Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver, pioneering television executive and creator of
NBC's Today and The Tonight Show, died of pneumonia at his home March 15. He was 93.
A magna cum laude graduate of Darmouth College's class of 1930, the Los
Angeles-born Weaver spent the next two decades working as a radio announcer,
station manager and eventually an executive for advertising firm Young
& Rubicam. With World War II in full rage, Weaver served in the Navy from
1942 through 1945.
Weaver began his influential seven-year stint with NBC when he joined the
top network as director and vice president in charge of television in 1949. At
the time, television shows were dictated by sponsors who would individually
finance programming. Weaver took the network to a multisponsorship model
derived from magazines, giving the network more control of its own programs.
With creativity now in the net's grip, Weaver introduced the "spectacular,"
or live specials -- which included Peter Pan and the Gian Carlo Menotti
opera Amahl and the Night Visitors -- as a way of inducing families to
purchase television sets. It was a move that was beneficial to NBC, whose
then-parent company, RCA, held several television-technology patents. He is also
credited with bringing Sid Ceasar's legendary Your Show of Shows to the
In 1952 Weaver launched morning magazine show Today as a way of
luring listeners of morning radio to television. Today's success was
followed by its nighttime counterpart, The Tonight Show with Steve Allen,
in 1954. Weaver resigned from NBC as chairman in 1956. One year earlier, he was
forced out as president of NBC when he was replaced by Robert Sarnoff, son of
RCA's head, David Sarnoff.
Always the pioneer, Weaver launched an unsuccessful early foray into cable
television when he headed Subscription Television Inc. Opposition from
broadcasters and many court appearances later, the idea was relinquished.
Weaver was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1985, and he was again
honored at the Emmy Awards in 1998.
Weaver is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth; his daughter, actress
Sigourney Weaver; his son, Trajan; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.