How did very early television broadcasts work, financially?

I remember the advent of cell phones. They were status symbols for the wealthy, who would justify them by saying that they needed to be reached at a moments notice (A surgeon, for example)

But TV? There’s no one that really needs that as it is a one way communication. I’m pretty sure that the 1936 Olympics were the first major television broadcast, but who were they broadcasting to? Party Hacks excepted. I understand the 'gee-wow’propaganda nonsense;.

Still, I can’t reconcile why anyone bought or broadcast TV when there was literally nothing out there.

I vaguely recall reading that the first broadcasters were the radio companies. They already had a lot of the prerequisites, in tech areas (equipment etc) and content (shows, actors).

As far as the purchasers of the tv sets, there have always been well-to-do “early adopters”, even if that terms wasn’t used yet.

It was only used by the people who started using that term before everyone else did.

The BBC first scheduled broadcasts in 1936. They used 2 systems, alternating weekly to see which was best: yes, you needed two TVs to pick everything up and one of them would be dropped in 3 months.

Different cities in the US had competing standards until agreements were made in 1941.

So yeah, early adopters. Sort of like the laser disk, betamax, super fast internet, and one hour shipping, available in selected cities.

the tv networks were the same companies that were the radio networks.

sets were operated in stores and store windows (with speakers outside) to show the product.

technology and economics brought about broadcasting after WW2. earlier stuff was development.

Some of the earliest regular television broadcasts in the US – LONG before the 1936 Olympics – were made by Hugo Gernsbach – the same guy after whom the Hugo Awards in Science Fiction are named. He made them so that people who built their own TV receivers would have something to receive. Gernsbach published a magazine on Electronics and his advertisers sold electronics parts and kits. Having a TV signal to receive meant there was a market for people to buy his magazine and purchase from his advertisers, so they could then build their own interociters/TV sets. It was TV supported by advertising, but in a roundabout way.


See here aboiut halfway down:

In the very early days of radio, manufacturers like Westinghouse and General Electric built the sets and operated the stations to give their customers something to listen to. Universities, local governments and churches also built stations, so there was always something to listen to.

It was much the same with television. As early as 1928, General Electric and Westinghouse were operating experimental TV stations, along with a couple of radio stations, Charles Jenkins (an inventor) and, as noted upthread, Hugo Gernsbach.

In 1946, before the TV networks had even been organized, there were an estimated 15,000 televisions in Washington, DC, with corresponding numbers in other cities, so there was always an audience for TV.

As far as Nazi Germany is concerned, the main purpose of broadcasting the 1936 Olympics was indeed propaganda. There was a very limited number of households that had private TV sets, but in many cities across the country there were public TV rooms where people could go to watch Olympic coverage. Of course, the whole concept was not commercially viable, but that’s of little concern if a totalitarian regime pumps in a lot of money to have something with which it can tell its own population about how fabulous the system is.

In the US, TV was seen as a loss leader. The three major TV networks lost money until the late 50s (or later for ABC); they only stayed afloat because they owned as many stations as the FCC allowed, which did make money from local advertising. The Dumont network went under in part because they didn’t own any stations themselves.*

The early TV stations were usually connected to radio stations, so the radio revenue kept them afloat until TV started paying for itself. They saw that TV was going to be big, so it was worth taking a loss for a few years until it caught on.

*It was complicated, but the FCC said that since Paramount owned a large chunk of Dumont, the Paramount stations counted against Dumont’s limit.