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First Legal Television Commercial - Tech Day Camp
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First Legal Television Commercial

July 1, 2011 | posted in: Tech Chronicles | by

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 1, 1941

GE Octagon Television Set - An early mechanical TV

Blame/thank the Government. On July 1, 1941, the first legal commercial ran on television with the permission of the FCC.  Although commercials ran previously since 1928, that was all considered experimental television.  Earlier in May 1941 the FCC granted 10 commercial broadcast licenses and ended the experimental television age.  With legal commercials television was now able to distribute free content to viewers and fund their operations with paid commercials.

NBC’s New York City station, WNBT-TV (now WNBC-TV), had one of the first licenses, and it ran a commercial for Bulova on its first day of commercial operation, July 1, 1941.

At the start of a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, an image of a Bulova clock appeared with a map of the United States. The announcer said “America runs on Bulova time.  The ad lasted 10 seconds, and Bulova paid $9 (about what a banner ad costs per 1000 views on the web today). The estimated audience for that ad was 4000.

The image to the right is a GE Octagon TV set.  It was a mechanical television with a 3 inch, or so, diagonal screen, about the same size as a smartphone.

Image from http://www.earlytelevision.org/ge_octagon.html

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