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Under Paley, CBS shaped an industry

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

William Paley virtually invented mass entertainment after founding CBS, the dominant network through much of television’s history. A few of his approaches:
  • Follow the larger purpose. When he bought a failing radio station in 1928, Paley restructured it and changed the nature of broadcasting. Instead of focusing on the technical side of radio, he exploited its potential to reach mass audiences through content and advertising.
  • Simplify processes. Paley revamped the muddled contract system between his network and its affiliates, centralizing the power of programming at the network. Even though the stations exercised less control, they liked Paley’s system because it made their operations easier. Within a year, he tripled the number of CBS affiliates and began network dominance of local stations.
  • Insist on excellence. In the years before World War II, the young entrepreneur decided that CBS news had to be objective, balanced, fair and separate from commentary, setting the tone for serious journalism on radio. He hired highly respected print journalists, and when Germany invaded Austria, began airing live reports from Europe ... after being told it was impossible.
  • Woo the talent. Paley’s skill as a salesman extended from selling advertising to luring top stars. Besides persuading the likes of Bing Crosby and Will Rogers to perform on radio, he also lured Jack Benny away from NBC.
  • Co-opt another industry. At the dawn of television, the networks hired movie studios to make TVshows. Then, they supplemented television programming with original movies. Finally, they starting making movies for TV, forcing moviemakers such as David O. Selznick to think interms of television.

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