Noggin (brand)

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Noggin
upright=250px
Product type Television network
Websites
Mobile applications
Owner Viacom Media Networks[1]
Country United States
United Kingdom (blocks)
Introduced February 2, 1999; 18 years ago (1999-02-02)
Related brands Nickelodeon
Nick Jr.
Previous owners Sesame Workshop
The Jim Henson Company
Website www.noggin.com

Noggin is an entertainment brand, launched on February 2, 1999 as a joint venture between Viacom and Sesame Workshop.[2][3] The Jim Henson Company also held a stake in the company when it was founded. Noggin was initially advertised as both a linear television network and a website. The brand has since expanded to include three mobile subscription services, a second website, and four defunct programming blocks worldwide. It was initially aimed at a pre-teen audience[4] and shifted its target demographic to preschool-aged children in April 2002.[5]

Every Noggin service is released under Viacom's Noggin LLC banner.[6][7] As of 2017, Noggin LLC is headquartered in the MTV Studios wing of One Astor Plaza in New York City.[8]

Services[edit]

TV channel[edit]

The first service released under the Noggin brand name was a satellite television network, which operated from February 2, 1999 until September 28, 2009. Noggin's lineup during its first years consisted almost entirely of titles from Sesame Workshop's library, with occasional reruns of Nickelodeon and Jim Henson series.[9][10] Most of the content was aimed at teenagers and Generation Xers.[11] The two providers had over 5,000 hours of library material to broadcast[12] and did not produce original programming until a full year on the air had passed.[13] The network shared its channel space with The N from 2002 until 2007, when Noggin became a 24-hour network.[14][15]

Noggin commissioned its first half-hour original series for teenagers in April 2000, titling it A Walk In Your Shoes.[16] A live game show aimed at pre-teens, Sponk!, premiered a year afterwards.[17] This was one of many Noggin series that focused primarily on viewer-submitted content, along with the animated Phred on Your Head Show and its spin-off The URL with Phred Show. A block of preschool-oriented series had become a staple of the network by 2002.[18]

Noggin consistently received substantially higher ratings than Nickelodeon's other sister channels. It was viewed by an average of 529,000 households daily in early 2009, while The N was viewed by about 210,000 each day.[19] At the time of its closure, Noggin reached over 64 million households in the United States (as opposed to the 1.5 million subscribers it reached upon being launched).[20]

Noggin.com[edit]

One of Viacom and Sesame Workshop's goals was to develop Noggin into a "cable-computer hybrid."[21] 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.[22] 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 program.[23][24] 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).[25][26] 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.[27]

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."[28] Noggin.com was also listed in Dierdre Kelly's book "1001 Best Websites for Kids," published in the same year.[29] In 2004, the site was the recipient of a Webby Award in the "Broadband" category.[30] Later that year, it won first place in the "Brand Image and Positioning" category at the 21st Annual CTAM Mark Awards.[31] 2004 also saw the release of Shell Education's "Must See Websites for Parents & Kids" book, which featured Noggin.com.[32] Time Magazine included the Noggin site on its "50 Best Websites of 2004" list.[33] It won a second Webby in the Youth category in 2005.[34] 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").[35] 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."[36] In 2008, it received a Parents' Choice Award[37] and a nomination for a third Webby.[38]

MyNoggin[edit]

Viacom put $100 million[39] toward online gaming initiatives, such as a subscription-based educational site called MyNoggin, in July 2007.[40][41] The MyNoggin website was initially scheduled to launch in early September of that year,[42] but was not made available to the public until October.[43] The site's content was curriculum-based and intended for children in preschool through first grade.[44] The games on MyNoggin covered major school subjects and included Noggin characters.[45] In addition to activities, MyNoggin included printable workbooks that expanded upon math and science concepts.[46] Parents were able to monitor their children's growth and activity on the site through daily progress reports.[47] The website was free of advertisements and supported by subscriptions, which were available for online purchase and through prepaid game cards sold throughout 2008.[48][49] Charter, Insight and Cox Communications customers were given unlimited access to MyNoggin as part of their cable subscriptions.[50][51][52] The site also offered a week-long free trial.[53]

Mobile applications[edit]

