Early Television
Early Television
Early Television
Early Television
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Ed Reitan's Color Television History

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Programming for the CBS Color System

[June 25, 1951 October 20, 1951]

[Based on original information provided by Bob Grasso]
[With inputs from David Schwartz (DS) and Steven Dhuey (SD)]

Ed Reitan

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Licensed by Getty Images to Ed Reitan

"Photo Credit: Ralph Morse / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images"
"Licensed by Getty Images to Ed Reitan"

George Balanchine Ballet from "Premiere"

The first commercial CBS Color Television System Colorcast
June 25, 1951
(photographed off the screen)

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Table of Contents:

Saturdays and Sundays
Sport Specials
Progress of CBS Colorcasting
CBS Color System Network Affiliates

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Premiere The first Commercial CBS Color System Telecast - 16 Sponsors
June 25, 1951 4:35 P.M. 5:30 P.M. This program followed five minutes of a color test pattern that started at 4:30 P.M. Entertainment portions originated from the CBS Color Studio 57, at 109th Street and Fifth Avenue, New York. Commercials were originated at another theater (location unidentified) with Frances Buss as director possibly, the Faye Emerson segment was a remote from MOMA or CBS at 485 Madison Ave.

With: Arthur Godfrey, Faye Emerson, Sam Levenson, Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore, Robert Alda and Isabel Bigley (stars of Broadways new hit Guys and Dolls,), Bil Baird Marionettes, Sol Huroks New York City Ballet (arranged by George Balanchine), Patty Painter (Miss Color Television), Wayne Coy (Chairman of the FCC), William S. Paley (CBS Chairman), Frank Stanton (President of CBS), with Archie Bleyers Orchestra.

Sponsors for this first telecast were General Mills, Lincoln-Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company, Longines-Wittnauer Watch Company Inc., Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, William Wrigley Jr. Company, Revlon, Thomas J. Lipton Inc., National Biscuit Company, Standard Brands Inc., Quaker Oats Company, Best Foods Inc., Pepsi-Cola Company and Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company.

Pie in the Sky Sponsored by General Foods to introduce a pie-filling product
October 16, 1951, 4:45 P.M. 5:00 P.M. (the third telecast with commercials)
With: Jackie Kelk and Murray Moonbeam

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9:30 A.M. Color Test Pattern

10:30 A.M. Modern Homemakers with Edaline Stohr 30 min. (Tips for the ladies)
[started Wednesday June 27, 1951, ended Aug. 17, 1951 per SD] (Press Release confirms 10:30 11:00 A.M.)

10:30 A.M. Mike and Buff 30 min. (Chatter), a.k.a.: Two Sleepy People Mike Wallace and Buffy Cobb

[DS: started Aug 20, 1951 color ended Oct. 19, 1951; some directed by Frances Buss]
First color TV network schedule sold to James Lee & Sons Co., carpet manufacturer: commercials were to have started October 29, 1951.

4:30 P.M. The World is Yours with Ivan T. Sanderson 30 min. (Kid nature show)
[started Tuesday June 26, 1951 ended September 14, 1951 (per DS and SD), Dir: Frances Buss. The first show was sponsored by General Mills.

4:30 P.M. The Mel Torme Show with Mel Torme (Music and songs) [DS:: show started Sept 17, 1951 ended Oct 19, 1951 {resumed in B&W Nov. 5, 1951 Aug 28,1952 @ 3:30 PM}]

5:00 P.M. Feature Film 30 min. (a.k.a. Color Film Theater per SD) [started October 15, 1951, ended October 19, 1951]

5:30 P.M. Whistling Wizard with Bil and Cora Bairds puppets 15 min. (Kids)

[started Monday October 15, 1951, color ended October 19, 1951, planned to expand to 30 minutes on November 19, 1951, DS says ended Oct. 26 or Nov. 2 would have been in black and white, Dir: Frances Buss]

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9:00 A.M. Color Test Pattern

10:00 A.M. New Horizons Natural History program with Ivan Sanderson 30 min.
[started October 6, 1951, also shown October 13, 1951, and ended October 20, 1951]
Comment: These Oct. 6, Oct. 13, and Oct 20, 1951 studio shows lead to an interesting conclusion. As this studio show was the morning of a football game, it would likely confirm that there must have been two sets of CBS color cameras - one for the studio and one for sport remotes! It had been earlier assumed that the studio cameras were just moved to the field for those games.

