Capital Cities/ABC Inc.
  • Hudson Valley Broadcasting Company
  • (1946–1959)
  • Capital Cities Broadcasting
  • (1959–1973)
  • Capital Cities Communications
  • (1973–1985)
Company typePublic
IndustryRadio broadcasting, television broadcasting, publishing, recording
PredecessorAmerican Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres
FoundedApril 5, 1946; 78 years ago (1946-04-05)
FoundersHyman Rosenblum
Lowell Thomas
Frank Smith
DefunctSeptember 5, 1996; 27 years ago (1996-09-05)
FateAcquired by and merged with The Walt Disney Company
Key people
Footnotes / references

Capital Cities/ABC Inc. was an American media company. It was founded in 1985 when Capital Cities Communications purchased the much larger American Broadcasting Company. It was eventually acquired by The Walt Disney Company and re-branded itself as Disney–ABC Television Group (now Disney General Entertainment Content) in 1996.



Capital Cities/ABC Inc. origins trace back in 1946, when Hyman Rosenblum (1911–1996), a local Albany businessman, and several investors, including future Congressman Leo William O'Brien and local advertising executive Harry L. Goldman decided to bid for a new radio station license in Albany. Rosenblum was also instrumental in help co-founding Hudson Valley Community College in Troy several years later, when he was on the Board of Trustees from 1953 to 1957 and then became the board's secretary in 1957, holding that position until his death in 1996. The company was incorporated as Hudson Valley Broadcasting Company on April 5, 1946[2] when the company received the license for WROW radio in Albany, New York. In October 1953, it opened the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area's second television station, WROW-TV on channel 41. In the late fall of 1954, a group of New York City-based investors, led by famous radio broadcaster and author Lowell Thomas, bought majority control of Hudson Valley Broadcasting from Rosenblum and associates. Thomas' manager/investing partner, Frank Smith became the President of the company.

The Capital Cities era

In 1956, WROW-TV moved from channel 41 to channel 10 and became WCDA. In 1957, Hudson Valley Broadcasting merged with Durham Broadcasting Enterprises, the owners of WTVD television in Durham, North Carolina.[3] The new company took the name Capital Cities Television Corporation in November 1957,[2] as both WROW/WCDA (now WTEN) and WTVD served the capital regions of their respective states. Capital Cities then began purchasing stations, starting with WPRO-AM-FM-TV in Providence, Rhode Island (another capital city) in 1959.[4] In December 1959, the company's name was changed to Capital Cities Broadcasting.[2]

During the 1960s, Capital Cities' holdings grew with the separate 1961 purchases of WPAT-AM-FM in Paterson, New Jersey, and WKBW radio and WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York;[5] and of the Goodwill Stations, which included WJR-AM-FM in Detroit, WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan, and WSAZ-AM-TV in Huntington, West Virginia (serving the Charleston capital region), in 1964.[6] CapCities entered the Los Angeles market in 1966 with its purchase of KPOL (later KZLA and now the present-day KMPC) and KPOL-FM (later KZLA-FM and now KLLI).[7] As a result of the Goodwill Stations purchase, and to adhere to Federal Communications Commission rules limiting ownership of VHF television stations to five per company, Capital Cities spun off WJRT-TV to Poole Broadcasting, a company owned by former CapCities shareholder John B. Poole.[8] Poole's own Poole Broadcasting firm would later purchase two other television stations from CapCities: the second was WPRO-TV (now WPRI-TV) in 1967, coinciding with CapCities' purchase of KTRK-TV in Houston from the Houston Chronicle in June of that year.[9][10][11]

In 1968, Capital Cities entered the publishing business by acquiring Fairchild Publications, publisher of several magazines including Women's Wear Daily.[12] The following year the firm purchased its first newspaper, The Oakland Press of Pontiac, Michigan.

