|Posted by pbmiranda on June 27, 2012 at 11:35 AM|
In 1983, QUBE, the cable TV system that created Nickelodeon, was around $875 million dollars in debt for Warner Cable due to building too many stations. To prevent QUBE from going bankrupt, Warner Cable bought American Express as an investor to keep themselves stabilize. However, around this time, Nickelodeon's first president Geraldine Laybourne and MTV director Bob Pittman were growing more powerful among their positions. They didn't like where the companies were going or the decisions they were making to keep afloat. QUBE would eventually shut its doors in 1984 due to bankruptcy.
Despite having over 25 million subscribers and being the only channel to receive the Peabody Award due to its educational shows, Nickelodeon was struggling badly. Due to the failed programs such as Against the Odds and Going Great and that the majority of their programs were acquired from other sources, Nickelodeon was officially the worst network on the air being over $40 million dollars in debt ($200 million dollars today)
Around 1984, there were so many great cartoons that aired in other channels: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, Inspector Gadget, ThunderCats, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and so much more. Nickelodeon needed a miracle to survive being on the air. Then came along two influential television advertisers and entrepreneurs, Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman.
Bob Pittman called them to help brand Nickelodeon the way that they branded MTV. Fred Seibert was the first creative director for MTV. Together with his partner Alan Goodman, Frank Olinsky, Pat Gorman, and Patti Rogoff, they designed the now iconic MTV logo.
Now Seibert and Goodman had their own company called Fred/Alan Inc. and once again, they worked their magic on how they were going to save this dying network. They decided that they needed a new fresh logo. Something eye popping, something memorable. Seibert assigned Tom Corey and Scott Nash to come up with a new logo. They were skeptical at first since the name Nickelodeon was very long, kids couldn't pronounce it without help, and no one around the late 20th century even knew what the origin of the name was. Nonetheless, they accepted the challenge. When they came back, they presented Seibert and Goodman with a logo with the color Pantone Orange #21.
Seibert thought that Corey and Nash had lost their minds. He didn't see the action, the movement, the pow that the MTV logo had. Plus, orange was a color that wasn't used as much or even at all. But then Corey and Nash explained that it wasn't just one logo; it could be 100 logos, 1000 logos, or even 1,000,000. If they kept the orange color and the Nickelodeon logotype inside, they could change it into any shape they wanted.
As for the color, they claimed that it was eye catching and that it stood out compared to other common colors like red or blue. Seibert was convinced and the now iconic Nickelodeon logo was born. TV promos were also created to coincide with the logo.
For the decisions on what to keep and what to remove from Nickelodeon. According to Fred Seibert, this is what he decided to do.
• Keep the name “Nickelodeon.” We figured that 10,000,000 kids (there current circulation) knew the name and what it stood for. Management wanted to switch to “Nick,” since it was easier to spell and say; let’s forget that everyone outside the company would wonder why they were named after a garage mechanic. There were a lot of reasons for killing it: no one under a certain age had ever heard of a nickelodeon, and those who had knew it had nothing whatsoever to do with children; the word was hard to spell correctly in the age of pre-Google and spellcheck; and, the word was way too long and thin to dominate a television screen.
• Treat the network like an exclusive club, where only kids could join, not like a TV station with all kids shows. Kids in June of 1984 (when we started work) needed something they could call their own. They felt on the rear end of life, they told us so constantly. Adults (parents and teachers) made all the decisions for them. TV in the 80s wasn’t for them. They were scared of getting older, but their unconscious biology kept egging them on to age faster.
• Ban the word “FUN” from the Nickelodeon vocabulary. Every network promo told the kids that Nickelodeon was fun. It wasn’t. We thought it was better to be “fun” than say “fun.”
• Redesign the logo. Famous television designer, a moonlighting Lou Dorfsman, had designed the logo in 1981, and our brilliant friend Bob Klein had added a silver ball that zoomed around the screen in and out of everything a kid might find exciting.
Now that the new logo and the promos were completed, Seibert and Goodman had came up with a risky, yet innovated idea: create the first oldies' television network. In the 80's, baby boomers had been content of watching the newer programs that their kids had been watching. They claim that the majority of these shows were garbage and had missed seeing shows from their childhoods. At the time, it was completely impossible to see reruns of shows from the 50's and 60's. Remember, there was no internet back then.
Pittman had purchased all 300 episodes of The Donna Reed Show, a black and white TV show from the 1960's, because he thought it might come in handy one day and it was cheap. Seibert and Goodman tried to convince ABC to run this oldies' television, but they thought it was a terrible idea. All the old programs from the 1950's and 60's hadn't been on television ever since they stopped airing. Seibert was inspired by an oldies' television program from a radio DJ named Bill Drake who invented the oldies' radio program. He would play classic rock and roll music, doo-wop, and more for the nostalgic adults. It was a brilliant move! They decided to play it at night so that the kids could still have their cartoons and educational programs during the day. Together, Seibert and Goodman created Nick at Nite!
Not only did they air The Donna Reed Show, but they also aired Route 66, Mr. Ed, and My Three Sons. Nick at Nite was a huge success! Around the 80's, adults were reminiscing about their favorite shows of the 50's. TV shows and movies such as Happy Days and Grease were being released for those nostalgic adults similar to the adults of today reminiscent about the favorite shows of the 80's such as ThunderCats, Transformers Prime, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
In one year, due to the hard work of Fred/Alan Inc., they turned Nickelodeon from the worst network on television to the #1 network for kids and adults. In 1986, Warner Cable sold Nickelodeon and MTV to Viacom for $685 million dollars. Now they were their own network channels. At this point, Nickelodeon was on their way to greatness!
That's all for now. Tune in next time as Kevin talks about the second show that put Nickelodeon on the map. The first game show for kids: Double Dare.
Also, the moment that you've been waiting for: my interview with Marc Summers.
Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.