Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on media and telecom in the categories of Film, Phone, Radio, and Television based on input from the management consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.
This list of books is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.
We also invite you to check out our list of the best podcasts on the media industry here.
From New York Times bestselling author Scott Eyman, this is the story one of the most influential studios in film history, from its glory days under the leadership of legendary movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck up to its 2019 buyout by Disney.
March 20, 2019 marked the end of an era — Disney took ownership of the movie empire that was Fox. For almost a century before that historic date, Twentieth Century-Fox was one of the preeminent producers of films, stars, and filmmakers. Its unique identity in the industry and place in movie history is unparalleled — and one of the greatest stories to come out of Hollywood. One man, a legendary producer named Darryl F. Zanuck, is the heart of the story. This narrative tells the complete tale of Zanuck and the films, stars, intrigue, and innovations of the iconic studio that was.Read moreRead less
This history of commercial radio networks in the United States provides a wealth of information on broadcasting from the 1920s to the present. It covers the four transcontinental webs that operated during the pre-television Golden Age, plus local and regional hookups, and the developments that have occurred in the decades since, including the impact of television, the rise of the disc jockey, the rise of talk radio and other specialized formats, implications of satellite technology and consolidation of networks and local stations.Read moreRead less
A provocative, original, and richly entertaining group biography of the Jewish immigrants who were the moving forces behind the creation of America’s motion picture industry.
The names Harry Cohn, William Fox, Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, Jack and Harry Warner, and Adolph Zucker are giants in the history of contemporary Hollywood, outsiders who dared to invent their own vision of the American Dream. Even to this day, the American values defined largely by the movies of these émigrés endure in American cinema and culture. Who these men were, how they came to dominate Hollywood, and what they gained and lost in the process is the exhilarating story of An Empire of Their Own.Read moreRead less
Why the future of popular culture will revolve around ever bigger bets on entertainment products, by one of Harvard Business School’s most popular professors
What’s behind the phenomenal success of entertainment businesses such as Warner Bros., Marvel Entertainment, and the NFL—along with such stars as Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and LeBron James? Which strategies give leaders in film, television, music, publishing, and sports an edge over their rivals?
Anita Elberse, Harvard Business School’s expert on the entertainment industry, has done pioneering research on the worlds of media and sports for more than a decade. Now, in this groundbreaking book, she explains a powerful truth about the fiercely competitive world of entertainment: building a business around blockbuster products—the movies, television shows, songs, and books that are hugely expensive to produce and market—is the surest path to long-term success. Along the way, she reveals why entertainment executives often spend outrageous amounts of money in search of the next blockbuster, why superstars are paid unimaginable sums, and how digital technologies are transforming the entertainment landscape.
Full of inside stories emerging from Elberse’s unprecedented access to some of the world’s most successful entertainment brands, Blockbusters is destined to become required reading for anyone seeking to understand how the entertainment industry really works—and how to navigate today’s high-stakes business world at large.
Patrick R. Parsons
Blue Skies is the first complete history of cable television, the most influential technology affecting the lives of almost every American. Author Patrick Parsons writes about the early days of cable — they go back farther than most people know — and the pioneers in the last half of the twentieth century whose business skills, entrepreneurial instinct, and luck all played out to give rise to the most ubiquitous technology in the country– still outpacing computers and the internet — cable TV.Read moreRead less
How does an iconic brand die?
For more than two decades, Blockbuster was America’s favorite way to watch movies. Millions of customers visited more than eight thousand stores around the globe every week, providing more data about movie audiences than anyone in history had ever owned.
If any company should have predicted the disruptive forces coming down the pike, it was Blockbuster. But as new threats emerged, none of its five CEOs had answers, and the company collapsed long before its time.
Built to Fail tells the complete inside story of Blockbuster’s meteoric rise and catastrophic fall. Beneath the surface of explosive growth lay a shaky foundation of financial difficulty, tunnel vision, and missed opportunities.
