Commercial TV Turns 73

It may not be something television fans really want to celebrate but today marks the 73rd anniversary of commercial television in the United States. The very first FCC-sanctioned commercial broadcasts were aired more than seven decades ago on the only station in the country ready for sponsors: WNBT in New York City (formerly W2XBS).

The Library of Congress has audio recordings from that day, although unfortunately not for the afternoon baseball game that included the very first official television commercial.

Last year, I tried to piece together an accurate schedule of that historic day’s programming. Here’s what I came up with:

WNBT Schedule for Tuesday, July 1st, 1941
  1:30PM – Test Pattern
  2:30PM – Baseball: Dodgers vs. Phillies, at Ebbets Field
  6:45PM – Lowell Thomas
  8:00PM – Test Pattern
  9:00PM – USO Program
  9:30PM – Uncle Jim’s Question Bee
10:00PM – Bottlenecks of 1941
10:30PM – Truth or Consequences

If anyone has information about WNBT’s first day of commercial broadcasting, I’d love to hear it.


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