The first television show in syndication was Sea Hunt which was a TV series about a scuba diver named, Mike Nelson. Nelson was played by actor, Lloyd Bridges, the father of actors Beau and Jeff Bridges. Sea Hunt was an underwater adventure series created long before scuba diving became a popular sport. The program introduced millions of Americans to the wonders of the under water world of the ocean with all of it fascinating and sometimes terrifying creatures. The show was syndicated by Ziv Television Programs, Inc. Ziv not only sold the first television show in syndication but became the first major first run syndication company producing several long-lived series of the 1950s by selling them directly to regional sponsors who then sold the programs to local stations.
In addition to the first television show in syndication, some of the other syndicated program that Ziv sold were Highway Patrol (a cop show starring Broderick Crawford), Superman (the first TV program about the comic book hero) and Mr. Ed (the notorious talking horse.)
The first television show in syndication began the new era of TV series syndication. Syndication is where a production company offers programs that it creates to independent small networks or local TV stations to add to their programming lineup. Under the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules established in the 1960s, even if the production company sells the program to a national network, the copyright reverts back to the production company after the program has been aired the number of times specified in their contract. This became an extremely important law to protect production companies since the national TV networks tend cancel even successful TV shows the minute their ratings begin to slip.
Since the day the first television show in syndication was aired, many production companies have begun to protect their investments by adding the ability to syndicate a TV series that is still playing on the network by changing the tile of the show. Everything else stays the same. As a result, Ironsides became The Raymond Burr Show when it went into syndication. The networks allow this because a series with a changed title loses most of its established audience. The name can be changed back to the original as soon as the network run or season is over depending on the contract particulars. The first television show in syndication, Sea Hunt, created an entirely new TV industry.