One of the most popular TV channels of all time is Nickelodeon, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows about it. It rose to fame with its unique orange logo, imaginative bumpers, and great shows like Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, and SpongeBob SquarePants. They started airing these “Nicktoons” in 1991, but you’re probably unaware of what it was like beforehand. Did it always have that logo? What were its bumpers like? That’s what I’m going to go over today.
Nick got its start on the QUBE cable network in 1977 with the name “Pinwheel,” named after the show of the same name. Its branding was nothing too outlandish. Interestingly, it was owned by Warner Cable, or Warner Bros., who would later be merged into Time Warner and create Cartoon Network. For a taste of this channel, here’s the show’s intro.
The Nickelodeon name first came into play in 1979, and its branding got more interesting. The name comes from a machine that you would put a nickel in to watch a short little movie. Naturally, the branding showed one of these being viewed by a kid, since it was the first channel built with kids in mind. The blinking lights on the boy’s face remind me of the “Enter Sandman” music video and it makes me laugh.
However, this branding didn’t last very long. This network was on the rise and they needed something to catch young ones’ eyes. So, you may be wondering, what did this new network have in mind? Well, I’ll tell you.
They had this.
WHAT WAS THAT? I mean no offense to this mime, but this couldn’t be an inviting image to a kid looking for something to watch. If that wasn’t weird enough, these events happened in an empty void. Kids should be invited to a channel with something colorful and different, not this. That’s why their mid-1980’s bumpers worked so well, as I stated in my bumpers article. If I saw this as a kid, this would probably have been #2 on my list of childhood fears. Behind only….
For their next brand change, Nickelodeon began to see more exposure across the country. The reasoning behind this claim is that there is much more footage on YouTube of it. Or that more people had VCRs to record stuff with. Anyway, this logo had a pinball and a colorful font that just looks like the 1980’s. The programming at this time had a lot more nonfictional and anthology content that Nick had from the 1990’s to today. I wish I could tell you about it, but while researching, I couldn’t think of a thing to say about stuff like Nickel Flicks, Dusty’s Treehouse, The Third Eye, Going Great, and Standby…Lights! Camera! Action!
You may be wondering: “How about Nick at Nite?” Well, that didn’t exist until the orange logo came about. Instead, after signing off, Nick gave its channel space to the Arts & Entertainment Network, or A&E. Companies ownerships’ of channels is always interesting to look up, because the changes often have ripple effects on the other channels owned by the company.
Around this time, as they grew, they acquired foreign shows like Danger Mouse and You Can’t Do That on Television. However, all of this branding didn’t exactly translate into new viewers. The channel did not do well at all, hence why many at the channel got fired and they retooled their branding to the orange, shapeshifting logo. Nick and the rest of the channels under the MTV Networks banner were sold to Viacom in 1986, where they remain today. In addition, they started producing more shows on their own, which did wonders for the channel and made it a household staple. If you take anything from this article, take the fact that most of the time, it takes time before something hits its stride. If you retool your vision and be patient, then your vision will find an audience.
Thanks for reading! YouTube clips uploaded by Pinwheel Archive, tvguy1979, tvguy1979 (again), GaryW48, and Eighties Archive.