AS SEEN ON: The '90s Are All That!

by Allison Levy | 4/6/11 10:00pm

Courtesy of Laura Bryn Sisson
by Courtesy of / The Dartmouth

If you too are among them (and happen to have a decent cable package), rejoice, because beginning in the fall, Nickelodeon's sister channel TeenNick formerly known as The N will air a daily two-hour block of classic Nick series from the 1990s. According to a Nickelodeon press release, the midnight to 2 a.m. block titled "The '90s Are All That!" will feature a rotation of select animated and live-action series from the era, including "Clarissa Explains It All," "The Adventures of Pete and Pete," "Rugrats," "All That" and "Rocket Power," among others. The announcement is an example of the marketing techniques cable channels are trying in order to continue to draw viewers away from the broadcast networks.

As a child, I watched Samantha Stephens twitch her nose and Lucy squabble with Ricky, and I thought about the future a future that my five-year-old self expected would be filled with reruns of the shows of my childhood instead of my mother's. I wondered about the day when I would switch to Nick at Nite to find classic episodes of "Clarissa Explains It All" and "Hey Dude."

What led me to believe that my favorite series clearly made specifically for kids would become the grown-up classics 10 years down the line, I'll never know. But in a nice twist of fate, some TV execs decided that they should help us in our quest to never grow up. But this decision is, like everything else in the world of TV, all about advertising.

In the '80s and '90s, Nickelodeon was among the crop of cable channels that established themselves through a "narrowcasting" strategy. In catering to a niche audience, cable networks could both attract viewers dissatisfied with the broadcast networks and promise advertisers very specific groups of viewers, allowing advertisers to target those who would be interested in their product. Thus, the broadcast audience splintered as the number of niche cable channels proliferated and cable made its way into more and more homes across the country.

With "The '90s Are All That!" however, TeenNick is ostensibly attempting to broaden TeenNick's "tween" audience by airing a block of programming targeted toward a different, yet still highly specialized demographic namely, college-age viewers and recent graduates, who are among the most difficult-to-reach demographics. With a force as strong as Nickelodeon nostalgia to lure in viewers in their early 20s, TeenNick seems to be handing us to advertisers on a silver platter once again.

While this tactic seems logical enough, it ignores a crucial plot twist in the history of television a little thing called the Internet. Young viewers in particular are increasingly turning their backs on the TV as a medium for consuming TV series. I'm willing to bet that the ability to find virtually anything online has only decreased the number of college-age viewers who subscribe to cable.

The sad truth is that we have grown up, and so has TV. That's why recycling an old show in order to grab the same audience that tuned in 10 years ago may not be the best marketing strategy. Putting every single episode of every single '90s Nickelodeon series on Netflix's Watch Instantly, on the other hand? Yes, please.