DuMont Television Network
The DuMont Television Network (also known as the DuMont Network, simply DuMont/Du Mont, or (incorrectly) Dumont/duːmɒnt/) was one of the world's pioneer commercial television networks, rivalling NBC and CBS for the distinction of being first overall in the USA. It began operation in the United States in 1946. It was owned by DuMont Laboratories, a television equipment and set manufacturer. The network was hindered by the prohibitive cost of broadcasting, by regulations imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which restricted the company's growth, and even by the company's partner, Paramount Pictures. Despite several innovations in broadcasting and the creation of one of television's biggest stars of the 1950s (Jackie Gleason), the network never found itself on solid financial ground. Forced to expand on UHF channels during an era when UHF was not yet a standard feature on television sets, DuMont fought an uphill battle for program clearances outside of their three owned-and-operated stations in New York, Washington and Pittsburgh, finally ending network operations in 1956.
DuMont's latter-day obscurity has prompted TV historian David Weinstein to refer to it as the "Forgotten Network" or "Network Is Long Gone". A few popular DuMont programs, such as Cavalcade of Stars and Emmy Award winner Life Is Worth Living, appear in television retrospectives or are mentioned briefly in books about U.S. television history, but almost all the network's programming was destroyed in the 1970s.
DuMont Laboratories was founded in 1931 by Dr. Allen B. DuMont with only $1,000, and a laboratory in his basement. He and his staff were responsible for many early technical innovations, including the first consumer all-electronic television set in 1938. The company's television sets soon became the gold standard of the industry. In 1942, DuMont worked with the Army in developing radar technology during World War II. This ended up bringing in $5 million in capital for the company.
Early sales of television sets were hampered by the lack of regularly scheduled programming being broadcast. A few months after selling his first set in 1938, DuMont opened his own New York area experimental television station (W2XVT) in Passaic, New Jersey. In 1940, the station moved to Manhattan as W2XWV on channel 4. Unlike CBS and NBC, which reduced their hours of television broadcasting during World War II, DuMont continued full-scale experimental and commercial broadcasts throughout the war. In 1944, W2XWV became WABD moving to channel 5 in 1945, (the calls were taken from Mr. DuMont's initials), the third commercial television station in New York. On May 19, 1945, DuMont opened experimental W3XWT in Washington, DC. A minority shareholder in DuMont Laboratories was Paramount Pictures, which had advanced $400,000 in 1939 for a 40% share in the company. Paramount had television interests of its own, having launched experimental stations in Los Angeles in 1939 and Chicago in 1940, and DuMont's association with Paramount ultimately proved to be a mistake.
Soon after his experimental Washington station signed on, DuMont began experimental coaxial cable hookups between his laboratories in Passaic, New Jersey, and his two stations. It is said that one of those broadcasts on the hookup announced that the U.S. had dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. This was later considered to be the official beginning of the DuMont Network by both Thomas T. Goldsmith, the network's chief engineer and DuMont's best friend,[page needed] and DuMont himself. Regular network service began on August 15, 1946, on WABD and W3XWT. In 1947, W3XWT became WTTG, named after Goldsmith. The pair were joined in 1949 by WDTV (channel 2, now KDKA-TV) in Pittsburgh.
Although NBC in New York was known to have station-to-station television links as early as 1940 with WPTZ (now KYW) in Philadelphia and WRGB Schenectady, NY, DuMont received its station licenses before NBC resumed its previously sporadic network broadcasts after the war.ABC had just come into existence as a radio network in 1943 and did not enter network television until 1948, when it signed on a flagship station in New York City, WJZ-TV (now WABC-TV). CBS also waited until 1948 to begin network operations because it was waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to approve its color television system (which it eventually did not). Other companies – including Mutual, the Yankee Network, and Paramount itself – were interested in starting television networks, but were prevented from successfully doing so by restrictive FCC regulations; however, at least the Paramount Television Network actually did have some limited success in network operations in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Despite no history of radio programming or stable of radio stars to draw on and perennial cash shortages, DuMont was an innovative and creative network. Without the radio revenues that supported mighty NBC and CBS, DuMont programmers relied on their wits and on connections with Broadway. Eventually, the network provided original programs that are remembered more than 60 years later.[page needed]
The network largely ignored the standard business model of 1950s TV, in which one advertiser sponsored an entire show, enabling it to have complete control over its content. Instead, DuMont sold commercials to many different advertisers, freeing producers of its shows from the veto power held by sole sponsors. This eventually became the standard model for US television. Some commercial time was sold regionally on a co-op basis, while other spots were sold network-wide.
