The NTA Film Network was an early American television network founded by Ely Landau in 1956. The network was not a full-time television network like CBS, NBC, or ABC. Rather, it operated on a part-time basis, broadcasting films and several first-run television programs from major Hollywood studios. Despite attracting over 100 affiliate stations and the financial support of Twentieth Century-Fox (which purchased a 50% share of NTA in November 1956) the network proved unprofitable, and was discontinued by 1961. The NTA Film Network's flagship station, WNTA-TV, is now WNET, one of the flagship stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
|NTA Film Network|
|Type||Defunct broadcast television network|
|Availability||United States (1956—1961)|
|Owner||National Telefilm Associates|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Charles C. Barry|
Oliver A. Unger
Parent company National Telefilm Associates was founded by producers Ely Landau and Oliver A. Unger in 1954 when Landau's film and television production company, Ely Landau, Inc., was reorganized in partnership with Unger and screenwriter and producer Harold Goldman. NTA was the successor company to U.M. & M. TV Corporation, having purchased U.M. & M. in 1956.
In October 1956, NTA launched the NTA Film Network, a syndication service which distributed both films and television programs to independent television stations and stations affiliated with NBC, CBS, or ABC (DuMont had recently gone out of the network business). The ad-hoc network's flagship station was WNTA-TV, channel 13 in New York. The NTA Network was launched as a "fourth TV network", and trade papers of the time referred to it as a new television network.
Unlike the Big Three television networks, the local stations in the NTA Film Network were not connected via coaxial cable or microwave relay. Instead, NTA Film Network programs were filmed and then mailed to each station in the network, a method used by television syndicators in the 1950s and 1960s. However, many local stations agreed to broadcast NTA Film Network programs in pattern (simultaneously). Landau's claim to network status was based on the simultaneous airing of the programs.
The NTA Film Network launched on October 15, 1956, with over 100 affiliate stations. In November 1956, it was announced that 50% of the network had been purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox, which would also produce original content for the network. The film network grew to 128 stations. In September 1957, the network purchased KMGM-TV (now Fox O&O KMSP-TV) in Minneapolis.
The following is a list of NTA Film Network affiliate stations in November 1956.
|Ada, OK: KTEN||Green Bay-Marinette, WI: WBAY-TV||Peoria: WTVH|
|Allentown-Bethlehem, PA: WGLV||Harrisburg: WCMB-TV||Phoenix: KPHO-TV|
|Anchorage: KTVA||Hattiesburg: WDAM-TV||Portland, ME: WCSH|
|Amarillo, TX: KGNC-TV|
|Asheville, NC: WLOS||Henderson-Las Vegas: KLRJ-TV||Portland, OR: KPTV|
|Atlanta: WAGA||Houston: KTRK-TV||Providence: WJAR|
|Austin, MN: KMMT||Indianapolis: WFBM-TV||Raleigh-Durham: WTVD|
|Bakersfield: KERO-TV||Jackson, MS: WLBT||Richmond: WTVR-TV|
|Bangor, ME: WABI-TV||Jefferson City, MO: KRCG||Roanoke, VA: WDBJ|
