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Channel Retrospective #1: Noggin/The N

For those who don't know, Nickelodeon has 2 sister networks, Nick Jr. aimed at preschoolers, and TeenNick, aimed at teenagers. But what's interesting about these networks is the lengthy history behind them. Once upon a time, they began as one partnership between two companies, promising to educate and make learning cool for kids.


Way back in 1995, Nickelodeon began blueprints for a teacher friendly network that hoped to make education fun and interesting amoung a young audience. Something like Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel, but geared more towards Nick's demographics. The problem? Nick would have to acquire 90% of it's programing to avoid canabilism with the Nick Jr. block. Acquiring that much programing for a 24-hour channel would cost a lot of time and money.


Arround the same time, shortly after Cro was canceled, Children's Television Workshop (CTW), the production company behind Sesame Street, tried launching their own kids' network with a simillar purpose called.... and I'm not kidding here, "Kid City". Wow, real creative guys. Unfortunatley, it never got off the ground, and was scrapped shortly afterwards. CTW knew they didn't have the man power, rescourses, or brand recognition to operate a TV network on their own, so they decided to turn to someone with experience. And what better company to turn to, than the 1st kids network itself.


In 1998, CTW teamed up with Nickelodeon to create a brand new channel that filled both companies goals. Between the two they pulled their resources, and the final product, was Noggin. Touted as a "Squirm as you learn kids thinking channel" Noggin was created to be an educational network that made learning cool for children. It also featured a creator driven website in which viewers could create and submit various content to the website that may show up on air. It would feature programing from both Nick and CTW including, Sesame Street, Cro, 3-2-1 Connect, The Electric Company, Ghost Writer, Doug, Nick News, and various Nick Jr. reruns. The network would also produce it's own original content, but that wouldn't happen until at least a year after launch. To run the network, Thomas Ascheim was appointed as general manager.


Noggin offically launched on Febuary 2nd, 1999 @ 6:00am starting with the very first episode of Sesame Street. The channel ran 24-hours, and was commercial-free, though originaly, CTW wanted it to be ad-supported. At launch, Noggin was avalible in 1.5-2 million homes, not viewers, homes that simply recieved the channel as part of their cable package. Initally, the network simply aired reruns of already created content by both it's parent companies, and off-network acquisitions like Bill-Nye the Science Guy. In 2000, a year after it's launch, CTW changed it's name to Sesame Workshop, to reflect it's most well known property. That same year, Noggin premired it's first batch of original series, including (But not limited to) A Walk In Your Shoes, a reality show where kids with two different backgrounds and interests, switch places with each other. Sponk, a bizzare mix of sharades and Who's Line is it Anyway?. And The Phred on Your Head show, a talk show hosted by the channel's mascott, Phred featuring the aforementioned creator driven content from Noggin's website. The channel looked to have a bright future ahead of it. However, this wouldn't last long.


In 2001, Noggin announce plans to more agressively court the older quarter of it's target audience, the 12-14 year olds. Tomassi Lindman, VP of the channel's programing and production department said "We're looking for programing exclusively for our older 12-14 year old kids. It's where our library is the weakest, and it's where we feel there is the largest potential growth." That came into play soon enough, because in 2002, 3 years after launch, the channel announced a new format. It will now be split into 2 different dayparts, Noggin itself would be repurposed into a preschool network, and would feature exclusively preschool programing, meanwhile, afternoon and evenings would be home to a new network, The N. Whereas Noggin would target preschoolers, The N would be marketed to adolecents, the demographic with large amounts of free time and larger amounts of disposable income. The reason for this change was because Noggin's prime-time ratings which consisted of nostalgic reruns for adults, were much lower than expected. Both blocks would run 12 hours a day, and alternate between evening and night. They would operate seperately, with different websites and ratings reports, but would still be under one roof. This is similar to how Cartoon Network and Adult Swim operate, in which they are each distinct networks with their own operations, but still operate under one management unbrella. The split officially occured on, Ironically enough, April 1st, 2002, and no, it was not a joke. The channel still remained commercial free, and was still co-owned by Sesame Workshop. That is until a few months later, when Sesame Workshop sold it's 50% interest in the channel to Nickelodeon, taking it's programing library with them. This move gave Nickelodeon full control of both Noggin and The N.


By 2003, the change was clear. The new Noggin, featuring hosts Moose A. Moose, and Zee the bird, aired programing from Nickelodeon, foreign aquisitions, and original programing. Meanwhile The N..... aired programing from Nickelodeon, foreign aquisitions, and original programing. Oh yeah, and butchered reruns of Daria. But perhaps The N's most famous series, was Degrassi. This Canadian Teen Soap Opera would become the network's highest rated series for many years and it still continues to this day. It also helped paved way for other simillar shows on the network like the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed, South of Nowhere. Although, Sesame Workshop no longer owned Noggin at this point, they still produced content for the network such as the Sesame Street spin-off, Play With Me Sesame.


In 2004, Nickelodeon announced that The N, would become an ad-supported network. While Noggin would remain commercial-free, Nick hoped to attract advertisers for the ever lucrative 12-24 year old market to the nightime network for teens. The N also ran a programing block featuring the then latest programing from Nick's TEENick block, the same was true vice-versa, as the TEENick block also ran an hour of programing from The N. That same year, The N premired it's first original animated series, and one of the most overlooked cartoons of the 2000s, O'Grady. This bizzare teen cartoon from the crew behind Home Movies stared 4 teenagers putting up with "The Weirdness" that inhabits the enpynomus setting of O' Grady. It's a witty and hillarious show to check out if you love Home Movies.


In 2007, Nickelodeon announced plans to split Noggin and The N into seperate 24 hour channels. Noggin would remain in it's position, except they would expand to a 24 hour schedule for the first time since 2002. Meanwhile, The N would inherit the channel slot of Nick GaS, who, at this point, was just running reruns of the same 5 shows on an automated loop, and would also expand to 24 hours. To fill in the extra time, The N began airing reruns of That 70's Show and Saved by the Bell. This took effect on December 31, 2007. However, Dish Network refused to give up Nick GaS, and continued to air Noggin and The N as timeshare networks, until April 23, 2009, when Nick GaS was replaced with a west coast feed of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. They began carrying Noggin and The N as seperate channels later that year.


In 2009, as part of Nick's universal rebrand efforts which involved all 5 of their networks adopting the same new logo, Nick announced that Noggin and The N would be rebranded as Nick Jr. and TeenNick. The programing blocks of the same names were phased out on Nickelodeon itself shortly after the announcement. The change took effect on September 28.


It seemed that Noggin was now officially dead, but it wasn't. At their 2015 upfront earlier this year, Nick announced that Noggin would be relaunched as a subscription based education service for preschoolers, avalibe on various mobile devices and still featuring the same logo and hosts.


Noggin was an interesting experiment. A kind of "makes kids smarter" channel not only backed by a big player in children's edutainment, but also the #1 kids network at the time certainly had potential, but in the end, it was meerly an oddity, and yet another in a long list of cable channels that abandoned their original purpose in order to persue a more marketable demographic (MTV, TLC, History, Syfy, G4, etc.). If they took a different approach to primetime and overnight programing, maybe it could've panned out a bit better.


With that, join me next time when we take a look at the original TV 4 Gamers, G4.


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