After the FCC reversed its earlier decision and endorsed RCA’s compatible color television standard, the company began to sell color TVs, only to come up against a general ambivalence to color. Consumers did not want to buy the sets, advertisers were hesitant to buy ad time on color programs, and critics lambasted the technology’s poor aesthetics. In order to convince consumers that color was worth the cost, RCA created a massive advertising campaign for the technology, and NBC experimented to see which genre was best suited for color broadcasting.
Selling the Revolution
From the 1950s to the 1980s, RCA introduced several advertising campaigns to convince people to buy color televisions. In response to the Color Wars of the early 1950s, early advertisements stressed the RCA system’s compatibility, but as RCA continued to lose money on color television, the ads changed. In the late 50s, advertisements stressed the quality difference between monochrome and color, and tied color TV to everything from the space race to computers.
RCA invested more than 19 million dollars in color television, but profits remained elusive. In an attempt to reintroduce color to an unsaturated market, the company made it a focus of its contribution to the 1964 World’s Fair. They put hundreds of color TV sets throughout the fairground and had a special TV studio where visitors could see themselves on a color screen.
Televising the Space Race
Although television images had been broadcast from space satellites in black and white in the early 1960s, TV manufacturers pushed to have NASA’s Apollo missions broadcast in color, hoping that it would lead to increased sales. RCA hoped NASA would choose their color cameras, but they lost early bids to the Westinghouse Corporation. RCA finally won that contract in 1971, after public interest in the space race had waned.