MTM APFS style

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It was strange. Come to that, it still is. That a company created to produce a single show could grow into one of the most powerful media companies in the entire world.

MTM was created in 1969 by Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker as a result of an agreement with the CBS network to produce 22 episodes of a new sitcom, which would become The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

It was confusing to the legal team of MGM, especially as the MTM kitten logo was copied from their logo featuring Leo the Lion. But this was nothing compared with what lay ahead.

It was in 1986 when it was announced. Rupert Murdoch, owner of 20th Century Fox, declared himself bankrupt. His attempt to create a fourth major television network had failed, leaving him and his company in debt. His response was to put his company up for auction. MTM eventually won, ignoring chants of a "You're gonna get your heads kicked in!" nature from the likes of Disney and MCA.

This was the first thing they did after the FCC approved their acquisition of News Corporation. A complete revamp, no more structure or kitten, a new identity, and, joy of all joys, an animated opening logo. First the letter "M" slid across the screen, followed by the letters "T" and "M", then the three came together, forming the interlocking Em-Tee-Em (as it was known) that was the new logo.

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This is what we end up with: the Em-Tee-Em zooming into the centre and above, while the word "ENTERPRISES" appeared below it, all to a majestic fanfare not unlike the old TCF logo. The former Metromedia stations used a similar station ID, with the "ENTERPRISES" text replaced with the callsign, channel number, and city name.

Television version

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This was becoming a more common sight still, as the old logos with the meowing kitten and zooming "TELEVISION" were retired. As with the notices in the end credits of their films, the mention of "Twentieth-Century-Fox Film Corporation d/b/a MTM Enterprises" in the copyright stamp remained until long after the Fox name had been forgotten.

The new logos were very popular in some quarters, less so in others. Some people complained that the red background caused eye strain. No-one expected it to be an issue for most of the late 1980s, of course: they only got control of Fox because they were the highest bidder. So it came as something of a surprise when, despite a buyout attempt by ITV franchise TVS (aiming to expand into the USA) MTM hung on and decided to do the reverse, in part due to the giant strides they made since the bankruptcy of Fox.

In 1992, Crédit Lyonnais, a French bank and unwilling owner of MGM and Pathe, had finally decided to sell the studios off. Former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian presented a big-money bid, but MTM (now operating out of the acquired TVS studios in Maidstone, UK) successfully lured Lyonnais with even more money, and the FCC approved MTM's second purchase of a major studio.

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To celebrate, MTM reinvented themselves again, throwing MGM's roaring lion and Pathe's rooster out the window for good. Perhaps in homage to MGM and the pre-1987 kitten logo, it featured a meowing kitten inside ornamental ribbons on a black background. Below it is the Em-Tee-Em, but the "ENTERPRISES" was gone.

Television version

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This thing was becoming more and more common. Just about every other syndicated TV show had one of these at the end by the mid-nineties. Note the name in the copyright stamp: it's still that long winded "Twentieth-Century-Fox Film Corporation d/b/a MTM Enterprises" spiel. Not surprising, really, that the copyright notices in the end credits of their films just used "MTM Films Corp." by this point.

Television version (UK, 1995)

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On New Year's Eve 1992, the metaphorical parking meters for several ITV franchises, including Thames Television and MTM-owned TVS, ran out. Thames decided to continue life as an independent production company. In 1995, MTM UK (still based in Maidstone, at the former TVS studio) acquired Thames. This resulted in another television endcap, only used for programmes produced in the UK. No copyright stamp present here, and a mirrored London skyline is faintly visible in the background as a nod to Thames.

In 2002, in something similar to the Fox fourth-network failure that set MTM's expansion into motion, AOL-Time-Warner crumbled, one of the last casualties of the dot-com crash. The company decided to sell off its subsidiaries individually:

  • AOL was acquired by rival Netscape/T-Mobile, which had predicted the burst of the internet bubble, and had sold off most of its domain names to what would eventually become Yahoogle Inc. to focus on its broadband ISP, its mobile carrier, and its software development division (and also grab the development teams behind the Office productivity software and Windows operating system from the DOJ-decimated Gateway/Microsoft).
  • Time/Life was acquired by NYTimesCondeNast.
  • Turner Broadcasting was sold to Kirk Kerkorian, who regretted selling off MGM and its library and wanted to get back into the media business.
  • Home Box Office was acquired by Viacom/Capital Cities/ABC, which merged it into ABC/MTV Networks.
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment was acquired by MTM.

Of course, the last three acquisitions, being under the jurisdiction of the FCC, had to be approved. With the pro-"corporations-are-people" George W. Bush in office, they were rubber-stamped as quick as possible. MTM instituted major changes at Warner. DC Comics was sold to Orion/New World Films and Television (which already owned Marvel), and Time Warner Cable was sold to Scottish-Canadian company SGS (Scottish/Grampian/Shaw); meanwhile, the WB Network was shut down, and its stations became independent.

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To celebrate, MTM decided to go with a radical facelift. And that's what they got. A new, clearer, Em-Tee-Em, a CGI meowing kitten, and of course the axing of the WB Shield, New Line Filmstrip, and Castle Rock Lighthouse. Here the word "FILMS" is below the Em-Tee-Em, signifying that this is a theatrical production.

Television version

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The new Em-Tee-Em had several variants; here's one used for television distribution. Note the mention of "MTM Domestic Television Distribution, An MTM Enterprises Company". By this point, this was starting to really annoy filmgoers and TV viewers. It was seen as erasing the legacy of the Warner, New Line, Castle Rock, and Telepictures (and, by extension, Fox, MGM, and Pathe) names. However...

Co-productions with other companies

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I don't think this helped. Disney/NBC survived a takeover bid by MTM (they were one of the only companies big enough, along with Columbia-Tristar-EMI, Sony/MCA, Viacom/Capital-Cities/ABC, Turner-Westinghouse, Gulf+Western+Transamerica, and Univision-Globo-RTL, to turn it down flat), but they couldn't quite stop MTM putting their name into the copyright stamp on the Em-Tee-Em instead of using the animated Disney Castle, Touchstone Thunderbolt, Buena Vista Comets, or NBC Peacock (version here recorded from WNBC-TV New York). Though they got revenge by pushing the credits and logos into the corner of the screen to run promos and making the NBC Peacock screen bug more prominent than anything else - certainly the bastardised Em-Tee-Em.