In 1948, Sarnoff joined the network founded by his father, David, and seven years later was named president. He immediately started the transition from black-and-white to color broadcasting. On April 15, 1956, the network's Chicago affiliate, WNBQ, became the first all-color television station in the country.
Sarnoff pioneered racial integration in television, as well. NBC was the first network to hire a black show host, Nat "King" Cole and a black lead actor in an hour series, Bill Cosby in I Spy.
Some of his other programming coups: the first televised presidential debate (the 1960 matchup between Kennedy and Nixon) and the launch of Bonanza, the long-running horse opera.
NBC named him chairman in 1958, a post he held until 1965 when he took over as president and later chairman of RCA, the parent company also founded by his father. The board ousted him in 1975, ending the Sarnoff family reign.
Sarnoff was married to opera singer Anna Moffo, who survives him.