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Old February 18th, 2010, 10:42 PM
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Logos of Olympic Broadcasters - Part 5: 1990s
Hey, we're back with our continuing look at Olympic Broadcaster Logos. If you've missed previous installments, make sure you catch up with our Introduction, then jump into the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

We're now into the 1990s, an era where the U.S. broadcasting rights for the Olympics went all crazy. Seriously, it's a big mess. But it's not just the rights that are messy. The timetable of the Games also gets rebooted, as we shift from a schedule where both Winter/Summer are held together every 4 years to an alternating schedule which separated the events every 2 years. As such, the 1990s offer only 5 Olympics... 3 Winter, 2 Summer.

The players? CBS and NBC... and a host of weird cable solutions.

1992 Winter Olympics
Albertville, France - More Info

1992 was the last year that both the Winter & Summer Olympics were held in the same year. Returning to the Olympic game is CBS, which last broadcast the 1960 Winter & Summer Olympics from Squaw Valley & Rome.

The winning bid for the Albertville games was $243 million, with CBS generating 116 heavily tape-delayed hours of programming. However, in a creative financing move, CBS sub-leased some of their Winter Olympics rights to cable network TNT. The outlet gave CBS $20 million for the rights to show 45 hours of supplemental programming in what the was U.S.'s first hybrid broadcast/cable model for the games. New territory indeed!

These Games were notable for the addition of freestyle moguls skiing and short track speedskating to the Olympic program. It also featured the death of Nicolas Bochatay, a Swiss skier who crashed into a piece of equipment during a training run. Incidentally, he competed in an exhibition sport, speed skiing. The sport has yet to reappear at the Games.

CBS 1992 Winter Olympics Logo

Let's talk about CBS' logo, shall we? I like to call it the "CBS Line Mountain" logo, and it's obvious why. Here's another look at the design:

CBS Line Mountain Logo, introduced in 1992

It's clean. It's simple. But it seems to be lacking an iconography that really ties it to the network. I mean, if you remove the letters "CBS", would you be able to tell who this is for? I'm amazed that the logo did not contain CBS' famed "Eye" logo, which was first introduced in 1951. Everyone associates that with their brand.

Where in the CBS "Eye"?

Overall, the logo execution is rather underwhelming because of this. Taking a page from NBC's late 80s "Peacock Rings" logo, CBS decided to run with this generic look for the multiple Winter Olympics they broadcast in the 1990s. They didn't attempt to tie the look to the official host city emblem, which makes it rather bland for 3 different Games.

TNT 1992 Winter Olympics Logo

TNT 1992 Winter Olympics Logo

Then we have the co-broadcaster on the U.S. front, TNT. I'm not sure if they even had an official logo. All I've been able to find is the above two examples seen on Olympic lapel pins, which showcases the TNT logo used at that time along with the Rings... and that's it. Surely, they had something more creative than this? In any case, that's Winter '92!

1992 Summer Olympics
Barcelona, Spain - More Info

Having had the first crack at the Summer Olympics back in Seoul '88, NBC returned in 1992 once again with the Summer rights. In fact, they would show all the Summer Games throughout the decade. Barcelona had some interesting happenings, including the inclusion of the Unified Team (i.e. former Soviet republics), a unified Germany, and South Africa -- returning after being suspended after the 1960 Summer Olympics due to apartheid.

NBC 1992 Summer Olympics Logo

Depending on your love/hate relationship with NBC's Olympic coverage, Barcelona also the beginning of the Dick Ebersol-era of NBC Olympics programming. NBC hired him in 1989, where he became the head of NBC Sports. His history had him being the protégé of ABC's Olympics guru Roone Arledge. Since then, he's pretty much shaped how Americans have perceived the Olympics in the 90s and 00s.

Olympics Triplecast 1992 Summer Olympics Logo

With the introduction of Ebersol, NBC did make some changes for the Games in Barcelona. They put Bob Costas into the role of primetime host, replacing Bryant Gumbel from the '92 Games... and he remains there even now in 2010. The most ambitious "innovation" was the fabled Olympics Triplecast. You see, NBC had paid $401 million for the rights to the '92 Summer Games, and though they broadcast 161 hours of coverage, they saw dollar signs through a way to recoup part of their investment.

