Capital Cities Communications

"Capital Cities/ABC" redirects here. For the article about the television network, see American Broadcasting Company.
Capital Cities Communications
Industry radio broadcasting, television broadcasting, publishing, recording
Fate Acquired by The Walt Disney Company
Successor Disney-ABC Television Group
Founded April 5, 1946 (1946-04-05)
Defunct 1996
Headquarters Albany, New York, New York City
Key people
  • Hyman Rosenblum (co-founder)
  • Lowell Thomas (co-founder)
  • Frank Smith (co-founder)
  • Thomas Murphy (chairman/CEO)
  • Daniel J. Burke (president)

Capital Cities Communications (sometimes referred to as "CapCities") was an American media company best known for its surprise purchase of the much larger American Broadcasting Company in 1985. It became Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. Its successor is Disney-ABC Television Group, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, which purchased CapCities in 1996.


Capital Cities' origins traced earlier as 1946, when Hyman Rosenblum, a local Albany businessman, founded Hudson Valley Broadcasting Company. He was also instrumental in help co-founding Hudson Valley Community College in Troy several years later. The company was incorporated on April 5, 1946.[1] when the company received a 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 legendary radio broadcaster and author Lowell Thomas, bought majority control of Hudson Valley Broadcasting. Thomas' manager/investing partner, Frank Smith became the President of the company.

Capital Cities

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.[2] The new company took the name Capital Cities Television Corporation effective November 8, 1957,[1] as both 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.[3]

On December 23, 1959, the company's name was changed to Capital Cities Broadcasting.[1] 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;[4] 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, in 1964.[5] CapCities entered the Los Angeles market in 1966 with its purchase of KPOL (later KZLA) and KPOL-FM (later KZLA-FM and now KXOS).[6]

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.[7] Poole Broadcasting 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.[8][9]

In 1968, Capital Cities entered the publishing business by acquiring Fairchild Publications, publisher of several magazines including Women's Wear Daily.[10] 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, and KFRE-AM-FM-TV in Fresno, California from Triangle Publications.[11][12] Capital Cities would immediately sell the radio stations to new owners, and changed the television stations' calls to WPVI-TV, WTNH-TV, and KFSN-TV respectively. The acquisition of WPVI and WTNH gave them seven VHF stations, two stations over the FCC limit, 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.[13][14] WSAZ radio in Huntington was divested to Stoner Broadcasting (it is now WRVC), also as a result of the Triangle deal.[15] To reflect the diversity of their holdings, the company changed its name to Capital Cities Communications on May 4, 1973.[1]

In 1974, Capital Cities bought WBAP and KSCS-FM in Fort Worth, Texas, along with its purchase of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.[16] 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. The Kansas City (Missouri) Star was acquired in 1977, and the following year CapCities bought The Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

In 1977, the company filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission over the simultaneous substitution rules (more can be found here).

Returning to broadcasting, WBIE-FM (now WKHX-FM) in Marietta, Georgia, was bought in 1981.[17] WROW radio in Albany, the company's first station, and its FM counterpart (which is now WYJB) were sold in 1983,[18] and in 1984 the company made its last pre-ABC-merger purchases with independent television station WFTS in Tampa, Florida[19] and KLAC radio in Los Angeles (concurrent with the sale of KZLA).[20]

Capital Cities/ABC

Capital Cities' announced $3.5 billion purchase of ABC on March 18, 1985, stunned 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.[21][22]

The newly merged company, known as Capital Cities/ABC[1] (or CapCities/ABC), was forced to sell off some stations due to FCC ownership rules. 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.[23] Of the former Capital Cities television stations, the new company opted to keep the outlets in Houston, Durham, and Fresno. WFTS and ABC's WXYZ-TV in Detroit were divested as a pair to the E.W. Scripps Company. WTNH and WKBW-TV were sold separately to minority-owned companies;[24] WKBW-TV would also be owned by E.W. Scripps by 2014. WTNH would have had to be sold in any event due to a significant city-grade 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 new company originally planned to retain WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, but FCC rules could have forced a sale of that station as well due to a large 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 received a permanent waiver from the FCC allowing it to keep WPVI. If the request were disallowed, WXYZ-TV would have been retained instead.[25][26][27]

WPVI and KTRK had long been ABC affiliates (in fact, two of ABC's strongest affiliates), while WTVD and KFSN, 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) and KLAC and KZLA-FM (to Malrite Communications), and ABC's WRIF-FM in Detroit (to a minority-owned concern), among others.[28]

The purchase was completed on January 3, 1986. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. was organized into Capital Cities Media Inc. and Capital Cities/ABC Video Publishing, Inc. subsidiaries and the CC/ABC division of ABC Cable and International Broadcasting Group, ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC Radio, ABC Sports, NILS Publishing Company and Short Line. Capital Cities Media was divided into Fairchild Books and Visuals and Fairchild Publications.[10]

In May 1991, CC/ABC's Farm Progress Cos. closed on its purchase of the 12-magazine farm publishing group of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.[29] In February 1993, the company formed a TV production joint venture with Brillstein-Grey Entertainment to tap into their managed talent and to take advantage of relaxed production regulations.[30][31] In July, CC/ABC purchased a majority ownership in DIC Entertainment.[32] 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.[33]

CC/ABC in December 1994 agreed to a $200 million seven-year TV production joint venture with the new DreamWorks SKG studio.[34]

The Walt Disney Company bought Capital Cities/ABC in February 1996,[35] and changed the corporate name to ABC, Inc in September 19, 1996.[1]

Structure at Disney acquisition

Former Capital Cities-owned stations

Stations are listed alphabetically by state and city of license.

