Thomas W. Sarnoff

Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

Of his work as a television executive, Thomas W. Sarnoff says, "the highlight of my career at NBC, was building a close knit and very efficient organization on the West Coast that served NBC very well for many years." In his three-hour Archive interview, Mr. Sarnoff discusses growing up in the shadow of his father, NBC founder David Sarnoff, and how television was a constant topic of conversation at home, and how he was even involved in an early signal test. In 1949, instead of joining NBC, he became a floor manager at ABC in Los Angeles. He was hired at NBC in 1952, as an Assistant to the Director of Finance and Operations and in 1957, he was promoted to Vice President, Production and Business Affairs.  He discusses the contracts and negotiations he was involved with including negotiating land for the Burbank facility, and negotiating contracts for Bob Hope, Colonel Parker (Elvis Presley's manager), and for shows such as Gumby, Matinee Theater, and Bonanza.  He concludes by talking about his longtime involvement with the Television Academy and its Foundation. Morrie Gelman conducted the interview in Los Angeles, CA on June 10, 1999.

"The highlight of my career at NBC, was building a close knit and very efficient organization on the West Coast that served NBC very well for many years." 

Highlights
Thomas W. Sarnoff on his role in founding the Archive of American Television
02:16
Thomas W. Sarnoff on making the deal to broadcast the Emmy Awards nationally on NBC
00:42
Thomas W. Sarnoff on taking a stand while developing Bonanza, when seeing that NBC was handing show concepts to MCA and buying them back
05:45
Thomas W. Sarnoff on being "the first live star" on NBC television
03:18
Thomas W. Sarnoff on the highlights of his career
01:26
Thomas W. Sarnoff on his father David Sarnoff unveiling TV at the 1939 World's Fair and his vision for TV and radio
01:04
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and family life with father David Sarnoff
On witnessing the development of television at NBC and his early appearance in a TV test
On his education, his service during World War II, and his move to California

Chapter 2

On working in production at ABC television
On moving to MGM where he worked as a unit manager before moving to NBC
On working at NBC in production and business affairs, where duties included NBC production facility land issues and oversight of the color series Matinee Theater

Chapter 3

On the importance of Matinee Theater for NBC color television; on NBC executives Pat Weaver and Robert Sarnoff
On his contentious relationship with NBC executive Robert Kintner which came to a head with the development of Bonanza as an in-house NBC show

Chapter 4

On the friction between East and West Coast divisions of NBC
On his negotiating style and forging deals with Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, and Disney
On his philosophy of network programming and working with various NBC executives 
On David Sarnoff's death and the eventual end of Sarnoffs at RCA

Chapter 5

On being an NBC executive on the west coast and his response to the criticism about violence on television at that time
On becoming president of NBC Entertainment (which handled non-broadcast entertainment) in 1969 and producing live arena shows with Disney
On leaving NBC
On being "Gumby's godfather" and negotiating deals to bring Gumby to TV 
Thomas W. Sarnoff on bringing back Bonanza in TV movies featuring the next generation - Bonanza: The Next Generation (1988), Bonanza: The Return (1993) and Bonanza: Under Attack (1995)

Chapter 6

On his affiliation with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences throughout his career
On chairing the TV Academy Foundation and his role in the founding of Archive of American Television
On the highlights of his career, his father's legacy, and his thoughts on the current (1999) state of television 
On his family and how he'd like to be remembered 
On some of the people he's worked with over the years including Bob Finkel, Dick Welch, and John Conte

Chapter 7

On two photos: one with Phyllis Diller, the other of "Colonel" Tom Parker
Shows

Bonanza

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's development of Bonanza 
04:41
Thoma W. Sarnoff on the success of Bonanza for NBC and RCA
05:28
Thomas W. Sarnoff on bringing back Bonanza in TV movies featuring the next generation - Bonanza: The Next Generation (1988), Bonanza: The Return (1993) and Bonanza: Under Attack (1995)
07:39

Cowboys and Injuns

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on producing and directing the 1950s children's series Cowboys and Injuns
02:58

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on making the deal to broadcast the Emmy Awards nationally on NBC
00:42

Gumby

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on being "Gumby's godfather" and negotiating deals to bring Gumby to TV  
03:53

Laramie

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on the initial similarity in the concepts of Bonanza and Laramie
02:38

Lawless Years, The

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on getting NBC's renewal of  the series The Lawless Years (1959-1961)
01:59

Marshal of Gunsight Pass, The

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on a live TV blooper during the airing of an episode of Marshal of Gunsight Pass, The (1950)
01:30

Mickey Mouse Club, The

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's losing out to ABC in negotiations to air Disney's new shows
02:24

Mysteries of Chinatown

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Thomas W. Sarnoff briefly on the production of Mysteries of Chinatown
01:10

NBC Matinee Theater

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on the production of Matinee Theater
05:12
Thomas W. Sarnoff on preservation of Matinee Theater and working with producer Albert McCleery
02:08

Wonderful World of Disney, The aka Magical World of Disney, The

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's losing out to ABC in negotiations to air Disney's new shows
02:24
Topics

