35 J. Broad. & Elec. Media 139 (1991)
Fox Broadcasting Company, Why Now - An Economic Study of the Rise of the Fourth Broadcast Network

handle is hein.journals/jbem35 and id is 149 raw text is: journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
Volume 35, Number 2, Spring 1991, pp. 139-157
Fox Broadcasting Company, Why Now?
An Economic Study of the Rise of the
Fourth Broadcast Network
Laurie Thomas and Barry R. Litman
The Fox Broadcasting Company might be the first successful fourth television broadcast
network in history. But why establish a fourth network now? This historical and
economic study examines the various barriers as well as the conditions that have
prompted entry into the network arena at such a remarkable time. Conclusions follow
with a discussion of the status of the Fox Broadcasting Company, new barriers, and
Fox's potential for success in a changed video entertainment industry.
The makings of a fourth broadcast television network began October 9, 1986,
when Fox Broadcasting Company presented The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers
over some 99 television stations across the country. Although not yet a network
as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),1 this satellite-
delivered national program service for independent stations expects to gradu-
ally increase its program hours to become a competing fourth television broad-
cast network - possibly the first to succeed in television history.
Since the first network television broadcasting began in 1946 there have been
a number of unsuccessful attempts at establishing a viable fourth network. Allen
B. DuMont's network struggled and finally ceased operation in 1955 when he
was unable to acquire a sufficient number of affiliates and economical intercon-
nection (Long, 1979). Later, Kaiser Broadcasting announced plans for a network
of ultra-high frequency (UHF) stations, but its group owned-and-operated
stations were not profitable and were eventually sold (Kittross & Sterling, 1978).
In 1966, Daniel Overmyer, an Ohio warehouse owner with some UHF construc-
tion permits, announced plans for a fourth network of news and Las Vegas
shows. What eventually became the United Network did go on the air with a
2-hour Las Vegas program feed to 125 stations, but that network lasted only one
Laurie Thomas (M.A., University of Iowa, 1983) is a doctoral candidate in Mass Media at Michigan State
University. Her research interests include telecommunications policy and law. Barry R. Litman (Ph.D.,
Michigan State University, 1976) is Professor and Chair of the Department of Telecommunication at
Michigan State University. His research interests are in telecommunication and mass media economics.
This manuscript was acceoted for publication August 1990.
o 1991 Broadcast Education Association

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