The following year, the company made another big purchase—acquiring WFIL-AM-FM-TV in Philadelphia, WNHC-AM-FM-TV in New Haven, Connecticut (in another capital region), and KFRE-AM-FM-TV in Fresno, California from Triangle Publications, as well as its syndicated television unit Triangle Program Sales.[13][14] Capital Cities would immediately sell the radio stations to new owners, and, so as to comply with an FCC rule in place then that prohibited TV and radio stations in the same market, but different ownership from sharing the same callsigns, changed the television stations' calls to WPVI-TV, WTNH-TV, and KFSN-TV respectively. The acquisitions of WPVI and WTNH gave them seven VHF stations, two stations over the FCC limit at the time, and WTEN and WSAZ-TV were respectively spun off by CapCities to Poole Broadcasting and Lee Enterprises not long after the Triangle purchase was finalized.[15][16][17] After the sale was consummated, its syndicated unit was renamed to Capital Cities Television Productions (aka Capital Cities TV Productions and Capital Cities Productions). Charles Keller was named general manager of the unit.[18] WSAZ radio in Huntington was divested to Stoner Broadcasting (it is now WRVC), also as a result of the Triangle deal.[19] To reflect the diversity of their holdings, the company changed its name to Capital Cities Communications on May 4, 1973.[2]

In 1974, Capital Cities bought WBAP and KSCS-FM in Fort Worth, Texas, along with its purchase of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.[20] The firm also increased its newspaper and publishing holdings during the middle-1970s. In 1974, Capital Cities acquired the Oregon-based Jackson Newspapers chain, which included the Albany Democrat-Herald, the Ashland Daily Tidings, and several other local newspapers and magazines. [citation needed] The Kansas City (Missouri) Star was acquired in 1977, and the following year CapCities bought Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

In 1977, the company was a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit by the owners of Buffalo-based TV stations against the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission over that country's simultaneous substitution rules. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the broadcasters. From 1978 to 1985, just before it bought ABC, Capital Cities Communications produced a series of family specials distributed through its syndicated unit.[21]

Returning to broadcasting, WBIE-FM (now WKHX-FM) in Marietta, Georgia (near Atlanta, another capital city), was bought in 1981.[22] WROW radio in Albany, the company's first station, and its FM counterpart (which is now WYJB) were sold in 1983,[23] and in 1984 the company made its last pre-ABC-merger purchases with independent station WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida[24] and KLAC radio in Los Angeles (concurrent with the sale of KZLA).[25]

Capital Cities/ABC

On March 19, 1985, Capital Cities announced that it would purchase ABC for $3.5 billion, which shocked the media industry, as ABC was some four times bigger than Capital Cities was at the time. Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett helped to finance the deal in exchange for a 25 percent share in the combined company.[26][27] The deal was, at the time, the largest non-oil merger in world business history.[28] However, this record would be surpassed by year's end by the merger of General Electric and RCA (the latter company then being the parent company of rival network NBC).[29]

The newly merged company, known as Capital Cities/ABC[2] (or CapCities/ABC), was forced to sell off some stations due to FCC ownership limits. Between them, ABC and CapCities owned more television stations than FCC rules allowed at the time. Also, the two companies owned several radio stations in the same markets.[30] Of the former Capital Cities television stations, the new company opted to keep the outlets in Philadelphia, Houston, Durham, and Fresno. WFTS and ABC's WXYZ-TV in Detroit were divested as a pair to the E. W. Scripps Company's broadcasting division (then known as Scripps-Howard Broadcasting). WTNH and WKBW-TV were sold separately to minority-owned companies;[31] WKBW-TV would eventually be acquired by E.W. Scripps by 2014. WTNH would have been sold in any event due to a significant signal overlap with ABC flagship WABC-TV in New York City. At the time, the FCC normally did not allow companies to own two television stations with common coverage areas (known commonly as the "one-to-a-market" rule), and would not even consider granting a waiver for a city-grade overlap.

The merged company could have been forced to sell off WPVI as well due to a large Grade B signal overlap with WABC-TV. Citing CBS' ownership of television stations in New York City (WCBS-TV) and Philadelphia (at the time WCAU-TV) under grandfathered status, Capital Cities/ABC requested, and was granted a permanent waiver from the FCC allowing it to keep WPVI-TV. Had the waiver request been denied, WXYZ-TV would have been retained.

WPVI-TV and KTRK-TV had long been ABC affiliates (in fact, two of ABC's strongest affiliates), while WTVD and KFSN-TV, longtime CBS affiliates, respectively switched to ABC in August and September 1985.