DuMont also holds another important place in American TV history. WDTV's sign-on made it possible for stations in the Midwest to receive live network programming from stations on the East Coast, and vice versa. Before then, the networks relied on separate regional networks in the two time zones for live programming, and the West Coast received network programming from kinescopes (films shot directly from live television screens) originating from the East Coast. On January 11, 1949, the coaxial cable linking East and Midwest (known in television circles as "the Golden Spike") was activated. The ceremony, hosted by DuMont and WDTV, was carried on all four networks.WGN-TV (channel 9) in Chicago and WABD in New York were able to share programs through a live coaxial cable feed when WDTV signed on in Pittsburgh, because the station completed the East Coast-to-Midwest chain, allowing stations in both regions to air the same program simultaneously, which is still the standard for US TV. It was another two years before the West Coast got live programming from the East (and the East able to get live programming from the West), but this was the beginning of the modern era of network television.
The first broadcasts came from DuMont's 515 Madison Avenue headquarters, and it soon found additional space, including a fully functioning theater, in the New York branch of Wanamaker's department store at Ninth Street and Broadway. Later, a lease on the Adelphi Theatre on 54th Street and the Ambassador Theatre on West 49th Street gave the network a site for variety shows, and in 1954, the lavish DuMont Tele-Centre opened in the former Jacob Ruppert's Central Opera House at 205 East 67th Street.
DuMont was the first network to broadcast a film production for TV: Talk Fast, Mister, produced by RKO in 1944. DuMont also aired the first TV situation comedy, Mary Kay and Johnny, as well as the first network-televised soap opera, Faraway Hill. Cavalcade of Stars, a variety show hosted by Jackie Gleason, was the birthplace of The Honeymooners (Gleason took his variety show to CBS in 1952, but filmed the "Classic 39" Honeymooners episodes at DuMont's Adelphi Theater studio in 1955-56). Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's devotional program Life Is Worth Living went up against Milton Berle in many cities, and was the first show to compete successfully in the ratings against "Mr. Television". In 1952, Sheen won an Emmy Award for "Most Outstanding Personality". The network's other notable programs include:
- Ted Mack's The Original Amateur Hour, which began on radio in the 1930s under original host Edward Bowes
- The Morey Amsterdam Show, a comedy/variety show hosted by Morey Amsterdam, which started on CBS before moving to DuMont in 1949
- Captain Video and His Video Rangers, a hugely popular kids' science fiction series
- The Arthur Murray Party, a dance program
- Down You Go, a popular panel show
- Rocky King, Inside Detective, a private eye series starring Roscoe Karns
- The Plainclothesman, a camera's-eye-view detective series
- Live coverage of boxing and professional wrestling, the latter featuring matches staged by the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the predecessor to WWE
- The Johns Hopkins Science Review, a Peabody Award-winning education program
- Cash and Carry, the first network-televised game show
- The Ernie Kovacs Show, the first truly innovative show in what was then visual radio, not television.
The network was a pioneer in TV programming aimed at minority audiences and featuring minority performers, at a time when the other American networks aired few television series for non-whites. Among DuMont's minority programs were The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, starring Asian American film actress Anna May Wong, the first US TV show to star an Asian American, and The Hazel Scott Show, starring pianist and singer Hazel Scott, the first US network TV series to be hosted by a black woman.
Although DuMont's programming pre-dated videotape, many DuMont offerings were recorded on kinescopes. These kinescopes were said to be stored in a warehouse until the 1970s. Actress Edie Adams, the wife of comedian Ernie Kovacs (both regular performers on early television) testified in 1996 before a panel of the Library of Congress on the preservation of television and video. Adams claimed that so little value was given to these films that the stored kinescopes were loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay. Nevertheless, a number of DuMont programs survive at The Paley Center for Media in New York City, the UCLA Film and Television Archive in Los Angeles, in the Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.
Although nearly the entire DuMont film archive was destroyed, several surviving DuMont shows have been released on DVD. A large number of episodes of Life Is Worth Living have been saved, and they are now aired weekly on Catholic-oriented cable network, the Eternal Word Television Network, which also makes a collection of them available on DVD (in the biographical information about Fulton J. Sheen added to the end of many episodes, a still image of Bishop Sheen looking into a DuMont Television camera can be seen). Several companies that distribute DVDs over the Internet have released a small number of episodes of Cavalcade of Stars and The Morey Amsterdam Show. Two more DuMont programs, Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Rocky King, Inside Detective, have had a small amount of surviving episodes released commercially by at least one major distributor of public domain programming.
