Vintage Television

Vintage TV: Brought to you in living color

NBC aired the first color television program* in 1953, and you’d better believe they made a big deal of it. The network consistently had more color programming than CBS or ABC for some time. Starting in 1957, they preceded every color show with the famous NBC Peacock.

That peacock lasted until 1962, when the one more widely known debuted.

CBS got into the game, too, with its own bumper. It seemed staid and stuffy in comparison, but then again, everything CBS did seemed that way.

ABC was late to the color race. It was late to the entire television race, actually, getting its start several years after NBC and CBS. ABC took up permanent residence in third place, which had a direct impact on how much money affiliates made. Many of them were slow to lay out the considerable cash for color equipment. But by the mid 1960s ABC had carved out a niche programming directly to young baby boomers, which brought success for the first time. Color was a big part of the strategy, and of course ABC had a bumper:

By the early 1970s, all network programming was in color, and color bumpers began to disappear. A few shows on NBC, notably The Hollywood Squares and The Tonight Show, held on, keeping the peacock through the late 1970s. Maybe they were just nostalgic.

*Okay, CBS actually beat NBC to the punch, airing its first commercial color program in 1951. But CBS did it using a system that required a special TV set with a wacky rotating color disk in front of the screen. People with regular black-and-white sets couldn’t see the show at all. The FCC adopted the NBC system, which was compatible with black-and-white sets, and CBS’s system became nothing more than a footnote. Like this one.

ReadMore If you liked this, you might also like to read about the CBS Late Movie and see how local TV was done in 1977.

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