On the radio side, new owners were found for CapCities' WPAT stations (Park Communications was the buyer), WKBW (Price Communications, the new owner, changed its call letters to WWKB, which was necessitated due to an FCC regulation in effect then that forbade TV and radio stations in the same city, but with different owners from sharing the same call letters) and KLAC and KZLA-FM (to Malrite Communications), and ABC's WRIF-FM in Detroit (to a minority-owned concern), among others.[32]

The merger was completed on January 3, 1986. Capital Cities/ABC retained ABC's radio and television combinations in New York City (WABC, WABC-TV and WPLJ), Los Angeles (KABC, KABC-TV and KLOS), Chicago (WLS, WLS-FM and WLS-TV), and San Francisco (KGO and KGO-TV), along with WMAL and WRQX-FM in Washington, D.C.; CapCities' aforementioned television outlets and the Detroit, Providence, Marietta and Fort Worth radio stations; Fairchild Publications; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Kansas City Star; and other broadcasting and publishing properties.[12] Orbis Communications immediately purchased the syndication rights to the Capital Cities production library.[33] The library was then leased to pay cable channel HBO for two years for its Family Specials library of 26 titles.[34]

In May 1991, Capital Cities/ABC's Farm Progress Cos. closed its purchase of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.'s 12-magazine farm publishing group.[35] In 1992, Capital Cities/ABC sold Word Inc.'s music and book publishing to Thomas Nelson.[36] In 1992, ABC launched its new home video unit ABC Video, which was headed by former Vestron Video employee Jon Peisinger.[37] In February 1993, the company formed a television production joint venture with Brillstein-Grey Entertainment to tap into their managed talent and to take advantage of relaxed production regulations.[38][39] In July, CC/ABC purchased a majority ownership in animation studio DIC Animation City, forming a joint venture called DIC Entertainment L.P.[40] Later in July, CC/ABC reorganized into 4 groups, ABC TV Network Group, CC/ABC Publishing Group, the CC/ABC Broadcast Group, and a newly formed CC/ABC Multimedia Group overseeing the network, magazines & newspapers, stations and new technology & miscellaneous operations respectively. Network Group president Bob Iger was also promoted to executive president of CC/ABC.[41] Also in 1993, ABC launched a new video line Signet Video,[42] which were designed to release feature films for theatrical release or telemovies.[43] It was subsequently changed its name to Summa Video, and signed a deal with Paramount Home Video to handle distribution of the titles.[44]

In 1994, CC/ABC agreed to a $200 million seven-year television production joint venture with the original DreamWorks live-action studio.[45] Also that year, CC/ABC formed a partnership with Brillstein/Grey Entertainment to launch Brillstein/Grey Communications.[46]

The Walt Disney Company announced that it would merge with Capital Cities/ABC in 1995.[47] This merger of equals led to the formation of a new subsidiary, ABC, Inc., on September 19, 1996.

Structure at Disney acquisition

Former Capital Cities-owned stations

Stations are listed alphabetically by state and city of license.


Television stations

City of license / Market Station
  • Years
  • owned
Current ownership status
Fresno, CA-Visalia, CA KFSN-TV 30 (30) 1971–1986 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
New HavenHartford, CT WTNH-TV 8 (10) 1971–1986 ABC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
TampaSt. Petersburg, FL WFTS-TV 28 (29) 1984–1986 ABC affiliate owned by the E. W. Scripps Company
FlintSaginawBay City, MI WJRT-TV 12 (12) 1964 ABC affiliate owned by Allen Media Broadcasting
AlbanySchenectadyTroy, NY WROW-TV/WCDA/WTEN** 10 (26) 1953–1971 ABC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Buffalo, NY WKBW-TV 7 (38) 1961–1986 ABC affiliate owned by the E. W. Scripps Company
DurhamRaleighFayetteville, NC WTVD** 11 (11) 1957–1986 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
Philadelphia, PA WPVI-TV 6 (6) 1971–1986 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
Providence, RINew Bedford, MA WPRO-TV 12 (13) 1959–1967 CBS affiliate, WPRI-TV, owned by Nexstar Media Group
Houston, TX KTRK-TV 13 (13) 1967–1986 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
HuntingtonCharleston, WV WSAZ-TV 3 (23) 1964–1971 NBC affiliate owned by Gray Television
This list does not include WTVG in Toledo, Ohio. That station, which switched its affiliation from NBC to ABC, was purchased by Capital Cities/ABC in 1995, and was completed just before Disney's acquisition of the combined group was finalized. In addition, WJRT-TV was reacquired in the same deal.