|Birmingham, AL: WBRC||Johnstown, PA: WARD-TV||Rock Island: WHBF-TV|
|Bismarck ND: KBMB-TV||Juneau: KINY-TV||Rockford, IL: WREX-TV|
|Carlsbad NM: KAVE-TV||Kansas City: KMBC-TV||Salt Lake City: KSL-TV|
|Cedar Rapids-Waterloo: KWWL||Kearney, NE: KHOL-TV||San Angelo, TX: KTXL-TV|
|Charleston, WV: WCHS-TV||Knoxville: WBIR-TV||San Antonio: KENS-TV|
|Charleston, SC: WUSN-TV||West Lafayette, IN: WFAM-TV||San Diego: XETV|
|Chattanooga: WDEF-TV||Lafayette, LA: KLFY-TV||Savannah: WSAV-TV|
|Chicago: WGN-TV||Lincoln: KOLN||Seattle-Tacoma: KTNT-TV|
|Cincinnati: WKRC-TV||Little Rock-Pine Bluff: KATV||Sioux City: KTIV|
|Cleveland: WJW-TV||Los Angeles: KTTV||South Bend-Elkhart, IN: WSJV|
|Columbus, GA: WDAK-TV||Lubbock: KDUB||Spokane: KREM-TV|
|Columbus, OH: WTVN-TV||Madison: WISC-TV||Springfield, MA: WHYN-TV|
|Columbus, MS: WCBI-TV||Memphis: WMCT||St. Joseph, MO: KFEQ-TV|
|Dallas-Ft Worth: KFJZ-TV||Miami: WGBS-TV||Sweetwater, TX: KPAR-TV|
|Decatur, IL: WTVP-TV||Milwaukee: WITI||Tampa: WSUN-TV|
|Decatur, AL: WMSL-TV||Minneapolis: WTCN-TV||Tucson: KVOA|
|Denver: KTVR||Minot: KCJB-TV||Tulsa-Muskogee: KOTV|
|Des Moines-Ames: WOI-TV||Mobile: WALA-TV||Twin Falls, ID: KLIX-TV|
|Dickinson, ND: KDIX-TV||Monroe, LA: KNOE-TV||Washington: WMAL-TV|
|Dothan, AL: WTVY||Montgomery: WCOV-TV||Waterloo-Ft Wayne, IN: WINT|
|Duluth-Superior: KDAL-TV||Muncie: WLBC||Watertown, NY: WCNY-TV|
|Eau Claire: WEAU-TV||Nashville: WSIX-TV||Wichita Falls, TX: KSYD-TV|
|El Paso: KROD-TV||New Jersey-New York: WATV, later WNTA||Wichita-Hutchinson: KTVH|
|Fairbanks: KTVF||Norfolk: WVEC-TV||Wilkes Barre-Scranton: WILK-TV|
|Fargo-Valley City: KXJB-TV||Oak Hill, WV: WOAY-TV||York, PA: WNOW-TV|
|Grand Junction: KREX-TV||Oklahoma City: KGEO|
Later affiliates included KOOK-TV in Billings, Montana (c. 1958-1959), KONO-TV in San Antonio (c. 1958–1959), WISH-TV in Indianapolis (c. 1958–1959), and KTVU in San Francisco (c. 1959–1960). The network purchased KMGM-TV in Minneapolis, in September 1957.
The NTA Film Network aired both films and television series. Among its 1956–1957 offerings were 52 Twentieth Century-Fox films. Premiere Performance, a prime time block of Twentieth Century-Fox films, aired from 1957–1959. Other film blocks included TV Hour of Stars and The Big Night (both 1958–1959).
The network's television programs included:
How to Marry a Millionaire, which aired from 1957 to 1959, was based on the popular 1953 film of the same name. The series starred Barbara Eden, Merry Anders, Lori Nelson (1957–1958), and Lisa Gaye (1958–1959). The final episode aired in August 1959.
Man Without a Gun, a western series starring Rex Reason and Mort Mills, aired from 1957 to 1959. The series portrayed Reason as a newspaper editor who brought criminals to justice without the use of guns.
This is Alice, which aired from 1958 to 1959, starred nine-year-old Patty Ann Gerrity as Alice Holliday, a girl who lived in the fictional town of River Glen, Georgia. The series was directed and produced by Sidney Salkow for NTA and Desilu Productions.
The Play of the Week, which aired from 1959 to 1961, was a series of 67 televised plays. The program was well received by critics, and received a Peabody Award. The series ended its run on May 1, 1961.
