a media industry resource

RKO landmarks

This chronology is indicative only. It covers -

  • beginnings (1876)
  • RKO established (1929)
  • RKO acquired by General Tire & Rubber (1955)
  • move into cable tv (1961)
  • collapse (1982)

Context is provided by the broader communications and media timeline on this site.

The NBC profile and RCA/GE notes provide more detailed information regarding those groups. There is a supplementary note on AT&T.


1876 Thomas Edison opens laboratory at Menlo Park

1882 BF Keith founds Keith (later Keith-Albee-Orpheum) vaudeville chain

1883 Thomson-Houston founded

1883 Emil Rathenau licences Edison's electrical patents, founds Allgemeine Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft (AEG)

1885 American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) founded

1890 Edison forms Edison General Electric Company

1892 General Electric (GE) formed through merger of Edison General Electric & Thomson-Houston Electric

1915 General Tire & Rubber Company founded by William O'Neill

1919 Radio Corporation of America (RCA) incorporated to control US patents of General Electric, AT&T, Westinghouse, United Fruit

1919 RCA acquires British Marconi's controlling interest in American Marconi

1922 AT&T establishes radio station in New York (later WEAF) and forms Broadcasting Corporation of America

1925 speculator Joseph Kennedy forms Film Booking Office (FBO)

1926 AT&T sells Broadcasting Corporation of America (inc radio stations WEAF and WCAP) to RCA

1927 RCA buys stake in FBO, Kennedy takes stake in Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO) cinema chain

1926 NBC established by RCA (50%), GE (30%), Westinghouse (20%)

1926 NBC radio network launched

1927 Radio Act

1928 RCA divides affiliates into NBC-Red and NBC-Blue networks

RKO established

1929 RCA merges film interests with FBO and KAO to form Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO) production, distribution and exhibition group

1929 R H Macy Company gains control of L Bamberger & Company department stores and Bamberger Broadcasting Service (WOR New York)

1930 RKO absorbs Pathe Exchange

1930 Justice Dept launches antitrust action against 'radio trust'

1930 General Tire & Rubber establishes manufacturing operation in Mexico

1932 General Electric and Westinghouse sell RCA

1934 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) replaces Federal Radio Commission

1934 Mutual Broadcasting System founded by Bamberger Broadcasting, Chicago Tribune (WGN Chicago), Crosly Radio Company (WLW Cincinnati) and King-Trendle Broadcasting (WXYZ Detroit)

1934 General Tire & Rubber establishes manufacturing operation in Canada

1941 Federal Communications Commission Report on Chain Broadcasting recommends that RCA dispose of one of its networks

1942 General Tire & Rubber buys The Yankee Network, inc radio WEZE Boston

1942 buys radio WEAN Providence

1943 RCA sells 'Blue' network (later ABC) to Edward Noble for US$8m

1948 controlling stake in RKO sold to Howard Hughes

1948 General Tire & Rubber launches WNAC tv Boston

1949 buys WOR New York

1950 buys radio KHJ Los Angeles

1950 General Teleradio formed through merger of Don Lee Broadcasting System (centred on KHJ-AM/FM/TV Los Angeles) and Bamberger Broadcasting Service (centred on WOR-AM/FM/TV New York)

1952 General Tire & Rubber buys General Teleradio

1952 gains control of Mutual Broadcasting System and New York station WOR

1953 General Tire & Rubber sells radio WEZE Boston to Vic Diehm Associates

1954 takes stake in Western Ontario Broadcasting Co

1954 sells buys radio WEAN Providence to Providence Journal Co.

1956 gains majority of Western Ontario Broadcasting Co

RKO acquired by General Tire & Rubber

1955 Hughes splits RKO into RKO Pictures (sold to General Tire & Rubber's General Teleradio for US$25m) and RKO Theatres

1957 RKO production lot sold to Desilu Productions for US$6m

1957 Henry Griffing's VuMore cable tv trial in Bartlesville, Oklahoma

1958 RKO Teleradio Inc becomes RKO General

1960 conglomerate H&B American Corp buys Jerrold cable tv systems for US$5m

1960 FCC forbids planned swap of WNAC TV/AM/FM for NBC stations WRC AM/FM/TV in Washington DC

move into cable tv

1961 General Tire & Rubber buys VuMore cable tv group

1962 General Tire & Rubber announces merger, later abandoned, with H&B American

1962 license for KHJ-TV 9 Los Angeles was challenged

1963 buys remaining stake in Western Ontario Broadcasting

1965 H&B merger abandoned

1965 RCA buys Random House

1968 H&B buys most cable holdings of Jack Kent Cooke, absorbing American Cablevision

1968 American Television & Communications Corp (ATC) established, later buys Time Life cable systems

1969 merger of H&B and Teleprompter, US first and second largest cable operators

1969 license for WNAC-TV 7 Boston challenged

1970 Western Ontario Broadcasting sells CKLW-TV for US$5m to Baton Broadcasting (75%) and CBC (25%)

1970 sells radio CKLW-AM-FM for US$4m to Baton Broadcasting (75%) and CBC (25%)

1971 RKO/Vumore changes name to Cablecom General

1978 Time buys ATC

1980 Capital Cities Communications buys Cablecom General for US$139 million


1982 forced divestiture of WNAC-TV Boston (now WHDH-TV)

1984 General Tire & Rubber reorganized as GenCorp holding company, with RKO General and General Tire & Rubber divisions

1985 Disney makes unsuccessful bid for NBC

1985 GE buys RCA for US$6.3bn, primarily to acquire NBC

1986 Capital Cities Communications buys ABC network for US$3.5 billion to create Capital Cities-ABC

1986 Capital Cities-ABC sells cable systems to Washington Post

1987 license for WOR-TV sold to MCA Universal

1987 RKO General spun off by GenCorp, renamed RKO Pictures

1987 GenCorp sells General Tire & Rubber division

1989 forced divestiture of KHJ-TV Los Angeles (now KCAL-TV), acquired by Disney