Color version of Olympics Triplecast 1992 Summer Olympics Logo

NBC partnered with Cablevision to create 3 pay-per-view cable channels (Red, White, Blue). The network estimated that 2 million people would pay up to $125 for 15 days of exclusive live coverage on the 3 channels (or $29.95 per day). This commercial-free coverage had the Red Channel carrying team sports, White Channel showcasing individual sports, and Blue Channel handling swimming and track & field. All together, the Triplecast concept featured 1,080 hours of coverage.

But guess what? It flopped... big time.

There are some estimates that the venture lost between $50-100 million, signing up only 125,000 subscribers. Oops! Apparently, no one found value in that type of offer, at least in the pay-per-view domain. And that's the last time we'd see that technique applied to U.S. Olympic broadcast rights.

As far as general broadcaster logo is concerned, NBC returned to their "Peacock Rings" look that they debuted 4 years earlier in Seoul, with some applications adding the tag "Barcelona '92" to the top of the symbol. This logo did not attempt to integrate any look/feel of the host city emblem, instead sticking with strict NBC branding.

1994 Winter Olympics
Lillehammer, Norway - More Info

CBS returned with another Winter Olympics just two years after the last Winter event. This is the only time in history where the Winter Games were this close together, kicking off the start of the IOC's reconfiguration of the Olympic schedule. '94 would feature Winter, '96 Summer, then back to Winter in '98.

CBS 1994 Winter Olympics Logo

The Lillehammer Games cost CBS $300 million for the rights, with the network broadcasting 119.5 hours of programming. Once again, CBS outsourced about 50 hours of programming to cable partner TNT, who coughed up $30 million for the honor. The Games proved to be pretty successful for CBS, thanks in part to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan attack. It was a media circus!

TNT 1992 Winter Olympics Logo

CBS returned to their "Line Mountain" logo, which could either be two-tone in color or feature different shaded Olympic rings. It's hard to tell which was the "official" look for the logo. TNT returned as well, and I've been unable to find a 1994-specific logo for their efforts, so we'll just showcase their '92 version once again.

1996 Summer Olympics
Atlanta, Georgia, United States - More Info

The 1996 Summer Olympics were sentimentally expected to go to Athens, Greece, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Games. But they didn't. So NBC had the benefit of an Olympics on U.S. soil, and paid $456 million for the privilege. In the end, they cranked out 171 hours of coverage, none of which was handed off to cable partners.

Of course, the Games weren't without problems, the largest of which was the Centennial Olympic Park bombing where 2 people were killed and over 100 injured. Beyond that, the Games were considered overtly commercial and corporate. Notably, then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch simply called the Atlanta Games "most exceptional", rather than his tradition of labeling it "the best Olympics ever" -- which he ended up calling the Syndey Games 4 years later.

NBC 1996 Summer Olympics Logo

Let's talk Olympic Broadcaster Logos! In a break from their rather boring "Peacock Rings" design, NBC's fashioned their broadcast logo to reflect the design of the host city's official emblem, as you can see if you compare the two here. The notable carry-over is the "base of the torch" element and the position of the Olympic rings. The blue solid background color also compliments the forest green background on the host city emblem. Even the font used for the word "Atlanta" mimics that used in the official version.

This move started a trend for NBC to create more location-specific logos for the Olympics they broadcast, which is a welcome change from their first couple of attempts in '88 and '92.

1998 Winter Olympics
Nagano, Japan - More Info

We wrap up the 1990s with the '98 Winter Games in Nagano... the final Olympics for CBS, completing their trilogy of Winter events ('92, '94, '98). The network paid $375 million to broadcast 123.8 hours of programming. Once again, TNT was called upon as a cable partner to air 50 hours of programming (for a fee which I cannot find at this time).

The Nagano Games were notable for their inclusion of women's hockey, curling, and snowboarding. NHL players were allowed to participate in the hockey tournament, with the league suspending play for the Games.

CBS 1998 Summer Olympics Logo

The "CBS Line Mountain" logo reappears for the last time, with the poor-quality example I provided above featuring a "Nagano 1998" callout below the image. I'm not sure what TNT's logo looked like, as I've been unable to find a '98 specific version.

In all, a ho-hum attempt as far as broadcaster logos are concerned to wrap up the decade.

As we conclude the 1990s, it closes the door on the odd timing and many network transitions for U.S. broadcast hosts. However, a new door opens for complete NBC dominance in the 2000s, as the network took over exclusive rights for the next 6 Olympic Games. And with each Games... a unique logo!

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Old February 26th, 2010, 05:10 PM
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That 1996 logo is SOOOO 1996. 1993-1997 is when i went to design school. And I have to say this soooo 1996. The ultra condensed font. Wow.
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