Saturday, February 26, 2011


In the monochrome haze of early-1960's,television, ABC-TV was widely viewed as half a network, with only a handful of hot shows. While it may have been Camelot in the White House,at ABC-TV, it was television's equivalent of Tobacco Road.

There was a ray of ratings hope.

Those few, rare, prime-time hits on the ALPHABET NETWORK, like 77 SUNSET STRIP, MAVERICK and THE FLINTSTONES appealed to a fast growing demographic that not only controlled the magic box in the living room, but also had ready,disposable income and had developed highly specific preferences in consumer goods.

For real-life MADMEN, teen aged TV viewers were a new and desirable target for the candy companies, acne creams, haircare products and board game manufacturers whose messages they crafted.

At ABC-TV, programmers felt that the young video viewers were salvation in the face of a mature audience, which had developed brand-loyalty to the venerable CBS and NBC television networks, along with the adult-oriented content they carried.

They also looked covetously at young viewers, with a hope for the network's future.

It was a valid vision: ABC would cultivate and retain that loyal, adolescent audience for decades ahead.

ABC-TV found one of it's biggest hits in a low,cramped, brick building under the elevated train tracks in blue collar, West Philadelphia. The ABC network's first affiliate, WFIL-TV (now, WPVI-TV), produced hour after hour of local programming in the mid-1950's.

Station management and local sponsors envisioned a teen dance party that would feature high school students rocking,rolling and strolling to the latest hit records.

The station's programming manager,executive producer, and television legend, Lew Klein was creating the show. He hired a handsome host ,who was only a few years older than the kids who guested on the video record hop. His name was Dick Clark. Lew knew he had something special and the audience agreed.

The viewer response and the ratings were extraordinary.

Next, Klein took the show to ABC programmers, who decided in 1957,to carry AMERICAN BANDSTAND on the network, so that a young and enthusiastic, national audience could watch. It became trend-setting, appointment television for the adoring adolescent audience.The show would air LIVE, daily, from WFIL-TV's compact studios until 1964, when network executives and Dick Clark moved it to ABC Television Center in Los Angeles.

The programming strategy was working. Teamed with THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB and a young Johnny Carson hosting a comic game show called WHOM DO YOU TRUST?, ABC was suddenly a player in daytime, network television.

How could ABC capitalize on the nascent audience? Could news for Teens help retain viewers?

The ABC NEWS department was under-funded, under-staffed and under the gun. In an effort to capture a part of the growing afternoon audience, they mounted AMERICAN NEWSSTAND, a brief newscast that focused on ideas, issues and personalities that appealed to young viewers.Anchored by ABC correspondents Roger Sharp, Bill Lord and Dave Jayne, the youth oriented newscast aired each weekday after AMERICAN BANDSTAND.

In this clip , from the ROGERSHARPEARCHIVE you tube site, you'll see stories about the cold war, the selection of Col. John Glenn to be the first American in orbit a high school student's observations on unrest in the Dominican Republic and a new Rose Bowl queen.

There is a LIVE interview segment with rock and roll heartthrob Fabian, that's heavy on talk about his appearance on an upcoming ABC-TV drama( see the promo that follows the newscast), BUS STOP.

It would be 1976 before ABC-TV achieved first place ratings in prime time and daytime, and even longer until ABC NEWS , under the inspired vision and direction of Roone Arledge, would become the nation's primary source for news.


1 comment:

  1. By the time ABC network achieved first place in TV ratings, Roger Sharp had moved on as a political correspondent for New York flagship station WABC-TV's "Eyewitness News," working alongside such legends as anchors Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel. The 'rogersharparchive' channel on YouTube has other clips from his long career.