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The Outlet Company was a corporation based in Providencemarker, Rhode Islandmarker, which owned holdings in both retail and broadcasting. The centerpieces of the group was its flagship Providence store (The Outlet) and WJARmarker radio and television, also in Providence.

Retail

The Outlet Company, Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1910
The Outlet Company was formed in 1891 when opened brothers Joseph and Leon Samuels opened a department store at 176 Weybosset Street in downtown Providence. Known as The Outlet, it quickly became a Providence landmark to the point of occupying an entire city block and attracting shoppers from all over southern New Englandmarker. For decades, the store remained strong with its sole flagship location and dominated the field of retail in not only Providence, but Rhode Islandmarker as a whole.

With the changing field of retail in the mid-20th Century, the company diversified with opening suburban locations as well as buying some existing stores such as Philadelphiamarker-based Phillipsborn and Bedya, the midwestern Hughes & Hatcher chain, and The Edw. Malley Co. department store chain in New Havenmarker, Connecticutmarker. However, the allure of building a broadcasting empire under the leadership of company president Bruce Sundlun led Outlet to leave the retail business in November 1980. In 1981, the Outlet Company sold the original downtown retail store (and other stores) to United Department Stores and the flagship Outlet location on Weybosset Street was shuttered in 1982. The building was destroyed by fire on October 16, 1986.

Broadcasting

As with many northeastern department stores in the 1920s, Outlet entered radio as a means of promoting their products to a wide audience. In 1922, Outlet entered broadcasting with the sign on of WJAR, which in 1923 became the first affiliated station of the NBC Red Network [234631]. In 1949, Outlet entered television broadcasting with the launch of WJAR-TVmarker on channel 11, moving to channel 10 in 1953.

Along with retail, Outlet saw a mass expansion into broadcasting in the 1960s and beyond. After the sale of the retail divisions, the company went into a failed merger attempt with Columbia Pictures before it was sold in 1984 to members of the Rockefeller family. Two years later, the company was sold again to a combination of Outlet executives and venture capitalists who renamed the company to Outlet Communications and began a complete withdrawal from radio followed by a slimming down the number of their TV stations. In early 1996, Outlet and its three stations (plus control of two others) were sold to NBC; the name lived on as a license name of their former stations for a while afterward.

After ten years, all three stations were put up for sale by NBC on January 9, 2006, with Media General buying the stations on April 6, 2006 (the sale was finalized on June 26, 2006). [234632] This virtually undid the NBC-Outlet merger of a decade earlier.

Radio stations owned

Station Frequency City Owned Current Owners Notes
KIQQ 100.3 MHz Los Angeles, Californiamarker 1977-86 Radio One Now KKBT
WDBOmarker(AM) 580 kHz Orlando, Floridamarker 1963-82 Cox Radio
WDBO-FM 92.3 MHz Orlando, Floridamarker 1963-82 Cox Radio Now WWKA
WJAR(AM) 920 kHz Providence, Rhode Islandmarker 1922-80 Clear Channel Original station, now WHJJ
WJAR-FM 95.5 MHz Providence, Rhode Islandmarker 1950s-65 Brown Universitymarker Donated to Brown, now WBRU
WSNE 93.3 MHz Taunton, Massachusettsmarker (Providence) 1970s-86 Clear Channel
WIOQ 102.1 MHz Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker 1979-89 Clear Channel
WQRSmarker 105.1 MHz Detroit, Michiganmarker 1960s-86 Greater Media Now WMGC-FMmarker
WTOP(AM) 1500 kHz Washington, DCmarker 1978-86 Bonneville International Original WTOP format moved to 103.5 FM (formerly WGMS) in 2006; 1500 became WTWP, then became WWWT in 2007 and WFEDmarker in 2008.
WMMJ 102.3 MHz Bethesda, Marylandmarker (Washington) 1983-86 Radio One Was home to the original WHFSmarker


Television stations owned

Station Channel City Owned Affiliation Current Owners Notes
WCMHmarker 4 Columbus, Ohiomarker 1976-96 NBC Media General Owned by Crosley Broadcasting Corporation (Avco) from 1949-1976; Was an NBC O&O 1996-2006
WDBO-TV/WCPXmarker 6 Orlando, Floridamarker 1963-87 CBS Post-Newsweek Calls changed in 1982 with failed merger; now WKMG-TVmarker
WNYS/WIXTmarker 9 Syracuse, New Yorkmarker 1962-78 ABC Newport Television Now WSYR-TV
WJARmarker 10 Providence, Rhode Islandmarker 1948-96 NBC; ABC (secondary) Media General Flagship station, was an NBC O&O 1996-2006
KSAT-TVmarker 12 San Antonio, Texasmarker 1974-86 ABC Post-Newsweek Stations
KOVRmarker 13 Sacramento, Californiamarker 1978-86 ABC CBS O&O Swapped affiliations with KXTVmarker in 1995
WNCN-TVmarker 17 Goldsboromarker/Raleighmarker/Durham, North Carolinamarker 1993-96 Independent, WB, NBC Media General Was WYED-TV until 1995; was an NBC O&O 1996-2006
WATLmarker 36 Atlanta, Georgiamarker 1985-89 Independent, then Fox, WB now MyNetworkTV Gannett
WXINmarker 59 Indianapolis, Indianamarker 1984-89 Independent, then Fox Tribune Was WPDS-TV for first few months of Outlet ownership


Fant Broadcasting

In 1994, Outlet bought a minority share into the startup company Fant Broadcasting, which in 1995 signed on two stations in Outlet markets which Outlet operated by local marketing agreements. Both of these stations were joint WB/UPN affiliates (primarily the former) under Outlet control.
Station Channel City Corresponding Outlet Station Current Owners
WLWCmarker 28 New Bedford, Massachusettsmarker WJAR Four Points Media Group

(operated under LSA by Nexstar Broadcasting Group)
WWHOmarker 53 Chillicothe, Ohiomarker WCMH-TV LIN Television
NBC kept involvement with the Fant stations until they orchestrated a three way deal in which Fant sold itself to Paramount Stations Group and, in return, NBC acquired Paramount's WVITmarker in Hartford, Connecticutmarker in 1997. Both stations later changed their primary affiliation to UPN, retaining the WB network as a secondary affiliation. WLWC and WWHO both became affiliates of The CW Television Network (the merger of UPN and The WB) in the Fall of 2006.

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