The current gamut of television channels seems to have reached the point where all genres and interests are now covered. Drama, comedy, animation, and reality all have bases on various channels. However, these channels had to come from somewhere, and it can be interesting to see where they came from and how they launched. Thanks to YouTube (this seems to be a trend in my articles), TV channel launches can be relived. I think they’re interesting, so I decided to talk about them.
Let’s begin with what’s probably the coolest channel launch, MTV. The music-oriented channel started off with footage of a rocket launching into space. This image set the mood for the channel perfectly, as you were about to be treated to energetic music. Complete with the quote “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” you knew you were in for something unique.
Now for another Viacom channel launch, TV Land. A spin-off of Nick at Nite, this channel used to specialize in airing television from the 50’s-70’s. This promo shows the viewer what to expect from the network, as the idea sounded a little hard to sell on paper. At least it was unique at the time, now this mindset has been greatly reduced and TV Land is just another channel.
Sticking to Viacom, who here used to watch the channel Nicktoons or Nicktoons Network? It was how I was introduced to shows like KaBlam! and Rocko’s Modern Life. Apparently it was initially known as Nicktoons TV, and it was in far less homes than it would be later on. Its launch has SpongeBob giving a war speech about the history of Nicktoons and welcomes the viewer. I have no idea how many people saw this back in 2002, but boy is it cool that it was put online.
Several other niches needed specific channels launched back then to appease audiences. One of these needs was sports, and in 1979, ESPN was born. After a montage, Lee Leonard welcomes us to the new channel, and he introduces us to the network’s main show, SportsCenter. Interestingly, at the time it was hosted by George Grande, who Cincinnati Reds fans like myself know as an announcer for Fox Sports Ohio. Anyway, watching the 1970’s vision of sports television is a delight. I just love the datedness of it.
While that’s a product of the 70’s, the launch of ESPN 2 is definitely a product of the early 90’s. Featuring a sketch with Keith Olbermann under trial and escaping arrest, it’s revealed to be a dream and the show SportsNight begins. They tried to be cutting-edge to be different and appeal to younger people at the time, but I’m not sure if it worked. It’s hard to say for sure, but this doesn’t seem cool to a 90’s teenager. It just feels tacky.
It’s fascinating to see where these channels got their start and compare them to today. Unfortunately, these channels seem to have strayed away from their original identities to appeal to wider audiences. That seems strange since with more channels than ever, you’d think they’d try to be unique. I can’t tell MTV and VH1 apart, TV Land has some older shows but for the most part just feels like another TBS, and Nicktoons just airs more contemporary shows now, with some exceptions. ESPN 2 as well is just a clone of its parent channel, but with a few different shows. I’d like to see channels feel unique again, because flipping through used to be exciting. These specific interests used to be exposed to new audiences, but now they’re relegated to digital cable channels that nobody watches, including the parent company. Hopefully, things change soon, and television gets identity again.
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Thanks for reading! YouTube clips uploaded by TheRetroTimeMachine, Adam Bernstein, retromanstv, Mancini TV Classics, and Briean Jensen. Featured image from the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Krusty Krab Training Video.” All rights belong to their respective owners.