Noggin is an entertainment brand launched on February 2, 1999, as a joint venture between Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop. The brand originated as a cable television channel and interactive website, both centered around the concepts of imagination, creativity, and education. Since its launch, the brand has expanded to include a mobile streaming app and several defunct programming blocks worldwide.
|Owner||ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks (ViacomCBS)|
|Introduced||February 2, 1999|
When launched as a TV network, Noggin was primarily aimed at pre-teens and teenagers. Programming was divided into three distinct blocks: one for pre-teens and teens, an early morning block for younger children, and a nighttime block for "adult retro" programs. The channel heavily drew from Sesame Workshop's back catalogue. In its first three years, it produced several original shows: the live-action educational show A Walk in Your Shoes, the short-form puppetry series Oobi, the game show Sponk!, and the variety series Phred on Your Head Show.
In April 2002, the Noggin channel extended its preschool and teen blocks to last 12 hours a day; the former aired from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, while the latter (branded as "The N") ran from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Following the change, imported series from the Nick Jr. block began to overtake Noggin's daytime lineup, as most of the Sesame Workshop branding that had defined the network's early years was dropped. Despite this, Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop continued a coproduction partnership for Noggin. In 2007, Noggin's partnership with Sesame Workshop ended and most of its original series that the Workshop co-produced were cancelled. The Oobi shorts were taken off the air, while Play with Me Sesame moved to PBS Kids Sprout.
Noggin started out as an experimental brand, and its on-air commercials stressed imagination and thinking through themed short films that were often surreal and abstract. Before the brand was overtaken by Nick Jr., Noggin's marketing team sought out "sick and twisted" independent animators to make their on-air presence look unique. After Noggin introduced its daytime block for preschoolers, it was rebranded with a more consistent brand identity, with the more experimental material being confined to The N. The Noggin brand was dormant from 2009 until 2015, when Nickelodeon announced that Noggin would be "coming back" as a mobile streaming app, which launched on March 5, 2015.
Logo and branding
Until 2019, Noggin's brand was defined by its versatile character logo: the bottom half of a smiling face. The upper half of the logo featured various icons that represented a certain topic or idea that the head was "thinking of" (e.g. a beaker to reflect science, flowers to reflect springtime). In the network's early years, hundreds of different "toppers" were designed for the logo, and they were used throughout Noggin's commercials and website. The face in the logo was allowed to wink, show its teeth, and make expressions based on the theme, making it interactive and showing it as a character of itself. Noggin's artists were given a lot of creative freedom for their designs, with one rule being that the toppers should always complement the Noggin face, not outshine or overpower it.
Noggin's logo was featured in a large amount of original shorts and animations that ran between shows on the channel. Noggin's marketing team intentionally looked to hire "sick and twisted" independent animators to create station ID commercials, hoping that they could each bring their own personal design elements to the logo. The goal was to make the logo, as well as the channel as a whole, "look unlike any other network."
After Noggin extended its preschool daytime block in 2002, a new set of "topper" designs were introduced, based on traditional children's art such as crayon drawings and paper crafts. In 2019, Nickelodeon retired the original Noggin face logo along with former hosts Moose and Zee. The logo was replaced with a lowercase noggin wordmark written in purple, while Moose and Zee were replaced with "more recognizable" characters from Nickelodeon's preschool shows.
The first and most important part of the Noggin brand name was a cable and satellite television channel, which ran from February 2, 1999, until September 28, 2009. During its first few years, Noggin's lineup mainly showed reruns from Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon's libraries. Noggin ran reruns of classic The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact episodes, hoping to attract an audience of teenagers and Generation Xers who had watched the shows growing up. The providers had over 5,000 hours of library material to broadcast.
Noggin's first original show for 6-12-year-olds was A Walk In Your Shoes, which was made because Noggin felt that this age group was "underserved when it comes to new, quality educational television." A live game show aimed at pre-teens, Sponk!, premiered a year afterwards. This was one of many Noggin shows that featured viewer-submitted content through Noggin's website, along with the animated Phred on Your Head and its spin-off URL with Phred. In 2002, the channel divided itself into two blocks: a daytime block for preschoolers and a nighttime block, The N, for teens.
