Courtesy of Nickelodeon
If you thought the ’90s programming on Nickelodeon was “all that,” you’re in luck.
TeenNick debuted its “The ‘90s Are All That” programming block on July 25, featuring reruns of “All That,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Doug.” The block airs Monday through Friday from midnight to 2 a.m.
“Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Hey Arnold!” were added to the lineup on Sept. 5. “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Doug” were dropped on Sept. 2.
Keith Dawkins, senior vice president and general manager of Nicktoons and TeenNick, talked to The Lantern about bringing those retro shows back to the air.
The idea for the block came from interns, not Dawkins, who said he was a little too old to be as big a fan of the shows as 20-somethings are.
“These interns-slash-young executives got in front of our faces and almost hit us over the face with a bat with it,” Dawkins said. “It’s was like, ‘OK, I think we need to move on this.'”
His first reaction to the pitch?
“This is interesting that people are kind of presenting this to us in real time in front of our faces, and then it’s matching up with noise we’re hearing out there on places like Facebook, so I’m thinking, ‘There’s something to this,'” he said.
Dawkins said he would always get a “visceral reaction” from 21- and 22-year-olds whenever he would tell them he worked for Nickelodeon, with people recalling the programming of ‘90s lore.
Part of the reason ‘90s programming is so popular is because at the time, there were fewer TV channels and even fewer options for children’s programming, which often came only on Saturday mornings and during the after-school hours, Dawkins said.
“This is more than just shows (that) are really deeply, emotionally powerful for this audience,” he said.
Convincing network execs to put the block on air wasn’t a problem, Dawkins said. The biggest obstacle, rather, was finding a way to package the shows.
After doing some market research, Dawkins said the network quickly rallied to get their ‘90s programming back on the air.
The four initial shows chosen were picked based on fan reaction on the Web. The possibility to add more shows remains, depending on what kind of chatter they hear from fans, Dawkins said.
“Listening to the audience and reacting to the audience are an integral part of this,” he said.
Apparently the audience has taken note.
An average of 417,000 people were watching TeenNick at any given time in the block during its first week, with a 500 percent increase in viewership among 18- to 34-year-olds, giving it the network’s highest late-night viewership levels ever, according to Nielsen Co. data provided by Nickelodeon.
For perspective, the block garnered higher ratings in that demographic than the late-night talk shows from Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and George Lopez.
While Dawkins didn’t specify how much money that meant for the network, he did say profitability isn’t always the first priority for new programming.
“We have to creatively make this really work for the audience on air, online,” he said. “If we don’t do that, it won’t be profitable and there is no business opportunity.”
Some Ohio State students might help the network in its quest of making “The ‘90s Are All That” profitable, in fact.
“I haven’t seen them yet, but it’s pretty cool,” said Michael Gersman, a second-year in computer science engineering. “‘All That’ was probably my favorite.”
Other students, not so much.
Ravina Shah, a second-year in nursing, said she wasn’t interested in watching because she didn’t watch much TV as a kid and also because the block starts at midnight.
“It’s too late for me,” she said.
But for fans of shows such as, let’s say, “Rugrats,” make your voice heard, Dawkins said, as “The ‘90s Are All That” isn’t done expanding.
“At the end of the day, the audience will play a big part in (expanding),” he said. “Hearing from them, them kind of expressing their ideas and their being a part of this – it’s really their block. They asked for it.”
Matt Kraus and Chelsea Castle contributed to this story.