"Who Shot J.R.?" a November episode of CBS' hit TV show "Dallas," reveals the identity of the attacker of J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman) and breaks records by drawing a 53.3 rating and 76 share.
Ted Turner's Cable News Network is born, lining up TV's two major sponsors, Procter & Gamble Co. and General Foods.
A.C. Nielsen Co. finds the big movies offered by cable operations could outpull the network TV fare. HBO's premiere of "The Deer Hunter" in 5 million homes gets a 41 rating in May.
In March, Walter Cronkite steps down after 19 years of anchoring the CBS evening news and is replaced by Dan Rather.
MTV: Music Television makes its debut in
Nielsen produces its first Cassandra ratings report for syndicated programming.
Alberto-Culver Co. experiments with "split 30" commercials. The test is not received warmly by the networks, which accept the commercials at the insistence of the advertiser but seek restrictions on use.
Federal Judge Harold Greene outlaws NAB's TV code-created for industry self-regulation-in "U.S. vs. NAB." Court held the code violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by artificially increasing costs.
Home Shopping Network is launched.
On Nov. 11, ABC broadcasts "The Day After," a two-hour made-for-TV film about thermonuclear war between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Because of its controversial nature, the movie appears with few advertisers but demolished the ratings of other TV programs that night.
During the third quarter of the Super Bowl, Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh computer with a 60-second Orwellian epic commercial called "1984," created by Chiat/Day. The spot, which cost $400,000 to produce and $500,000 to broadcast in its single national paid airing, launches a new computer technology, turns the Super Bowl into a major ad event and begins an era of advertising as news.
Pop music superstar Michael Jackson makes two highly publicized Pepsi-Cola commercials, and during a shoot his hair accidently catches on fire, requiring surgery to his scalp. The campaign, by BBDO Worldwide, New York, is considered the forerunner of big-budget celebrity ads that become prevalent during the decade. Pepsi pays a record $5 million for the rights, another $2 million for the spots.
With the deregulation of the cable industry, Tele-Communications Inc. aggressively begins buying cable systems nationwide. By the end of the decade, TCI will have spent nearly $3 billion for 150 cable companies.
In March, Capital Cities Communications buys ABC for $3.5 billion-proving network TV no longer remains an untouchable institution.
In January, the anonymous "Herb" becomes the object of a national, $40 million manhunt by Burger King in what becomes the most elaborate advertising flop of the decade. The effort is dropped after four months.
NBC's "The Cosby Show" breaks existing records for a network series by commanding $350,000 to $400,000 for 30 seconds of commercial time.
CBS undergoes a management shift in September when its board ousts Thomas H. Wyman, chairman-CEO. Replacing Mr. Wyman as acting chief executive is investor Laurence A. Tisch.
The 1985-86 season marks the 60th anniversary of NBC and the first time it ever wins the prime-time ratings race. NBC hikes rates for early buys of 1986-87 season time, but ABC and CBS cut rates for first time.
ABC, CBS and NBC have trouble selling commercial time for sports programs for the first time. Rates for the 1986 NFL season drop 15% from 1985.
California Raisin Advisory Board introduces a hit commercial featuring dancing, singing sneaker-clad raisins via a new animation technology called Claymation. It was done by Foote, Cone & Belding's San Francisco office and Claymation creator Will Vinton.
Spanish-language network Telemundo Group is launched by Reliance Capital Group.
In January, San Francisco station KRON-TV becomes the first major market TV station in the U.S. to air a condom commercial.
In April, 20th Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch launches Fox Broadcasting Co.
Playtex International makes history in May when networks begin airing its commercials showing women wearing bras.
In August, five veteran admen die in a tragic rafting accident in Canadian rapids. Among those killed when their raft overturned in the Chilko River was Robert Goldstein, VP-advertising for Procter & Gamble Co. and Richard O'Reilly, who headed the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
A.C. Nielsen Co.'s electronically advanced "people meter" is introduced to replace its 30-year-old diary system.
"Wheel of Fortune," the highest-rated show in syndicated programming, draws an asking price of $95,000 for a 30-second spot. The show generates revenues of $400,000 an episode.
More than 50% of U.S. households are now wired for cable.
Barter syndication revenues total $875 million, up from $50 million in 1980.
Widespread use of videocassette re-corders zap away at the TV viewing audience. At the start of the year, almost 60% of TV households have a VCR-up from 4% in 1982.
Pay-per-view becomes a familiar part of cable TV service, reaching about one-fifth of all wired households.
The broadcast networks reach an all-time low of 55% of the total TV audience in July.
Nissan begins its new age "Rocks and Trees" campaign by Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, grabbing attention by never showing the product-its luxury Infiniti. Instead, the spots feature nature scenes.
BBDO pulls Pepsi commercials featuring pop singer Madonna after just one airing due to controversy over her "Like a Prayer" video.
Time Inc. and Warner Communications announce a $14 billion merger.
Fox's TV network earns $33 million in profits with just three nights of programming. Its animated sitcom, "The Simpsons," is considered a genuine hit.