DuMont programs were by necessity low-budget affairs, and the network received relatively few awards from the TV industry. Most awards during the 1950s went to NBC and CBS, who were able to out-spend other companies and draw on their extensive history of radio broadcasting in the relatively new television medium. DuMont, however, did win a number of awards during its years of operation.
During the 1952–53 TV season, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, host of Life Is Worth Living, won an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Personality. Sheen beat out CBS's Arthur Godfrey, Edward R. Murrow and Lucille Ball, who were also nominated for the same award. Sheen was also nominated for – but did not win – consecutive Public Service Emmys in 1952, 1953, and 1954.
DuMont received an Emmy nomination for Down You Go, a popular game show during the 1952–53 television season (in the category Best Audience Participation, Quiz, or Panel Program). The network was nominated twice for its coverage of professional football during the 1953–54 and 1954–55 television seasons.
The Johns Hopkins Science Review, a DuMont public affairs program, was awarded a Peabody Award in 1952 in the Education category. Sheen's Emmy and the Science Review Peabody were the only national awards the DuMont Network received. Though DuMont series and performers continued to win local TV awards, by the mid-1950s the DuMont network no longer had a national presence.
|Videodex 62 City Ratings|
|First week of August 1950|
|Rank||Series||Network||# of cities||% TV homes|
|1||Toast of the Town||CBS||34||37.2|
|2||Stop the Music||ABC||50||28.4|
|3||Kraft TV Theater||NBC||34||27.5|
|5||The Garry Moore Show||CBS||19||26.4|
|6||The Big Story||NBC||32||25.6|
|7||The Original Amateur Hour||NBC||54||25.3|
|8||Break the Bank||NBC||42||24.2|
|9||The Lone Ranger||ABC||39||23.9|
|10||Your Hit Parade||NBC||18||23.7|
|11||Cavalcade of Stars||DuMont||20||22.2|
|14||Beat the Clock||CBS||33||20.7|
The earliest measurements of TV audiences were performed by the C. E. Hooper company of New York. DuMont performed well in the Hooper ratings; in fact, DuMont's talent program, The Original Amateur Hour, was the most popular series of the 1947–48 season.Variety ranked DuMont's popular variety series Cavalcade of Stars as the tenth most popular series two seasons later.
In February 1950, Hooper's competitor A. C. Nielsen bought out the Hooperatings system. DuMont did not fare well with the change: none of its shows appeared on Nielsen's annual top 20 lists of the most popular series. One of the DuMont Network's biggest hits of the 1950s, Life is Worth Living, received Nielsen ratings of up to 11.1, attracting more than 10 million viewers. Sheen's one-man program – in which he discussed philosophy, psychology and other fields of thought from a Christian perspective – was the most widely viewed religious series in the history of television. 169 local television stations aired Life, and for three years the program competed successfully against NBC's popular The Milton Berle Show. The ABC and CBS programs which aired in the same timeslot were cancelled.
Life is Worth Living was not the only DuMont program to achieve double-digit ratings. In 1952, Time magazine reported that popular DuMont game show Down You Go had attracted an audience estimated at 16 million viewers. Similarly, DuMont's summer 1954 replacement series, The Goldbergs, achieved audiences estimated at 10 million. Still, these series were only moderately popular compared to NBC's and CBS's highest-rated programs.
Nielsen was not the only company to report TV ratings, however. Companies such as , and Arbitron had also measured TV viewership. The adjacent chart comes from Videodex's August 1950 ratings breakdown, as reported in Billboard magazine.
Disputes with AT&T and Paramount
DuMont struggled to get its programs aired in many parts of the country, in part due to technical limitations of network lines maintained by the telephone company AT&T Corporation. During the 1940s and 1950s, television signals were sent between stations via coaxial cable and microwave links which were owned by AT&T. The service provider did not have enough cable lines and microwave circuits to provide signal relay service from all four networks to all of their affiliates at the same time, so AT&T allocated times when each network could offer live programs to their affiliates. In 1950, AT&T allotted NBC and CBS each over 100 hours of live prime time network service, but gave ABC only 53 hours, and DuMont just 37. AT&T also required each television network to lease both radio and television lines. DuMont was the only television network without a radio network, but was forced to pay for a service it did not use. DuMont protested AT&T's actions with the Federal Communications Commission, and eventually received a compromise.