Written by Alan Payne, the man who built the longest-lasting Blockbuster franchise chain in the country, Built to Fail is a cautionary tale for today’s disruptive marketplace, explaining why Blockbuster was a broken company long before Netflix ever streamed a single movie.Read moreRead less
John Malone, hailed as one of the great unsung heroes of our age by some and reviled by others as a ruthless robber baron, is revealed as a bit of both in Cable Cowboy. For more than twenty-five years, Malone has dominated the cable television industry, shaping the world of entertainment and communications, first with his cable company TCI and later with Liberty Media. Written with Malone’s unprecedented cooperation, the engaging narrative brings this controversial capitalist and businessman to life. Cable Cowboy is at once a penetrating portrait of Malone’s complex persona, and a captivating history of the cable TV industry. Told in a lively style with exclusive details, the book shows how an unassuming copper strand started as a backwoods antenna service and became the digital nervous system of the U.S., an evolution that gave U.S. consumers the fastest route to the Internet. Cable Cowboy reveals the forces that propelled this pioneer to such great heights, and captures the immovable conviction and quicksilver mind that have defined John Malone throughout his career.Read moreRead less
Despite the growth of digital media, traditional FM radio airplay still remains the essential way for musicians to achieve commercial success. Climbing the Charts examines how songs rise, or fail to rise, up the radio airplay charts. Looking at the relationships between record labels, tastemakers, and the public, Gabriel Rossman develops a clear picture of the roles of key players and the gatekeeping mechanisms in the commercial music industry. Along the way, he explores its massive inequalities, debunks many popular misconceptions about radio stations’ abilities to dictate hits, and shows how a song diffuses throughout the nation to become a massive success.
Contrary to the common belief that Clear Channel sees every sparrow that falls, Rossman demonstrates that corporate radio chains neither micromanage the routine decision of when to start playing a new single nor make top-down decisions to blacklist such politically inconvenient artists as the Dixie Chicks. Neither do stations imitate either ordinary peers or the so-called kingmaker radio stations who are wrongly believed to be able to make or break a single. Instead, Rossman shows that hits spread rapidly across radio because they clearly conform to an identifiable style or genre. Radio stations respond to these songs, and major labels put their money behind them through extensive marketing and promotion efforts, including the illegal yet time-honored practice of payoffs known within the industry as payola.
Climbing the Charts provides a fresh take on the music industry and a model for understanding the diffusion of innovation.Read moreRead less
Empire of the Air tells the story of three American visionaries—Lee de Forest, Edwin Howard Armstrong, and David Sarnoff—whose imagination and dreams turned a hobbyist’s toy into radio, launching the modern communications age. Tom Lewis weaves the story of these men and their achievements into a richly detailed and moving narrative that spans the first half of the twentieth century, a time when the American romance with science and technology was at its peak. Empire of the Air is a tale of pioneers on the frontier of a new technology, of American entrepreneurial spirit, and of the tragic collision between inventor and corporation.Read moreRead less
Once a shoestring operation built on plywood sets and Australian rules football, ESPN has evolved into a media colossus. A genius for cross-promotion and its near-mystical rapport with its viewers empower the network to set agendas and create superstars, to curate sports history even as it mainstreams the latest cultural trends.
Travis Vogan teams archival research and interviews with an all-star cast to pen the definitive account of how ESPN turned X’s and O’s into billions of $$$. Vogan’s institutional and cultural history focuses on the network since 1998, the year it launched a high-motor effort to craft its brand and grow audiences across media platforms. As he shows, innovative properties like SportsCentury, ESPN The Magazine, and 30 for 30 built the network’s cultural caché. This credibility, in turn, propelled ESPN’s transformation into an entity that lapped its run-of-the-mill competitors and helped fulfill its self-proclaimed status as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
Ambitious and long overdue, ESPN: The Making of a Sports Media Empire offers an inside look at how the network changed an industry and reshaped the very way we live as sports fans.Read moreRead less
Felix Gillette and John Koblin
The inside story of HBO, the start-up company that reinvented television—by two veteran media reporters.
HBO changed how stories could be told on TV. The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Wire, Game of Thrones. The network’s meteoric rise heralded the second golden age of television with serialized shows that examined and reflected American anxieties, fears, and secret passions through complicated characters who were flawed and often unlikable. HBO’s own behind-the-scenes story is as complex, compelling, and innovative as the dramas the network created, driven by unorthodox executives who pushed the boundaries of what viewers understood as television at the turn of the century. Originally conceived by a small upstart group of entrepreneurs to bring Hollywood movies into living rooms across America, the scrappy network grew into one of the most influential and respected players in Hollywood. It’s Not TV is the deeply reported, definitive story of one of America’s most daring and popular cultural institutions, laying bare HBO’s growth, dominance, and vulnerability within the capricious media landscape over the past fifty years.
