Although television had been in development since the 1920s and there had been experimental broadcasts since the 1930s, it isn't until after World War II that the networks are able to concentrate on developing programming, manufacturers are able to return to making sets, and the public can afford them.
At the beginning of 1952, about 19 million U.S. homes have a TV set; by the end of the decade, the number is 46.5 million. The post-war economy is booming, and the country's optimism is reflected in many of the TV shows.
Some of radio's stars make the transition to TV, as do many radio formats. Soap operas (The Guiding Light
on CBS), comedies (Life of Riley
on NBC), Westerns (Gunsmoke
on CBS), dramas (Kraft Television Theater
on NBC and ABC), variety (Toast of the Town
with Ed Sullivan on CBS) and quiz shows (Twenty One
on NBC) emerge as favorites. And the TV syndication business is born when Frederic W. Ziv begins selling such shows as 1951's Bold Venture, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, to local and regional advertisers and stations.
At the beginning of the decade, RCA and CBS are in a battle: Each wants FCC approval of a system for color TV. RCA prevails in 1953 because programs broadcast in its "compatible color" can still be watched on existing black-and-white sets. Another dramatic innovation is unveiled in 1956, when Ampex demonstrates its videotape recorder at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters convention and quickly takes $4 million in orders.