DuMont will make TV work: A TL

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by AnonymousSauce, Mar 3, 2018.

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  1. Threadmarks: Introduction

    AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Allen DuMont worried. He would have paced, in fact, but he had fallen far to ill with the worst flu that he could remember in quite some time to be able to do that. So instead he laid in bed unable to sleep as his emotions raged inside him. “Why now, of all times, for this to happen, when I had perhaps the most important meeting of my entire life scheduled?” he thought to himself impotently. You see, DuMont had been scheduled to meet the President, the World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, to discuss a matter of grave import to the survival and future of what had become his life’s work, the DuMont Television Network. The Federal Communications Commission had recently submitted the Sixth Report and Order, a ruling that would pave the way for the end of the “freeze” on issuance of new television station licenses that had been in place since 1948 so that the FCC could sort out the technical issues surrounding the new medium. In the intervening four years, the commission studied and deliberated on these issues, but none was more important than determining how best to allocate the scarce spectrum assigned to TV to individual cities to be issued as TV stations. The FCC had finally come up with a plan, but that plan would only allocate 3 or less commercial TV licenses on the established and more desirable VHF band to the vast majority of the nation's media markets. To enable the further growth of the medium, the new UHF band would then be allocated alongside the existing VHF channels. That would be a big problem, though, especially to DuMont's network and the other upstart in the industry, ABC. UHF in that day was much less powerful, not able to reach nearly as far as VHF across the area of a market, and it required an expensive tuner to be seen as TVs were not equipped with UHF tuners in that day. So DuMont and ABC had lobbied the FCC to segregate existing VHF markets from new markets that would only receive UHF signals. Unsuccessfully, which prompted the request for a meeting with Ike, the one DuMont was currently missing. In his stead, he would send his head engineer, close friend and trusted confidant Thomas T. Goldstein, to meet with the no-nonsense former general.[1] As it turned out, DuMont needn't have worried, because Goldstein in his stead was able to deliver a succinct, short presentation on the dangers of the FCC’s order to television competition, and the President gave him his word that he would be sure to use his influence to bring the FCC to a more equitable understanding.






    [1]IOTL DuMont himself met with Ike in the Oval Office and gave ten minutes of an awkward, too-technical presentation before the President assured him he had “experts” handling the situation and ushering him out.
     
  2. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Okay, judging by the likes there are a few people interested in this topic, so I'll go ahead and give y'all a high-level overview of where I'm going with this ATM. My next update or two will be OTL back story leading up to the events of the POD. I hope to have those wrapped up and posted by the end of this week. Next after that, I'm going to explore the ramifications of the POD and it's effect on DuMont's immediate future. (Hint: It's not going to be the full deintermixture proposal that DuMont and ABC requested. I'm not sure that's possible given how corrupt the FCC was at the time and the limits on Presidental power. Even if it were, it would open up a can of butterflies I'm not really knowledgeable enough to deal with. It will be enough to ensure DuMont's immediate survival and greater ability to expand than OTL.) After that, we'll look at the second POD/butterfly from original POD that will set DuMont up for stability in the medium-term. That should take us through the Fifties, then we enter the Sixties where the fun with pop-culture butterflies begins.

    I have a general sense of where I see this going through about the mid-to-late Eighties, then after that the butterflies start stacking up and bumping up against my knowledge of the inside story of pop culture. So as we progress towards that point, I'll be leaning on the audience a little to help me see where things go in terms of the shows that end up seeing the light of day on the networks and such.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Prologue: Part 1

    AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Prologue: Part 1


    Allen B. DuMont was born on January 29, 1901, in Brooklyn, New York. When he was 12 years old, he contracted a bout of polio that left him bedridden for a year. During that time, his obsession with engineering would begin with the project of disassembling and reassembling a two-way crystal radio. After he recovered from polio, he continued to work on radio equipment, culminating in his earning of his wireless license from the government at the age of 15.


    He then spent the next eight summers working as a radio operator on merchant ships. Also during that time, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York and began working at Westinghouse Electric making radio tubes. He was recognised as an outstanding employee that helped the company ramp up radio tube production to help meet demand from the growing radio industry. He then left Westinghouse for a position with the DeForest Radio Company. Once again recognised for his efforts, he was promoted to a vice-president position in the engineering department of the company. However, the Great Depression hit shortly thereafter and his new employer nearly collapsed, leading to his being lain off in 1931. This was the turning point that led him to start his own company, DuMont Laboratories, and begin work on the equipment that would be used by the new medium of television.


