Farewell to a pioneer
Pat Weaver, who energized NBC and invented its future, passes away at 93
By P. Llanor Alleyne and John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/24/2002 7:00:00 PM
The television world lost one of its brightest luminaries on March 15 with the death of Sylvester "Pat" Weaver, the creator of NBC's Today and Tonight shows.
A Darmouth College magna cum laude graduate in philosophy, Weaver, who was 93, was always one to not only think outside the box, but smash its constructs.
When he joined NBC in 1949 as director and vice president in charge of television, he literally reinvented the relationship between networks and advertisers by moving NBC away from single-sponsorship programming to a multi-sponsorship format, netting NBC more freedom to shape the content of its programs. That became the industry standard.
It was a magazine-derived way of selling television; Weaver, in fact was a longtime executive at the ad agency Young & Rubicam before joining NBC.
"Pat Weaver was the first major creative force in television programming and one of the most innovative executives in the history of television," said Bob Wright, NBC's chairman and CEO, in a statement. "Pat's influence on NBC is still seen by millions of viewers every day."
He was single-handedly responsible for introducing the "spectacular," or live special—including Peter Pan and Gian Carlo Menotti's opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors. Weaver's innovation doubled as an incentive for consumers to purchase television sets, a move that was beneficial to NBC's then-parent company, RCA, which manufactured television sets. Similarly, some of Weaver's programming ploys pushed ahead color television, which RCA (and NBC) pioneered.
He was at NBC just seven years, but he packed a lot into them. He also launched Sid Ceasar's legendary Show of Shows and gave birth to the first morning magazine show, the Today show, in 1952 with Dave Garroway and its nocturnal brother, The Tonight Show, with Steve Allen in 1954.
Weaver resigned from NBC as chairman in 1956. One year earlier, he had been forced out as president and replaced by Robert Sarnoff, son of RCA chief David Sarnoff.
After that, Weaver attempted an early foray into cable television, when as head of Subscription Television Inc., he tried to set up cable service in California. The idea was dropped in the face of opposition from broadcasters, who challenged him all the way to the Supreme Court.
The recipient of a 1956 Peabody Award and an Emmy in 1967, Weaver also was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1985 and the BROADCASTING AND CABLE Hall of Fame in 1991.
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