Other, lesser-known NTA series included The Bill Corum Sports Show, Man's Heritage, and The Passerby (all c. 1957), Official Detective (1957–1958), Open End (1958–1961), William Tell (1958–1959), Assignment: Underwater (1959–1960), Q. T. Hush (1960–1961), Sheriff of Cochise/U.S. Marshall (1956–1958), Alex in Wonderland (1959), Newsbeat (1959–1961) Juke Box Jury (1958–1959), The Best of Bishop Sheen (1958–1963), Danger Is My Business (1958), Divorce Court (1958–1961), Glencannon (1959), Grand Jury (1959), Mantovani (1959), Henry Morgan and Company (1959), George Jessel's Show Business (1959), The Mike Wallace Interview (1959–1961), The Third Man (1960–1961), The Oscar Levant Show (1960), Confidential Portrait, Crime Reporter, and Probe (1962).
Below is a timeline showing the airdates of the NTA Film Network's programs and later NTA offerings. The number of episodes that each series aired is given in parentheses. Some dates are tentative, as accurate records for filmed television series were not always kept.
|Local||Man Without a Gun||This is Alice||How to Marry a Millionaire||Premiere Performance (20th Century Fox movies)|
Note: This schedule was announced in May 1958; according to the announcement, 17 television stations would follow this schedule for the 1958–1959 television season; other NTA Film Network affiliates aired the programs out of pattern.
In January 1959, Ely Landau was succeeded by Charles C. Barry, who took over as president of network operations. Landau continued to chair National Telefilm Associates. Despite the 50% ownership of Twentieth Century-Fox, the film network never developed into a major commercial television network on a par with the "Big Three" television networks; several modern TV historians regard the NTA Film Network as a syndication service rather than a major television network.
By 1961, WNTA-TV was losing money, and the network's flagship station was sold to the Educational Broadcasting Corporation that November. WNTA-TV became WNDT (later WNET), flagship station of the National Educational Television network, a forerunner of PBS. NTA network operations did not continue without a flagship station, although parent company National Telefilm Associates continued syndication services; four television series (Probe, Tintin, The Fair Adventure, and A Day With Doodles) were syndicated by NTA between 1962 and 1966.
The Los Angeles NTA Film Network station, KTTV, went on to become a founding owned and operated station of the Fox television network, which is co-owned with Twentieth Century-Fox and a part of 21st Century Fox.
Other early failed American TV networks:
The 1958–59 United States network television schedule was for the period that began in September 1958 and ran through March 1959.
According to television historians Castleman and Podrazik (1982), the networks' schedules were thrown "into complete chaos" by the quiz show scandals that erupted during fall 1958. At first only one series, Dotto, was implicated in the game-fixing charges. Ed Hilgemeier, a contestant on the program, filed a complaint with the show's sponsor, Colgate-Palmolive. Colgate withdrew its sponsorship of the Tuesday evening (on NBC) and daytime (on CBS) versions of Dotto, and the show did not appear on either network's fall 1958 schedule.The $64,000 Challenge (on CBS) similarly did not appear that fall, and by November, The $64,000 Question (CBS) and Twenty-One (NBC) were also removed from the network schedules, amidst accusations of game rigging. NBC's primetime Tic-Tac-Dough lasted through December. According to Castleman and Podrazik, "NBC and CBS were adamant in their own statements of innocence" since they only aired, and did not produce, the rigged series. They also claimed the cancellations were due to low ratings, not because of game-fixing accusations. ABC had few game shows on its 1958–59 schedule, and "eagerly pointed out" its innocence in the quiz show mess. The network affirmed its commitment to Westerns, which could not be rigged.Western TV series continued to be very popular with audiences, and for the first time, the three highest-rated programs on television, CBS's Gunsmoke, NBC's Wagon Train, and CBS's Have Gun – Will Travel, were all Westerns. ABC's new series, The Rifleman even hit #4, quite a feat for a network which had had no series in the top 30 five years earlier.Although ABC, CBS, and NBC remained the largest television networks in the United States, they were not the only companies operating television networks during this era. In May 1958, Ely Landau, president of the NTA Film Network, announced an NTA Film Network schedule for the 1958–59 season. The schedule consisted of three and a half hours of programs on Friday nights: Man Without a Gun at 7:30, followed by This is Alice at 8:00, then How to Marry a Millionaire at 8:30, and Premiere Performance from 9:00 to 11:00. Although the NTA Film Network had over 100 affiliate stations, only 17 agreed to air the Friday night schedule "in pattern" (during the scheduled time). Other NTA Network affiliates carried the network's programs whenever they had available slots, and outside of Gun, Alice, Millionaire and Performance, NTA's programs were aired whenever the local stations preferred. National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to PBS founded in 1952, also allowed its affiliate stations to air programs out of pattern.
