Sylvester 'Pat' Weaver, creator of 'Today' show, dies at 93 - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Sylvester 'Pat' Weaver, creator of 'Today' show, dies at 93

Updated:
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Sylvester ``Pat'' Weaver, who created NBC's ``Today'' and ``Tonight'' shows, brought opera and a flurry of new commercials to TV and shaped the way Americans watched the infant medium, has died. He was 93.

The father of actress Sigourney Weaver died of pneumonia on Friday night at his Santa Barbara home, his wife, Elizabeth, said by telephone Saturday night.

Weaver worked at NBC from 1949, when there were only 2 million TV sets in the country, until 1956, when he resigned as chairman of the board.

``Pat Weaver was the first major creative force in television programming and one of the most innovative executives in the history of television. Pat's influence on NBC is still seen by millions of viewers everyday,'' NBC President and CEO Bob Wright said in a statement.

When Weaver first joined NBC, TV was run on the radio model. Sponsors owned shows, controlled their content and sometimes even dictated when they aired.

Weaver's ideas took away some of that control. He had the network produce its own shows and then sell commercial time to several advertisers, helping fund the medium.

For his contributions, Weaver received two Emmy awards and was inducted into the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1985.

But the medium he hoped would culturally enrich America was failing to deliver on its promise, Weaver said in a 1994 interview with The Associated Press.

``It's very disappointing,'' he said. ``There's occasional good things on, but there's no consistent arts programming.''

Born to a wealthy roofing manufacturer in Los Angeles, Weaver graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College. In the midst of the Depression, he took a $150-a-month job as a comedy writer for a Los Angeles radio network.

He went on to executive jobs in radio and advertising.

After a Navy stint in World War II, Weaver returned to the ad world. But he had become enamored of fledging television.

``It had the potential to take us, by sight as well as by sound, out of our homes and across oceans in a moment, to any part of the world,'' he wrote in his 1994 autobiography, ``The Best Seat in the House.''

In 1949, Weaver became NBC's vice president in charge of television. On his first day, he rescinded the cancellation of ``Meet the Press'' _ now TV's longest-running program.

Convinced that he could woo morning radio listeners away, Weaver created the first early morning show, ``Today,'' in 1952, with host Dave Garroway.

TV news was hampered then by big cameras that were mostly studio-bound, and by film that took hours to develop. ``Today,'' however, had all night to get someplace where news was happening, get the pictures and get back to the studio.

``That's what it became,'' Weaver said, ``the principle of serving the audience with the information they needed to know: What time is it? How's the weather? What happened last night? What's new today? What are the big stories? What are the funny stories? And we gradually put together that kind of a show.''

He went on to create the idea of network specials that pre-empt regular programming, the globe-trotting ``Wide World Series'' and the talk show institution ``Tonight,'' which showed that viewers would tune in to the tube at all hours.

Weaver was ``a great idealist'' who viewed TV as a way to bring culture to the common man, his wife said.

``He put on opera for the first time because he said the man in the street ... wants to hear anything and he doesn't have the money,'' she said. ``His plan was everybody should have access.''

Weaver was pushed out as NBC president in 1955 by Robert Sarnoff, son of David Sarnoff _ the head of NBC's parent corporation RCA. Weaver became chairman of the board, but resigned the next year and went back to advertising.

For three years in the 1960s he headed Subscription Television, an early and ultimately failed effort at pay cable TV.

Even at age 85, Weaver was continuing to explore the possibilities of television. In 1994, he was working on a pay TV cultural events service called Intercept TV.

Along with his wife and daughter, Weaver is survived by a son, Trajan, of Utah; five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
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