"The Cosby Show" skyrocketed to popularity almost immediately after it began airing in 1984. Starring comedian Bill Cosby, the show ran for eight seasons on NBC. It featured Cosby as the patriarch of the Huxtable clan, an upper-middle class African-American family living in Brooklyn. The show was a mega-hit mainly because it shattered the stereotypical image of African Americans on television.
Although the show was groundbreaking in the United States for its portrayal of African Americans, it was also an international success. During its run, "The Cosby Show" constantly topped the ratings in Canada, Australia and New Zealand [source: Edgerton]. The show also altered international television syndication proving that comedy was marketable overseas, and made its distributor, Viacom, a TV marketing powerhouse [source: Havens].
Prior to "The Cosby Show," overseas audiences balked at viewing most American sitcoms. But Cosby changed all that. Estimates suggest that "The Cosby Show" earned more than $100 million in international syndication revenue. While impressive, it was far below the $1 billion the show earned in domestic syndication [source: Edgerton].