Through the visionary executives, showrunners, and producers who shaped HBO, seasoned journalists Gillette and Koblin bring to life a dynamic cast of characters who drove the company’s creative innovation in astonishing ways—outmaneuvering copycat competitors, taming Hollywood studios, transforming 1980s comedians and athletes like Chris Rock and Mike Tyson into superstars, and in the late 1990s and 2000s elevating the commercial-free, serialized drama to a revered art form. But in the midst of all its success, HBO was also defined by misbehaving executives, internal power struggles, and a few crucial miscalculations.
As data-driven models like Netflix have taken over streaming, HBO’s artful, instinctual, and humanistic approach to storytelling is in jeopardy. Taking readers into the boardrooms and behind the camera, It’s Not TV tells the surprising, fascinating story of HBO’s ascent, its groundbreaking influence on American business, technology, and popular culture, and its increasingly precarious position in the very market it created.Read moreRead less
Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff
Losing the Signal is a riveting story of a company that toppled global giants before succumbing to the ruthlessly competitive forces of Silicon Valley. This is not a conventional tale of modern business failure by fraud and greed. The rise and fall of BlackBerry reveals the dangerous speed at which innovators race along the information superhighway.
With unprecedented access to key players, senior executives, directors and competitors, Losing the Signal unveils the remarkable rise of a company that started above a bagel store in Ontario. At the heart of the story is an unlikely partnership between a visionary engineer, Mike Lazaridis, and an abrasive Harvard Business school grad, Jim Balsillie. Together, they engineered a pioneering pocket email device that became the tool of choice for presidents and CEOs. The partnership enjoyed only a brief moment on top of the world, however. At the very moment BlackBerry was ranked the world’s fastest growing company internal feuds and chaotic growth crippled the company as it faced its gravest test: Apple and Google’s entry in to mobile phones.
Expertly told by acclaimed journalists, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, this is an entertaining, whirlwind narrative that goes behind the scenes to reveal one of the most compelling business stories of the new century.Read moreRead less
Television is the last mass medium to be disrupted by the Internet. Given the intricacies of the industry, it’s also going to be the most resistant to change. Alan Wolk, an industry veteran and longtime analyst and observer, lays out how the television industry is adapting to the digital era, explaining what’s really happening in a tone that will appeal to laypeople and insiders alike.
In the first section, Wolk takes us through how the industry works today, focusing on how the various players actually make money and who pays who for what. The next section deals with the changes that are taking place in the industry today–everything from time shifting to binge viewing to cord cutting–and how those changes are starting to create some seismic shifts. In the final section, Wolk reveals his predictions for the future and what the industry will look like in ten years time.
Andrew Wallenstein, co-editor-in-chief of Variety says “Alan Wolk is one of the most insightful observers writing about the media business today. There’s no better expert to help you navigate the confusing, complicated nexus of TV and the Internet.”
David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications says “Alan Wolk has a deep understanding of the complex nature of television today… this is a fantastic primer of the business and one of the most educated perspectives on the future of our rapidly evolving industry.”
Adweek says “If you know anything about television, you probably know Alan Wolk.”
Writing in a cover story for The New York Review of Books, Slate Editor-In-Chief Jacob Weisberg said “[to find an evidence-based analysis] [a]n excellent place to start is Alan Wolk’s book Over the Top: How the Internet Is (Slowly but Surely) Changing the Television Industry.Read moreRead less
A century after Marconi’s experimental transmissions, this book examines the history of radio and traces its development from theories advanced by James Clerk Maxwell and Heinrich Hertz to the first practical demonstrations by Guglielmo Marconi. It looks back to the pioneering broadcasts of the BBC, examines the development of broadcast networks in North America and around the world, and spotlights radio’s role in the Second World War.
The book also features the radio programs and radio personalities that made a considerable impact on listeners during the “Golden Era.” It examines how radio, faced by competition from television, adapted and survived. Indeed, radio has continued to thrive despite increased competition from mobile phones, computers, and other technological developments. Radio Broadcasting looks ahead and speculates on how radio will fare in a multi-platform future.Read moreRead less
Over the last two decades, smartphones have ascended to a position of enormous global impact. These multi-purpose near-miracle devices place into the hands of users worldwide astonishing quantities of real-time information. They have become major sources of entertainment, utility, and control. Indeed, every year, smartphones become ever more capable. As such, they’re profoundly transforming human experience in every walk of life.
But where are these steps of smartphone progress taking us? What are the core factors that have propelled all these improvements? And can we re-use some of that underlying improvement engine for potentially even more significant purposes?
In short, these are questions of the smartphone future, the smartphone past, and the wider present. These questions deserve good answers.
