Number of Television Sets in 1952

There were 16,939,100 television sets in use in the United States in May 1952, roughly half of which were found in just ten markets:

New York – 2,930,000
Los Angeles – 1,155,000
Chicago – 1,125,000
Philadelphia – 1,032,000
Boston – 886,000
Detroit – 650,000
Cleveland – 605,000
Pittsburgh – 408,000
St. Louis – 391,000
Baltimore – 380,000
Total – 9,687,000

These numbers were published in the May 4th, 1952 edition of New York Times and were credited to NBC. The article further noted that three out of five families capable of receiving television signals had a television set. I wonder which market/city had the fewest sets. Or better yet, what was the largest market/city with just one set and, more importantly, could it receive any channels? If so, I bet the owner was incredibly popular.

[Sidebar]. “Case of ‘Last Mile’.” New York Times. 4 May 1952: X11.

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One Reply to “Number of Television Sets in 1952”

  1. In those days, there were people who STILL didn’t have a TV set in their own living room- an amusing episode of radio’s “THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE” [March 26, 1952] had Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (Williard Waterman) trying to resist the “TV craze” that invades his town of Summerfield-
    MARJORIE: Mr. Peevey’s just like everybody else who has a new set!
    LEROY: Yeah, when are WE gonna get one?
    GILDERSLEEVE: Lee-roy…we’ve led orderly lives up to this point. If we buy a television set, we’ll spend every minute in front of it! Eating our meals with cowboys and indians…staying up all night, watching!
    LEROY: Oh, boy! When do we get it??

    Most people who had TV sets often had friends and neighbors drop by to watch with them {this became the basis of the original pilot episode of “HAPPY DAYS” that aired on “LOVE AMERICAN STYLE” in 1972, when the time frame of the story was set in “1953”}. It was an interesting period when TV and radio were both competing for audiences…and radio eventually lost the battle for “prime-time” by 1955, with most of the established evening entertainment shows disappearing from the air [Jack Benny and Bob Hope both signed off on their radio shows that year to concentrate on TV].

    The bigger TV “markets” had the most channels (if you lived in New York, you had access to seven VHF outlets)- in the smalller areas, it was often two or three. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there was only ONE channel in operation from 1949 through 1955- WDTV, a DuMont station. Because they owned it, most advertisers and other networks had to “play ball” with them in order for their shows to be seen in the Pittsburgh area [this is why “THE ADMIRAL BROADWAY REVUE” (1949), “PICK THE WINNER” (1952) and the 1953-’54 season of “MAN AGAINST CRIME” were simulcast on DuMont]. After DuMont was forced to sell WDTV for a quick input of cash in early 1955, the network virtually collapsed.

    Those areas with only one or two stations usually carried at least TWO networks’ offerings at the same time [ABC, the “weakest” of the four major networks in the early ’50s, got a lot of “secondary” affiliations after they introduced “DISNEYLAND” in the 1954-’55 season]…sometimes all four!

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