Noggin consistently received ratings that were substantially higher than Nickelodeon's other sister channels. It was viewed by an average of 529,000 households daily in early 2009. At the time of its closure, Noggin reached nearly 70 million households in the United States (as opposed to the 1.5 million subscribers it reached upon being launched).
The N was a nighttime programming block on the Noggin channel, aimed at pre-teens and teenagers. It premiered on April 1, 2002, and aired until December 31, 2007. Promotions advertised the block as "The N: The New Name for Nighttime on Noggin." It took several months for Noggin to choose the right name for the block; as reported by Kidscreen in 2002, they needed a name to "help distance and distinguish the tween programming from the preschool fare," but the legal department also required the block to maintain a relation to Noggin's main name.
The older-targeted shows that previously made up Noggin's tween-focused lineup — such as A Walk in Your Shoes and Sponk! — aired during The N from 2002 onward. Several new shows were also made for the block, including the news program Real Access, the game show Best Friend's Date, the animated comedy O'Grady, and the drama South of Nowhere. The N was also the U.S. broadcast home of Degrassi: The Next Generation, the latest iteration of the eponymous Canadian teen drama franchise. All of The N's original programming was greenlit, owned and produced by Noggin LLC, the same company which produced all of Noggin's original preschool series. The copyright bylines for Noggin's preschool and teen shows both read "Copyright Noggin LLC."
From December 31, 2007, to September 28, 2009, The N had its own short-lived 24-hour channel, which mixed its own programming with series from Nickelodeon's TEENick block. Both brands were discontinued and merged to form TeenNick.
One of Viacom and Sesame Workshop's goals was to develop Noggin into a "cable-computer hybrid." Noggin.com, the channel's website, was launched in 1999 as a portal for exclusive content. Unlike Nick.com and other previous online ventures, the website was integrated into many television shows. Viewers were encouraged to offer suggestions for programs, such as the tween-oriented game show Sponk!, through the site. Throughout 2000, Bill Nye of Bill Nye the Science Guy answered questions asked by Noggin.com users between airings of his show. User-generated content submitted to Noggin.com was the focal point of The URL with Phred Show (whose title is a reference to the Noggin.com URL). In 2001, Noggin launched "Chattervision", which allowed viewers to comment on the network's programming through the website and see their conversations appear live on TV.
In 2001, CRC Press published "Interactive Design for Media and the Web", which provided an in-depth description of Noggin.com and stated that it included "complex and confounding games that kids will enjoy." Noggin.com was also listed in Dierdre Kelly's book "1001 Best Websites for Kids," published in the same year. In 2004, the site was the recipient of a Webby Award in the "Broadband" category. Later that year, it won first place in the "Brand Image and Positioning" category at the 21st Annual CTAM Mark Awards. 2004 also saw the release of Shell Education's "Must See Websites for Parents & Kids" book, which featured Noggin.com. Time Magazine included the Noggin site on its "50 Best Websites of 2004" list. It won a second Webby in the Youth category in 2005. In 2006, John Braheny published "The Craft & Business of Songwriting", which included a brief entry about Noggin.com's musical content (calling it "an innovative and popular site...that presents videos of children's artists"). Jean Armour Polly of Common Sense Media gave the site a positive review in 2007, noting that "young kids will get a kick out of playing games, coloring printable pages, and singing along to music videos all featuring their favorite TV characters." In 2008, it received a Parents' Choice Award and a nomination for a third Webby.
Viacom put $100 million toward online gaming initiatives, such as a subscription-based educational site called MyNoggin, in July 2007. The MyNoggin website was initially scheduled to launch in early September of that year, but was not made available to the public until October. The site's content was curriculum-based and intended for children in preschool through first grade. The games on MyNoggin covered major school subjects and included Noggin characters. In addition to activities, MyNoggin included printable workbooks that expanded upon math and science concepts. Parents were able to monitor their children's growth and activity on the site through daily progress reports. The website was free of advertisements and supported by subscriptions, which were available for online purchase and through prepaid game cards sold throughout 2008. Charter, Insight and Cox Communications customers were given unlimited access to MyNoggin as part of their cable subscriptions. The site also offered a week-long free trial.
