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The Origins of Children'sTelevision Broadcasting

In 1950, ABC first aired Saturday morning television shows for children.


 First children's programing on air circ

First children's programing on air circa 1950.

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The American Broadcasting Company first aired Saturday morning Television shows for children on August 19, 1950. The network introduced two shows: Animal Clinic featured live animals, while the variety show Acrobat Ranch had a circus theme. Placed against a Western backdrop, acrobats Tumbling Tim and Flying Flo lent an air of spectacle to Acrobat Ranch. In one segment, Host Uncle Jim presided over a game in which children from the studio audience competed for merchandise prizes.

The first children's entertainer to perform for television was Burr Tillstrom, who broadcast live from the New York World's Fair in 1939. The National Broadcasting Company began the first regular television broadcasts in the United States the same year. Initially, the network offered just two hours of programming per week.

Children's television evolved slowly during the early years. Network executives assumed families would view their single TV set together. Consequently, programming was geared to families while advertising targeted adults.

Several children's shows emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s including The Small Fry Club, Tillstrom's Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, and Robert E. "Buffalo Bob" Smith's Howdy Doody Time. The Columbia Broadcasting System began airing animated cartoons in 1955 under the title "The Mighty Mouse Playhouse".

Beginning in the early 1960s, networks broadcast cartoons on weekend mornings when few adults were likely to watch. By the end of the decade, watching Saturday morning cartoons--now several hours of programing with advertising aimed at children--was a ritual in many homes.

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