New series are highlighted in bold.
All times are U.S. Eastern and Pacific time (except for some live sports or events). Subtract one hour for Central and Mountain times.
Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its rank and rating as determined by Nielsen Media Research.Alex in Wonderland (TV series)
Alex in Wonderland was a 1959 television series of at least thirteen episodes that was distributed by the NTA Film Network. The raconteur Alexander King was the host, giving commentary on various topics. It was produced by Mitchell Grayson and directed by Max Miller. It was filmed on Tuesdays at NTA's flagship station WNTA-TV beginning on March 10.Combat Sergeant
Combat Sergeant is an American television program that originally aired on ABC from June to September 1956. Starring Michael Thomas as Sergeant Nelson, the series was set in Africa during World War II. Actual footage of the war was spliced into episodes. 13 episodes were filmed.Combat Sergeant was produced by National Telefilm Associates, and had originally been intended as a first-run syndicated program; it was offered to individual television stations in March 1956, but saw no sales. The series was offered to ABC, which purchased the program. After a brief summer run on ABC in 1956, the series was rerun on the syndicated NTA Film Network starting in summer 1957.How to Marry a Millionaire (TV series)
How to Marry a Millionaire is an American sitcom that aired in syndication and on the
NTA Film Network, from October 7, 1957, to August 20, 1959. The series is based on the 1953 film of the same name starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall.
The series stars Lori Nelson, Merry Anders, and Barbara Eden. Lisa Gaye joined the cast in the second season after Lori Nelson left the series. How to Marry a Millionaire was one of the first television sitcoms based on a feature film, and was the first series that Barbara Eden was featured in as a regular cast member. Eden would go on to play one of her more notable roles, "Jeannie" in the NBC sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.Jazz Party (TV series)
For the 1959 Duke Ellington album, see Jazz Party.Jazz Party, also known as Art Ford's Jazz Party, was a TV series featuring jazz musicians on WNTA-TV in New York City, and which aired on Thursdays at 9pm ET from May 8, 1958, to December 25, 1958. It was a more music-focused continuation of Art Ford's Greenwich Village Party, arguably the last series to appear on the DuMont Television Network, which ceased operations on August 6, 1956, though only broadcast on WABD as that station was becoming WNEW-TV after the sale of the DuMont-owned stations to Metromedia.
The 90-minute shows, hosted by Art Ford (1921–2006), were distributed by the NTA Film Network. The shows were also aired on Armed Forces Television. All episodes were filmed in a New Jersey studio, except for the final episode, which was recorded on August 11, 1958, in New Orleans, and aired on December 25.
Musicians who appeared on the series included Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Henry "Red" Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Marty Napoleon, Georgie Auld, Buster Bailey, Vinnie Burke, Roy Eldridge, J. C. Higginbotham, Les Paul, Dick Hyman, Anita O'Day, Connee Boswell, Mae Barnes, Chris Connor, Sylvia Sims, Mary Osborne, Teddy Charles, Harry Sheppard, Maxine Sullivan, Alec Templeton, Abbey Lincoln and many others.KMSP-TV
KMSP-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 9, is a Fox owned-and-operated television station licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. KMSP-TV is owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of Fox Corporation, as part of a television duopoly with WFTC, the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area's MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station. The two outlets share studios on Viking Drive in Eden Prairie, and a transmission tower in Shoreview.