DuMont's biggest corporate hurdle, however, may have been with the company's own partner, Paramount. Relations between the two companies were strained as early as 1939, when Paramount opened experimental television stations in Los Angeles and Chicago without DuMont. Dr. DuMont claimed that the original 1937 acquisition proposal required Paramount to expand its television interests "through DuMont". Paramount representative Paul Raibourn, who also was a member of DuMont's board of directors, denied that any such restriction had ever been discussed (Dr. DuMont was vindicated on this point by a 1953 examination of the original draft document).
DuMont aspired to grow beyond its three stations, applying for new television station licenses in Cincinnati and Cleveland in 1947. This would give the network five owned-and-operated stations (O&Os), the maximum allowed by the FCC at the time. However, DuMont was hampered by Paramount's two stations, KTLA (channel 5) in Los Angeles and WBKB (channel 4, now WBBM-TV on channel 2) in Chicago – the descendants of the two experimental stations that rankled DuMont in 1940. Although these stations never carried DuMont programming (with the exception of KTLA for one year from 1947 to 1948), and in fact competed against DuMont's affiliates in those cities, the FCC ruled that Paramount essentially controlled DuMont, which effectively placed the network at the five-station cap. Paramount's exertion of influence over the network's management and the power of its voting stock brought the FCC to its conclusion. Thus, DuMont was unable to open additional stations as long as Paramount owned stations or owned a portion of DuMont. Paramount refused to sell.
In 1949, Paramount Pictures launched the Paramount Television Network, a service which provided local television stations with filmed television programs; Paramount's network "undercut the company that it had invested in." Paramount did not share its stars, big budgets or filmed programs with DuMont; the company had stopped financially supporting DuMont in 1941. Although Paramount executives indicated they would produce programs for DuMont, the studio never supplied the network with programs or technical assistance. The acrimonious relationship between Paramount and DuMont came to a head during the 1953 FCC hearings regarding the ABC–United Paramount Theaters merger when Paul Raibourn, an executive at Paramount, publicly derided the quality of DuMont television sets in court testimony.
Trouble from the start
DuMont began with one basic disadvantage: unlike NBC, CBS and ABC, it did not have a radio network from which to draw big-name talent, affiliate loyalty or radio profits to underwrite television operations until the television medium itself became profitable. Most early television licenses were granted to established radio broadcasters, and many longtime relationships with radio networks carried over to the new medium. As CBS and NBC (and to a lesser extent, ABC) gained their footing, they began to offer programming that drew on their radio backgrounds, bringing over the most popular radio stars. Early television station owners, when deciding which network would receive their main affiliation, were more likely to choose CBS's roster of Lucille Ball, Jack Benny and Ed Sullivan, or NBC's lineup of Milton Berle and Sid Caesar over DuMont, which offered a then-unknown Jackie Gleason and Bishop Sheen. In smaller markets, with a limited number of stations, DuMont and ABC were often relegated to secondary status, so their programs got clearance only if the primary network was off the air or delayed via kinescope recording ("teletranscriptions" in DuMont parlance).
Adding to DuMont's troubles was the FCC's 1948 "freeze" on television license applications. This was done to sort out the thousands of applications that had come streaming in, but also to rethink the allocation and technical standards laid down prior to World War II. It became clear soon after the war that 12 channels ("channel 1" had been removed from television broadcasting use because storms and other types of interference could severely affect the quality of signals on this channel) were not nearly enough for national television service. What was to be a six-month freeze lasted until 1952, when the FCC opened the UHF spectrum. The FCC, however, did not require television manufacturers to include UHF capability. In order to see UHF stations, most people had to buy an expensive converter. Even then, the picture quality was marginal at best. Tied to this was a decision to restrict VHF allocations in medium- and smaller-sized markets. Television sets were not required to have all-channel tuning until 1964.
Forced to rely on UHF to expand, DuMont saw one station after another go dark due to dismal ratings. It bought small, distressed UHF station KCTY (channel 50) in Kansas City, Missouri in 1954, but ran it for just three months before shutting it down at a considerable loss after attempting to compete with three established VHF stations.
The FCC's Dr. Hyman Goldin said in 1960, "If there had been four VHF outlets in the top markets, there's no question DuMont would have lived and would have eventually turned the corner in terms of profitability."