    DuMont was highly successful with his new enterprise, however his introverted personality and basic faith in the good of humanity, bordering on naivete, would not serve him well when he decided to branch out into television programming towards the end of the 1930s. Needing to raise cash to expand into broadcasting operations during the height of the Depression, he sold 40 percent of the company he founded to Paramount Pictures for $400,000. This deal would vex DuMont for years to come as Paramount had its own motives for wanting to enter the television industry, namely that it saw TV as a competitor to its own core movie-making business whose growth needed to be stunted. The deal, however, did allow DuMont to begin the steps necessary to begin broadcasting operations and even have a little head start over the radio networks that themselves were looking to dominate the nascent medium.


    ***


    Well, that’s it, quite a while after I first intended to post it here is the first update of OTL backstory leading up to the point in OTL where DuMont was on the verge of collapse. Next time I update I will cover the history of DuMont Television Network from its origins in the late 1930s to the point of the POD in 1952. Then the real fun can begin as we explore the ramifications of the original POD and how DuMont ends up surviving the rocky 1950s and begins to differentiate itself from the radio-network founded TV networks.
     
  4. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    There’s been a few what ifs on this, but offhand I think only one timeline? It’s a fertile ground for messing around with television history and I’m quite excited to see where you take this.

    Generally useless knowledge of film studios from the late 1970s onwards is my game! Television show development I’m more hit or miss on depending if they belong to a studio, but corporate politics for NBC (and some ABC/CBS) I’ve got a handle on. So feel free to drop me a PM.
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Prologue: Part 2

    AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Prologue: Part 2

    DuMont’s first ventures into television broadcasting would begin in 1938, shortly after entering the television manufacturing business. The company would open up experimental television station W2XVT in the company's hometown of Passaic, NJ and shortly thereafter move it to Manhattan as W2XWV on channel 4. Forays into television broadcasting would be hampered by the outbreak of World War II, leading many that had commenced operations to cease for the duration of the war and those that did stay on top only broadcast for a few hours a day, mainly test signals and updates from the front. DuMont was one of the latter, which helped to give it a head start once full-scale broadcasting spun up after the war, one it would surely need to compensate for all of the disadvantages the company would face relative to the
    better-capitalized and more programming rich radio networks that also pioneered TV
    broadcasting. By the end of the war in 1945, DuMont and NBC were the only networks operating as true networks. ABC was still a fledgling radio network, having only commenced operations in 1943, and CBS waited until 1948 to jump in the TV ring, hoping for FCC approval of its proprietary color standard that never came. The other major radio network of the time, Mutual, hemmed and hawed about starting a network but ultimately decided not to. The only other company that would flirt with network operations would be DuMont’s ostensible partner, Paramount, who would base theirs around stations they owned in Los Angeles and Chicago.
    In these early days of television broadcasting, when networks were still experimenting with what was good to broadcast on the new medium, DuMont faced a disadvantage in that the radio networks had an existing pool of talent they could pull from in their radio shows. DuMont had to be creative to overcome this and find content, relying on Allen DuMont’s connections on Broadway and innovating in the realms of variety shows, religious programming, television movies and shows aimed at minority audiences. Perhaps the greatest single piece of programming that is remembered from that early era is the children's science-fiction/superhero drama Captain Video, which was filmed at DuMont’s headquarters studio on a shoestring budget with improvised props and what would probably be today considered cheesy plotlines. In spite of this, the show would go on to be an unqualified success amongst children and adults alike, influencing other shows of the era such as the British show Doctor Who, and contributing greatly to the tropes of the genre.
    By 1950, the network was proving to be moderately successful with the start it was given, but storm clouds were on the horizon. The FCC had imposed a cap of stations that the individual networks could own and operate themselves, of five, and when DuMont tried to acquire the full allotment of stations it could own, the FCC refused to allow it to because of Paramount’s owned stations in LA and Chicago, the same ones that it would go on to use to start its own network with in 1949. Nor would the FCC force Paramount to divest itself of its share of DuMont Laboratories. As a result, the network was left with only three owned and operated stations, in New York, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. The network also had a harder time getting
    independent stations to affiliate with it than its competitors because the new station were being licensed to existing radio operators that affiliated them with their radio affiliations. Then, a final blow came courtesy of the FCC freezing the handing out of station licenses in 1948 to sort out spectrum allocation issues. DuMont had two saving graces in this time period, that with it being around longer than ABC and CBS meant it had had a leg up on those two in collecting affiliates in the time before they got into full gear, and that it was the sole owner of a television license in Pittsburgh before the freeze, which with that market still being a top-10 sized media market at the time, allowed DuMont to trade prime time slots on that station to the other networks in exchange for them clearing DuMont’s prime time programming on some of their affiliates in markets where DuMont
    lacked an affiliate. In 1952, however, the FCC issued a decision that would have grave effects for DuMont going forward, and lead directly to the fateful meeting between DuMont executives and President Eisenhower. It decided that the best way to allocate the scarce spectrum assigned to TV going forward was to limit the number of VHF stations assigned to markets and open up the yet-untested UHF band for expansion of TV. The UHF band would prove to be plagued with problems that made it unusable as a means of expanding network operations, not the least of which was that TV manufacturers weren't even required to include UHF tuners in their sets at the time. The decision would allocate, outside of the very largest markets that received sufficient VHF allocations, a standard that would grant half of markets four VHF licenses, with one being reserved for noncommercial educational purposes, and the other half three, with the same condition. A handful of markets, mostly either outside of the top 100 sized markets or far away geographically from other markets, would be UHF-only “islands.” This standard would allow for the expansion of the two biggest networks, NBC and CBS, and hamstrung expansion of one of ABC or DuMont, but not both. Conscious of the fact that the survival of the network was at stake, DuMont would be forced to request the meeting with the nation's leader in hopes of rectifying the situation...
     
