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Infomercials become a hot ad medium. National Infomercial Marketing Association estimates infomercials generate sales of $750 million, more than double their revenues of 1988. THE 1990S PRICES GO THROUGH THE STRATOSPHERE; THE SQUEEZE TO ESTABLISH VALUE IN A HIGH-PRICE WORLD CREATES NEW FORMS LIKE INFOMERCIALS, BIG MERGERS, SPORTS STRIKES AND 'AMBUSH' MARKETING

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1990

The Children's Television Act takes effect-limiting the amount of commercialization in children's TV programming (including cable) and requiring operators to carry at least some programming designed to meet children's educational and informational needs.

1991

The broadcast TV networks and cable's CNN provide extensive coverage of the Persian Gulf War, which begins in January. But advertisers take a backseat: Procter & Gamble Co., Sears, Roebuck & Co., Pizza Hut and major airlines all refuse to air spots during news coverage of the war. NBC, for one, reports losses of $45 million as a result of canceled advertising and the costs of coverage.

Coca-Cola Co. promises its sponsorship of the 1992 Olympics telecasts will be its biggest ever and takes steps to prevent Pepsi-Cola Co. from so-called "ambushing" its Olympics marketing efforts. Pepsi runs spots starring basketball great Magic Johnson as a spokesman, before the Olympics start.

In June, the Clio Awards, one of advertising's best-known awards shows, turns into a farce when poor financial management and organization forces finalists to rush onto the stage to claim statuettes.

In October, the broadcast networks pre-empt afternoon soap operas and much of their evening and weekend schedules to cover the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation of Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. More than 40 million U.S. households watch the two-day televised hearings; the networks lose an estimated $15 million to $20 million in ad revenue after pulling most commercials in favor of continuous coverage.

Courtroom Television Network, owned jointly by Cablevision, NBC, Time Warner and American Lawyer Media, is established, providing 24-hour live and taped coverage of trials in 41 states.

1992

Johnny Carson, the king of late-night TV, retires as the longtime host of NBC's "Tonight Show." Jay Leno is named as his replacement.

In August, NBC and cable partner Cablevision fail to meet projected goals for consumer purchase of their unusual Olympics Triplecast pay-per-view alternative for comprehensive Olympic viewing. The venture ends up with losses of more than $100 million.

1993

By start of year, 98% of U.S. households own at least one TV set, 64% have two or more sets.

After 11 years at NBC, David Letterman announces he's jumping to CBS. His new "Late Show With David Letterman" begins in August in the 11:35 p.m. (ET) time slot and is an immediate hit, quickly moving to No. 1 in latenight ratings and bumping "The Tonight Show" from its longtime lead. Letterman's new show at CBS has skyrocketed to $60,000 per :30, firmly surpassing his rival at NBC.

In February, NBC issues a humiliating retraction and apology to General Motors Corp. on "Dateline NBC" for a staged on-camera explosion during a report on alleged safety problems with GM trucks. During the controversy, GM temporarily shifts its ad budget to the network's entertainment and sports programming and threatens to cancel its $160 million-plus budget for NBC.

The final episode of NBC's 11-year hit sitcom "Cheers" in May attracts 93.1 million viewers, with a 45.5 Nielsen rating.

In a first-of-its-kind arrangement, Visa International signs a $3 million deal to become the official credit card of Atlanta, the host city of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Time Warner announces plans to launch a full-service interactive network in Orlando, Fla.

"NYPD Blue" is an instant ratings hit on ABC's new fall prime-time lineup after attracting pre-debut attention for nudity and rough language. The hourlong police drama is the only new series to crack Nielsen Media Research's Top 20 in virtually every major adult demographic group.

In October, the deliberately tasteless "Beavis and Butt-head" MTV animated series, the top-rated show on the music network, is attacked for allegedly inspiring a 5-year-old to start a fatal fire. In response, MTV agrees to run the show in a later time spot and the writers agree not to use references to fires in the future.

Seattle's Bon Marche department store gives new meaning to subliminal advertising with a spot for Frango chocolates. The commercial consists of four frames (each costing $945) and lasts less than a second. Running during "Evening Magazine," it cost the retailer $3,780 for airtime.

Fox snares broadcast rights to National Football League's NFC Conference from CBS for $1.58 billion over four years.

1994

The Winter Olympics sets ratings records, becoming the most-watched event in TV history with 204 million U.S. viewers, or 83% of the country, watching at least some of CBS' coverage. Ratings are boosted by the controversy surrounding the women's figure skating competition; prior to the Olympics, U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding was involved in an attack on teammate Nancy Kerrigan.

Speaking before the American Association of Advertising Agencies in May, P&G CEO Ed Artzt warns agency executives they risk losing control over clients and media unless they step up their participation in shaping the future of the new-media landscape.

The world TV premiere of "Gettysburg" on TNT in June lives up to its epic billing by attracting the largest viewership ever for a movie on basic cable: 23 million people watch all or portions of the two-part special.

The World Cup audience over 52 televised games reaches up to 33 billion people. Univision, the Spanish-language network, anticipates $24 million in ad revenue. ABC gets a 4.7 rating and 15 share for the 10 games prior to the final.

Football legend, actor and broadcaster O.J. Simpson is arrested as the primary suspect in the brutal murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The incident throws the media into overdrive, as 95 million viewers watch at least some part of Mr. Simpson's freeway chase in June. By the end of that month, the Big 3 networks see a 24% increase in their combined ratings during their coverage of the preliminary court hearing.

In September, Blockbuster Entertainment and Viacom complete a $7.6 billion merger only five months after Viacom buys Paramount Communications for $9.5 billion.

National Hockey League players delay start of season with strike announcement. Fox Network purchases NHL TV rights in September for $155 million.

More than 43 million people tune in to at least some part of the highly touted "Baseball" documentary miniseries on PBS in September, giving it the largest cumulative audience in the network's 25-year history.

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