CBS exec helped launch 'The Muppet Show'

D. Thomas Miller, who, in his capacity as president of the CBS Television Stations Division in the 1970s helped launch “The Muppet Show,” died of a heart attack on Thursday, Feb. 9, in Cohasset, Mass. He was 86.

During the 1970s, local stations sought syndicated programming to fill the access hour beginning at 7 p.m. because the Primetime Access Rule limited network programming to three hours from 7-11 p.m. Miller saw potential in Jim Henson’s puppet variety show and brought the concept to CBS chairman William Paley. CBS backed “The Muppet Show,” which was sold in syndication, running from 1976-81.

Miller started in broadcasting as an assistant research director at ABC Radio and Television and held positions at CBS, Harrington Righter & Parsons and ABC in the early days of the television industry.

After serving as general manager of WLS-TV in Chicago from 1963-66, Miller rejoined CBS in 1967 as VP of broadcasting for the New York Yankees when the network owned the team. In 1968, he was named VP and assistant to the president, CBS Broadcast Group. Miller became the president of the CBS Television Stations Division in 1970. He was VP of technical resources at the CBS Broadcast Group from 1977-79 and VP of new ventures from 1979-85.

David Thomas Miller was born in Chicago. During WWII, he served as a navigator bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a second lieutenant. Miller receiving his undergraduate degree from Loyola U. in Chicago in 1950 and did post-graduate work at the U. of Chicago.

He received a Doctor of Humane Letters in Communications from St. John’s U. in 1974. He served on the board of directors of organizations including the International Radio & Television Society, the Advertising Council and the Television Bureau. He also served on the board of advisers to St. John’s U. Communications School.

Miller is survived by his wife, Miriam; three sons and two daughters; and a number of grandchildren.

A funeral mass will be celebrated on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. in St. Anthony Church, Cohasset, Mass. For an online guestbook, visit Mcnamara-sparrell.com

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