These questions have inspired the author to set down in writing his own experiences and reflections from two helter-skelter decades close to the heart of this remarkable industry. Throughout that time period, he has been an avid enthusiast for the potential of smartphones, an active participant in many key projects, a futurist and forecaster of what might happen next, and, at the same time, a persistent critic of much of what he saw. He observed at close quarters the maelstrom of the industry, with its rich mix of stunning successes and devastating failures. He lived through a great deal which deserves to be better known.
This book shares particular insight from the inside story of the remarkable rise and fall of Symbian. Symbian is the comparatively little-known company that, behind the scenes, laid vital foundations for the present-day near-ubiquity of smartphones. Despite its subsequent untimely demise, Symbian has rich connections with the future, the past, and the wider present of smartphones.
The author tells the Symbian story from his unique vantage point as the only person to remain on the company’s senior leadership team throughout almost the entirety of its turbulent, roller-coaster existence: from its 1998 formation as an uneasy joint venture based around “the big three” giants of the mobile phone industry of that era – Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia – right through to its collapse, a dozen years later, under pressure from faster, nimbler, more inspired competitors from Silicon Valley.
Nowadays few people remember much about Symbian – if they ever knew about it in the first place. It was a company that mainly lived in the shadows, away from public glare. But despite its low public profile, Symbian was the indisputable global leader in the smartphone market for most of the first decade of the 21st century. During that time, software developed by Symbian powered the vast majority of the world’s smartphones, as the smartphone market itself grew and grew in scale. Sales of Symbian-powered smartphones went from millions of units being sold in a year, through millions of units being sold in a month, to millions of units being sold each week.
For much of that time, Symbian appeared to have the potential to be “the Microsoft of mobile computing”, with potential revenues and publicity to match. Symbian’s customers included the world’s top five mobile phone manufacturers, and many other regional leaders.
But sales eventually peaked, in 2010, and fell into steep decline shortly afterwards. Ask people today about smartphones and the words they’ll mention are “iPhone”, “Android” – and (perhaps) “Windows Phone” or “RIM BlackBerry”. The word “Symbian” is a fast-receding memory.
It need not have turned out this way. With different choices and different actions, Symbian could have fulfilled its vision of being “the most widely used and most widely liked software platform in the world”. As the book shows, that vision was credible as well as ambitious.
En route, the Symbian story, “warts and all”, suggests many practical lessons for how to guide the future evolution of other forms of smart technology.Read moreRead less
Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang
Traditional network television programming has always followed the same script: executives approve a pilot, order a trial number of episodes, and broadcast them, expecting viewers to watch a given show on their television sets at the same time every week. But then came Netflix’s House of Cards. Netflix gauged the show’s potential from data it had gathered about subscribers’ preferences, ordered two seasons without seeing a pilot, and uploaded the first thirteen episodes all at once for viewers to watch whenever they wanted on the devices of their choice.
In this book, Michael Smith and Rahul Telang, experts on entertainment analytics, show how the success of House of Cards upended the film and TV industries—and how companies like Amazon and Apple are changing the rules in other entertainment industries, notably publishing and music. We’re living through a period of unprecedented technological disruption in the entertainment industries. Just about everything is affected: pricing, production, distribution, piracy. Smith and Telang discuss niche products and the long tail, product differentiation, price discrimination, and incentives for users not to steal content. To survive and succeed, businesses have to adapt rapidly and creatively. Smith and Telang explain how.
How can companies discover who their customers are, what they want, and how much they are willing to pay for it? Data. The entertainment industries, must learn to play a little “moneyball.” The bottom line: follow the data.Read moreRead less
The cocreator of the Washington Post’s “Made by History” blog reveals how the rise of conservative talk radio gave us a Republican Party incapable of governing and paved the way for Donald Trump.
America’s long road to the Trump presidency began on August 1, 1988, when, desperate for content to save AM radio, top media executives stumbled on a new format that would turn the political world upside down. They little imagined that in the coming years their brainchild would polarize the country and make it nearly impossible to govern. Rush Limbaugh, an enormously talented former disc jockey—opinionated, brash, and unapologetically conservative—pioneered a pathbreaking infotainment program that captured the hearts of an audience no media executive knew existed. Limbaugh’s listeners yearned for a champion to punch back against those maligning their values. Within a decade, this format would grow from fifty-nine stations to over one thousand, keeping millions of Americans company as they commuted, worked, and shouted back at their radios. The concept pioneered by Limbaugh was quickly copied by cable news and digital media.
Radio hosts form a deep bond with their audience, which gives them enormous political power. Unlike elected representatives, however, they must entertain their audience or watch their ratings fall. Talk radio boosted the Republican agenda in the 1990s, but two decades later, escalation in the battle for the airwaves pushed hosts toward ever more conservative, outrageous, and hyperbolic content.
Donald Trump borrowed conservative radio hosts’ playbook and gave Republican base voters the kind of pugnacious candidate they had been demanding for decades. By 2016, a political force no one intended to create had completely transformed American politics.Read moreRead less
This is a book about what happens when the smartest people in the room decide something is inevitable, and yet it doesn’t come to pass. What happens when omens have been misread, tea leaves misinterpreted, gurus embarrassed?
Twenty years after the Netscape IPO, ten years after the birth of YouTube, and five years after the first iPad, the Internet has still not destroyed the giants of old media. CBS, News Corp, Disney, Comcast, Time Warner, and their peers are still alive, kicking, and making big bucks. The New York Times still earns far more from print ads than from digital ads. Super Bowl commercials are more valuable than ever. Banner ad space on Yahoo can be bought for a relative pittance.
Sure, the darlings of new media—Buzzfeed, HuffPo, Politico, and many more—keep attracting ever more traffic, in some cases truly phenomenal traffic. But as Michael Wolff shows in this fascinating and sure-to-be-controversial book, their buzz and venture financing rounds are based on assumptions that were wrong from the start, and become more wrong with each passing year. The consequences of this folly are far reaching for anyone who cares about good journalism, enjoys bingeing on Netflix, works with advertising, or plans to have a role in the future of the Internet.
Wolff set out to write an honest guide to the changing media landscape, based on a clear-eyed evaluation of who really makes money and how. His conclusion: The Web, social media, and various mobile platforms are not the new television. Television is the new television.
We all know that Google and Facebook are thriving by selling online ads—but they’re aggregators, not content creators. As major brands conclude that banner ads next to text basically don’t work, the value of digital traffic to content-driven sites has plummeted, while the value of a television audience continues to rise. Even if millions now watch television on their phones via their Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO apps, that doesn’t change the balance of power. Television by any other name is the game everybody is trying to win—including outlets like The Wall Street Journal that never used to play the game at all.
Drawing on his unparalleled sources in corner offices from Rockefeller Center to Beverly Hills, Wolff tells us what’s really going on, which emperors have no clothes, and which supposed geniuses are due for a major fall. Whether he riles you or makes you cheer, his book will change how you think about media, technology, and the way we live now.Read moreRead less
The first in-depth history of the iconic radio and TV network that has shaped our past and present.
Doctor Who; tennis from Wimbledon; the Beatles and the Stones; the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales: for one hundred years, the British Broadcasting Corporation has been the preeminent broadcaster in the UK and around the world, a constant source of information, comfort, and entertainment through both war and peace, feast and famine.
The BBC has broadcast to over two hundred countries and in more than forty languages. Its history is a broad cultural panorama of the twentieth century itself, often, although not always, delivered in a mellifluous Oxford accent. With special access to the BBC’s archives, historian David Hendy presents a dazzling portrait of a unique institution whose cultural influence is greater than any other media organization.
Mixing politics, espionage, the arts, social change, and everyday life, The BBC is a vivid social history of the organization that has provided both background commentary and screen-grabbing headlines—woven so deeply into the culture and politics of the past century that almost none of us has been left untouched by it.Read moreRead less
The stunning metamorphosis of twenty-first-century Hollywood and what lies ahead for the art and commerce of film
Ben Fritz chronicles the dramatic shakeup of America’s film industry, bringing equal fluency to both the financial and entertainment aspects of Hollywood. He offers us an unprecedented look deep inside a Hollywood studio to explain why sophisticated movies for adults are an endangered species while franchises and super-heroes have come to dominate the cinematic landscape. And through interviews with dozens of key players at Disney, Marvel, Netflix, Amazon, Imax, and others, he reveals how the movie business is being reinvented.
