Color television in the 1950’s was slow to catch on, but NBC was an early innovator of the technology.
The 1950’s is generally regarded as The Golden Age of Television. The new technology was sweeping the country and as more families could afford television sets, studios were creating more and more programs. While color television was first debuted in the 1950’s the vast majority of households had black and white sets.
CBS made the first color television broadcast on June 25, 1951 with a variety show called Premier. The show only aired in four cities in the country and because hardly anyone owned color sets, very few people actually watched the show in color. The first coast-to-coast color broadcast was done by NBC with the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954. The first prime-time color broadcast was NBC’s situation comedy called The Marriage, which began in the summer of 1954. The Ford Theater series, also by NBC, became the first color filmed series in October of 1954. NBC was the leader in color television in the 1950’s because its parent company, RCA, manufactured the most successful line of color sets and by 1959 it was the only remaining major manufacturer. Networks CBS and ABC were slow to adopt color television because they didn’t want to promote their competitor’s product.
The technology wasn’t widely utilized because early color televisions were extremely expensive, well over $1,000 in the 1950’s, which would be over $11,000 in today’s dollars. By late 1964 an estimated 3.1 percent of households had color sets. But that would soon start to change when NBC announced that its prime time schedule in 1965 would be almost entirely in color. The other networks soon joined in and by the 1966 television season all three networks were broadcasting in full color for their prime time shows. By 1972 more than half of American households had color television sets.