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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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."
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
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.