10 Most Game-Changing Developments in the TV Industry

"Free" network television isn't free – it's paid for by advertisers who want access to viewers. © Viviane Moos/Corbis

Although the first television commercial – a 10 second Bulova watch spot – appeared in 1941, TV ads didn't make a real impact until the 1950s [source: Jacob]. Were people really going to stop listening to radio – and its commercials – and switch to television? Advertisers weren't sure. Should they just add images to radio ads, or was there a different way to go? Early in the decade, Americans fell in love with television, and, consequently, so did advertisers. Seeing was believing: Consumers' brand recognition was much higher for television commercials than radio ads. Companies began to sponsor entire series, which were produced by ad agencies. Shows like the "Kraft Television Hour" and "Colgate Comedy Hour" highlighted the sponsor but were very expensive to make.

NBC found a solution with the "magazine concept" of advertising. One- to two-minute commercials from different companies were spread throughout the show. Sound familiar? By the 1960s, this was standard operating procedure for television. Producers had another reason to vary their advertisers. In the late 1950s, a TV cheating scandal erupted. Some quiz shows, which had single sponsors, were not run fair and square. Series like "Twenty-One" and "The $64,000 Question" had fudged their results. Viewers were offended and outraged, and the days of single-sponsored shows were numbered. Guess the quiz questions never focused on advertising ethics.