Friday, March 09, 2007

Old School Franchise

All this talk about "American Idol" and its big announcement last night. And Idol Camp. And everything else about the franchise got me thinking.

Well, actually reading.

I wanted to find a really old, unexpected, international franchise in TV history; so I read Hal Erickson's Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years, 1947-1987 and found an answer. "Romper Room."

I was surprised too. Here's an excerpt from Erickon's work (p. 53):
The oldest and most durable of the kiddie "franchise" shows, Romper Room was the brainchild of Baltimore television producer Bert Claster. Claster came to the conclusion in 1953 that there wasn't anything on the tube specifically for preschool children. At that time, Claster's wife Nancy was a nursery-school teacher. Claster simply moved Nancy's classroom before the WBAL-TV cameras every morning and titled the new series Romper Room. Once the project took off (it was especially popular with young mothers looking for a convenient "baby-sitter" for their restless offspring), the Clasters were approached with an offer of a CBS-network time slot. Bert and Nancy felt that Romper Room's basic appeal was its usage of local children and teachers, an appeal that might dissipate with a coast-to-coast hookup. To retain its "local" flavor, the Clasters offered Romper Room as a franchise package, providing the format, the Romper Room games and toys, and a training program for local hostesses on a station-by-station basis. By 1957, there were 22 Romper Roomns in the country, and after the Clasters made their first foreign sale in 1959, the number of versions increased to 130 worldwide.

Shocking. 130 versions worldwide. Beat that "American Idol."


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