Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: From Worst to First

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 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.

Now that the promos were done, Seibert and Goodman came up with a risky, yet innovative idea. An oldies' television network. In the 80's, baby boomers were content on watching programs that their kids were into. They thought that the majority of them were garbage and had wished that they could see programs from their childhood. But at the time, it was completely impossible to see programs from that era. Remember, there was no internet back then. Pittman had purchased all 300 episodes of The Donna Reed Show thinking that one day it would come in handy. Plus it was very cheap.

Seibert and Goodman tried to pitch the idea to ABC, but they refused. However, they kept trying to get this idea afloat. The inspiration for an oldies television network came from Bill Drake, a radio DJ who created the first oldies' radio program. He would play classic rock and roll, doo-wop, and many more for nostalgic adults. Eventually, Seibert and Goodman created Nick at Nite.

Not only did they air The Donna Reed Show, but they aired Mr. Ed, Route 66, and My Three Sons. Nick at Nite was a huge success! Around the 80's, movies and TV shows were being reminiscent of the 50's such as Happy Days and Grease. It's like with today's adults reminiscing about movies and shows from the 80's such as Transformers Prime, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and ThunderCats.

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 we discusses about the next show that put Nickelodeon on the map for a new generation. The first game show for kids: Double Dare. 
Also, the moment you've been waiting for: my interview with Marc Summers. 
Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.

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