A streaming service featuring episodes of Noggin shows was announced in January 2015.[54][55] Most programs on the app were cancelled prior to its development.[56] The application was unveiled in February 2015[57] and released on March 5 for iOS systems.[58][59] It is updated monthly and includes full seasons of productions from Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop and Nelvana.[60] 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.[61] On November 18, 2015, it was made available for Android, Apple TV and Kindle. On April 8, 2016, Alcatel Mobile announced that the Noggin app would come pre-loaded on its Alcatel Xess tablet.[62]

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.[63] 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."[64] Amanda Bindel of Common Sense Media commended the user-friendly layout and educational content, but felt that it lacked sufficient parental controls.[65] In fall 2015, the app received a Parents' Choice Award in the Mobile Apps category.[66]

Two international applications based on Noggin have been launched. In November 2015, a Spanish streaming app was released under the Noggin title in Latin America.[67][68][69] 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).[70] The app currently has a Facebook page and a section on the MundoNick website.[71] A Portuguese version was released to Google Play and the Brazilian App Store on November 21, 2015.[72][73]

Programming blocks[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

Noggin was featured as a programming block on Nick Jr. UK from May 2004 until August 2005.[74] It ran for two hours every night and included reruns of syndicated British television series for children.[75] The timeslot was renamed Nick Jr. Classics on September 1, 2005.[76]

On January 30, 2006, Noggin was launched as a block on TMF in the United Kingdom.[77] The channel was available exclusively to Freeview subscribers at the time.[78] Unlike the block from 2004, it featured currently-running Nick Jr. programs, such as Dora the Explorer and The Backyardigans. It ran every weekday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.[79][80]

United States[edit]

Nickelodeon included a Noggin programming block as part of its lineup from 1999 to 2000.[81] The block was originally titled "Noggins Up" and became "Noggin on Nickelodeon" during its second year on the air.[82] It showcased one tween-oriented program every weekday. The timeslot proved successful in attracting thousands of visitors to the Noggin.com site.[83] Nickelodeon revived the block for a single day on April 7, 2003 to advertise the restructuring of Noggin's lineup.[84] The event incorporated episodes of Tweenies, Oobi and Miffy and Friends into the Nick Jr. block.[85] Commercials for the Noggin channel were also played between each regular program.[86] Following the block's removal, premiere episodes of Noggin series (such as A Walk In Your Shoes, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Jack's Big Music Show) were frequently simulcast on Nickelodeon and Noggin.[87]

TV Land also included a temporary block of Noggin programming in 1999.[88] Spanning two hours, it primarily showcased The Electric Company, along with commercials for Noggin.[89] On-air continuity during the block included guest appearances by Mel Brooks, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Joan Rivers.[90]

Other media[edit]

In November 2005, Noggin signed its first merchandising agreement with the online marketplace CafePress.[91] Themed notebooks, cards, mousepads, and clothing were sold on the Noggin website from then until 2009.[92] 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."[93] 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."[94] Christmas ornaments, which were only sold during the month of December, became the shop's best-selling items of 2005.[95]

A series of commercials for Noggin were produced and aired on sister networks. One on-air campaign titled "If Life Were More Like Preschool" was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award.[96]

History[edit]

One Astor Plaza, where Noggin's current headquarters are located.

Development[edit]

On April 28, 1998,[97] Viacom and Sesame Workshop put together an initial investment of $100 million[98] to start the first strictly educational television channel for children.[99][100][101] 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 as an educational medium.[102] Noggin's primary goal was to provide informative entertainment for children aged 6–12.[21] Sesame Workshop initially planned for it to be an advertiser-supported service,[12] but later decided that it should debut as a commercial-free network.[13]

To develop ideas for new programming, Noggin partnered with schools across the United States to research what would best educate children in grade school.[103] In 1999, it provided each school involved up to $7,100[104] 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. This generated controversy among the Commercial Alert organization, who considered Noggin's research a violation of education laws and called it "an unfortunate turning-point" for Sesame Workshop.[105] Despite this, the program continued without disruption until June of that year.[103]

Early history[edit]

The Noggin channel launched on February 2, 1999 to over 1.5 million subscribers.[106][107] 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.[88][89] In 2000, 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."[108]

Noggin was initially perceived as a threat to PBS, because its programming consisted largely of Sesame Workshop series that had formerly aired on public television. