History Of NBC Studios At Rockefeller Plaza

History Of NBC Studios At Rockefeller Plaza

Feature Photo: olden Brown / Shutterstock.com

Rockefeller Center was meant as a mass media entertainment complex. As a result, it makes sense that 30 Rockefeller Plaza has a strong connection with mass media. For proof, look no further than its official name the Comcast Building, which was preceded by the GE Building and the RCA Building before that. Every single one of these names shares a connection, which would be their ownership of NBC. Even now, the headquarters of NBC is still situated at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in the heart of Rockefeller Center where it takes up floors 2 to 16.

The Founding of NBC

Currently, NBC is NBCUniversal Media. The name should make it clear that the company is the product of a merger between the TV network NBC and the film studio Universal Media. Before that, the two were independent of one another, though they had a longstanding business relationship that is perhaps unsurprising considering their prominence in their respective but interconnected fields.

NBC’s roots don’t quite reach back to the start of mass media. However, they aren’t far from that. After all, RCA formed NBC using WEAF, which signed on as the first NYC-based radio station with a commercial license in 1922. Later, a choice was made to split those operations into two radio networks based on different marketing strategies. The Blue Network focused on sponsored content. In contrast, the Red Network focused on non-sponsored content. It is worth mentioning that the NBC Radio Network descends from the Blue Network whereas ABC descends from the Red Network. That happened because of antitrust issues, though the sell-off of the latter wouldn’t happen until 1942 and 1943.

Regardless, NBC was well-established by the 1930s. Even so, it isn’t quite accurate to say that NBC became the main tenant at 30 Rockefeller Plaza when the building became available. NBC was still owned by RCA in those days. It was RCA that became the main tenant at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, which was a neat example of the double coincidence of wants because RCA needed a new headquarters after its separation from its parent company GE over antitrust issues in 1930.

NBC’s New Home At  Rockefeller Center

When John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s plans to build a new opera house fell through, he pivoted to building a mass media entertainment complex on the site that had already been leased. Deals were struck in advance. As a result, 30 Rockefeller Plaza was specifically designed with its future main tenant in mind. Conveniently, that meant the spaces for broadcast studios could be placed closer to the center of the building. Meanwhile, the parts of the building with access to windows could be reserved as office space.

Even the exteriors of 30 Rockefeller Plaza show clear signs of this longstanding partnership. To name a couple of examples, there are a couple of carvings called “Radio” and “Television,” which hang over the main entrance and the 49th Street entrance respectively. Carved by Leo Friedlander, they are exactly what they sound like, which is to say, symbolic representations of the main tenant’s twin focus. With that said, interested individuals may or may not be able to interpret them correctly in a single glance. Both carvings have a lot of classical influence, so much so it isn’t immediately clear they are representations of modern mass media.

The Transformation of NBC to NBCUniversal Media Under Comcast

NBC has remained at 30 Rockefeller Plaza ever since the 1930s. That is true despite the massive changes experienced by its various owners. For example, the RCA has been reduced to a brand. The RCA trademarks are owned by Technicolor and Sony Music Entertainment, which in turn, licenses the use of those trademarks to several other companies. Meanwhile, GE is still around. Unfortunately, it underwent a period of severe decline, as shown by its retreat from many of the fields in which the conglomerate once competed. Indeed, GE is expected to undergo further fragmentation into GE Aerospace, GE HealthCare, and GE Vernova. GE Aerospace will be the legal successor to GE as a whole, which is quite a transformation for what started as an electric company. Despite these changes around it, NBC has remained more-or-less itself, though that isn’t to say it hasn’t undergone its fair share of transformations.

For context, the RCA retained ownership of NBC until the mid-1980s when GE purchased its former subsidiary. Noises were made about allowing the RCA to continue operating. In truth, GE was interested in NBC for the most part, as shown by how NBC was allowed to continue operating while the rest of the RCA was either sold off or made defunct for the most part. Later, GE bought a majority stake in Vivendi’s entertainment division before merging it with NBC, thus resulting in NBC Universal. This was the company taken over by Comcast in the 2010s, which gradually increased its control until it achieved 100 percent ownership.

Unsurprisingly, NBC Universal saw continuous change during this time. It remains involved in TV and radio. However, it has continued to work to increase its market share. Simultaneously, it has worked to increase its presence in related fields, as shown by how it is also one of the many entertainment companies that have chosen to set up in-house streaming services in recent years. Naturally, NBC Universal’s office space has continued to change in close correspondence. Still, its presence at 30 Rockefeller Plaza remains constant, which makes sense because that is iconic in a way that the rest of its offices are not.

There Is a Tour

Indeed, it is worth mentioning that other networks have had their offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Furthermore, other networks have had tours of their offices. The neat thing is that tours of NBC Studios have continued since the early 1930s, though there have been temporary suspensions from time to time. That speaks of considerable visitor interest. Otherwise, it seems safe to say the tours of NBC Studios wouldn’t have kept going decade after decade.

It isn’t a particularly long experience. The estimated time is a bit more than an hour. However, that makes it more convenient for interested individuals, particularly since there is so much else to see in the vicinity. For that matter, one can argue that the tours of NBC Studios have a bit more repeatability than most of their counterparts. After all, the exact places visited aren’t necessarily the same from tour to tour, which makes sense because these are places where people constantly work to keep content flowing smoothly.

References:

https://www.rockefellercenter.com/art/radio/

https://www.rockefellercenter.com/art/television/

https://www.nbcuniversal.com/history

https://www.thetouratnbcstudios.com/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/National-Broadcasting-Co-Inc

 

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