BoingBoing: How a duck, a Nazi and a themepark saved American color TV

23 Feb

Cory Doctorow has a great piece on BoingBoing and the UK Guardian today on how Ludwig von Drake helped bring the US television market into the wonderful world of color.

The history of earlier changeovers is a colourful one. My favourite example is the US colour TV transition. In the mid-1950s, the US regulator and NBC (a broadcaster whose parent company, RCA, made colour sets) began the process of rolling out colour broadcast apparatus across the nation. This was a substantial investment, and in order to recoup it, the broadcasters would need to see an increase in the number of viewers (this being before practically every American household owned a TV – penetration in 1955 stood at 64.5%) and a higher rate from advertisers for reaching those viewers, on the strength of the new possibilities opened up by colour adverts.

But there was a problem: there was practically no colour programming. Broadcasters didn’t want to commission colour broadcasts to transmit to a nation of black-and-white sets; viewers didn’t have any reason to switch their sets to colour if everything being aired was in black-and-white.

And yes, the Walt Disney Company proves key in the transition.

The Walt Disney Company came through the second world war as a publicly listed firm, and Walt spent the next decade chafing against shareholder control and squabbling about spending with his brother Roy, the adult in their partnership. When Roy refused to open the company coffers to him for the $17m he needed to embark on a mad scheme called Disneyland, the company instead raised millions by opening their vaults to ABC, a broadcaster.

In other news… BFF posted pictures today of her super-cool DIY Haunted Mansion bathroom refurb. Check it.

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