A mobile streaming app featuring episodes of Noggin shows was announced in January 2015. Most programs on the app were cancelled prior to its development. The application was unveiled in February 2015 and released on March 5 for iOS systems. It is updated monthly and includes full seasons of productions from Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, and Nelvana. In May 2015, many shows that had previously been available on Amazon Instant Video were moved to the Noggin app as a result of low sales. On November 18, 2015, it was made available for Android, Apple and Kindle. On April 8, 2016, Alcatel Mobile announced that the Noggin app would come pre-loaded on its Alcatel Xess tablet.
The app received mixed reviews upon release. Brad Tuttle of Time predicted that paying $6 a month for a streaming app with much less content than Netflix would not be a popular idea with parents. Scott Porch of Wired wrote positively of Viacom's efforts to decrease their dependence on cable subscriptions with the app, but noticed that it was only "baby steps toward the no-cable-required model." Amanda Bindel of Common Sense commended the user-friendly layout and educational content, but felt that it lacked sufficient parental controls. In fall 2015, the app received a Parents' Choice Award in the category.
Two international apps based on Noggin have been launched. In November 2015, a Spanish streaming app was released under the Noggin title in Latin America. It includes games based on Nick Jr. programs and full episodes of shows unavailable on the English app, such as the Spanish dubs of Roary the Racing Car and Rugrats. The app currently has a Facebook page and a section on the MundoNick website. A Portuguese version was released to Google Play and the Brazilian App Store on November 21, 2015.
Noggin was featured as a programming block on Nick Jr. UK from May 2004 until August 2005. It ran for two hours every night and included reruns of syndicated British television series for children. On January 30, 2006, Noggin was launched as a block on TMF in the United Kingdom. The channel was available exclusively to Freeview subscribers at the time. It ran every weekday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
The main Nickelodeon channel included a Noggin programming block as part of its lineup from 1999 to 2001. The block was originally titled "Noggins Up" and became "Noggin on Nickelodeon" during its second year on the air. It showcased one tween-oriented program every weekday, including A Walk In Your Shoes and On the Team. The timeslot proved successful in attracting thousands of visitors to the Noggin.com site. Nickelodeon revived the block for a single day on April 7, 2003, to advertise the restructuring of Noggin's lineup. Commercials for the Noggin channel were also played between each regular program. Following the block's removal, premiere episodes of Noggin series were frequently simulcast on Nickelodeon and Noggin.
TV Land also aired a Noggin TV special in 1999. Spanning two hours, the special primarily showcased The Electric Company, along with commercials for Noggin. On-air continuity during the block included guest appearances by former Electric Company stars such as Mel Brooks, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Joan Rivers.
In November 2005, Noggin signed its first merchandising agreement with the online marketplace CafePress. Themed notebooks, cards, mousepads, and clothing were sold on the Noggin website from then until 2009. The shop was created to satisfy parents who had been requesting merchandise since the brand's launch. Angela Leaney, Noggin's senior vice president of brand communications, stated that Noggin had "a huge, loyal following and we could not resist the calls from our audience, for Noggin merchandise, any longer." CafePress co-founder Fred Durham added that Noggin attracted strong interest from his company because of its "dedicated fan base," and that his goal was to share the products "with [Noggin's] millions of fans through quality branded merchandise." Christmas ornaments, which were only sold during the month of December, became the shop's best-selling items of 2005.
In 1995, the Children's Television Workshop (now known as Sesame Workshop) began planning its own educational cable channel as a new home for most of its programming (other than Sesame Street) such as Cro (which had aired on ABC for two seasons). The channel was to be called "New Kid City" and was planned to be CTW's "own niche on the dial with shows that emphasize educational content"; but CTW later abandoned the concept.
