New Kids, Old Media: How NKOTB Achieved Ubiquity in an Era Without Internet


Tonight in the Jerz (East Rutherford) and Sunday at Barclays Center, everybody’s favorite boy band template New Kids on the Block take the stage for their tour with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men. While most of our New Kids memories could be attributed to them having “The Right Stuff” on stage and in the recording booth, it’s seldom mentioned how the boys really innovated pop culture ubiquity. Before Twitter, Facebook and the Internet as a whole let us know what our favorite artists were doing at every hour of the day, NKOTB flooded the market in the early ’90s with Home Video VHS tapes, Pay-Per-Views, cartoons and hotlines that allowed fans to hear something new about the boys at every waking moment. Let’s take a look back at how the New Kids used to satisfy those of us with an insatiable desire to hang tough!

See also: Live: New Kids on the Block at Madison Square Garden

New Kids On the Block’s 1-900 Number
Brought to you by Info-tainment Inc. (so, you know, it’s both informative AND entertaining), the New Kids on the Block first tapped into their market of obsessive fans by offering a 1-900 number that promised both their day-to-day goings on AND biggest secrets. This was highly classified information, so naturally it would cost a hefty $2.00 for the first minute and 45 cents each additional minute. Thanks to technology, you can now get just about the same information from Jordan Knight’s Twitter absolutely free. The Kids had their hotline for quite a while, with later commercials promising to love callers forever. Silly as it may seem, the Kids do get props for giving a portion of the proceeds to United Cerebral Palsy.

Step By Step Album Promo Clip
Plenty of artists have had promo clips or EPKs made to promote their upcoming albums, but for New Kids’ Step By Step, the boys were left to narrate and explain their latest pieces all by themselves. Listen in as Donnie describes the album’s title as “a name that makes sense” and “sort of an accurate name” and Joey pontificates the addition of “classical classic music like violins” to the group’s repertoire.

New Kids on the Block: No More Games Pay-Per-View
Of course, by 1990 there was no shortage of ways to give the New Kids money. The group was at such a point in popularity that they could sustain their own pay-per-view special. Fortunately for us, YouTube user Paivikil was kind enough to not only upload the entire No More Game pay-per-view special, but include the 30 minute pre-show where Donnie Wahlberg is trusted with live-hosting a series of clips to finally convince those of us on the fence to order the concert. Thousands of pre-teen girls (and apparently two boys) can’t be wrong!

New Kids on the Block Dolls and Phone Commercial
At this point, with so many options, you’re probably wondering what it means to prove you’re the #1 New Kids on the Block fan. Well, it’s going to cost you. Not only are there a series of New Kids on the Block action figures dolls you’ll have to buy, but a stage, alternate clothing and an official phone you’ll need to acquire in order to be even considered in the running. One cool feature of the dolls if the inclusion of an “interview cassette” where you can get some personal insight into each New Kid one-on-one without having to shill out a week’s pay by calling their hotline.

“New Kids on the Block: The Animated Series”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a mega-successful multi-national franchise without an accompanying cartoon. At some point in the ’90s, if they weren’t handing out Saturday morning cartoons to standup comedians, the major networks were giving them the day’s biggest pop stars. Not to be outdone by MC Hammer’s magical talking shoes, the New Kids were given an animated series that featured such hijinks as going to school, camping and sheiks. While the kids didn’t voice their animated counterparts, they did appear in the show’s live-action clips, including a prime time Christmas special. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting how active the boys were during the holiday, most memorably hosting the Christmas edition of NBC’s “Friday Night Videos” the previous year that also featured David Letterman’s sidekick Larry “Bud” Melman as Santa Claus.



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