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The National Broadcasting Company or NBC is an American radio and television broadcasting company based in New York City's Rockefeller Center. It is now part of the media conglomerate NBC Universal, and supplies programming to more than 200 affiliated U.S. stations. It was the last of the original "Big Three" U.S. networks to legally abandon the name behind its acronym, when its main corporate entity (known as National Broadcasting Company, Inc. from 1926 to 2003) became NBC Universal, Inc. by merging with the parent of Universal Studios.

The network was acquired by the General Electric Company in 1986 with the purchase of NBC's original parent, RCA (originally Radio Corporation of America). Since this acquisition, the President and CEO of NBC has been Bob Wright.


NBC was founded November 15, 1926 as a radio network by RCA, GE, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation. The network started with 24 stations.

The National Broadcasting Company was created when RCA purchased radio stations WEAF-New York, WCAP-Washington, D.C., and the radio programming network from American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) in 1926 and merged those assets with its own WJZ New York, WRC Washington and radio programming network. The WEAF stations and network would become known as the NBC Red network; the WJZ stations and network would be dubbed the NBC Blue network, which later became the American Broadcasting Company.

The WEAF network was created by AT&T to serve as a research and development for technologies involved with transmitting audio over wire and radio. AT&T's Western Electric division manufactured radio transmitters and antennas and needed a real-world environment to test their design and ability to transmit audio. AT&T's long distance and local Bell operating divisions were developing technologies for transmitting voice- and music-grade audio over short and long distances, via both wireless and wired methods. These effort came together to create radio station WEAF in New York City.

At the same time, RCA was beginning to realize that sharing programming on stations in different cities also made sense. RCA licensed WRC in Washington, D.C. in 1923 and attempted to transmit audio between cities via low-quality telegraph lines, since AT&T refused outside companies access to their high-quality phone lines. The effort was poor at best, with the uninsulated telegraph lines incapable of good audio transmission quality and very susceptible to both atmospheric and man-made electrical interference.

In 1925 the management of AT&T decided that WEAF and its network were not compatible with AT&T's goal of providing phone service and began looking to sell the station and its network. AT&T found a ready buyer in RCA, whose primary business was radio broadcasting and manufacturing, a deal was struck where RCA would buy WEAF and gain the rights to rent AT&T's phone lines to transmit radio programs between cities.

In 1926, RCA bought WEAF, closed WCAP, created the wholly owned division called the National Broadcasting Company and operated the New York stations and the two network efforts side by side for about a year. In 1927 NBC formally created two radio networks, the NBC Red Network with WEAF as its originating station distributing mostly entertainment and music programming; and the NBC Blue Network with WJZ as its originating station and concentrating on news and cultural programming.

From its creation in 1934, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had been studying the monopolistic effects of chain broadcasting (now called "networking") on the radio industry, and found that the NBC Red and Blue networks and their owned-and-operated radio stations owned by NBC controlled the majority of radio audiences, radio affiliates and advertising dollars in the American radio industry. In 1939 the FCC ordered RCA to divest itself of one of the two NBC networks and accompanying owned-and-operated stations. RCA fought the divestiture order, but divided NBC into two companies in 1940 in case the appeals were lost. The NBC Blue network became the "NBC Blue Network, Inc." and the NBC Red Network becoming the "NBC Red Network, Inc."

With the loss of the final appeal before the United States Supreme Court, RCA sold the NBC Blue Network, Inc. to Lifesavers magnate Edward J. Noble in 1943. He renamed the company "The Blue Network, Inc." but quickly realized that the name was not appropriate for a major radio network. After acquiring the rights to the name "the American Broadcasting Company" from broadcaster George Storer in 1946, the Blue Network, Inc. became the American Broadcasting Company. The NBC Red Network was renamed the NBC Radio Network after the Blue network was sold.

