Columbia started as CBC Film Sales in 1924, hit the big time with the outstanding and multi-Oscar winning success of It Happened One Night in 1934, and became a reliable front-runner after World War II. Since it didn't own any theaters, it wasn't as affected by the Fall of the Studio System, and emerged as a leader in Hollywood in The '50s while the Big Five were left reeling by the United States vs. Paramount Pictures decision. And while the rest of the industry was scared to death of the new medium of television, Columbia wholeheartedly embraced it, becoming one of the first big names to enter television production.
Columbia started an entire division named "Screen Gems" to manage its television properties, and produced several well known shows over the years. (Screen Gems is also well known for its 1965–74 "S From Hell" Vanity Plate, which has acquired a cult following on the Internet.) By 1974, Columbia Pictures Television traded under its own name. CPT was merged with TriStar Television in 1994 to create Columbia TriStar Television, and the operation was renamed Sony Pictures Television in 2002.
As Columbia entered the '60s, however, its brand became increasingly wishy-washy, with the studio producing both old-fashioned fare and New Hollywood-type movies. It nearly went bankrupt in the early 1970s before it was saved by a radical overhaul of the management, a partnership with Warner Bros., and a series of high-profile star vehicles. By 1982, Columbia was healthy again and was purchased by an unlikely suitor: Coca-Cola. The marriage didn't last long, though, as Columbia had few hits during this time (aside from the blockbuster Ghostbusters franchise). After making two key purchases in the mid-1980s (Norman Lear's and Merv Griffin's television holdings) and a major flop in Ishtar, Coke spun the company off in 1987 under the newly formed Columbia Pictures Entertainment entity, owning 49% of the the stand-alone company. During the same year, CPE acquired the remaining stake of TriStar Pictures (which Columbia partially owned at the time) from CBS and HBO following another major flop, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, bringing them fully to the fold and merging them with Columbia. Sony bought CPE in 1989, including the merged Columbia/TriStar, and has held onto the two studios since.