Despite the destruction of the studios’ traditional playbook, Fritz argues that these seismic shifts signal the dawn of a new heyday for film. The Big Picture shows the first glimmers of this new golden age through the eyes of the creative mavericks who are defining what entertainment will look like in the new era.Read moreRead less
In 1992, John Malone, the brilliant, hard-nosed, and widely feared CEO of cable giant TCI, announced that the 500-channel information superhighway was imminent, and he was going to build it. The media went nuts. Companies by the hundreds, investors by the millions, politicians of all stripes, rushed to embrace this marvel of the age, this technology that would change our lives and make the savvy and the quick rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
Trouble was, John Malone’s interest in building the 500-channel information superhighway was largely rhetorical. He was much more interested in selling his debt-ridden company, with its notorious reputation for wretched customer service, to Ray Smith at Bell Atlantic–in what would be the largest merger in United States history. But sometimes bluffs–even $33 billion bluffs–get out of hand. As entertainment, phone, computer, and electronics companies raced to spend vast sums on interactive digital television (the miracle technology at the heart of the information superhighway), nobody stopped to answer a crucial question: Was John Q. Public really going to fork over his hard-earned dough to have a conversation with his television set?
Witty, brilliantly reported, and wickedly revealing, The Billionaire Shell Game follows the best and the brightest of the information age–people like Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, Wired guru Nicholas Negroponte, media mogul Barry Diller, the unpredictable genius Ted Turner, and the only man Malone truly feared, Rupert Murdoch–as they enthusiastically spend their stockholders’ money in pursuit of a glittering future.
L.J. Davis has written a wildly entertaining tale of greed, stupidity, and the high-tech shell game.Read moreRead less
During the very early days of television, a small group of upstart business people struggled to bring television to smaller communities across the United States. They built their future on the newest technology in an atmosphere similar to the high-tech industry we know today. Many received loans from their local banks, some mortgaged their homes; all took the risk that their investments would yield a decent living for their families. They found obstacles along the way, problems that needed solving, and long days of hard work. The nascent cable industry never guaranteed that a person entering the business would find success, but for a person with vision who worked hard, the possibilities seemed limitless. The story of cable is the story of the free-enterprise system in the United States. In its early days, the broadcasters dominated a television system that discouraged additional competition. The emerging cable industry struggled to survive against those giants and, at times, its future looked downright gloomy. The advent of cable programming changed everything in the 1970s, and by the 1990s, cable programmers negotiated with satellite companies to carry their content, which made television highly competitive. The cable companies, likewise, brought competition to the telephone market, challenging the old telephone monopoly, which resulted in lower rates for consumers.
In the twenty-first century, we have seen an unprecedented explosion of technological ingenuity, and the cable industry is an important part of that story. The cable that originally empowered your television, supplemented by the addition of optical fiber, could also carry tremendous amounts of data, and the Internet was the ideal application. The development and implementation of the high-speed cable modem by the cable industry, along with a light regulatory touch, would create a new era of cable and launch entirely new applications and industries at an unprecedented pace. This book endeavors to explain how the cable industry evolved from its beginnings in 1948 through current times. Our approach attempts to minimize the jargon and complicated technical discussions that detract from the larger story. This necessitated that we adhere to the major developments without dwelling on the significant personalities who built the business, which the reader can find in other places. In addition, although Acts of Congress, regulation and oversight by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and numerous legal cases shaped the regulatory framework for our story, we have focused primarily on congressional acts that have had a major impact on cable and its competitors. We have provided a list at the end of this publication for those wishing to explore the cable industry. The Cable Center is an educational nonprofit that tells the story of the cable industry. Located on the University of Denver campus, we maintain an extensive collection of resources for researching the cable industry, including many primary sources in the form of our Oral History Project. A number of authors have used The Cable Center and its photo collection to write popular books, and our library and various collections are open to the public. Today, we have more than 330 oral histories and a digital photo library available to the public on our website. Individuals in the cable industry built The Cable Center to preserve the rich history of a dynamic industry that changed the world in significant and profound ways. We hope you will enjoy this introduction to a fascinating and vibrant industry.Read moreRead less
Presenting the history of the cellular phone from its beginnings in the 1940s to the present, this book explains the fundamental concepts involved in wireless communication along with the ramifications of cellular technology on the economy, U.S. and international law, human health, and society. The first two chapters deal with bandwidth and radio. Subsequent chapters look at precursors to the contemporary cellphone, including the surprisingly popular car phone of the 1970s, the analog cellphones of the 1980s and early 1990s, and the basic digital phones which preceded the feature-laden, multipurpose devices of today.Read moreRead less
Television is a form of media without equal. It has revolutionized the way we learn about and communicate with the world and has reinvented the way we experience ourselves and others. More than just cheap entertainment, TV is an undeniable component of our culture and contains many clues to who we are, what we value, and where we might be headed in the future.
