1976: NBC Introduces a New Network Logo
The abstract, blue and red “N” replaced the logo referred to as “The Snake (right),” because of the way the “C” curled below the letters “N” and “B.”
Designed by the firm Lippincott and Margulies, the logo that became known as “The Big N” cost the network a reported $ 750,000 to develop.
References to the new logo cropped up all over NBC, from Jim Simpson’s commentary during the 1976 Orange Bowl to the Jan. 10, 1976 episode of Saturday Light Live, during a segment of “Weekend Update” with Chevy Chase:
“Our final note tonight concerns the 50th anniversary of NBC, celebrated with the unveiling of their new logo which costs a total of a whopping $ 6 million.
Surprisingly enough, the same logo was developed by a local TV station in the midwest at a cost of $ 100, and has been in use there for some time. Not only is that station suing NBC, but “Weekend Update” research has uncovered other businesses who have been using the insignia for a number of years and who are planning on bringing their claims to court. Among those suing: Ned’s Body Shop and Hairdresser in New Jersey, Norton’s Suppository Cleaners in Austin, Texas, the National Cast Iron Mime Troop in San Diego, the Nearer to Thee My Dog Pet Burial Service in Pensacola, Florida and the Neck Brace and Dental Technicians Union in Detriot, Michigan.
“In an effort to ward off legal action, NBC has decided to look over their earlier logo ideas, beginning with the $ 4 million design.
“And, of course, we have the $ 300,000 concept.
“And, of course, next, the $ 200 logo.
“And, of course, finally, the $ 3 design, originally submitted by Alexander Kalder’s pet gibbon Marvin.”
For the record, part of the “Weekend Update” report was fact: The new NBC logo was strikingly similar to the logo for the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Network, a group of PBS-affiliated TV stations (and radio stations) based in Lincoln, Nebraska. (NETV had spent less than $ 100 to develop its logo.)
NETV sued NBC for copyright infringement in early 1976. The case was ultimately settled out of court. NBC paid all of NETV’s legal fees, paid for the development of a new logo and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, including a color mobile unit, to avoid litigation.
In 1979, NBC combined “The Big N” logo with an eleven-feather peacock to create the logo referred to as “The Proud N.”
NBC began phasing out the “N” altogether in 1985. On May 12, 1986, during a televised celebration of the network’s 60th anniversary, NBC introduced its current simplified six-feather peacock logo, which is used to this day.
Saturday Night Live transcript, images via snltranscripts.jt.org.