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How to Build a Network

The founder of ABC, Leonard Goldenson, talks about his autobiography and his least favorite current ABC show

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What does it take to start a television network? ”Three things,” says Leonard Goldenson, the 85-year-old founder of the American Broadcasting Co. ”Money, money, and more money.” Goldenson began ABC in 1953 with 13 TV stations and parlayed that stake into one of the most powerful broadcasting empires in the world. His new autobiography, Beating the Odds, tells how he did it. ”For years people have been asking me to write a history of the network,” he explains, ”but I kept ducking it. Usually those sort of books are just ego trips.” Beating the Odds is anything but: The volume is mostly reminiscences by old friends and colleagues — an anecdotal account of ABC’s growth over the decades. Goldenson retired from ABC in 1986 but still keeps a hand in network business. ”I try to watch all the new shows every season,” he says, ”but I’m not going to tell you which ones are my favorites.” How about his least favorites? ”I never thought Twin Peaks had mass appeal,” he says. ”It’s a cult-audience sort of thing. Frankly, I was amazed at how much publicity it got.”