Media historian Gary R. Edgerton follows the technological developments and increasing cultural relevance of TV from its prehistory (before 1947) to the Network Era (1948-1975) and the Cable Era (1976-1994). He begins with the laying of the first telegraph line in 1844, which gave rise to the idea that images and sounds could be transmitted over long distances. He then considers the remodeling of television’s look and purpose during World War II; the gender, racial, and ethnic components of its early broadcasts and audiences; its transformation of postwar America; and its function in the political life of the country. He talks of the birth of prime time and cable, the influence of innovators like Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, Roone Arledge, and Ted Turner, as well as television’s entrance into the international market, describing the ascent of such programs as Dallas and The Cosby Show, and the impact these exports have had on transmitting American culture abroad.
Edgerton concludes with a discerning look at our current Digital Era (1995-present) and the new forms of instantaneous communication that continue to change America’s social, political, and economic landscape. Richly researched and engaging, Edgerton’s history tracks television’s growth into a convergent technology, a global industry, a social catalyst, a viable art form, and a complex and dynamic reflection of the American mind and character. It took only ten years for television to penetrate thirty-five million households, and by 1983, the average home kept their set on for more than seven hours a day. The Columbia History of American Television illuminates our complex relationship with this singular medium and provides historical and critical knowledge for understanding TV as a technology, an industry, an art form, and an institutional force.Read moreRead less
Written by the two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Ghost Wars and Private Empire, The Deal of the Century chronicles the decade-long war for control of AT&T.
When the US Department of Justice brought an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T in 1974, the telecommunications giant held a monopoly on phone service throughout the country. Over the following decade, an army of lawyers, executives, politicians, and judges spent countless hours clashing over what amounted to the biggest corporate breakup in American history. From boardroom to courtroom, Steve Coll untangles the myriad threads of this complex and critical case and gives readers “an excellent behind-the-scenes look” at the human drama involved in the remaking of an entire industry (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “rich, intricate and convincing,” The Deal of the Century is the definitive narrative of a momentous turning point in the way America does business.Read moreRead less
Daniel M. Kimmel
When Garth Ancier left NBC for the start-up FOX network, NBC head Grant Tinker told Ancier he was making a terrible mistake. “I will never put a fourth column on my schedule board,” Ancier recalls Tinker telling him. “There will only be three.” Today, fewer than twenty years later, FOX is routinely referred to as one of the “Big Four” television networks while more recent arrivals like UPN, PAX, and the WB strive to be number five. The Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller, and the many executives who have worked at the FOX network over the years changed the rules of the game. They showed it was possible to build and sustain a fourth American television network through innovations in prime-time shows, sports, children’s entertainment, news, and new business models that challenged the assumptions of how the industry operated. Daniel Kimmel’s lively account of the FOX story carries the reader from the launch of the ill-fated Joan Rivers Show in 1986 to the challenging media environment of the twenty-first century―an environment FOX helped create. The Fourth Network is filled with behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing, outsized personalities, improbable risk-takers, and the triumphs and disasters that led to such signature television series as The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210, The X Files, and America’s Most Wanted. For better or worse―or perhaps a bit of both―the story of the rise of FOX is the story of contemporary American television.Read moreRead less
Evan I. Schwartz
In a story that is both of its time and timeless, Evan I. Schwartz tells a tale of genius versus greed, innocence versus deceit, and independent brilliance versus corporate arrogance. Many men have laid claim to the title “father of television,” but Philo T. Farnsworth is the true genius behind what may be the most influential invention of our time.
Driven by his obsession to demonstrate his idea,by the age of twenty Farnsworth was operating his own laboratory above a garage in San Francisco and filing for patents. The resulting publicity caught the attention of RCA tycoon David Sarnoff, who became determined to control television in the same way he monopolized radio.
