RCA (Radio Corporation of America )

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was formed in 1919 to acquire the assets of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. It was initially owned by corporate investors, including General Electric and Westinghouse, and became an independent company in 1932. Since 1988, RCA 1960s, to develop a videodisc format. Three rival video disc formats were announced in 1975, all play only and nonrecordable, and appeared on the market a few years later. RCA’s Selectavision system, launched in 1978, was competitively priced but unattractive to consumers in comparison with recordable videocassette systems. After five years, when it ceased Selectavision production, RCA had sold half a million players and 10 million discs, but had spent $300 million on research and development and lost approximately the same amount on production.

Perhaps not surprisingly, following the commercial disaster of Selectavision, RCA ceased to be an independent company in 1986 when it was taken over by General Electric. Less predictably, little more than a year later, General Electric sold off not only RCA, but also its own consumer electronics operations, to the French electronics multinational Thomson Grand Public. The enlarged company was renamed Thomson Consumer Electronics. Ironically, Thomson began life as the French subsidiary of the U.S. Thomson-Houston Electric Company, which merged with Edison Electric Light Company to form General Electric in 1892. This completed a series of prestigious acquisitions by Thomson in the 1980s, which include the German companies SABA and Telefunken and the British company Ferguson. Under new ownership, RCA began to flourish again. It reached a major milestone in 1989 when its 50 millionth color television set came off the assembly line at its plant in Bloomington, Indiana, which is the world’s largest television assembly plant.

In 1993, Thomson became a founding member of the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance, an international body formed to agree on global standards. A year later, the RCA Digital Satellite System introduced digital satellite television broadcasting in the United States. The parent company, Thomson Consumer Electronics, was renamed Thomson Multimedia in 1995 to signal its growing interest in digital home-entertainment products. Moreover, in 1998, it made equity holdings available to four companies that were considered to be suitable partners for new digital developments. These companies, with an aggregate 25 percent shareholding, are Microsoft, DirecTV, Alcatel, and NEC.