Since GE's acquisition of RCA, NBC has been owned by General Electric. The NBC Radio Network was sold by General Electric in 1988 to Westwood One. While the chimes and an hourly newscast still appear on radio at certain times on weekdays, the NBC Radio Network as a programming service ceased to exist in 1989 and simply became a marketing brand name for programming produced by Westwood One.


For many years NBC was closely identified with founder David Sarnoff, who viewed it as a means for selling entertainment and consumer electronics.

The network transitioned from black-and-white programming to color before any other network in the United States. Periodic color transmissions began in the 1950s and the first show to air all episodes in color, Bonanza, began in the fall of 1959. By 1963, most of the schedule was in color, a feat that would not be accomplished until 1965 for CBS and 1966 for ABC.

It was estimated in 2003 that NBC is viewable by 97.17% of all households, reaching 103,624,370 houses in the United States. NBC has 207 VHF and UHF owned-and-operated or affiliate stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions. It is also seen throughout Latin America and the Caribbean via cable and satellite mainly using the WNBCfeed.

Evolution of the NBC logo

In 1943, four years after inaugurating television service, NBC got its first official logo, a microphone surrounded by lightning bolts, a modification of an existing logo used by the NBC radio network. Lightning bolts were also part of corporate parent RCA's logo. At the beginning of telecasts, another card was used, depicting an NBC cameraman with his camera. In 1954, on New Year's Day, to coincide with the start of broadcasting in color, a stylized xylophone and mallet was introduced, accompanied by the three-tone "bing-bong-bing" NBC chimes, first heard on NBC radio in 1927. The tones are the notes "G," "E," and "C." There is some indication that the xylophone logo was used at 5:32 PM on December 17, 1953 to announce the FCC's approval of the new color standard, which would go into effect 30 days later. Special permission was apparently used on New Year's Day when the Tournament of Roses Parade was aired.

NBC Peacock logos

Contrary to popular belief, the Peacock was not originally used as NBC's own logo; the 1956 and 1962 versions were used solely to identify the network's color broadcasts, while other logos (initially the xylophone logo, but most commonly the "NBC Snake") identified NBC itself. Nonetheless, the Peacock became so famously identified with NBC that it was incorporated into the network logo in 1979, and became its sole logo in 1986.

1956 Peacock logo

In 1956 an abstraction of an eleven-feathered peacock to indicate richness in color was created by John J. Graham, and adopted, due to the increase in color programming. NBC's first color broadcasts showed only a still frame of the colorful peacock. On September 7, 1957 on Your Hit Parade the peacock was animated, and thereafter appeared at the beginning of every NBC color broadcast until a revamped animation appeared in the 1960s.

1962 Peacock logo ("Laramie Peacock")

On April 16, 1962, on the Laramie series, a second version of the Peacock opening was introduced in which the bird fanned its bright plumage against a kaleidoscopic color background. Like the 1956 Peacock, this logo only appeared at the start of NBC color broadcasts; as all NBC broadcasts eventually became color, it was generally used only to open those shows that had traditionally opened with the Peacock. The "Laramie Peacock" (named for the series which introduced it) was retired on December 31, 1975.

1979 Peacock logo

The Peacock, still with eleven feathers, returned in the fall of 1979, was married with the N, to create a design called "the Proud N". This was the first time the Peacock was actually part of NBC's own logo. It was simplified in keeping with the letter's pared-down design. Although all eleven feathers were intact, the teardrop tips were gone, the feet were gone and the Peacock's body became a simple triangular shape. On several occasions, the new Peacock was used independently of the N (starting with the 1979 ill-fated "Proud as a Peacock" advertising campaign that reintroduced the Peacock). However, the N and the Peacock were usually used together between 1979 and 1986.

