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Breaking Walls

350 EpisodesProduced by James ScullyWebsite

Breaking Walls: The Podcast on the History of American Network Radio Broadcasting.


How Jack Webb Launched Dragnet in 1949

This is a snippet from Breaking Walls Episode 94: Radio And The Drugstore/Malt Shop (1940 - 1955)


Network radio opened the 1948-49 season fresh off its 14th consecutive year of record earnings, but television’s market surge had begun.

By December of 1948 more than ten-thousand homes were turning on TVs each month. Soon over a million US homes had sets. It’s no coincidence that collectively, the top 50 rated radio shows lost an average of a million listeners.

In early 1949, NBC found itself in the unfamiliar position as the nation's number two network. CBS had overtaken their rivals thanks to a willingness to push new programs. They also allowed stars like Amos n Andy and Jack Benny incorporate as businesses and sell their shows to the network. This saved the stars millions in taxes under Capital Gains laws.

NBC had spent years letting their dramatic programming atrophy. They responded by hiring Young and Rubicam’s head of radio Sylvester “Pat” Weaver to be NBC president. He immediately gave opportunities to rising stars.

In January of 1949 Jack Webb intimated to Radio Life that his days playing guys like Novak were almost over. His next character would be called, “Joe Friday.”

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