KMSP-TV is also carried in Canada on Shaw Cable's Thunder Bay, Ontario system and on Bell MTS Fibe TV in the province of Manitoba.List of former NTA Film Network affiliates in Canada
This is a list of former NTA Film Network affiliates in Canada. The NTA Film Network was an American television network or syndication service which operated from August 1956 to 1961, when the network's flagship station, WNTA-TV, was sold. Although NTA was based in the United States, many Canadian television stations aired NTA programs.List of former NTA Film Network affiliates in the United States
Between July 1956 to around November 1961, the National Telefilm Associates (NTA) operated the NTA Film Network, an early television network and syndication service that operated in the United States and Canada. The organization had syndicated television programs to individual stations since the early 1950s. The film network effort was an attempt to launch a viable "fourth television network" that would compete directly with CBS, NBC, and ABC, the three largest television networks in the United States. Although the program service was intended to attract independent television stations, many CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliates also aired NTA programs.
Between 1956 and 1961, NTA offered dozens of programs to affiliated stations. Some popular television series, such as How to Marry a Millionaire, Premiere Performance, Sheriff of Cochise, and The Third Man, each aired on over 100 local television stations. Other NTA programs were never widely seen; for example, after its first few months on the air, Alex in Wonderland aired on just one TV station. Station managers were free to choose which programs they would air, and no television station aired NTA's complete program line-up. Even NTA's three owned-and-operated stations (O&Os), WNTA-TV in New York, KMSP-TV in Minneapolis, and WDAF-TV in Kansas City, "cherry-picked" programs.
As a way of assuring widespread viewership of its programs, NTA sold series to any television station that would air them. This angered station managers who had already signed affiliation agreements with the NTA Film Network, and led to NTA programs being aired on several television stations in the same city. NTA also purposely double-booked or triple-booked some programs to guarantee higher ratings. For example, in New York City, How to Marry a Millionaire aired on three different area stations at the same time. This distribution method led to large numbers of stations airing some NTA offerings — by one estimate 370 stations in 1957.Many NTA Film Network series were filmed in Hollywood or England; some later NTA programs were videotaped in New York. The film or tape medium of the recordings allowed local station owners to fill in empty spots in their schedules using NTA programs, and allowed the company to re-run its programs years after program production had ceased. NTA attempted to establish a standardized network schedule in 1958, but only 17 local stations agreed to air NTA programs in pattern (during the set time). Although NTA announced provisional plans to telecast sporting and special events over a live network, the network remained distributed almost entirely on film. One notable exception, the public affairs program Open End, was broadcast live from New York City to a network of 10 stations; the rest of the affiliates received the program on videotape.Although NTA's program service was fairly popular, occasionally attracting up to 22 percent of the viewing audience, the NTA Film Network was never a serious competitor to the "Big Three" television networks. The company had only three O&Os, while the larger networks had five apiece. Executives considered purchasing KTVR in Denver and WITI in Milwaukee, but those stations were never acquired. NTA and its parent company sold the Minneapolis station in November 1959, the Kansas City station in August 1960, and its flagship New York City station in November 1961. NTA continued syndication services even after its flagship station was sold, however, and a few new television series debuted between 1961 and 1965. NTA also re-ran its older filmed programs during this era.
All affiliate television stations are listed below, whether they carried many NTA programs or only a single series. Television stations listed here aired NTA programs between the launch of the network in 1956 and the end of the 1961–1962 television season.List of programs broadcast by the NTA Film Network
This is a list of programs broadcast by the NTA Film Network, an early American television network and syndication service which operated in North America from 1956 to around 1961, when the network's flagship station, WNTA-TV, was sold.
