Premiere Networks owned by chief rival iHeartMedia.
NBC News Radio has been distributed by iHeartMedia and its TTWN Networks since July 2016. It is provided to the network's 24/7 News Source affiliates and includes a top of the hour newscast along with other audio content which is heard on over 1000 radio stations, so for the foreseeable future NBC's presence on radio will remain on the air.
Former NBC-owned radio stations
Stations are arranged in alphabetical order by state and city of license.
Note: This list does not include WJZ (now WABC (AM)) in New York or WENR (which later merged into WLS (AM)) in Chicago, which were NBC-owned Blue Network stations prior to the split of the two networks in 1942. Two other stations, WMAL in Washington, D.C. and KGO in San Francisco, are omitted; these Blue Network affiliates were managed by NBC but owned by other entities. In addition, KOA in Denver was managed by NBC from 1930 until 1941, when it was purchased by NBC.
|AM Stations||FM Stations|
|City of License/Market||Station||Years owned||Current ownership|
|San Francisco||KPO/KNBC/KNBR-680||1932–1989||owned by Cumulus Media|
|1955–1988||owned by CBS Radio|
|Denver – Boulder||KOA-850||1941–1952||owned by iHeartMedia|
|1949–1952||owned by iHeartMedia|
|Hartford – New Britain, CT||WKNB-840
|1956–1960||owned by Eight Forty Broadcasting Company|
|1923–1984||owned by Red Zebra Broadcasting|
|WRC-FM/WKYS-93.9||1947–1988||owned by Radio One|
|1931–1987||owned by CBS Radio|
|WMAQ-FM/WJOI/WNIS-FM/WKQX-101.1||1948–1988||owned by Merlin Media LLC; operated by Cumulus Media via a local marketing agreement|
|1983–1988||owned by Greater Media|
|New York City||WEAF/WRCA/WNBC-660
|1926–1988||owned by CBS Radio|
|1940–1988||owned by Emmis Communications|
|owned by iHeartMedia|
|owned by iHeartMedia|
|Philadelphia||KYW/WRCV-1060||1956–1965||owned by CBS Radio|
|Pittsburgh||WJAS-1320||1957–1972||owned by Pittsburgh Radio Partners LLC|
|1957–1972||owned by Renda Broadcasting|
- "Why Did WABC Have Such a Great Signal?". WABC Musicradio 77: musicradio77.com. Retrieved 2006-08-04.
- "Form National Company For Broadcasting," The Syracuse Herald, September 13, 1926, p. 6
- "Radio-- Notes and Programs for the Day," The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Mass.), November 15, 1926, p.7
- RCA Lead Tenant of Rockefeller Center – see John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson, The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988. (p. 326)
- "New Company Takes Over NBC Blue Net," The Fresno Bee Republican, January 10, 1942, p. 5
- "The Fifth Horseman". The Internet Archive. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
- "Stations That Make Up the Networks," The Daily Mail Hagerstown, Maryland, January 14, 1939, p 9
- "Broadcasting History – Various Articles, Part 1: Red and Blue Networks (McLeod)". Jeff Miller: jeff560.tripod.com. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- "NBC's KOA sale; now seeks L.A. outlet." Broadcasting - Telecasting, June 30, 1952, pg. 27. [dead link]
- KOA sale: NBC approves; transfer in month." Broadcasting - Telecasting, September 1, 1952, pg. 27. [dead link]
- "RCA replaces NBC in O&O calls." Broadcasting - Telecasting, October 4, 1954, pg. 78. [dead link]
- "WRCA to be WNBC?" Broadcasting, April 4, 1960, pg. 88[dead link]
- "KNBC to L.A." Broadcasting, November 12, 1962, pg. 72[dead link]
- "Media reports..." Broadcasting, August 24, 1964, pg. 79[dead link]
- "Hearst acquires WTVW (TV) Milwaukee; NBC buys WKNB-TV New Britain, Conn." Broadcasting - Telecasting, January 10, 1955, pg. 7. [dead link]
- "NBC buys WJAS Pittsburgh." Broadcasting - Telecasting, August 12, 1957, pg. 9. [dead link]
- "NBC sells WNBC (TV) to Scheftel group." Broadcasting, June 29, 1959, pp. 73-74.  [dead link]
- "Heftel in, NBC out of Pittsburgh radio." Broadcasting, March 20, 1972, pg. 40. [dead link]
- "NBC, WBC outlets change calls today." Broadcasting, February 13, 1956, pp. 98. 
