ABC Television Network Launched 75 Years Ago Today

It has been 75 years since the start of the ABC (American Broadcasting Company) Television Network on April 19, 1948. It first began airing on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia with the debut show On The Corner with host Henry Morgan. Prior to the television network, ABC had been on the radio since 1943, as the successor to the NBC Blue Network. Soon, ABC expanded into other cities like Baltimore, Washington D.C., and of course, New York City, Chicago, and Detroit.

ABC radio

American radio personality Ted Malone eats breakfast with American actor and politician Ronald Reagan and his family, American actor Jane Wyman and the couple’s daughter, five-year-old Maureen Reagan (1941 – 2001), 1946. Malone radio program, for the American Broadcast Company (ABC), typically was broadcast from the table and involved informal conversations with film stars and other personalities. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

While today, ABC is one of the top networks, it just wasn’t successful at first. Things turned around when the company merged with United Paramount Theatres. Even so, they could not yet compete with CBS and NBC which had the expenses for some major live programming. One of the first shows to be successful on ABC was the Disneyland anthology series that premiered in 1954.

The partnership with Walt Disney was definitely a foreshadowing moment as Disney purchased ABC in 1995 and currently owns the network. It helped the network not only attract more advertisers but get more local affiliates as well. ABC also worked with Warner Brothers, which gave ABC some popular programs such as Maverick.


BATMAN, Adam West, TV GUIDE cover, March 26 - April 1, 1966

Sheedy-Long/TV Guide/Everett Collection

In the ’60s, ABC aired The Flintstones and Batman which paid off and garnered huge profits for the company. They also got into telecasting sports, including the series Wide World of Sports. Things really ramped up in the ’70s with shows such as Happy Days, Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, and Roots. They were also the first network to hire a woman to anchor the nightly news (Barbara Walters) and things only went up from there.


Barbara Walters (Henry Wolf/TV Guide/Everett Collection)

In more recent years, ABC has found incredible success with shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Dancing with the Stars. In addition to news, sitcoms, and reality television, they also air soap operas such as General Hospital (which just celebrated its 60th anniversary!). Since ABC is owned by Disney, they tend to air a lot of Disney specials including parades and live versions of your favorite Disney stories.

LOST, Jeff Fahey, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia, Emilie De Ravin, Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly, 'The Last Recruit', (Season 6, episode 12, aired April 20, 2010), 2004-2010

Mario Perez/ABC/Everett Collection

What is your favorite show on ABC (past and/or present)?

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