William S. Paley

William S. Paley Biography.com

Television Producer(1901–1990)
William S. Paley was a businessman who started what would become the CBS television network.

Synopsis

In 1927, William S. Paley invested in a small radio network, the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System. Paley became president of CPBS and went to New York City to contract other radio stations. Signing 49 affiliates, his efforts proved to be successful, paving the way for the future of the renamed Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), which became one of the most successful networks in the history of television.

Profile

American broadcaster, founder of CBS. Born September 28, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois. William S. Paley was the eldest son of Ukrainian immigrants Goldie and Samuel Paley, owners of the Congress Cigar Company. In 1919, the Paley family relocated to Philadelphia, where William attended the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School. Paley inherited his father's prosperous cigar business, becoming vice president and supervising advertising and production. Cigar sales exceeded expectations because of Paley's successful publicity campaign. In 1927, impressed by the response that was generated by radio advertising, he invested in a small radio network, the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System (CPBS).

Paley became president of CPBS in 1928 and came to New York City in an attempt to contract other radio stations. Signing 49 affiliates, his efforts proved to be successful, paving the way for the future of the renamed Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). William Paley built CBS into a global communication corporation and signed many leading celebrities including Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Jack Benny.

Following World War II, Paley focused his efforts on the development of CBS's news organization and recruited American journalist Edward R. Murrow, and later Walter Cronkite. In 1947, the network rapidly expanded its studio facilities and heightened public interest in the medium of television. Under Paley's direction, the radio network made a smooth transition into visual broadcasting and went on to play a major role in the development of color television.

Paley set up offices on both the east and west coasts, where he exercised full control over programming. He assembled several successful productions, balancing soap operas and game shows with more cultural and educational programming. Among his most notable productions were I Love Lucy, The Ed Sullivan Show, MASH, and All In the Family. Paley's powerful news operation, coupled with quality programming, ensured the success of CBS as a leading radio and television network.

In 1947, Paley married Barbara Cushing Mortimer, four days after divorcing his first wife, socialite Dorothy Hart Hearst. Paley and his second wife, "Babe," became central figures in New York society, attending extravagant parties and participating in charitable events. Paley served as president of the Museum of Modern Art and owned an impressive collection of post-impressionist art.

In 1966, Paley disregarded a mandatory retirement rule and continued as CBS's chairman of the board. In 1983, he left the company for a five-year sabbatical and resumed his position in 1987. Paley continued to parent the vast broadcasting empire until his death from a heart attack in 1990.

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