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
FateTelevision stations acquired by NBC
Founded1891; 129 years ago (1891)
  • Joseph Samuels
  • Leon Samuels
Defunct1996; 24 years ago (1996)


The Outlet Company, Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1910

The Outlet Company was formed in 1891 when 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,[citation needed] 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 1926 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 stationsEdit

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 stationsEdit

City of license / Market Station Channel
Years owned Current ownership status
Stockton - Sacramento - Modesto KOVR 13 (25) 1978–1986 CBS owned-and-operated (O&O)
Orlando - Daytona Beach - Melbourne WDBO-TV/WCPX-TV 6 (26) 1963–1986 CBS affiliate, WKMG-TV, owned by Graham Media Group
Atlanta, Georgia WATL 36 (25) 1985–1989 MyNetworkTV affiliate owned by Tegna Inc.
Indianapolis WPDS-TV/WXIN 59 (45) 1984–1989 Fox affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Syracuse, New York WNYS-TV 9 (17) 1971–1978 ABC affiliate, WSYR-TV, owned by Nexstar Media Group
Goldsboro - Raleigh - Durham, N.C. WYED/WNCN 17 (17) 1993–1996 CBS affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Columbus, Ohio WCMH-TV 4 (14) 1976–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Providence, R.I. - New Bedford, MA WJAR-TV ** 10 (50) 1949–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
San Antonio KSAT-TV 12 (12) 1968–1986 ABC affiliate owned by Graham Media Group

In 1994, Outlet signed local marketing agreements with the startup company Fant Broadcasting, which owned stations in two Outlet markets. Both of these stations were WB affiliates under Outlet control.

Following its purchase of the remaining three Outlet stations, NBC kept involvement with the Fant stations until they orchestrated a three-way deal in which Fant sold the two stations to the original Viacom's Paramount Stations Group and, in return, NBC acquired Viacom/Paramount's WVIT in New Britain, Connecticut in 1997. Viacom/Paramount promptly added secondary affiliations with its UPN network; however, it was forced to run WLWC and WWHO as primary WB affiliates until 2000, when UPN became the primary affiliation, relegating WB to a secondary affiliation.[5] The two stations were separated in March 2005 when Viacom sold WWHO to LIN TV. WLWC and WWHO both became affiliates of The CW, the result of a merger of UPN and WB, in the Fall of 2006. As of 2013, WWHO is operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (who now also owns WJAR) through a shared services agreement with its current owner Manhan Media while WLWC (which was owned outright by Sinclair for just over a year) is now owned by OTA Broadcasting (a subsidiary of Michael Dell's Dell Capital).

Radio StationsEdit

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AM Stations FM Stations
Market Station Years owned Current ownership
Los Angeles KIQQ 100.3 1977-1986 KKLQ, owned by Educational Media Foundation
Washington, D.C. WTOP 1500 1978–1993 WFED, owned by Hubbard Broadcasting
(WTOP now operates at 103.5 FM)
Bethesda, Maryland WMMJ 102.3 1983–1986 owned by Radio One
Orlando WDBO 580 1963–1982 owned by Cox Radio
WDBO-FM 92.3 1963–1982 WWKA, owned by Cox Radio
Detroit WQRS 105.1 1960s–1986 WMGC-FM, owned by Beasley Broadcast Group
Philadelphia WIOQ 102.1 1979–1989 owned by iHeartMedia
Providence - Warwick, RI WJAR 920 ** 1922–1980 WHJJ, owned by iHeartMedia
WJAR-FM 95.5 ** 1948–1953 defunct, went silent in 1953
frequency now used by WLVO
Taunton, Massachusetts WSNE 93.3 1980–1986 owned by iHeartMedia

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "The Outlet Company, Providence. by Michael Bell". Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  2. ^ "David L. Stackhouse accounts of WJAR Early history (1970)". Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Reverse LBO's Bring Riches By Leslie Wayne". New York Times, April 23, 1987. 23 April 1987. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Media General Completes Purchase of Four NBC Television Stations". Media General press release June 26, 2006. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  5. ^ Schneider, Michael (February 22, 2000). "Sharing the wealth". Variety. Archived from the original on 2013-12-22. Retrieved April 22, 2012.