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William S. Paley

  • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
  • Birthday: September 28
Date of passing: 
October 26, 1990

William S. Paley was the chief executive who built the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States.

William S. Paley was the chief executive who built the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States.

Paley changed broadcasting's business model not only by developing successful and lucrative broadcast programming but also by viewing the advertisers as the most significant element of the broadcasting equation. Paley provided network programming to affiliate stations at a nominal cost, thereby ensuring the widest possible distribution for both the programming and the advertising. The advertisers then became the network's primary clients and, because of the wider distribution brought by the growing network, Paley was able to charge more for the ad time. Affiliates were required to carry programming offered by the network for part of the broadcast day, receiving a portion of the network's fees from advertising revenue. At other times in the broadcast day, affiliates were free to offer local programming and sell advertising time locally.

Paley's recognition of how to harness the potential reach of broadcasting was the key to his growing CBS from a tiny chain of stations into what was eventually one of the world's dominant communication empires. During his prime, Paley was described as having an uncanny sense for popular taste and exploiting that insight to build the CBS network.

William S. Paley was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984.

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William S. Paley

Photo credit: 
AP

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