It pays to check these things.
With much fanfare, on January 1,1976 NBC unveiled it’s new on-air logo – a big stylized N. They paid a million dollars to design this thing. That's right. $1,000,0000. The network was probably hoping to do the whole three letters but couldn't afford it. Anyway...
I remember seeing it for the first time on the Rose Bowl game and thinking, “Huh?” In the ‘60s their main signature was the peacock and they would precede each program shown in color with this.
I know you had to be there, but when that would come on and the music started to crescendo it was thrilling every time. At least to me.
And now there was a big blocky N.
NBC wasted no time in plastering that logo everywhere. ID’s, closing ID’s, mike flags, sportscasters’ blazers. I’m surprised they didn’t make Jane Pauley wear two N logo tassels on her breasts.
A month later, once this logo had now been firmly established, NBC got a call from the Nebraska ETV Network, the State’s chain of PBS stations. It seems they had the EXACT SAME LOGO. The only thing different was the colors. And I bet they paid some skeesix fifty bucks to design it.
NBC was sued for trademark infringement. They wound up settling out of court. NBC gave the Nebraska folks new equipment and a mobile color unit, valued at over $800,000 and shelled out $55,000 to cover the cost of designing and implementing a new logo for Nebraska ETV.
We had a similar situation on the Mary Tyler Moore show we created in 1985. Mary's character got a job at a tabloid newspaper in Chicago. The name we wanted and was cleared by our research company was Chicago Post.
We went back to Chicago to film the opening titles. Several shots featured Mary’s picture on bus ads heralding her as a proud staff member of the Chicago Post.
I stayed back in Los Angeles during the filming and got a call from a gentleman who saw the bus ads. He identified himself as the editor of the Chicago Post. After falling on the floor, I said someone from MTM would get back to him. Then I hung up and called information and asked for the number of the Chicago Post. The operator gave it to me in a second. How the fuck did our crack research firm not flag this? A daily newspaper in Chicago!
MTM offered a settlement, which was incredibly generous, but the paper held out for millions. They figured we had shot the pilot and would have to reshoot at a cost well into the millions. Well, the truth is, we had shot the pilot but the words Chicago Post were not visible in the newsroom. Fixing this problem was as simple as substituting the word “Eagle” in the mouths of those actors who originally said “Post” along with redoing a couple of shots for the opening titles. MTM gave them a deadline and said the offer was off the table if not accepted by the end of the business day. The Post figured we were bluffing and let the deadline go by. We made the easy changes and for their greed, they got nothing.
As in a great big N.