Radio Networks and Major Affiliates 1948:
National Broadcasting Company: WNBC (NY); WMAQ (CHI); KFI (LA)
Columbia Broadcasting System: WCBS (NY); WBBM (CHI); KNX (LA)
American Broadcasting Company: WABC (NY); WENR (CHI); KMPC (LA)
Mutual Broadcasting System: WOR (NY); WGN (CHI); KHJ (LA)
Radio’s Highest Rated Programs of 1948-49:*
Total Programs Rated, 6-11 PM: 164
Programs Rated 13 Weeks Ranked: 148
Radio Homes: 37,623,000
Coverage of US: 94.2%
One Rating Point: 376,230 Homes
- Lux Radio Theater ——————— 25.5 Lever Bros — Mon 9:00 — CBS
- Fibber McGee & Molly ————— 23.5 Johnson Wax — Tue 9:30 — NBC
- Jack Benny Program ————— 22.9 American Tobacco — Sun 7:00 — NBC/CBS
- Walter Winchell’s Journal ——— 21.7 Kaiser-Frazer Autos — Sun 9:00/30 — ABC
- Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts 20.1 Lever Bros Mon — 8:30 — CBS
- Bergen/McCarthy ——————— 20.1 Standard — Sun 8:00 — NBC
- Bob Hope Show ———————– 19.8 Lever Bros — Tue 9:00 — NBC
- My Friend Irma———————— 19.5 Lever Bros — Mon 10:00 — CBS
- Amos & Andy————————— 16.9 Lever Bros — Sun 7:30 — CBS
- People Are Funny——————— 17.1 Brown & Williamson — Tue 10:30 — NBC
In the fall of 1948, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet moved to Sunday evenings at 6:30PM on NBC radio. Although critically acclaimed, the couple had failed to crack the overall top-50 ratings on CBS in any of its first four seasons.
The band-leading Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard met in New York and were married in 1935. They began working comedic bits into their musical performances, eventually making their way to radio in 1941 when they joined The Red Skelton Show on NBC.
After Skelton was drafted in 1944, CBS nabbed the couple, giving them their own sitcom.
Ozzie led all aspects of production and was the show’s pivotal character, with his tangents the vehicles for confusion. Each week Harriet would gently guide him back to reason. Episodes usually ended with Ozzie suffering embarrassment while his sons got in a few comic jabs.
Both Ozzie and Harriet felt their children David and Ricky were too young to play themselves. And there were financial implications in big-time network radio. During the first four seasons child actors Tommy Bernard and Henry Blair played the Nelson children.
When the show moved to NBC in 1948 it was positioned as the lead-in for The Jack Benny Program. That Halloween Ozzie and Harriet visited a Haunted House.
At the top of the hour on October 31st, 1948, The Jack Benny Program went on the air on NBC.
One summer day in 1948, Willam S. Paley received a proposal from Lew Wasserman and Taft Shreiber—President and VP of The Music Corporation of America. They asked if CBS would be interested in buying The Amos N’ Andy Show, then airing on NBC.
At the time, U.S. Citizens were taxed 77% of all income over $70,000. However, if the duo behind Amos N’ Andy, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden incorporated and sold their show to the network, they would be taxed under capital gains laws at 25%.
NBC wouldn’t allow the deal. But William Paley jumped at the chance. Amos n’ Andy moved over on October 10th. Shortly after, Lew Wasserman phoned again. He asked if CBS would be interested in purchasing The Jack Benny Program.
Benny had previously organized his activities into a corporation. Paley and Wasserman negotiated an agreement for CBS to buy it for $2.26 Million.
NBC sent president Niles Trammel to California with orders to keep Benny at NBC. When William Paley heard that Trammel was on his way to California, he called Benny directly to arrange an in-person meeting. Benny invited him to Los Angeles.
Paley and CBS counsel Ralph Colin set up shop at the Beverly Hills Hotel. RCA head David Sarnoff was there as well, to help ensure Niles Trammel would secure the deal.
NBC responded with a major counteroffer. Lew Wasserman intervened. CBS matched the counteroffer, and an impressed Jack Benny signed it. Sponsor American Tobacco was uneasy. Paley convinced them to back the move by offering compensation for every rating point Benny’s show lost.
As all of this was happening, The Jack Benny Program broadcast live on the evening of Sunday, October 31st, 1948.
In the aftermath of Jack Benny’s move to CBS, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet lost half their audience. Ozzie and director Glenhall Taylor were searching for an answer.
On February 20th, 1949, they broadcast an episode called “Invitation to Dinner.” It marked a pivotal turning point: For the first time, David and Ricky Nelson played themselves.David was Eleven. Ricky, eight. The younger son’s charisma was undeniable from the beginning.
Program sponsor International Silver moved the show back to CBS in April, but the audience didn’t respond. In the Summer of 1949 ABC came calling with a multi-year contract and the promise of television in the future. Under the sponsorship of Heinz Foods, The Nelson Family moved to ABC’s newly potent Friday night schedule on October 14th, 1949.
In 1952, they starred in Here Come the Nelsons. The film was a hit, and Ozzie was convinced they could all make the transition from radio’s airwaves to television’s small screen.
On October 3rd, 1952, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet made its TV debut. Jack Wagner was an oft-used actor on the program, appearing as the malt shop man.
Meanwhile on radio, the show climbed the overall rankings as network audiences were shifting to TV. It eventually went off the air in June of 1954.
The TV show was broadcast in first run until September 3rd, 1966, becoming one of the longest-running sitcoms in television history.
*A. C Nielsen Radio Index Serv, Sep 1948 – Dec 1948 & C.E. Hooper Semi-Monthly Reports, Jan 1949 – Jun 1949