The agreement with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) called for a series of 42 variety programs and dramas to be made by Desilu Productions, owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.
Seven one-hour “Lucy-Desi” comedy specials would also be featured during the 1958-59 season, reuniting the stars with their “I Love Lucy” cast members William Frawley and Vivian Vance.
The Desilu agreement would run for five years, according to Chris Witting, vice president of consumer products for Westinghouse.
(Witting, incidentally, told the Times that while working for the DuMont television network years before, he had turned down “I Love Lucy,” predicting the show would never sell, because it cost too much — about $25,000 per week.)
Dropped, unfortunately, was the critically-acclaimed, live, one-hour weekly drama, “Studio One,” which was airing at 10 p.m. Monday nights on CBS stations nationwide, including KDKA-TV (2), Altoona’s WFBG-TV (10), Youngstown’s WKBN-TV (27), and WSEE-TV (35) in Erie.
“Studio One” was costing Westinghouse $7 million per year, and by 1958, with videotape perfected and movie studios ramping up production of filmed TV series, live television was becoming passe anyway.
Betty Furness and John Cameron Swayze, who had appeared on “Studio One” as Westinghouse’s spokespersons, would continue to appear on “Desilu Playhouse.”
Speaking of Furness, here she is on “Studio One” in 1952, demonstrating the new adapter that would allow Westinghouse sets to receive those new UHF-TV channels.
If you’re complaining because you have to get a digital TV adapter, imagine opening up the set to install it!
In the midst of the worst recession the United States had experienced since World War II, most advertisers were cutting back in 1958.
But not Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric, reported the New York Times 50 years ago this week.
“Westinghouse increased its annual budget more than 50 percent and agreed to spend $11,000,000 for a one-hour weekly film program,” Val Adams wrote on May 4, 1958. “This may well be a record figure for a single series of programs by one advertiser in one year.”
That $11 million was a lot of money then or now — about $82 million in 2008 dollars — but it was something that the nation’s second-largest electrical manufacturer (after General Electric) could afford.
And it was more proof that after just a decade of widespread television broadcasting in the U.S., TV had indeed become the dominant advertising medium.