  6. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    So I'm back, had a little personal stuff going on earlier this year that kept me from writing but I'm ready to go now with some fresh ideas that'll hopefully keep this TL on track. I plan on having chapter 1 up this weekend, and hopefully updating every week or two from there.
     
  7. Nivek Resident Videogame Expert

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    Umm So the meeting is s sucess and after that? Dumont Will need show , i they can pick a Lot of some to be cancelled and giving a second air

    Other front.. SPORT, those are growing and getting exclusive sports broadcast would help
     
  8. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Another issue is that TV required AT&T bandwidth to transmit network signals across the country and that network was much smaller in the fifties than it would be in the late sixties and seventies. The resources of getting even a third TV network to more isolated areas was a challenge. Once NBC and CBS got their feet in the door, ABC and Dumont were forced to compete for what was left. In the Eastern and Central time zones only seven markets had as many as four commercial VHF channels: New York, DC, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Dallas. St. Louis received channel 2 only after WBBM in Chicago petitioned the FCC to shut it down in Springfield, IL for creating interference in fringe areas.
     
  9. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Oh yes, sports are going to factor into this TL a lot going forward, and will be a part of what DuMont does too fill programming hours.

    The VHF access issue is dealt with by the original POD, I'll explain exactly how that works in Chapter 1.

    As for the AT&T coax issue, one of the major factors that hamstrung DuMont in their dealings with AT&T is that they weren't affiliated with a radio network, but had to pay rates as if they were. That issue will also be dealt with in a future update.
     
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  10. marathag Well-Known Member

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    1960 map of AT&T Microwave towers
    [​IMG]

    With lowband VHF and 30,000Watts ERP, 150+ miles coverage wasn't hard to achieve with 1950s tech.
     
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  11. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Let’s say the FCC requires UHF tuners on all TV sets starting in 1953, not 1963. Television explodes into the American market between 1953 and 1955. The AT&T map shown above was from 1960 and even then some of the corridors were still under construction. Another issue is the labor it took to operate a TV station in the fifties. Many transmission adjustments were very manual in nature and required a team of licensed technicians.

    To fill gaps in network programming, stations subscribed to films of movies and other programs. In the after-school time slots, many put on local shows that featured children with a cowboy, astronaut or clown; Bozo being a famously franchised character. Video taping would revolutionize the industry in 1956, because it allowed local stations to capture network feeds from multiple sources and time delay the broadcasts to fill the programming day.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
  12. marathag Well-Known Member

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    To get the same coverage as 30,000 Watts ERP with low band VHF(up to channel 7), High band UHF, Channel 70-83(that went away in 1983) would take over a Million Watts ERP.