During the early years of television, there was some measure of cooperation among the four major U.S. television networks. However, as television grew into a profitable business, an intense rivalry developed between the networks, just as it had in radio. NBC and CBS competed fiercely for viewers and advertising dollars, a contest neither underfunded DuMont nor ABC could hope to win. According to author Dennis Mazzocco, "NBC tried to make an arrangement with ABC and CBS to destroy the DuMont network." The plan was for NBC and CBS to exclusively offer ABC their most popular series after they had aired on the bigger networks. ABC would become a network of re-runs, but DuMont would be shut out. ABC president Leonard Goldenson rejected NBC executive David Sarnoff's proposal, but "did not report it to the Justice Department".
DuMont survived the early 1950s only because of WDTV in Pittsburgh, the lone commercial VHF station in what was then the sixth-largest market. WDTV's only competition came from UHF stations and distant stations from Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Youngstown, Ohio; and Wheeling, West Virginia. No other commercial VHF station signed on in Pittsburgh until 1957, giving WDTV a de facto monopoly on television in the area. Since WDTV carried secondary affiliations with the other three networks, DuMont used this as a bargaining chip to get its programs cleared in other large markets.
Despite its severe financial straits, by 1953, DuMont appeared to be on its way to establishing itself as the third national network. DuMont programs aired live on 16 stations, but it could count on only seven primary stations – its three owned-and-operated stations ("O&Os"), plus WGN-TV in Chicago, KTTV (channel 11) in Los Angeles, KFEL-TV (channel 2, now KWGN-TV) in Denver and WTVN-TV (channel 6, now WSYX) in Columbus, Ohio. In contrast, ABC had a full complement of five O&Os, augmented by nine primary affiliates. ABC also had a radio network (it was descended from NBC's Blue Network) from which to draw talent, affiliate loyalty and a profit stream to subsidize television operations. However, ABC had only 14 primary stations, while CBS and NBC had over 40 each. By 1951, ABC was badly overextended and on the verge of bankruptcy. That year, the company announced a merger with United Paramount Theaters (the former theater division of Paramount Pictures, which was spun off as a result of the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. antitrust decision), but it was not until 1953 that the FCC approved the merger.
By this time, DuMont had begun to differentiate itself from NBC and CBS. It allowed its advertisers to choose the locations where their advertising ran, potentially saving them millions of dollars. By contrast, ABC operated like CBS and NBC even though it was only a fourth as large, forcing advertisers to purchase a large "must-buy" list of stations.
ABC's fortunes were dramatically altered in February 1953, when the FCC cleared the way for UPT to buy the network. The merger provided ABC with a badly needed cash infusion, giving it the resources to mount "top shelf" programming and to provide a national television service on a scale approaching that of CBS and NBC. Through UPT president Leonard Goldenson, ABC also gained ties with the Hollywood studios that more than matched those DuMont's producers had with Broadway.
Realizing that the ABC-UPT deal put DuMont on life support, network officials were receptive to a merger offer from ABC. Goldenson quickly brokered a deal with Ted Bergmann, DuMont's managing director, under which the merged network would have been called "ABC-DuMont" until at least 1958 and would have honored all of DuMont's network commitments. In return, DuMont would get $5 million in cash, guaranteed advertising time for DuMont sets and a secure future for its staff. A merged ABC-DuMont would have been a colossus rivaling CBS and NBC, as it would have owned stations in five of the six largest U.S. television markets (excluding only Philadelphia) as well as ABC's radio network. It also would have inherited DuMont's de facto monopoly in Pittsburgh, and would have been one of two networks to have full ownership of a station in the nation's capital (the other being NBC). However, it would have had to sell a New York station – either DuMont's WABD or ABC flagship WJZ-TV (channel 7, now WABC-TV), probably the former. It also would have had to sell two other stations – most likely ABC's two smallest O&Os, WXYZ-TV in Detroit and KGO-TV in San Francisco (both broadcasting on channel 7) – to get under the FCC's limit of five stations per owner.
However, Paramount vetoed the plan almost out of hand due to antitrust concerns. A few months earlier, the FCC had ruled that Paramount controlled DuMont, and there were still some questions about whether UPT had really separated from Paramount.
