The Outlet Company

The Outlet Company

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



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 England. For decades, the store remained strong with its sole flagship location and dominated the field of retail in not only Providence, but Rhode Island 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 Philadelphia-based Phillipsborn and Bedya, the midwestern Hughes & Hatcher chain, and The Edw. Malley Co. department store chain in New Haven, Connecticut. 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.[1]


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.[2] In 1949, Outlet entered television broadcasting with the launch of WJAR-TV on channel 11; the station moved 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[3] 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 to three. 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). [4] This virtually undid the NBC-Outlet merger of a decade earlier.

Former Outlet-owned stations

Note: Two boldface asterisks appearing following a station's call letters (**) indicate a station that was built and signed-on by the Outlet Company.

Television stations

DMA# City of license/Market Station Channel
Years owned Current status
8. Atlanta, Georgia WATL 36 / 25 1985–1989 MyNetworkTV affiliate owned by Gannett Company
19. Orlando - Daytona Beach - Melbourne WDBO-TV/WCPX-TV
(now WKMG-TV)
6 / 26 1969–1987 CBS affiliate owned by Post-Newsweek Stations
20. Stockton - Sacramento - Modesto KOVR 13 / 25 1978–1986 CBS owned-and-operated (O&O)
26. Indianapolis WPDS-TV/WXIN 59 / 45 1984–1989 Fox affiliate owned by Tribune Broadcasting
28. Goldsboro - Raleigh - Durham, N.C. WYED-TV/WNCN 17 / 17 1993–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Media General
32. Columbus, Ohio WCMH-TV 4 / 14 1976–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Media General
37. San Antonio KSAT-TV 12 / 12 1974–1986 ABC affiliate owned by Post-Newsweek Stations
52. Providence, R.I. - New Bedford, MA WJAR-TV ** 10 / 51 1949–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Media General
80. Syracuse, New York WNYS-TV
(now WSYR-TV)
9 / 17 1962–1978 ABC affiliate owned by Newport Television

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.

Following its purchase of the remaining three Outlet staitons, NBC kept involvement with the Fant stations until they orchestrated a three way deal in which Fant sold itself to the original Viacom's Paramount Stations Group and, in return, NBC acquired Viacom/Paramount's WVIT in New Britain, Connecticut 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 result of a merger of UPN and WB, in the Fall of 2006.

Radio Stations

Television.svg This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.
AM Stations FM Stations
DMA# Market Station Years owned Current ownership
2. Los Angeles KIQQ-100.3
(now KKBT)
1977-1986 owned by Radio One
7. Philadelphia WIOQ-102.1 1979–1989 owned by Clear Channel Communications
9. Washington, D.C. WTOP-1500
(now WFED)
(WTOP now operates at 103.5 FM)
1978–1993 owned by Hubbard Broadcasting
Bethesda, Maryland WMMJ-102.3 1983–1986 owned by Radio One
11. Detroit WQRS-105.1
(now WMGC-FM)
1960s–1986 owned by Greater Media
39. Providence - Warwick, R.I. WJAR-920 **
(now WHJJ)
1922–1980 owned by Clear Channel Communications
WJAR-FM-95.5 **
(now WBRU)
1950s–1965 owned by Brown University
Taunton, Massachusetts WSNE-93.3 1970s-86 owned by Clear Channel Communications
34. Orlando WDBO-580 1963–1982 owned by Cox Radio
(now WWKA)
1963–1982 owned by Cox Radio

External links


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