1. Two boldface asterisks appearing following a station's call letters (**) indicate a station that was built and signed-on by a predecessor company of Capital Cities;
2. This list does not include WTVG in Toledo, Ohio. That station 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. However, in November 2010, Disney/ABC reached an agreement to sell the two stations back to previous owner SJL Broadcasting, which was completed on April 1, 2011.

Television stations

City of License / Market Station Channel TV (RF) Years Owned Current Ownership Status
Fresno, California KFSN-TV 30 (30) 1971–1985 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
New Haven - Hartford, CT WTNH-TV 8 (10) 1971–1985 ABC affiliate owned by Media General
Tampa - St. Petersburg WFTS 28 (29) 1984–1985 ABC affiliate owned by E. W. Scripps Company
Flint - Saginaw - Bay City, MI WJRT-TV 12 (12) 1964 ABC affiliate owned by Gray Television
Albany - Schenectady - Troy, N.Y. WROW-TV/WCDA/WTEN ** 10 (26) 1954–1971 ABC affiliate owned by Media General
Buffalo, New York WKBW-TV 7 (38) 1961–1985 ABC affiliate owned by E. W. Scripps Company
Durham - Raleigh - Fayetteville WTVD ** 11 (11) 1957–1985 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
Philadelphia WPVI-TV 6 (6) 1971–1985 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
Providence, R.I. - New Bedford, MA WPRO-TV 12 (13) 1959–1967 CBS affiliate, WPRI-TV, owned by Media General
Houston KTRK-TV 13 (13) 1967–1985 ABC owned-and-operated (O&O)
Huntington - Charleston, W.V. WSAZ-TV 3 (23) 1964–1971 NBC affiliate owned by Gray Television

Radio stations

AM Stations FM Stations
City of License/Market Station Years owned Current Ownership Status
Los Angeles KPOL/KZLA–1540
(now KMPC)
1966–1984 owned by P&Y Broadcasting Licensee, L.L.C.
KLAC–570 1984–1985 owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Communications)
(now KXOS)
1966–1985 owned by 93.9 Holdings
Atlanta - Marietta, GA WKHX–590
(now WDWD)
1985 owned by Salem Media Group
WKHX-FM–101.5 1981–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
Detroit WJR–760 1964–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
(now WDVD)
1964–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
Paterson, N.J. - New York City WPAT–930 1961–1985 owned by Multicultural Broadcasting
WPAT-FM–93.1 1961–1985 owned by Spanish Broadcasting System
Albany - Schenectady - Troy, N.Y. WROW–590 1947–1983 owned by Pamal Broadcasting
WROW-FM–95.5 **
(now WYJB)
1959–1983 owned by Pamal Broadcasting
Buffalo, New York WKBW–1520
(now WWKB)
1961–1985 owned by Entercom Communications
Providence - Warwick, R.I. WPRO–630 1959–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
WPRO-FM–92.3 1959–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
Fort Worth - Dallas WBAP–820 1974–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
KSCS–96.3 1974–1985 owned by Cumulus Media
Huntington, W.V. - Ashland, KY WSAZ–930
(now WRVC)
1964–1970 owned by Fifth Avenue Broadcasting Company
NOTE: All stations currently under ownership of Cumulus Media were previously owned by Citadel Broadcasting before Cumulus acquired the company on September 16, 2011. Most of these same stations were owned by the Walt Disney Company until Citadel's purchase of ABC Radio Networks and these stations on June 12, 2007 (except for WPRO-AM-FM, which were sold by Capital Cities/ABC in 1993 and acquired by Citadel in 1997).

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[37] 302,785 459,510 762,295 124,696 104,034 228,730
1984[37] 348,106 591,616 939,722 144,182 133,179 277,361
1985[37] 378,297 642,583 1,020,880 150,970 138,512 289,482
1986[37] 3,153,619[CA 1] 970,755 4,124,374 474,535 158,999 602,678
1987[37] 3,433,749 1,006,597 4,440,346 632,910 146,717 745,990
1988[37] 3,749,557 1,023,896 4,773,453 722,171 129,720 816,029
1989[37] 3,899,898 1,057,405 4,957,394 836,149 130,444 922,512
1990[37] 4,283,633 1,101,969 5,385,602 830,457 132,371 923,215
1991[37] 4,329,743 1,052,246 5,381,989 669,708 122,905 761,233
1992[37][38] 4,265,561 1,078,566 5,344,127 619,317 136,389 755,706
1993[37] 4,663,215 1,010,438 5,673,653 778,077 125,647 903,724
1994[39] 5,277 1,102.1 6,379.7 1,127 155 1,239
1995[40] 5,727.5 1,151.1 6,878.5 1,164.8 139 1,238.8
Since 1996, ABC's financial results are included in those of Disney Media Networks.
  1. Following the acquisition of ABC