With no other way to readily obtain cash, DuMont sold WDTV to Westinghouse Electric Corporation for $9.75 million in late 1954. While this gave DuMont a short-term cash infusion, it eliminated the leverage the network had to get program clearances in other markets. Without its de facto monopoly in Pittsburgh, the company's advertising revenue shrank to less than half that of 1953. By February 1955, DuMont executives realized the company could not continue as a television network. The decision was made to shut down network operations and operate WABD and WTTG as independent stations. On April 1, 1955, most of DuMont's entertainment programs were dropped. Bishop Sheen aired his last program on DuMont on April 26 and later moved to ABC. By May, just eight programs were left on the network, with only inexpensive shows and sporting events keeping what was left of the network going through the summer. The network also largely abandoned the use of the intercity network coaxial cable, on which it had spent $3 million in 1954 to transmit shows that mostly lacked station clearance. The company only retained network links for live sports programming and utilizing the company's Electronicam process to produce studio-based programming. Ironically, Electronicam is best remembered for being used by Jackie Gleason's producers for the 39-half-hour episodes of The Honeymooners that aired on CBS during the 1955-56 television season.
In August, Paramount, with the help of other stockholders, seized full control of DuMont Laboratories. The last non-sports program on DuMont, the game show What's the Story, aired on September 23, 1955. After that, DuMont's network feed was used only for occasional sporting events. DuMont's last broadcast, a boxing match, aired on August 6, 1956. The date has also been reported as April 1950, September 1955, or August 4, 1958. According to one source, the final program aired on only five stations nationwide. It appears that the boxing show was syndicated to a few other east coast stations until 1958, but likely not as a production of DuMont or its successor company.
DuMont spun off WABD and WTTG as the "DuMont Broadcasting Corporation". The name was later changed to "Metropolitan Broadcasting Company" to distance the company from what was seen as a complete failure. In 1958, John Kluge bought Paramount's shares for $4 million, and renamed the company Metromedia in 1960. WABD became WNEW-TV and later WNYW; WTTG still broadcasts under its original call letters.
For 50 years, DuMont was the only major broadcast television network to cease operations, until CBS Corporation and Time Warner shut down two other struggling networks, UPN and The WB, in September 2006 to create The CW Television Network – whose schedule was originally composed largely of programs from both of its predecessor networks.
Fate of the DuMont stations
All three DuMont-owned stations are still operating and coincidentally, all three are owned-and-operated stations of their respective networks, just as when they were part of DuMont. Of the three, only Washington's WTTG still has its original call letters.
WTTG and New York's WABD (later WNEW-TV, and now WNYW) survived as Metromedia-owned independents until 1986, when Metromedia was purchased by the News Corporation to form the nucleus of the new Fox Broadcasting Company. Clarke Ingram, who maintained a DuMont memorial site, has suggested that Fox can be considered a revival, or at least a linear descendant, of DuMont.
Westinghouse changed WDTV's call letters to KDKA-TV after the pioneering radio station of the same name, and switched its primary affiliation to CBS immediately after the sale. Westinghouse's acquisition of CBS in 1995 made KDKA-TV a CBS owned-and-operated station.
DuMont programming library
DuMont produced more than 20,000 television episodes during the decade from 1946 to 1956. Because the shows were created prior to the launch of Ampex's electronic videotape recorder in late 1956, all of them were initially broadcast live in black and white, then recorded on film kinescope for reruns and for West Coast rebroadcasts. By the early 1970s, their vast library of 35mm and 16mm kinescopes eventually wound up in the hands of ABC, who reportedly disposed of all of them in New York City's East River to make room for more recent-vintage videotapes in a warehouse. Other kinescopes were put through a silver reclaiming process, because of the microscopic amounts of silver that made up the emulsion of black-and-white film during this time. It is estimated that only about 350 complete DuMont television shows survive today, the most famous being virtually all of Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners comedy sketches.
At its peak in 1954, DuMont was affiliated with around 200 television stations. In those days, television stations were free to "cherry-pick" which programs they would air, and many stations affiliated with multiple networks, depending mainly on the number of commercial television stations available in a market at a given time (markets where only one commercial station was available carried programming from all four major networks). Many of DuMont's "affiliates" carried very little DuMont programming, choosing to air one or two more popular programs (such as Life Is Worth Living) and/or sports programming on the weekends. Few stations carried the full DuMont program lineup.
In its later years, DuMont was carried mostly on poorly watched UHF channels or had only secondary affiliations on VHF stations. DuMont ended most operations on April 1, 1955, but honored network commitments until August 1956.[page needed]