John S. Tyler, Famed Broadcast Innovator, Entrepreneur, died January 24th in Dallas at the age of 86.
Mr. Tyler began his professional broadcast career as a salesman for KCMC-TV (channel 6) in Texarkana, Ark/Texas in 1953. He then became affiliated with KFJZ-TV (channel 11) in Dallas/Ft. Worth as an Ad Salesman and later Sales Manager. He spent a year and a half with Bloom Advertising in Dallas, acting as a radio/television producer. Mr. Tyler produced the first television commercial used by Neiman Marcus (a $29.95 shirtwaist dress which sold out in a half of a day.)
Mr. Tyler then moved to Amarillo as General Manager of the CBS television affiliate KFDA (Channel 10). In 1964, he headed a partnership that acquired franchises for cable television and constructed systems in Gainesville, Texas and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Four years later, he joined a partnership and acquired the ABC Television Affiliate KVII-TV (channel 7) in Amarillo and served as Managing Partner. It became the number one ABC station in the United States in three station markets. Mr. Tyler further acted as Managing Partner of KFWD-FM (102.1) in Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Re-locating to Atlanta, Mr. Tyler served a volatile two and on half years as the unstoppable General Manager of the ABC Television Affiliate WQXI-TV (channel 11). After six months, he was named President and CEO of Pacific and Southern Broadcasting Company, Inc. (a publically held company). He was responsible for seven radio stations in New York City, Cincinnati, Denver, Atlanta and Los Angeles and WQXI television station in Atlanta.
At Mr. Tyler’s first WQXI staff meeting, he stated he was “here to dispel the myth that all Texans are tall”. He transformed the formerly placid News Department and blasted the competition with programming and promotional moves they never anticipated. Mr. Tyler was first to hire a top network news anchor for a local television affiliate-Virgil Dominic of NBC-TV. Mr. Tyler believed “the most successful anchor should talk only to a man and his wife whom they want to invite into their living room-someone they can trust-and that’s Dominic.”
Within a few weeks, Mr. Tyler doubled the size of the WQXI news operation, added six more newscasts, 24 hour news teams, and stringers in 71 counties. Motorcycle couriers delivered footage directly to the station. Mr. Tyler was also the first to acquire Enterprise Radar-the largest, most comprehensive weather radar system available at that time for civilian use.
ATLANTA Magazine referred to Mr. Tyler as “a combination of Peter Pan and Elmer Gantry-who ripped into Atlanta like a West Texas whirlwind and announced to everyone….WQXI-TV was going to number one, by god!”
Not known for his subtlety, Mr. Tyler painted the station’s rating history in graph form, 12 feet X 18 feet on the side of the WQXI-TV building. He once climber WQXI’s transmission tower at midnight to personally talk to the engineer who was repairing the transmission line. Half-way up, Mr. Tyler remembered his fear of heights-but earned the respect of the entire Engineering Department.
Mr. Tyler believed that “cab drivers and cops know more than anybody else in the world…not the intelligentsia.” In his “off time”, Mr. Tyler knocked on doors of trailer parks and invited himself in-to talk about what Georgians felt was good and bad with the station.
Pacific and Southern Broadcasting eventually merged with Combined Communications, Inc. A giant billboard on Peachtree Street immediately appeared…”Thanks Atlanta for A Great Two Years! John S. Tyler”.
After his return to Dallas, Mr. Tyler and his partner arranged the sale of KFWD-FM (102.1) He then purchased an Oklahoma AM/FM station, KATT, 100 FM which became the highest rated “Album Rock” radio station in the United States.
In 1981, Mr. Tyler inaugurated his “brainchild”, Satellite Music Network (SMN) with $50,000 in seed money and sold it nine years later to Capital Cities/ABC for $56 million. Mr. Tyler served as Chairman of the Board, President and CEO. Up linking out of Dallas and Chicago, this was the very first ever network that furnished 24 hours of music in varying formats and the news. Business Week said of SMN, “Ailing radio stations can stay alive by purchasing programming from SMN.”
In 1985, SMN became a publicly held company actively traded on NASDAQ with over 2,000 stock holders. Having started with two affiliates, SMN became the number one full-time satellite radio networks in the world with 1105 radio station affiliates in the United States, three in China and eight in the Caribbean.
In 1990, Mr. Tyler founded Rhino Communications, Inc., a Dallas consulting company to aggressively market and promote national and international corporations. Clients included The International Watch and Jewelry Guild in Houston; Jones Radio Network, Denver; and Media America, New York City. Other clients-one of the top ten television companies in the world; the largest radio news operation in the United States; one of the top five sports syndicators; the largest audio text company in the United States; a distance learning provider (via television) operating in 42 states; and a public relations company with emphasis on crisis intervention. Mr. Tyler’s work with Rhino Communications led to extensive travel to establish and negotiate new businesses.
Infamous as a motivator and instigator of unique promotions, Mr. Tyler worked around the clock and expected the same of his staff. Many of his staff remained loyal and followed Mr. Tyler to various parts of the country and his numerous other enterprises. Mr. Tyler remained passionate about broadcasting and its possibilities. Said Ed Beanland, Senior Partner of Ernst & Young of Dallas, “At Satellite Music Network, John took a need in the industry and created value for everyone.”
Roy Bliss, Chief Operating Officer, United Video, Inc., (Tulsa and Breckinridge) stated, “John Tyler was a good friend. He was energetic, smart, and fun. He was good with people…had good marketing and sales skills…and was a ‘big-picture’ guy…We made money together.”
Edwin A. Goodman, General Partner, Milestone Venture Partners, commented “John not only proved to be a successful buyer and seller in broadcasting, but also an innovator who introduced new concepts and delivered unique services. John Tyler was a man of integrity, enormous energy and sound entrepreneurial instincts.”
Tom Shattenfield, Attorney, Arent & Fox, Washington, DC, stated “John was a consummate salesman-very aggressive-he knew how to make money.
Mr. Tyler was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2004. He served five years on the Board of Directors of non-profit Dallas Community Television, Inc. He was a member of the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Association of Television Program Executives.
Mr. Tyler served two years in the U.S Marine Corps and attended the University of Houston and the University of Arkansas.
In addition to Mike Tyler, he is survived by his daughter Angela Tyler, son and daughter in law James and Tracey Tyler, step-son Larry Anderson Ph.D, and six grandchildren, along with 5 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in his honor at 2:30 pm on Friday, January 29th at Scofield Church, 7730 Abrams Road in Dallas. Mr. Tyler will be laid to rest earlier in the day at Dallas/Ft. Worth National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial contributions to be made at Michael J. Fox Parkinson Research Foundation or the Parkinson Foundation.