Television: An RCA Presentation

This short film, believed to have been produced in 1939, is overview of the new entertainment medium that is television. It runs less than ten minutes. Thanks to the Internet Archive it can be viewed for free online. It begins with a brief “commercial” for RCA’s 16mm motion picture sound projector. Then the narrator switches to the subject of television:

After ten years of experiment television, first shown to the public at the World’s Fair, now takes its place as a new American art and industry. With the inauguration of regular television broadcasts from NBC, one of the RCA services, set owners in metropolitan New York enjoy the novel experience of receiving pictures through the air.

For the most part the film is an exploration of the technology behind television. There are also scenes at NBC’s television studios in New York City as well as footage taken in front of a television set. Can you believe how small the sets were back then?

Here’s the entire film:


I didn’t set out to spend this past week discussing NBC’s early television broadcasts in 1939. But it is such an interesting topic and I kept finding brief articles that helped paint a picture of how television was produced and experienced during those first experimental months. Here are links to all my posts about NBC’s W2XBS station from the past week in case you missed any of them:

Singers Adjust to Television in 1939 The Ideal Woman for Television in 1939 1939 WX2BS Announcer Needs Improvement First Televised Movie Trailer? NBC (W2XBS) Television Plays in 1939

1 Comment

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    The voice describing the “plug” for RCA’s 16mm sound projector and “Photophone” sound system before the actual start of this short film is Milton Cross, NBC’s best-known announcer of the period- and the “voice” of NBC [later ABC’s] Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts for over 40 years. This film was released shortly after RCA “officially” introduced regular television service at the New York World’s Fair in April 1939. The narrator is another famous radio announcer, Andre Baruch. Please note that all “TV images” shown in the film were simulated, as it was virtually impossible to properly capture TV pictures on film at the time (not until the “kinescope” method was perfected in late 1947).

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