Meanwhile, Nickelodeon began planning an early interactive educational channel called "Big Orange"; in addition to Nickelodeon, other Viacom divisions (such as Viacom Interactive) were involved with the project. After Nickelodeon's president Geraldine Laybourne left in 1996, the "Big Orange" project was put on indefinite hold. By 1997, Nickelodeon retooled the project into Noggin, a syndicated television series which would meet the FCC's new requirements for educational programming. A pilot was produced by Nickelodeon, Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Television based on Nick's short series Inside Eddie Johnson. Viacom hoped to grow Noggin into a major brand with educational electronic publishing products, a website, and possibly a cable channel that would focus on educational content, complementing entertainment-oriented Nickelodeon. In March, Nickelodeon revealed they would launch a commercial-free Noggin channel in 1998.
On April 28, 1998, Viacom and CTW put together an initial investment of $100 million to start the first strictly educational television channel for children. Both organizations wished to combine television and online services to create a "kids' thinking channel," which was named Noggin (derived from a slang term for "head") to reflect its purpose to educate. Noggin's primary goal was to provide informative entertainment for children aged 6–12. CTW initially planned for it to be an advertiser-supported service, but later decided that it should debut as a commercial-free network.
To develop ideas for original series, Noggin partnered with schools across the United States to research what would "make fun educational" for grade schoolers. In 1999, it provided each school involved up to $7,100 to run focus groups with students and teachers. The students' opinions and reactions to different activities were recorded and used to improve the content shown on Noggin.
On February 2, 1999, the Noggin channel launched to over 1.5 million subscribers via national satellite television provider Dish Network. It was marketed as both a satellite television station and a digital network.
Sweepstakes were a major part of Noggin's early advertising. In April 1999, it sponsored a contest in which viewers who submitted the correct lyrics of The Electric Company theme song had a chance to have their electric bills paid for a year. In 2000, Viacom's Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop distributed packages of school supplies (called "Noggin's Master of Suspense Kits") to 50,000 U.S. teachers as part of a sweepstakes designed to "celebrate creative, thoughtful educational instruction."
Noggin made an effort to create more interactive programming in 2001, utilizing its website as a way to include viewer participation in many of its shows. It released a tween-oriented game show titled Sponk! in September, which included participation from children online and allowed Noggin.com visitors to chat with the hosts. The URL with Phred Show, which focused on content submitted to Noggin.com from viewers, launched in the same month.
In 2001, the Jim Henson Company sold its stake in Noggin to Sesame Workshop along with the rights to Sesame Street's characters. This left Oobi, which began production in 2000, as the only preschool series created while the company and Sesame Workshop both controlled Noggin's programming. In March 2002, Noggin manager Tom Ascheim announced plans to shift Noggin's demographic to preschoolers and create a new block for older children. On April 1, 2002, the channel space was divided into two blocks: Noggin, an extension of the channel's preschool block, and The N, targeted at pre-teens.
In August 2002, Sesame Workshop sold its 50% share of Noggin to Viacom. The buyout was partially caused by SW's need to pay off debt, in addition to its interest in partnering with other broadcasters. While this limited Sesame Workshop's control over the network's daily operations, it did not affect the company's influence on the programming lineup as Viacom entered a multi-year production deal with Sesame Workshop shortly after the split and continued to broadcast co-produced series (such as Play with Me Sesame). As part of the arrangement, Noggin became the U.S. broadcaster of several shows made by the Workshop without Noggin's involvement, such as Tiny Planets and Pinky Dinky Doo.
Following the split, creative executives from Noggin toured New York schools in search of ways to improve the channel's programming and continuity. Amy Friedman, senior vice president of development at Noggin, decided to model the channel after a well-run preschool. These ideas took effect in April 2003, when Noggin's slogan was changed to "It's Like Preschool on TV." The changes also included revised branding and a new lineup, divided into thematic blocks based on key curricular knowledge. On December 31, 2003, a Nielsen Media Research report confirmed that the redesigned Noggin channel was available in 37.1 million households.
On March 12, 2009, Viacom announced that the Noggin channel would be replaced by a 24-hour channel based on Nickelodeon's long-running Nick Jr. block. The N, on the other hand, would be merged with Nickelodeon's TEENick block to form a standalone channel aimed at teenagers, known as TeenNick. The move, which was intended to make all channels in the Nickelodeon family easily recognizable, took place on September 28, 2009, at 6:00 a.m. local time. Although several Noggin shows (along with the Moose and Zee interstitials) were carried over to the Nick Jr. channel, all Noggin continuity was later phased out completely by March 1, 2012.
