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Friday, 01 January 2010 20:49

Let's look back on color television for New Year's Day

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Just over sixty years ago, the first color newsreel was introduced in the United States, which was followed up by pay television, mobile color television units, and coast-to-coast color telecasts—all on January 1st, New Year’s Day.


Color television has had a very colorful history in the United States and across the world.

In basic form, color television consists of broadcasting in three monochrome images, one in each of the three colors of read, green, and blue (RGB).

When combined quickly together these colors blend together to produce a single color seen by television viewers.

And, these broadcasts in color were often first used to show off the beauty of roses and other flowers in Pasadena, California, on New Year's Day.

On January 1, 1948, the first motion picture newsreel in color was taken of the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California.

The technology was then used on a regular basis beginning on January 5, 1948, when Warner Brothers-Pathe used the Cinecolor process to show this color newsreel for the first time to theatre audiences.

Four years later, on New Year's Day of January 1, 1951, the first pay television was made available by the Zenith Radio Corporation for the first time.

Page two continues with more New Year's Day broadcasts in color.




For ninety days, subscribers in Chicago, Illinois were able to pay $1 for each of the feature programs offered for the first time on that New Year’s day in January 1, 1951.

The feature programs included April Showers (with Jack Carson), Welcome Stranger (with Bing Crosby), Homecoming (with Clark Gable and Lana Turner).

Three hundred households in Chicago were selected from about 51,000 applicants for this special service.

Zenith Radio Corp. sold two thousand units in the first month of availability; however, that amount was not yet profitable for commercial application.

Then, four years later, on January 1, 1954, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) began using color mobile television units for the first time in the United States.

NBC began this pioneering color service with the broadcast of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, which was hosted by Don Ameche, on New Year's Day.

The WNBT station, part of the NBC family, provided this service in California with two color units (based in large motor vans) that provided a total of three colors (red, green and blue) to make its color broadcast.

Page three continues with the history of color television.




The color broadcast in 1954 was viewed by audiences in twenty-one cities (however, the other cities that had signals coming from the WNBT station had to settle for the traditional black-and-white scenes).

The information and statistics for this article is provided by KipNotes.com: “Broadcasting—Business History of Broadcasters.”

Although color television was introduced in the United States in the 1950s (after black-and-white television was the traditional way that people viewed TV), it did not catch on because of high prices of the TV sets and the lack of materials on color television.

Color TV finally became popular in the 1960s when color TV sets were reduced in price and larger numbers of color programs were introduced.

By the 1970s, color TV sets were common in the United States, along with TV broadcasts commonly being color in content. Most major markets in North America and Europe were set in color by the middle of the 1970s.

By the 1980s, black-and-white sets were primarily relegated to smaller TV sets as color sets took over.

Now in the 2010s, around sixty years after color was first introduced to U.S. television audiences, digital broadcasting in the United States has made color television sets almost the exclusive way to watch TV.

Learn more about the history of color television at the following websites:

Popular Science (December 1940): "New Television System Transmits Images in Full Color

TV History: “Television History - The First 75 Years

Time magazine: “Television: Chasing the Rainbow

Museum of Broadcast Communications: “Color Television


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