- "NBC, WBC trade properties in Cleveland, Philadelphia." Broadcasting, May 23, 1955, pp. 65-66, 68.   
- "Justice Dept. hauls NBC into court." Broadcasting - Telecasting, December 10, 1956, pp. 27-32.      
- "Philadelphia circle is complete," and "Nine-year history of that trade in Philadelphia." Broadcasting, August 3, 1964, pp. 23-25.   
- "The great swap takes place June 19; Westinghouse, NBC return to original properties." Broadcasting, June 14, 1965, pg. 83. 
- "First NBC radio properties go." Broadcasting, January 17, 1972, pg. 38. 
- "No. 2 network for NBC radio to be all-news." Broadcasting, February 10, 1975, pp. 78-79.  
- "NBC news radio goes to O&Os in major cities." Broadcasting, April 21, 1975, pp. 46-47.  
- "NIS count up to 50." Broadcasting, September 29, 1975, pg. 46
- "NBC throws in the towel on all-news NIS." Broadcasting, November 8, 1976, pp. 34, 36.  
- "In brief." Broadcasting, May 16, 1983, pg. 104
- "Riding gain: Sale switch." Broadcasting, February 27, 1984, pg. 58. [dead link]
- "RCA + GE: Marriage made in takeover heaven." Broadcasting, December 13, 1985, pp. 43-45.   [dead link]
- "GE/RCA go for it at FCC." Broadcasting, February 17, 1986, pg. 29[dead link]
- "Westwood One acquires NBC Radio for $50 million." Broadcasting,, July 27, 1987, pp. 35-36.  [dead link]
- "In brief." Broadcasting, November 30, 1987, pg. 136[dead link]
- "Emmis buys five NBC radio stations." Broadcasting, February 22, 1988, pp. 76-77.  [dead link]
- "$300 million sale would set radio-only record; NBC sale of WKYS is new stand-alone FM record." Broadcasting, April 11, 1988, pg. 36. [dead link]
- Zier, Julie A. "Minority station deal one of biggest." Broadcasting and Cable, November 7, 1994, pp. 60-61.  [dead link]
- "In brief." Broadcasting, May 16, 1988, pg. 89[dead link]
- "Under new management." Broadcasting, October 3, 1988, pg. 55[dead link]
- "In brief." Broadcasting, October 10, 1988, pg. 89[dead link]
- "In brief." Broadcasting, March 27, 1989, pg. 89[dead link]
- "Mutual Radio Tribute Site: The Westwood One Years – 1985 to the End: Setting Sun Under Westwood One." Written by Kenneth I. Johannessen, 2009 (available online) Johannessen notes that "some information on this page came from various issues of Billboard, Broadcasting, and Radio & Records magazines; The Seattle Times, and Variety."
- Westwood One – Networks – NBC. Saved on Wayback Machine, with the timestamp dating back to around 2002, three years after 24-hour programming on NBC Radio ceased.
- "Company News; Westwood One Completes Purchase of Unistar Radio," New York Times, February 5, 1994 (available online).
- "To Infinity and Beyond: Is a Radio Deal Too Big?; Westinghouse Would Own 32% of Top Markets," New York Times, June 21, 1996; "Two Radio Giants to Merge, Forming Biggest Network," New York Times, June 21, 1996; "F.C.C. Approves Merger of Westinghouse and Infinity," New York Times, December 27, 1996 (available online); "Company Briefs," New York Times, January 1, 1997 (available online).
- "First Light: Show Archives". Dial-Global. Retrieved 2011-11-12. Of course, things are never all that simple. The show was re-branded as coming from "Dial Global" that October 21, but for several days, Dirk identified the show at those specified marks as "From the Dial Global Radio Networks, this is NBC Radio." The "NBC Radio" name was last used in the halfway point (17 minutes) into the October 27, 2011 program, and at the conclusion (28 minutes) of that same show, the Dial Global name and new network sounder was officially used for the first time.
- NBC News to beef up radio news as CNN withdraws. Associated Press. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
- Dial Global To Offer NBC News Radio Network, Drops CNN Radio All Access. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
- NBC radio history at the Digital Deli