1:30 P.M. Sports Pre-Game (time approximate)

2:00 P.M. Sports Colorcast (see list that follows)
[Racing, Baseball, and Football] (each signaled the first time each of these events had been colorcast)


1:30 P.M. Feature Movie [started and presented only on October 14, 1951 scheduled but never colorcast on October 21, 1951 per SD]


Bob Grasso comments: It should also be mentioned that during the time CBS was broadcasting in color, there were no other afternoon listings for channel 2 on weekends. Since programming was otherwise competitive, WCBS was no doubt using this time for test color broadcasts designed for technicians or set demonstrations at retail outlets.

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Sport Specials (all Saturdays):


July 14, 3:45 P.M. Racing at Monmouth Park (NJ) [Molly Pitcher Handicap]
(over at 5:50 P.M.)

July 21, 4:15 P.M. Racing at Monmouth Park (NJ) [The Lamplighter Handicap]

July 28, 4:15 P.M. Racing at Monmouth Park (NJ) [The Monmouth Handicap]

Aug. 4, 4:15 P.M. Racing at Monmouth Park (NJ) [The Choice Stakes]

Aug. 11, 1:30 P.M. Premier: Baseball in Color Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Boston Braves

(at Ebbets Field)

Aug. 25, 1:25 P.M. Baseball - Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Chicago (at Ebbets Field)

(simulcast by NBC in B&W)

Sept. 8, 1:25 P.M. Baseball - Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Giants (at Ebbets Field)

Sept. 29, 1:30 P.M. Football Pregame Interviews: Harold Stassen, Governor Warren

Sept. 29, 2:00 P.M. Premier: Football in Color California at Pennsylvania (from Franklin Field in Philadelphia)

Oct. 6, 1:30 P.M. Football Pregame

Oct. 6, 2:00 P.M. Football Princeton at Navy (from Annapolis)

Oct. 13, 1:30 P.M. Football Pregame

Oct. 13, 2:00 P.M. Football Dartmouth at Army (from West Point)

Oct. 20, 1:30 P.M. Football Pregame

Oct. 20, 2:00 P.M. Football North Carolina at Maryland (from College Park, Md.)

[This was the last CBS Color Television System broadcast]

Further planned football colorcasts that were cancelled:

Oct. 27, 1951 Army-Columbia (from West Point)

Nov. 3, 1951 Navy-Notre Dame (from Baltimore)

Nov. 10, 1951 Navy-Maryland (from Baltimore)

Nov. 17, 1951 Penn-Army (from Philadelphia)

Nov. 24, 1951 Penn-Cornell (from Philadelphia)


The cancellation of the color broadcasts will upset a $250,000 schedule of Saturday afternoon programs that were to have been produced by leading Broadway figures and the Metropolitan Opera Company beginning Nov. 11. [NY Times, Saturday, October 20, 1951]

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Progress of CBS Colorcasting

Time Period

Hours of CBS Colorcasting

Week Starting June 25, 1951

4 hours of colorcasting

Week Starting July 2, 1951

6 hours of colorcasting

Week Starting September 24, 1951

7 hours of colorcasting

Week Starting October 15, 1951

12 1/4 hours of colorcasting

Planned for end of Fall 1951

20 hours of colorcasting









So, in just 17 weeks of programming, from these figures, CBS had provided an estimated 111 hours of colorcasting. If this rate had continued it would have meant an annual number of 340 hours. This can be compared to three years later with 68 hours of NTSC color programming on NBC for the entire year of 1954 and 216 hours in 1955.


The above figures are from testimony by Frank Stanton in 1953 [8]: [since its start] CBS rapidly began to expand its color program broadcasting schedule, and it furnished the programs on a network basis to other cities. During the first week, we carried 4 hours of color programs, during the second week, 6 hours; by September 24, the schedule had increased to 7 hours a week; and by the week of October 15, 1951, the schedule had increased to 12 hours a week of actual programming exclusive of test patterns. Plans were under way for further expansion of the broadcasting of color programs; additional programs were sponsored; our sales force was engaged in vigorous efforts to interest other advertisers and there were several promising prospects; and in order to increase broadcasting by stations not owned by CBS, we had completed plans to purchase and pay for time on some 10 affiliates along the eastern seaboard during which they would carry our color broadcasts. I assume this indicates CBS had bankrolled the distribution of the football colorcasts over this extended network of affiliates.


CBS Color System Network Affiliates(11 total) [ref:B-T]

Original five CBS color stations:

New York











Eventual additional CBS color stations:













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Copyright 2006

V1.01 (Revision h) 2006-11-28


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