    ERP is effective radiated power, so the having a tall antenna(so you don't cook people on the ground) means longer transmission line that is more loss before you get to the Antenna Element
    [​IMG]
    That's the hollow copper line. Comes in 20' sections, bolted together. About 200 pounds a section, so towers had to be built strong to hold the weight and resist the wind load, or you got this
    [​IMG]
    not so good to be underneath that when 1600' of tower comes tumbling down. Transmitters in Remote sites, the guys lived out there. In areas where that meant Winter, Ice buildup could exceeded the safety margin in the tower. again , not so good for the guys underneath. Given the nature of Klystron Tube Transmitters, Stations had to have at least Engineer on site during hours of operations, so some of the 'Transmitter Shacks' were actually pretty nice, but most were....shacks, converted Quonset and such, ones in Northern areas had reinforced Roofs so falling ice wouldn't fall thru the roof and damage/destroy the transmitter or injure/kill the engineer

    Overall, you get around 7-10dB gain from the element, so you use big, expensive hard line to keep dB losses to a minimum going from Transmitter to Antenna Losses add up with 2000' of even big 6" or 8 3/8" hard line
     
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  13. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    I would rather not see this thread drop away, so I will add a few comments about the conflicts between stations. While the intent of this tread, I think, is to expand the coverage of TV channels, there was competition for advertising revenue in some markets.

    Television in Northern Missouri

    When the FCC froze TV licenses in 1949, television in Missouri was one station in Kansas City and one in St. Louis. Television did not have full market penetration. Then, in 1953, the market would open up. Kansas City would get channels 4, 5, and 9. St. Joseph, 50 miles north, would get channel 2. Columbia would get 8, Jefferson City 13, Sedalia 6, Hannibal 7, Kirksville 3 and Quincy IL (on the Mississippi River) 10. St. Louis would first get 4, 5, 9 and 11, and later 2 (in 1957) when it was shut down in Springfield IL for creating interference with channel 2 in Chicago. Channel 9 in Kansas City were earmarked for noncommercial use under the FCC "two and a half plus one" rule. Channel 2 in St. Joseph would pick up an ABC affiliation. When nobody wanted channel 9 in KC for noncommercial use, the FCC opened it for a commercial license and there were takers. It would end up with an ABC affiliation, putting two ABC stations on valuable VHF channels, only 50 miles apart. Could channel 2 have moved into the Kansas City market? Yes, but a fourth VHF station would have to be noncommercial.

    Central Missouri had another conflict. Channel 8 in Columbia was NBC. Channel 13 in Jefferson City was CBS. Channel 6 in Sedalia would build a transmitter to the east and make a three channel market. The trouble is, when Channel 6 applied for an ABC affiliation, Channel 9 in Kansas City blocked it, because that would overlap yet another ABC station in part of its coverage area. As a result, central Missouri was denied ABC coverage until Channel 17 signed on in 1971.

    Northeast Missouri also saw a conflict. Channel 7 in Hannibal was CBS. Channel 10 in Quincy was NBC. Both built transmitters in Quincy. Channel 3 in Kirksville (ABC) built its transmitter in Lancaster, MO to the north to cover the industrial town of Ottumwa, Iowa. With its VHF lowband signal, viewers in Quincy put up rooftop antennas to get three networks. So, Channel 3, KTVO, bought farm land near Colony, MO to move its transmitter south and expand its viewer market. Good idea? Problem. Channel 8 in Columbia objected to the FCC because it would move the fringe zone between the markets southward, taking away advertising revenue. Now, look at a map of rural Missouri and imagine how few people they were concerned about. Eventually, KTVO built its tower in Colony in 1988, only to see it collapse 9 months later. They did not rebuild, with digital on the horizon. Colony, MO, a blip on the map, was a good place for analog channel 3, but not for digital TV.

    With these conflicts just in one state, we might imagine the pressures elsewhere in the country.
     
  14. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    You don't have to worry about that, I will be writing an update in the near future and have plans as to where it's going up to the present. It may not come this week as this weekend has suddenly turned ballz-busy for me, but I'll have it up as soon as I can.

    I'm happy you bright this up as an example. KC is a great example of one of the middle markets that will be heavily affected by the compromise solution that Goldstein and Eisenhower are able to come up with. I'm not going to say a whole lot more about that because spoilers, but it is a great leader in to what I have planned.
     