Based on original research, including interviews with Farnsworth family members, The Last Lone Inventor is the story of the epic struggle between two equally passionate adversaries whose clash symbolized a turning point in the culture of creativity.Read moreRead less
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s emblem, which has opened thousands of movies since 1924, is the most recognized corporate symbol in the world. Not just in the entertainment industry, it should be noted, but of any industry, anywhere, in the history of human civilization. But MGM has been a competitively insignificant force in the motion picture industry for nearly as long as it once, decades ago, dominated that industry. In fact, the MGM lion now presides not over movies alone, but over thirty world-class resorts, and is, or has been, also a recognized leader in the fields of real estate, theme parks, casinos, golf courses, consumer products, and even airlines, all around the world. But the MGM mystique remains. This book is a look at what made MGM the Mount Rushmore of studios, how it presented itself to the world, and how it influenced everything from set design to merchandising to music and dance, and continues to do so today.Read moreRead less
David A. Price
The Pixar Touchis a lively chronicle of Pixar Animation Studios’ history and evolution, and the “fraternity of geeks” who shaped it. With the help of animating genius John Lasseter and visionary businessman Steve Jobs, Pixar has become the gold standard of animated filmmaking, beginning with a short special effects shot made at Lucasfilm in 1982 all the way up through the landmark films Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and others. David A. Price goes behind the scenes of the corporate feuds between Lasseter and his former champion, Jeffrey Katzenberg, as well as between Jobs and Michael Eisner. And finally he explores Pixar’s complex relationship with the Walt Disney Company as it transformed itself into the $7.4 billion jewel in the Disney crown.Read moreRead less
Thomas Winslow Hazlett
Popular legend has it that before the Federal Radio Commission was established in 1927, the radio spectrum was in chaos, with broadcasting stations blasting powerful signals to drown out rivals. In this fascinating and entertaining history, Thomas Winslow Hazlett, a distinguished scholar in law and economics, debunks the idea that the U.S. government stepped in to impose necessary order. Instead, regulators blocked competition at the behest of incumbent interests and, for nearly a century, have suppressed innovation while quashing out-of-the-mainstream viewpoints.
Hazlett details how spectrum officials produced a “vast wasteland” that they publicly criticized but privately protected. The story twists and turns, as farsighted visionaries—and the march of science—rise to challenge the old regime. Over decades, reforms to liberate the radio spectrum have generated explosive progress, ushering in the “smartphone revolution,” ubiquitous social media, and the amazing wireless world now emerging. Still, the author argues, the battle is not even half won.Read moreRead less
One of the oldest and most recognizable studios in Hollywood, Warner Bros. is considered a juggernaut of the entertainment industry. Since its formation in the early twentieth century, the studio has been a constant presence in cinema history, responsible for the creation of acclaimed films, blockbuster brands, and iconic superstars.
These days, the studio is best known as a media conglomerate with a broad range of intellectual property, spanning movies, TV shows, and streaming content. Despite popular interest in the origins of this empire, the core of the Warner Bros. saga cannot be found in its commercial successes. It is the story of four brothers―Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack―whose vision for Hollywood helped shape the world of entertainment as we know it.
In The Warner Brothers, Chris Yogerst follows the siblings from their family’s humble origins in Poland, through their young adulthood in the American Midwest, to the height of fame and fortune in Hollywood. With unwavering resolve, the brothers soldiered on against the backdrop of an America reeling from the aftereffects of domestic and global conflict. The Great Depression would not sink the brothers, who churned out competitive films that engaged audiences and kept their operations afloat―and even expanding. During World War II, they used their platform to push beyond the limits of the Production Code and create important films about real-world issues, openly criticizing radicalism and the evils of the Nazi regime. At every major cultural turning point in their lifetime, the Warners held a front-row seat.
Paying close attention to the brothers’ identities as cultural and economic outsiders, Yogerst chronicles how the Warners built a global filmmaking powerhouse. Equal parts family history and cinematic journey, The Warner Brothers is an empowering story of the American dream and the legacy four brothers left behind for generations of filmmakers and film lovers to come.Read moreRead less
Amanda D. Lotz
The collision of new technologies, changing business strategies, and innovative storytelling that produced a new golden age of TV.
Cable television channels were once the backwater of American television, programming recent and not-so-recent movies and reruns of network shows. Then came La Femme Nikita, OZ, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. And then, just as “prestige cable” became a category, came House of Cards and Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and other Internet distributors of television content. What happened? In We Now Disrupt This Broadcast, Amanda Lotz chronicles the collision of new technologies, changing business strategies, and innovative storytelling that produced an era termed “peak TV.”
Lotz explains that changes in the business of television expanded the creative possibilities of television. She describes the costly infrastructure rebuilding undertaken by cable service providers in the late 1990s and the struggles of cable channels to produce (and pay for) original, scripted programming in order to stand out from the competition. These new programs defied television conventions and made viewers adjust their expectations of what television could be. Le Femme Nikita offered cable’s first antihero, Mad Men cost more than advertisers paid, The Walking Dead became the first mass cable hit, and Game of Thrones was the first global television blockbuster. Internet streaming didn’t kill cable, Lotz tells us. Rather, it revolutionized how we watch television. Cable and network television quickly established their own streaming portals. Meanwhile, cable service providers had quietly transformed themselves into Internet providers, able to profit from both prestige cable and streaming services. Far from being dead, television continues to transform.Read moreRead less