January 1 NBC officially replaces its snake and peacock logos with a “modern N,” composed of blue and red trapezoids—and nearly identical to the logo for Nebraska Educational Telecommunications’ TV network, prompting NET to sue NBC for trademark infringement.
January 11–12 Eleanor and Franklin, a two-part miniseries starring Jane Alexander and Edward Herrmann, airs on ABC.
January 17 The Blues Brothers make their debut on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, singing Slim Harpo’s song “I’m a King Bee” in their Killer Bees costumes. Their first appearance as The Blues Brothers proper occurred in 1978.
February 1 The miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man debuts on ABC, becoming a critical and ratings success over its 12-episode run.
February 2 Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, and Art Carney reunite in an ABC special, The Honeymooners – The Second Honeymoon.
February 19 CBS affiliate KXLY-TV in Spokane, Washington is given a “notice of termination” by the network, stripping KXLY-TV of its affiliation effective August 19. CBS cites business reasons (KXLY-TV had been airing several network programs out of pattern in recent years) as the reason they stripped KXLY-TV. In the end, CBS decides to affiliate with ABC affiliate KREM-TV, while KXLY-TV joins ABC. The move takes effect August 8 at the request of KREM-TV, who wanted to air ABC Sports’ entire coverage of the 1976 Summer Olympics.
February 29 The movie The Sound of Music is televised for the first time, on ABC.
CBS affiliates KRSD-TV in Rapid City, South Dakota and KDSJ-TV in Lead both shut down after a 5-year struggle over their unsatisfactory technical operations, which had rendered complaints from viewers, NBC (its former affiliation before 1970), and the Federal Communications Commission. Dakota Broadcasting Company assumes a construction permit for new stations on KRSD-TV’s channel 7 and KDSJ-TV’s channel 5, which respectively sign-on as KEVN and KIVV-TV on July 11. This in turn will give the Rapid City area its first full-time ABC affiliate (A full-time CBS affiliate will return to Rapid City in 1981 when the network’s Sioux Falls affiliate KELO-TV signs-on translator station K15AC (now KCLO-TV)).
April 1–2 Helter Skelter, a two-part adaptation of Vincent Bugliosi’s book about the Charles Manson case, airs on CBS, with Steve Railsback portraying Manson.
April 12 ABC airs its first Monday Night Baseball broadcast, taking over the package from NBC.
April 24 Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels makes an on-air offer to pay The Beatles $3,000 to reunite on the show. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were apparently watching the show together in New York City and considered walking down to the studio to accept the check. Michaels would raise his offer to $3,200 on SNL’s May 22 episode.
June 4 CBS broadcast Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns. This triple-overtime contest has since been heralded as the greatest NBA game ever played.
June 7 After several years providing commentaries for the show, David Brinkley joins John Chancellor as co-anchor of NBC Nightly News, an attempt by the network to bolster ratings against the CBS Evening News and to harken back to the success it had with The Huntley-Brinkley Report.
July 1 The pay TV network Showtime makes its debut, appearing only on a Dublin, California cable system. The network would expand nationally in 1978.
July 4 U.S. television networks present extensive coverage of nationwide events commemorating the country’s bicentennial.
July 11 KYCU-TV of Cheyenne, Wyoming (and its satellites) drop all NBC programs and switch to a primary ABC affiliation, which will last until 1984.
July 12 Family Feud premieres on ABC and would become daytime television’s number 1 game show within the next few years and beyond.
September 6 In an experiment, New York City station WOR-TV replaces its normal programming for 5 exclusive nights of British shows from Thames Television.
September 16 WECA-TV in Tallahassee, Florida begins broadcasting, giving the Tallahassee market its first full-time ABC affiliate.
September 23 The first of three debates between U.S. presidential candidates Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter air in prime time; they are the first presidential debates ever televised in color, as well as the first debates between major party nominees for U.S. President since 1960.
October 4 Newly arrived from NBC, Barbara Walters joins Harry Reasoner as co-anchor of the ABC Evening News. The pair have a noticeable lack of on-air chemistry, and by 1978 Reasoner would leave ABC to return to CBS and 60 Minutes.
October 11 Jane Pauley makes her debut on NBC’s Today.
October 29 WGTQ in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan signs-on as a full satellite of ABC affiliate WGTU in Traverse City, bringing the full ABC schedule to the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
November 7–8 The film Gone with the Wind makes its broadcast television debut on NBC; it would be the highest-rated program ever aired on a single network, only to be surpassed by Roots the following January.
November 9 The Museum of Broadcasting opens on the first 3 floors of the Paley Foundation building in New York City. The museum would later be renamed The Paley Center for Media.
November 13 The Carol Burnett Show airs Went with the Wind!, a movie parody of Gone With the Wind, five days after the film’s network TV debut. TV Guide ranked the sketch #53 on its list of “Top 100 Episodes of All Time”.
December 14 Barbara Walters airs her first interview special for ABC, with guests Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Barbra Streisand, and Jon Peters.
December 17 At 1:00 p.m. (ET), Atlanta, Georgia station WTCG-TV begins satellite transmission of its regular programming to four cable systems, thus becoming the first superstation.
December 31 President Gerald Ford presents the last of the Bicentennial Minutes on CBS; the vignettes had been airing nightly on the network since July 4, 1974.
Also in 1976 CBS’ Match Game is the #1 rated game show on daytime television for the fourth consecutive year.
The Olympics, broadcast from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, draw an estimated one billion viewers worldwide.
Matsushita introduces the VHS home video cassette recorder to compete with Sony’s Betamax system. – Wikipedia