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  15. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    I think Kansas City was literally punished. See, AM radio frequencies were re-allocated in 1946. KC is the home of one of only 12 Federal Reserve Banks in the US. It has major sports, a Super Bowl winner and World Series winner. Yet it received no clear channels and only four AM stations with 5000 watts of nighttime power. On the other hand, Omaha, Des Moines and Waterloo IA all have clear channels. Waterloo? Come on. Those channels could have been bumped to give one to KC.

    TV channels were allocated in 1952. With no major policy change, channel 2 from St. Joseph and 11 from Topeka could have been allocated to Kansas City. Channel 13 in Topeka and 9 in KC would have been reserved for non-commercial use.

    Who was president in 1946 and 1952? Where did Harry Truman live? Was there a grudge?

    What about FCC Chairman Minnow? He was the one who called television "a vast wasteland." Producer Sherwood Schwartz retaliated by naming the sunken tour boat on Gilligan's Island after him.
     
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 1

    AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Chapter 1

    After Thomas T. Goldstein’s meeting with President Eisenhower in the Oval Office, the president was persuaded that the FCC’s current course would allow the existing radio broadcasting giants to dominate television the way they had radio and that something needed to be done to ensure
    that more competition would be able to flourish on the television dial. As a result, he ordered the FCC to review the recently-issued Sixth Report and Order and amend the order to come up with a solution that would allow the four networks who by then had established nationwide service to coexist together.

    This would, of course, prove to be a challenge because there was only so much VHF spectrum that could be allocated, and there was too much pushback from the interests of rural and smaller markets to the idea of full deintermixture that would push all of their television service to
    the UHF dial. If that solution were implemented it would mean that people in those areas would have to buy an expensive add-on tuner to receive any TV service, and since many of the
    affected areas were in mountainous/hilly terrain, that would provide an additional challenge to providing service to those markets as UHF tends to underperform in mountainous areas.

    There was also the interest of the growth of noncommercial/educational television to consider. If the government and FCC could merely content itself with completely stunting the growth of educational TV entirely, then it could simply mandate a “three and a half” solution where all of
    the TV licenses in four VHF license markets would be allocated to commercial TV and be done with it. But not even President Eisenhower thought that simply hamstringing educational TV altogether was a wise decision. So as a means of finding a compromise/”split the baby” halfway measure, the decision was made to decree that markets that had four or less VHF licenses allocated to them would have their mandated noncommercial licenses pushed to the UHF dial, but that individual mid-sized markets would be reviewed on a case by case basis to maximize
    the amount of 5+ VHF license markets by cannibalizing VHF licenses from surrounding smaller markets, like a partial deintermixture arrangement. For example,:

    Kansas City, MO
    Previous arrangement:
    KC market: 4, 5, 9
    St. Joseph, MO: 2
    Topeka, KS: 11, 13
    New arrangement:
    KC: 2, 4, 5, 9, 11
    St. Joseph, MO: all-UHF
    Topeka, KS: 13

    Houston, TX
    Previous arrangement:
    Houston: 2, 8, 11, 13
    Beaumont: 4, 6, 12
    New arrangement:
    Houston: 2, 4, 8, 11, 13
    Beaumont: 6, 12

    Also under the new arrangement, Baltimore and Washington, DC would be collapsed into one market, and the networks that had affiliates in both would have to choose between one or the other of their affiliates.

    This arrangement would allow more of the larger mid-sized markets to have enough VHF licenses to have all four networks and a noncommercial VHF station, thereby ensuring the at least theoretical viability of DuMont going forward. But there were still greater challenges that would have to be overcome to put the network past its rocky start and onto solid footing for the
    future.
     
  17. Nivek Resident Videogame Expert

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    Ummm could not dumont push integrated TV? Still good luck guys
     
  18. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    Integrated TV?
     
  19. Nivek Resident Videogame Expert

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    Tv integrated with UHF and VHF , just use Any cheap antenna or something make UHF easier for consumers
     
  20. AnonymousSauce The 7 Deadly Butterflies of Shaolin

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    UHF still had issues even if the tuner issue was solved. It was bollocks over any sort of rugged terrain, and it's signal range was quite a bit lower than VHF's with worse picture quality. UHF stations continued to be at a disadvantage ratings wise long after the All-Channel Receiver Act was passed. If DuMont merely pushed an earlier ACRA as their viability plan, their days would be just as numbered as IOTL.
     
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