1986 Peacock logo

On May 8, 1986, NBC broadcast its 60th Anniversary Special. At the very end, every NBC star (past and present) stood on stage to introduce a new logo to America. The arranged marriage of "N" and Peacock ended, and "The Bird" finally assumed its official place as NBC's symbol. The peacock was now flipped to the right to suggest it was forward looking, not back. With its six feathers then representing the network's divisions (at the time: News, Sports, Entertainment, Stations, Network and Productions) as well as the six primary colors, this Peacock, designed by Chermayeff & Geismar, remains one of the world's most recognized logos.

Other NBC logos

Beginning in 1959, an animated logo joined the Peacock, appearing at the end of broadcasts. Beginning with N, each letter would grow from the other, forming a stacked typographic logo ending with C, forming the base. This would be known as the "NBC Snake." A recent announcement that this logo would be used again suggests an "NBC Snake" redesign may be used when the network fully enters the HDTV era.

On New Year's Day, 1976, the time had come to update NBC's visual identity, and a stylized N was introduced, consisting of two trapezoids. The design was bold, bright and contemporary. In February 1976, NBC was sued by the Nebraska ETV network for trademark infringement since the new NBC logo was virtually identical to the ETV logo. An out-of-court settlement was reached in which NBC gave ETV new equipment and a mobile color unit (valued at over $800,000) in exchange for allowing NBC to retain their logo. In addition, NBC paid $55,000 to ETV to cover the cost of designing and implementing a new logo. One of the technological innovations of this logo was the first electronically animated ident for an American television network.

In the aftermath of the September 11th Attacks, NBC turned the peacock to resemble an American flag.

NBC Slogans

Just a year before mocked  "Proud as a Peacock" jingle began airing on NBC, the network tried "NB-See Us!" as a slogan. When pride finally forced them to give up on 'proud', the switched to "Our Pride is Showing." For the fall '82 season, it was "Just Watch Us Now!," which viewers were increasingly doing. The slogan switched the next fall to simply "Be There!", which became "Let's All Be There" for the following two seasons. "Come Home to NBC" was the theme for 1986-87 followed by "Come Home to the Best" the following year. The decade ended with NBC claiming "NBC: The Place to Be."

NBC News

While CBS has received more attention from historians discussing broadcast journalism history, NBC's news operation was no slouch. From 1956 through 1970, the television broadcast team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley consistently exceeded the viewership levels attained by CBS News and its main anchor Walter Cronkite. The pair, together with fellow correspondent Frank McGee, distinguished itself in the coverage of American manned space missions in the Project Mercury, Project Gemini and Project Apollo programs, during an era when space missions rated continuous coverage. (An entire studio, Studio 8H, was configured for this coverage, complete with models and mockups of rockets and spacecraft, maps of the earth and moon to show orbital trackage, and stages on which animated figures created by puppeteer Bil Baird were used to depict movements of astronauts before on-board spacecraft television cameras were feasible. Studio 8H is now the home of the NBC entertainment program Saturday Night Live.) The dominance ended when Huntley retired, to die a year later from cancer. The loss of Huntley, along with a reluctance of RCA to fund NBC News at the level CBS was funding CBS News, left NBC News in the doldrums. NBC News did not recover viewership levels until after GE acquired RCA.

NBC News got the first interview from two Russian presidents (Putin, Gorbachev) and was the only American eye-witness of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

In the second Iraq war, NBC News and main anchor Tom Brokaw covered the war like no other television company, in part owing to the willingness of GE to fund it. NBC News correspondent David Bloom pushed through the GE and U.S. Department of Defense bureaucracies permission to construct a mobile news vehicle that could transmit live video broadcasts from the battlefield. The "Bloommobile" brought satellite images and videos (clear, detailed) into homes of America and Europe, live and one-on-one. Bloom did not live to accept the accolades after the armed conflict; he died of natural causes unrelated to combat during the final phase of the fighting.

NBC News also benefits from the GE corporate structure by having the ability to take reports from its cable counterpart MSNBC - which started out as a joint venture with Microsoft.



NBC Logos over the years, courtesy of NBC

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It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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