From 1935 to 1938, Mr. Weaver worked at Young & Rubicam as the producer of NBC radio's "Town Hall Tonight." But Mr. Weaver was astonished that the networks in radio—and later in TV—were little more than technical facilities for advertisers and agencies that controlled and produced entire products, even news, from the on-camera talent to the content.
From 1942 to '45, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before returning to Y&R.
In 1949, Mr. Weaver moved to NBC as VP and head of NBC-TV. At the time, Y&R and other major agencies were losing ground to network packagers and independent production on the outside, as well as the network's own media department.
His first challenge was controlling rising production costs. In a history-making memo that outlined his new program service, he advocated signing up multiple sponsors within a show to help amortize rising production costs.
Those were the seeds for a revolution in the selling of network time-participating sponsorship. Cutting the basic unit of time to one minute eliminated sponsor and agency control of programming, as the networks and program producers sold "spots" of time from an inventory of programming created under network control.
Major ad agency executives vowed to fight the proposal and, while large advertisers felt betrayed, smaller ones hailed Mr. Weaver for offering them affordable access to network broadcasting for the first time.
Mr. Weaver's hallmark was the development for TV of the "magazine format," which set a new precedent for buying and selling ad time and scheduling program content. By instituting what Mr. Weaver called a new "program service," NBC worked around ad agencies that were accustomed to creating and controlling their clients' programming.
Mr. Weaver set vehicles in motion at NBC to demonstrate the concept, creating "Today" with Dave Garroway, "Home" with Arlene Francis and "The Tonight Show" with Steve Allen. All were successful. In prime time, he launched "Saturday Night Revue" and "Your Show of Shows," which showcased Sid Caeser and Imogene Coca.
NBC's new production and schedule tactics initially led to major confrontations with sponsors.
By the late 1950s, however, independent packagers, major talent agencies, film studios, producers and even the networks' in-house production operations rushed to fill the void created by the increasing agency exodus from program production.
The mass-appeal programming Mr. Weaver and others instituted was predicated on measurements that left little room for the small, targeted audiences of the past. As a result, they sought sponsors willing to pay a premium to broadcasters for time. Programs that attracted large audiences became the strategic objective, primarily in 30- and 60-minute series blocks and in two-hour time slots for movies and specials.
Mr. Weaver was named chairman of NBC in 1955, relinquishing daily administrative duties to Robert Sarnoff in order to spend more time on the broad implementation of his program service plan. In 1956, Mr. Weaver left NBC to become chairman of the McCann-Erickson agency. As chairman of McCann-Erickson International, Mr. Weaver took control of M-E Productions, the radio and TV division of Interpublic.
Mr. Weaver resigned from McCann-Erickson in 1963 to become president-CEO of the early pay-TV venture Subscription Television. He was named to the Television Hall of Fame in 1985, an honor followed up in 1999, when Advertising Age named him one of the top 100 advertising people of the 20th century.
Mr. Weaver died at the age of 93 on March 15, 2002, in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Born in Los Angeles, Dec. 21, 1908; earned his B.A. from Dartmouth College, 1930; worked for Young & MacCallister, an advertising and printing company; named writer/producer/director at Los Angeles radio station KHJ, 1932; became program manager, KFRC, San Francisco, 1934; moved to Young & Rubicam, 1935; became supervisor of programs at the radio division, 1937; became advertising manager, American Tobacco Co., 1938; served in the U.S. Navy, 1942-45; VP-radio & TV at Y&R, 1947-49; vice chairman, president, then chairman of NBC, 1949-56; chairman of McCann-Erickson, 1958-63; president of Subscription TV, 1963-66; named to Television Hall of Fame, 1985; died in Santa Barbara, Calif., March 15, 2002.