Radio stations

AM Station FM Station
City of license / Market Station Years owned Current ownership
Los Angeles, CA KPOL/KZLA 1540 1966–1984 KMPC, owned by P&Y Broadcasting Licensee, LLC
KLAC 570 1984–1986 Owned by iHeartMedia
KPOL-FM/KZLA-FM 93.9 1966–1986 KXOS, owned by 93.9 Holdings
AtlantaMarietta, GA WKHX 590 1985–1986 WDWD, owned by Salem Media Group
WKHX-FM 101.5 1981–1986 Owned by Cumulus Media
Detroit, MI WJR 760 1964–1986 Owned by Cumulus Media
WJR-FM/WHYT 96.3 1964–1986 WDVD, owned by Cumulus Media
Paterson, NJNew York City, NY WPAT 930 1961–1985 Owned by Multicultural Broadcasting
WPAT-FM 93.1 1961–1985 Owned by Spanish Broadcasting System
AlbanySchenectadyTroy, NY WROW 590 1947–1983 Owned by Pamal Broadcasting
WROW-FM 95.5** 1966–1983 WYJB, owned by Pamal Broadcasting
Buffalo, NY WKBW 1520 1961–1986 WWKB, owned by Audacy, Inc.
ProvidenceWarwick, RI WPRO 630 1959–1986 Owned by Cumulus Media
WPRO-FM 92.3 1959–1986 Owned by Cumulus Media
Fort WorthDallas, TX WBAP 820 1974–1986 Owned by Cumulus Media
KSCS 96.3 1974–1986 Owned by Cumulus Media
Huntington, WVAshland, KY WSAZ 930 1964–1970 WRVC, owned by Fifth Avenue Broadcasting Company

Financial results

Annual financial statements of Capital Cities/ABC
(1994 and 1995 in millions of U.S. dollars, other years in thousands)
Year Revenues Net income
TV/Radio Press Total TV/Radio Press Total
1983[51] 302,785 459,510 762,295 124,696 104,034 228,730
1984[51] 348,106 591,616 939,722 144,182 133,179 277,361
1985[51] 378,297 642,583 1,020,880 150,970 138,512 289,482
1986[51] 3,153,619[CA 1] 970,755 4,124,374 474,535 158,999 602,678
1987[51] 3,433,749 1,006,597 4,440,346 632,910 146,717 745,990
1988[51] 3,749,557 1,023,896 4,773,453 722,171 129,720 816,029
1989[51] 3,899,898 1,057,405 4,957,394 836,149 130,444 922,512
1990[51] 4,283,633 1,101,969 5,385,602 830,457 132,371 923,215
1991[51] 4,329,743 1,052,246 5,381,989 669,708 122,905 761,233
1992[51][52] 4,265,561 1,078,566 5,344,127 619,317 136,389 755,706
1993[51] 4,663,215 1,010,438 5,673,653 778,077 125,647 903,724
1994[53] 5,277 1,102.1 6,379.7 1,127 155 1,239
1995[54] 5,727.5 1,151.1 6,878.5 1,164.8 139 1,238.8
Since 1996, Capital Cities/ABC's financial results are included in those of Disney Media Networks.
  1. ^ Following the acquisition of ABC


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  38. ^ Lippman, John. Cap Cities/ABC Forms Joint Venture With Brillstein-Grey. February 3, 1994. Los Angeles Times.
  39. ^ BILL Carter, Bill. ABC in Unusual Venture With Talent Firm. February 3, 1994. The New York Times.
  40. ^ Lowry, Brian (July 26, 1993). "DIC Ent. formed for kids TV fare". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
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  53. ^ Annual report [Section 13 and 15(d), not S-K Item 405 Acc-no: 0000950130-95-000586 Size: 327 KB
  54. ^ Current report, items 1, 5, and 7 Acc-no: 0000950157-96-000044 Size: 16 KB