From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Outlet Company was a corporation based in Providence,
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
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.
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
In 1949, Outlet entered television broadcasting with the launch of WJAR-TV
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). 
This virtually undid the NBC-Outlet merger of a decade earlier.
Radio stations owned
||Original station, now WHJJ
||Donated to Brown, now WBRU
||Original WTOP format moved to 103.5 FM (formerly WGMS)
in 2006; 1500 became WTWP, then became WWWT in 2007 and WFED
||Was home to the original WHFS
||Owned by Crosley
Broadcasting Corporation (Avco)
from 1949-1976; Was an NBC O&O 1996-2006
||Calls changed in 1982
with failed merger; now WKMG-TV
||Flagship station, was an NBC O&O 1996-2006
||Swapped affiliations with KXTV
||Was WYED-TV until 1995; was an NBC O&O 1996-2006
||Independent, then Fox,
||Independent, then Fox
||Was WPDS-TV for first few months of Outlet ownership
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.
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 WVIT
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 merger of UPN and The WB) in the Fall of