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File:DuMont network logo.jpg
"Your TV's so old, I bet you get the DuMont network on it!"
Death, Family Guy (episode "Death Is A Bitch").

The fourth network from the early days of television in the United States, though actually the third to come to the air. It eventually failed, as its problems included an FCC ruling restricting it because of part-ownership by Paramount; not having an associated radio network to bring over programs and performers (and absorb costs); and a forced over-dependence on UHF stations in an era when it wasn't required on TV sets until 1964. Ironically, Paramount's former theater division purchased ABC in 1953, and the steady revenue stream from movie theaters helped it quickly leapfrog DuMont to become the third network.

DuMont is, in more recent years, more of a footnote than anything else. The best-known series associated with the network are Captain Video and Cavalcade of Stars, the latter of which had a regular skit that evolved into The Honeymooners. Two of the most popular programs during the network's heyday were the Game Show Down You Go and the religious program Life Is Worth Living, the latter of which won both an Emmy for host Fulton Sheen and respect from direct competitor Milton Berle.

Most, if not all, of DuMont's programs were produced on small budgets, but made up for this shortcoming by use of good writing and very energetic crews. The result was a bunch of wobbly sets filled with people (typically from Broadway shows) who come across as genuinely putting 110% into what they're doing.

DuMont was also unique in that it employed a potentially-money-saving advertising tactic of letting advertisers choose where their commercials ran, rather than do what the other three networks did and force a large number of stations on them.

In 1954, the network sold its de facto monopoly station in Pittsburgh (WDTV), which it used to get clearances in other markets, to Westinghouse [1] for $9.75 Million. Although the sale gave DuMont some much-needed cash, it also set off its downfall. Most of the lineup was dropped beginning in April 1955, and on September 23 the network's last regular series (a game show, What's The Story) aired for the last time. The only things left were sporting events, which continued to air sporadically over the next ten months.

Following the broadcast of Boxing from St. Nicholas Arena on August 6, 1956 (one retrospective claims it was only seen on five stations), DuMont went bust with the remaining network-owned stations (WABD, New York and WTTG, Washington) going independent and spun off into the company that eventually became Metromedia. 30 years later, Rupert Murdoch bought Metromedia's television operations from company creator John Kluge and established the Fox network, with the Fox Broadcasting Center right where WABD (now WNYW) sits — the former DuMont Tele-Centre. So in a way, DuMont became FOX...and proceeded to earn itself a different set of problems.

The network's founder, Allen B. DuMont, seemed to realize the benefits of keeping the network's programming as intact as possible, and admirably did so despite the general wipe-and-reuse practices of the era and the network's own ever-increasing money problems. That was for naught, however, as many kinescopes were trashed around 1958 for their silver content and the rest were dumped by three trucks into Upper New York Bay during the 1970s. As such, very little of the network's programming survives today; The Other Wiki has a list if you're so inclined.

While the network was mostly forgotten, there were two later references of note:

  • One was in Tron (released July 9, 1982), where the crucial turning point is facilitated by an aged, near-abandoned information guardian named DuMont.
  • The second was in the Grand Finale [2] of Ellen (May 13, 1998), presented as a Serious Business documentary by Linda Ellerbee about the fictional DeGeneres' long career. Clips were shown of Ellen hosting DuMont's 1954 game Who's The Commie? (with announcer John O'Hurley), apparent proof that the network was desperate to get some sort of ratings; Orson Bean recalled that he was skeptical about a woman hosting a game show, "But then the camera went on, and there she was — Bill Cullen with a rack". It apparently continued on WABD until about 1958 or so, as it was among those present in the quiz show scandal investigations...although Ellen was eventually cleared of said charges due to the "Commies" being generous people who liked jazz.

Has no relation (that we're aware of) to DuPont, despite the rather similar logo.

  1. (already the owner of radio station KDKA, which also became the new name for WDTV the next year)
  2. (by production order)