On January 29, 2015, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman confirmed that the Noggin brand would be relaunched as a set of mobile subscription services. Commercials for the service have aired regularly across all Nickelodeon channels since the apps' release.
On May 10, 2019, Viacom held their Q2 2019 earnings conference call, in which they announced that the Noggin app had reached 2.5 million subscribers and that it would receive a major upgrade. The updates were made following Nickelodeon's acquisition of another educational app called Sparkler. In June 2019, Nickelodeon unveiled a new Noggin logo, which was used on the redesigned Noggin website and app.
On May 28, 2021, the app was given an hour-long Friday morning programming block slot on the Nick Jr. channel, reviving the former "Noggin on Nick" block from 2000 to 2001. The programs that air on the Noggin block on the Nick Jr channel include (in order of rotation) NOGGIN Knows, Kinderwood, and CBeebies BBC UK British imports JoJo & Gran Gran and Hey Duggee.
On April 6, 2002, Noggin launched a live version of its Play with Me Sesame series. It featured walk-around characters, interactive skits, and music from the show. Marketed as Noggin's Play with Me Sesame Mall Tour, the live show was presented in nine cities. It became a finalist in the 2003 Beacon Awards and received national coverage on CBS's news program The Early Show.
In May 2002, the Jillian's restaurant chain signed on as Noggin's first corporate marketing partner. Fifteen restaurants provided in-store branding based on Noggin series from then until 2004. Jillian's offered "Noggin Play Days" each Wednesday afternoon. At these events, attendees could watch a live feed of Noggin with themed activities and meals.
In March 2004, Noggin partnered with General Growth Property shopping malls to host a free educational program called Club Noggin. It debuted at five test malls in April of the same year. Attendance at the first several events exceeded expectations, leading General Growth to bring Club Noggin to over 100 malls across the United States. The monthly events were hosted by trained YMCA leaders, who distributed Noggin posters and merchandise to attendees. Each meeting was themed around a different Noggin character and encouraged visitors to create art projects based on the character. Television actors hosted Club Noggin events on occasion. The WB's Lori Moitié and RJ Johnson hosted sessions throughout 2005. Donovan Patton of Blue's Clues made appearances at Club Noggin in July 2006 to promote his show's tenth anniversary. Although Club Noggin was free, attendees were required to pre-register through the Noggin website. In 2005, Club Noggin received a Silver Community Relations Award in the International Council of Shopping Centers' MAXI Competition.
In August 2005, Noggin and Highland Capital Partners produced "Jamarama Live", a music festival that toured the United States. It began in October and continued until late 2006. Laurie Berkner, a musician on Jack's Big Music Show, performed at many Jamarama venues on the East Coast. The festival also included meet-and-greet opportunities with a mascot costume of Moose A. Moose. The characters hosted karaoke, face-painting, and storytelling sessions during intermissions. Reviewers for Time Magazine compared Jamarama to a family-friendly version of Lollapalooza. Jamarama proved more popular than other children's stage shows running at the time, such as those featuring Mickey Mouse. Noggin executives considered on-air advertisements a major contributor to the event's success. After the tour ended, a DVD set including Jamarama performances was released.
A Noggin float appeared at the 79th annual America's Thanksgiving Parade, held on November 24, 2005. In August 2007, Noggin partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and sponsored 14,000 of the organization's national Trike-A-Thon events. The network promoted the events through a series of four commercials that ran until summer 2008. At each Trike-A-Thon, attendees received workbooks featuring Noggin characters and certificates from Noggin's "Gold Star Club." Additionally, every school that hosted a Trike-A-Thon was thanked by Noggin on-air.
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The newest addition to that sked is Noggin-produced series Play With Me Sesame... the series marks the first time a State-side entity other than Sesame Workshop has been given permission by Henson to use the Sesame Street Muppets.
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