Bloopers

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on a live TV blooper during the airing of an episode of Marshal of Gunsight Pass (1950)
01:30

Criticism of TV

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on his response to criticism of violence on TV while an NBC executive
02:17

Network Creation

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on his father, NBC founder David Sarnoff
02:40
Thomas W. Sarnoff on the vision of his father, NBC founder David Sarnoff
01:03
Thomas W. Sarnoff on David Sarnoff's legacy
00:25

Sex & Violence

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on his response to criticism of violence on TV while an NBC executive
02:17

Studio and Network Management

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on negotiating land for the NBC production facility in Burbank, CA
06:57
Thomas W. Sarnoff on taking a stand about NBC handing show concepts to MCA, which would then be sold back to NBC
08:52
Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's early dominance of long-form television programming
03:15

Technological Innovation

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on being "the first live star" on NBC television during a signal test
03:18
Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's transition to color television and the production of color show Matinee Theater
05:12
Thomas W. Sarnoff on Matinee Theater getting people to talk about color television
02:08

Television Industry

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on his response to criticism of violence on TV while an NBC executive
02:17

World War II

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on his military service during World War II (and briefly on his father being a general)
05:38
Professions

Attorney

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on working in NBC's production and business affairs office and the buidling of the NBC production facility in Burbank, CA
06:57

Television Executive

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on taking a stand about NBC handing show concepts to MCA, which would then be sold back to NBC
08:52
Thomas W. Sarnoff on his philosophy on ratings and network programming
01:13
Genres

Animation

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on being "Gumby's godfather" and negotiating deals to bring Gumby to TV  
03:53

Classic Anthology Series

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on the production of NBC's daily color anthology series Matinee Theater
05:12

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's early dominance of long-form television programming
03:15
Thomas W. Sarnoff on bringing back Bonanza in TV movies featuring the next generation - Bonanza: The Next Generation (1988), Bonanza: The Return (1993) and Bonanza: Under Attack (1995)
07:39
People

David Adams

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on  NBC executive vice-president David Adams
01:25

Rex Bell

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on silent star Rex Bell, who was to star in his series Cowboys and Injuns
02:58

George Cahan

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on working with George Cahan
00:49

Samuel Chotzinoff

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC music director Samuel Chotzinoff's role in securing Arturo Toscanini for NBC
01:09

Art Clokey

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on being "Gumby's godfather" and negotiating deals to bring Gumby to TV  
03:53

John Conte

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on John Conte
01:28

Walt Disney

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's losing out to ABC in negotiations to air Disney's new shows
02:24

David Dortort

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's development of Bonanza 
04:41
Thomas W. Sarnoff on Bonanza creator David Dortort
05:28
Thomas W. Sarnoff on working with David Dortort to find loopholes in a contract Sarnoff had done at NBC; and bringing back Bonanza in TV movies featuring the next generation
07:39

Bob Finkel

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on first working with Bob Finkel as his assistant
01:34
Thomas W. Sarnoff on making the deal to broadcast the Emmy Awards nationally on NBC (Bob Finkel was the director of the show)
00:42
Thomas W. Sarnoff on working with Bob Finkel
00:30

Richard Frank

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on Richard Frank's role in the founding of the Archive of American Television
02:16

Bob Hope

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on negotiating (for NBC) with Bob Hope (which often included land deals)
02:47

Robert E. Kintner

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC executive Robert Kintner
13:23
Thomas W. Sarnoff on getting NBC's renewal of  the series The Lawless Years (1959-1961)
01:59

David Levy

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC's early dominance of long-form television programming
03:15

Albert McCleery

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on producer Albert McCleery's role in Matinee Theater
05:12
Thomas W. Sarnoff on preservation of Matinee Theater and working with producer Albert McCleery
02:08

Tom Parker

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on negotiating (for NBC) with Elvis Presley's manager "Colonel" Tom Parker 
01:19

Elvis Presley

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on negotiating (for NBC) with Elvis Presley's manager "Colonel" Tom Parker 
01:19

Dick Robertson

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on working with Lorimar executive Dick Robertson to re-release Gumby
03:00

Michael Rosen

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on working with Michael Rosen at the Archive of American Television
02:16

Robert Sarnoff

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on brother and NBC executive Robert Sarnoff

David Sarnoff

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on his father, NBC founder David Sarnoff
02:40
Thomas W. Sarnoff on the vision of his father, NBC founder David Sarnoff
01:03
Thomas W. Sarnoff on the death of his father, NBC founder David Sarnoff
01:16
Thomas W. Sarnoff on David Sarnoff's legacy
00:25

Herbert S. Schlosser

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on fellow NBC executive Herb Schlosser
00:33

Grant Tinker

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on fellow NBC executive Grant Tinker
00:52

Arturo Toscanini

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC Orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini
03:47

Dean Valentine

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on Dean Valentine's role in the founding of the Archive of American Television
02:16

Sylvester L. Weaver

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on NBC executive Pat Weaver
02:17

Dick Welch

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on working with Dick Welch
01:31

Vladimir Zworykin

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Thomas W. Sarnoff on the legacy of Vladimir Zworykin at NBC
00:42

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