I first started watching television in Los Angeles DMA in 1952. That was VHF stations broadcasting only in black/white. The antenna was on a 40 foot push-up mast and consisted of a stacked 2-bay array of conical-dipoles with reflectors. No "cable", just two bare copperweld wires separated every 1/2 inch or so with polystyrene plastic dowels, called "ladder" line, but it was Free TV. The complete channel line-up was:
- (2) KNXT CBS network
- (4) KRCA NBC network
- (5) KTLA "Paramount"
- (7) KECA ABC network
- (9) KHJ "RKO Radio Pictures"
- (11) KTTV DuMont
- (13) KLAC Independent
Outside of prime-time, programming was scarce. On weekends the test pattern was aired until it was time for the scheduled programs to begin. The test pattern itself was quite interesting, consisting of circles and curved lines it allowed testing several parameters of geometric distortion and system resolution by simply observing the picture. Another unique feature was the pattern was generated electronically, that is without the use of a TV camera. The artwork was etched on the face of a CRT-like tube called a monoscope.
Another staple of weekend programming was public domain silent movies. Copyrights expired after 14 years, and the Hollywood studios by 1952 were mostly run by accountants who saw no virtue in spending money for copyright renewals of silent movies that no longer could play in theaters. But my favorite show on TV was Tom Corbett and the space cadets, a program on the DuMont Television Network.
It was Allen B. Du Mont that developed the practical TV set, and in fact was the first commercial manufacturer of same in 1939. The DuMont sets were highly prized for their excellent electronic performance; unlike Southern California competitor "Madman" Muntz who excelled in removing virtually every possible part and still have a viewable picture. But Du Mont really did make TV possible when he discovered how to make the CRT picture tube last longer than 25 hours before burning out.
In 1938 he partnered with Paramount Pictures to build a network of television broadcast stations. What he didn't know was that they were dead set against him! Paramount Pictures would separately build TV stations in major markets on their own, but they did not carry DuMont Television Network programs. And since the FCC counted the Paramount stations as "DuMont owned", his network was effectively denied access to operating stations in many profitable markets, including Los Angeles. He did get licenses in New York City, Washington DC and Pittsburg PA, and that was enough to launch the "fourth" network.
So KTLA could have been the DuMont Television Network (DMTN) station. One of the reasons it was the first on-air commercially in Los Angeles was because of the access it had with DuMont's state-of-the-art engineering developments. Instead in 1948 it was KTSL (channel 2) that offered DMTN programs via kinescope motion picture. Exciting live sports (including NFL football) and theatrical programming, a hallmark of DMTN, stopped at Chicago until AT&T could build out the national microwave communication connection to reach the west coast in the early 50s.
R-VCR/Larry Dean AT&T station at Rock River WY built in 1951, part of a relay connecting Denver CO to Salt Lake City UT.
Originally, KTTV was the CBS outlet because CBS network was a minority owner along with the Los Angeles Times newspaper. Later the CBS network was able to purchase KTSL for itself and in 1951 the stations swapped network affiliations. KTSL also changed to KNX-T as KNX was the CBS radio outlet.
At the start of commercial TV operation, both NBC and CBS benefited greatly by having strong radio affiliates that received many of the early VHF TV licenses. While traditionally called the "fourth" network, DMTN was ahead of rival ABC at the time. In 1949, 99.7% of households with TV sets could watch DMTN programs. In 1953 affiliate-poor ABC was revitalized by United Paramount Theaters (Not to be confused with Paramount Pictures) and was finally able to squeeze DMTN out of market areas that did not have more than 3 VHF TV stations. DMTN made a valiant attempt to utilize UHF stations but this was 10 years before congress required TV sets have UHF tuners. ABC did offer to rescue the network but the idea was rejected by Paramount. DuMont Television Network was history, almost.
In 1959 an investor magnate John Kluge acquired DuMont's remaining stations by purchasing Paramount's interest and re-invented the network as Metromedia, a "group ownership". Without the Paramount-KTLA conflict, he was able to purchase KTTV in 1963. Following the DMTN formula, KTTV was heavy into live events, such as Dodger baseball. By 1986 Metromedia had built up a made-to-order 10 station group that became the operational core of the new Fox Television Stations Inc. The much touted "new" fourth network. Fox will ultimately be more successful because of cable and the improved TV sets make UHF stations competitive with the established VHF outlets. Fox continues the DMTN tradition of strong sports action and Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox, even purchased the Dodgers baseball team.
So move over space cadets, the Simpson's have arrived!
The only original Allen B. Du Mont station that Metromedia did not get was the one in Pittsburg PA, which went to Westinghouse Electric in 1955 and renamed KDKA. The same Westinghouse that later purchased the CBS TV and radio networks.
And would you belive that half owner of United Paramount Network (not to be confused with United Paramount Theaters) is Viacom which is now buying CBS. But the FCC is counting the former Paramount Pictures 15 TV stations as "Viacom owned", because of the UPN connection. Thus forcing Viacom to dump its UPN interests inorder to have the FCC accept the network deal. Is this deja-vu all over again?
URL for KTTV www.fox11la.com