On this day: First TV commercial airs

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The first TV commercial aired 80 years ago today, forever changing consumer culture.

The Federal Communications Commission issued commercial licenses to 10 TV stations in the U.S. in May 1941 that took effect on July 1. WNBT was the only station to air an ad that day.

On July 1, 1941, a 10-second ad for Bulova Watch Co. aired in New York by WNBT just before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. 

The commercial was called the “Bulova Time Check” and showed a watch face with a ticking second hand as a voice-over read the time.

The ad was the first time commercial TV was authorized in the U.S., and cost the company four dollars in air charges and five dollars in station charges. 

Today, tens of billions of dollars are spent and made every year on commercial television advertising. National tv ads cost about $8,000 while spots during big showcases like awards shows or the Super Bowl are priced about $5 million for 30 seconds.

(This reporter’s first national story was a preview of Super Bowl commercials.)

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