The American TV audience that tuned in to see the Brooklyn Dodgers take on the Philadelphia Phillies on July 1, 1941, likely didn't realize they were about to witness TV history. But when a 20-second scene of a Bulova clock face appeared on their screens, overdubbed with the phrase, "The world runs on Bulova time," the estimated 4,000 viewers witnessed a milestone: the first paid TV commercial [source: TV Acres].
As anyone who watches modern TV knows, commercials are an integral part of television broadcasting. The advertisements have not only changed the way we shop, but they've also changed the way TV broadcasts are produced. TV dramas often break for commercials at high-tension moments, compelling viewers to sit through the commercials to see what happens next. And the production of TV commercials has become a high-stakes business that commands as much influence as the broadcast programming itself.
New York-based Bulova Watch Company reportedly paid $9 for that 1941 commercial, an infinitely small sum compared to the millions of dollars spent on commercials that run during modern events like the Super Bowl. The small ad was just the tip of a broadcasting iceberg, and one has to wonder if the Bulova advertising representatives -- or the broadcaster who sold the ad -- had any idea what would evolve from that brief broadcasting moment [source: The Most Expensive Journal].