Nick At Height: Inside Nickelodeon’s Multi-Million Animation Empire

The network Nickelodeon has served as a platform for young users to engage with television and also as a stepping stone for some of the most successful television stars and cultural icons of the ensuing decades. As a network, it has launched the careers of Ariana Grande, Alanis Morissette, and Miranda Cosgrove.

But beyond the live action careers that created net worths beyond the millions, Nickelodeon is also recognized for its work and contributions within the field on animation. Their shows have earned several Emmy nominations, Webby awards, and Shorty Awards and have also gone on to create their own branded style. By tracking the networks history, their most successful animation programs, and their ability to recruit, train, and enhance upon the Nickelodeon image, it becomes easy to understand how the channel has become a more valuable asset to Viacom than MTV.

Nickelodeon History

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When Nickelodeon was first founded in 1977, the network was known for its educational programing geared towards a younger audience. Its first series Pinwheel was launched by Dr. Vivian Horner who was an educator and director of research for PBS. The series became successful enough to launch into a channel and by 1997, the network had launched a series of original programming including Video Comic Book, By the Way, and Nickel Flicks.

The name for the network was inspired by the title for certain theaters throughout the 1900s. They were the first indoor exhibition space to screen moving picture shows. The producer of the Pinwheel series had proposed the name, but while met with initial doubts, it quickly became synonymous with the networks new style of programming.

The network was eventually consumed by a merger between American Express and Warner Communications which resulted in the network becoming a subsidy of MTV networks. By 1981, the network had thirteen hours of daily programming but despite the plethora of original content, the network was operating on a loss of $10 million by 1984. MTV President Bob Pittman decided to dedicate resources to the network and gave MTV-branding legends Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman executive control over programming decisions and advertising. What emerged was the golden age of Nickelodeon.

Animated Ambitions

The first instance of Seibrt/Goodman rebranding became the iconic splash logo that is still featured today. 1985 also marked the beginning of a new block of programming known as Nick at Night. The following year, Nickelodeon was sold as a programming block along with MTV and Vh1 to the media conglomerate Viacom for $685 million. This decision also involved creating a sister company for the network Nick Jr.

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Once the 1990s rolled through, the network changed with the founding of Nicktoons. Quickly the network started creating iconic cartoon programming that included Doug, Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, and later Rocko’s Modern Life. With so many successful programs within the animation category, the network chose to dedicate more resources to the medium. This resulted in iconic shows for the platform including Hey Arnold! which debuted in 1996, CatDog which debuted in 1998, and Rocket Power which debuted in 1999. By the end of the decade, a new show debuted on the network known as SpongeBob SquarePants.

2000 And Beyond

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SpongeBob SquarePants changed the game for the Nickelodeon network. It was a show that was able to combine the young audience of Nick Jr. with the adult audience of their late-night sketch-based series’ like The Amanda Show, Keenan and Kel, and All That. The show debuted in 1999 and by 2001, it had already produced a feature film for the network. By the time of the films debut, the SpongeBob SquarePants empire was earning over $13 billion in merchandising revenue alone for Nickelodeon.

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The network continued to build upon their animated success and created programs including The Fairly OddParents in 2001, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius in 2002, and Danny Phantom in 2004. Animation quickly became the prominent style for the network, one they have continued to utilized in the form of nostalgic TV Movies throughout 2016  which included film adaptations of Hey Arnold!, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Invader Zim.

Paramount +

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In the age of digital streaming, Nickelodeon has survived due to the sustainability of Viacom’s decision to create the Paramount + streaming service. The platform hosts some of the most popular shows on the network including the prodigal series SpongeBob SquarePants. The launch of the platform coincided with the debut of the SpongeBob spin-off series Kamp Koral as well as the new film adaptation The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. The platform boasts a variety of other innovative ideas to keep the network relevant including a live-action adaptation of The Fairly OddParents,  A CGI-centered version of Rugrats, and a reboot of the popular live action series iCarly that helped launch the entertainment career of Miranda Cosgrove. The rebooted iCarly has tried to capitalize on Nostalgia by bringing a more adult-version of the show to the network, one where drinking, swearing, and partying have become prevalent elements as the characters have aged themselves.

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The company continues to be a massive revenue-making machine for the Viacom network, one so powerful it has now outweighed MTV in terms of value for the company despite MTV being its initial “guiding light” during the 1980s. With animation on the rise again and nostalgia more brand-able than ever, it is expected Paramount + will be able to compete with larger streaming platforms like Disney +, Hulu, and Netflix due to its catalogue of classics, its ability to reinvent, and its connection to culture that promotes progressive programming.

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Sources: Craft, CrunchBase, HollywoodReporter, Comparably, Fool, Bloomberg, YouTube, ScreenRant, Trefis, Hyperleap, Logopedia, TheRetroNetwork, NYTimes, Newsweek, MSN, ETOnline

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