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 ABC, INC. Selected Entity Name: CAPITAL CITIES COMMUNICATIONS, INC. Entity Information. NYS Department of State: Division of Corporations.
  2. "This week's receipts: $26 million." Broadcasting - Telecasting, April 8, 1957, pp. 31-32.
  3. "Providence stations sold." Broadcasting, December 22, 1958, pg. 9.
  4. "FCC okays $30 million in station sales." Broadcasting, August 7, 1961, pg. 90.
  5. "Another group gets bigger." Broadcasting, March 2, 1964, pg. 64.
  6. "Capital Cities Corp. agrees to purchase station KPOL." The New York Times, March 5, 1966, pg. 51.
  7. Big sales get FCC approval."] Broadcasting, August 3, 1964, pp. 52-53.
  8. "Capital Cities buys KTRK-TV in Houston." Broadcasting, November 21, 1966, pg. 9.
  9. "Poole buying WPRO-TV for $16.5 million." Broadcasting, February 27, 1967, pg. 9.
  10. 1 2 Godfrey, Donald G.; Leigh, Frederic A. (January 1, 1998). Historical Dictionary of American Radio. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 62. ISBN 0313296367. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
  11. "Capcities buys 9 Triangle outlets." Broadcasting, February 16, 1970, pg. 9.
  12. "Last minute clearance for Capcities." Broadcasting, March 1, 1971, pp. 19-20.
  13. "Another spin-off by Capcities: WSAZ-TV goes next, to Lee Enterprises for $18 million." Broadcasting, April 13, 1970, pg. 46.
  14. Another spin-off by Capcities: WTEN(TV) goes to Poole Broadcasting for $19 million." Broadcasting, April 27, 1970, pg. 36.
  15. "Capcities sells its AM in Huntington, W.Va." Broadcasting, May 25, 1970, pg. 50.
  16. "Fort Worth media deal hits $115 million mark." Broadcasting, January 8, 1973, pg. 10.
  17. Changing Hands."] Broadcasting, June 8, 1981, pg. 91.
  18. "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, December 5, 1983, pg. 72.
  19. "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, April 23, 1984, pg. 150.
  20. "Changing Hands." Broadcasting, August 20, 1984, pp. 65-66.
  21. Kleinfield, N.R. "ABC is being sold for $3.5 billion; 1st network sale." The New York Times, March 19, 1985.
  22. "Capcities + ABC." Broadcasting, March 25, 1985, pp. 31-32.
  23. "FCC approval of CapCities/ABC deal likely." Broadcasting, March 25, 1985, pg. 33.
  24. "ABC/CCC sells four TV's for $485 million; Detroit, Tampa to Scripps Howard." Broadcasting, July 29, 1985, pg. 30.
  25. Stevenson, Richard W. "ABC, Capital Cities to sell stations." The New York Times, May 14, 1985.
  26. "Approval sought for ABC merger." Associated Press, July 2, 1985.
  27. Fabrikant, Geraldine. "TV station winners reported." The New York Times, July 26, 1985.
  28. "Breaking up and breaking records." Broadcasting, August 12, 1985, pg. 29.
  29. Strother, Susan G. (May 8, 1991). "Hbj Sells Off 12 Magazines In Farm Group". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  30. Lippman, John. Cap Cities/ABC Forms Joint Venture With Brillstein-Grey. February 3, 1994. Los Angeles Times.
  31. BILL Carter, Bill. ABC in Unusual Venture With Talent Firm. February 3, 1994. New York Times.
  32. Lowry, Brian (July 26, 1993). "DIC Ent. formed for kids TV fare". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
  33. Lowry, Brian (July 27, 1993). "ABC ups Iger, regroups divisions". Variety. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  34. McClellan, Steve. (December 5, 1994). "ABC makes high-profile production leap." Broadcasting & Cable. 1994. HighBeam Research. Accessed on December 27, 2013.
  35. Fabrikant, Geraldine. THE MEDIA BUSINESS;Disney and ABC Shareholders Solidly Approve Merger Deal January 05, 1996. The New York Times. Accessed July 8, 2013.
  36. "FACT SHEET: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY". Press Release. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  37. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Annual report, Section 13 and 15(d), not S-K Item 405 Acc-no: 0000950130-94-000530 Size: 406 KB". Securities and Exchange Commission.
  38. Hagstrom 1994–1997, p. 131.
  39. Annual report [Section 13 and 15(d), not S-K Item 405 Acc-no: 0000950130-95-000586 Size: 327 KB
  40. Current report, items 1, 5, and 7 Acc-no: 0000950157-96-000044 Size: 16 KB
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