Sunday, 7 July 2019

Can Radio Hold Up in the Television Age?

Big-time network radio had been around more than 20 years as the 1950s began and some people couldn’t comprehend it changing.

But change it did.

As more and more television stations opened, more and more people abandoned radio. They wanted to see the stars, not just hear them. Advertisers went where the people went. There was only so much money for commercials and as more of it went into TV, less went into radio. The combination ended network radio as people knew it in the 1930s, though some programmes valiantly hung on into the early 1960s.

Jack Benny had been a star on radio starting in 1932. Almost 20 years later, he felt radio would still be there to grab those listeners unhappy with television. It never happened. In fact, Benny’s own show ended in 1955 when American Tobacco bowed out and another satisfactory sponsor couldn’t be found (even though Benny proposed reruns which would save production costs).

Here’s Benny on the subject in a 1951 Associated Press wire story.

Radio Can Hold Own With TV, Jack Benny Believes

NEW YORK, Jan. 27. (AP)—Jack Benny says radio programs are going to have to be good from now on to stand up to television's competition, but that if they are good they can hold their own a long time yet.
Here for his second television show on CBS tomorrow (Sunday) night, Benny puts it this way:
"I don't think people are going to watch week in and week out just because they have television. "I think that if they have both radio and television and practically everyone who has television also has radio they're going to choose."
"I do think, though, the important thing in radio today is to see that your shows are good," he continues. "If the show isn't good, the listener will say to himself, 'Maybe I'd better see what's on television.' "
Enjoying the highest audience rating for any individual performer on radio, Benny is, nevertheless, a television enthusiast and anxious to get on the air with his second video show and others to follow.
"I like it because I'm stage struck," he continues.
"It brings me back to the stage—and I got my start in vaudeville."
Sticking to previously announced plans to make only a few video appearances this season, Benny says the date of his next television show after tomorrow hasn't been chosen. It will be determined after conferences with his cigarette (Lucky Strike) sponsor.
He says he would have to make a choice between radio and television if he were called upon to do a great deal of television. As it is, he has to record a radio show in advance in Hollywood for the Sunday he appears on video, for which he flies to New York.
Benny adds that the extension of the television network to the West Coast—due late this year—may ease the extra load caused by a video show if it permits him to do the show from Hollywood.

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