All programs are listed below, whether they were NTA original series or programs only seen in second-run syndication.Man's Heritage
Man's Heritage is an early American television series which aired in NTA Film Network syndication in the 1950s. It was a religious program featuring prolific American actor Raymond Massey. Few details about this little-noted series have been recorded. According to McNeil (1996), the series aired during 1956 and was 30 minutes long. However, a 10-minute-long program named Man's Heritage aired during Autumn 1954. In each episode, Mr. Massey would narrate stories from the Bible. The series also aired in parts of Canada.Man Without a Gun
Man Without a Gun is an American western television series produced by 20th Century Fox Television and presented on the NTA Film Network and in first-run syndication in the United States from 1957 to 1959. Set in the town of Yellowstone near Yellowstone National Park in the then Dakota Territory during the 1870s, the program starred Rex Reason as newspaper editor Adam MacLean, who brought miscreants to justice without the use of violence or gunplay but through his Yellowstone Sentinel. The co-star was Mort Mills, as Marshal Frank Tallman, who intervened when the "pen" proved not to be "mightier than the sword".Harry Harvey, Sr., was cast in twenty-one episodes as Yellowstone Mayor George Dixon.
The program is considered to have been unique because it showcased MacLean's moral ethics and common sense to bring outlaws to justice. The show was also used as a schoolroom to teach the youngsters of the 1950s about decency and the differences between right and wrong.Mantovani (TV series)
Mantovani is an early American television series which aired in NTA Film Network syndication during 1959. It was a music program featuring British orchestra leader Annunzio Paolo Mantovani and his 46-piece orchestra, and hosted by John Conte.The series was produced in England during 1958 and 1959, but was distributed to local stations across the United States. 39 episodes were filmed for National Telefilm Associates. According to Brooks and Marsh (1964), guest stars included Vic Damone, Connie Francis, and Dorothy Collins.National Telefilm Associates
National Telefilm Associates (otherwise known by its initials, NTA) was an audio-visual marketing company that primarily handled syndication of American film libraries to television, including the Republic Pictures film library, which did so well on cable television in the 1980s that the company renamed itself Republic Pictures and undertook film production and home video sales as well.The Passerby (TV series)
The Passerby is a 15 minute American TV series that aired in the mid-1950s and was distributed on the NTA Film Network. It was produced by Ely Landau. Celebrities who made guest appearances included Veronica Lake, Jackie Cooper, Fay Bainter, Eva Gabor, and Kent Smith. Among its directors was James Neilson (director).The Play of the Week
The Play of the Week was an American anthology series of televised stage plays which aired in NTA Film Network syndication from October 12, 1959 to May 1, 1961.The Third Man (TV series)
The Third Man was a TV series which ran from 1959 to 1965. It was based on the novel and film The Third Man and starred Michael Rennie as Harry Lime.
The series was a co production between NTA Film Network and British Broadcasting Prestige Productions. The first twenty episodes were shot at 20th Century Fox studios in Hollywood. Later episodes were filmed at Shepperton Studios and Associated-British Elstree Studios, in England.This Is Alice
This Is Alice is an American sitcom starring nine-year-old Patty Ann Garrity. The program aired from October 1958 to August 1959 on the NTA Film Network.WNET
WNET, channel 13 (branded as "THIRTEEN"), is a non-commercial educational, public television station licensed to Newark, New Jersey and serving the New York metropolitan area. WNET is owned by WNET.org (formerly known as the Educational Broadcasting Corporation) and is also the parent of Long Island PBS station WLIW (channel 21) and the operator of the New Jersey Public broadcasting network NJTV and the website NJ Spotlight. WNET is a member station of, and a primary program provider to, PBS. WNET's main studios and offices are located in Midtown Manhattan with an auxiliary street-level studio in the Lincoln Center complex on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The station's transmitter is located at One World Trade Center.
c - Now cable-only, i - Now internet-only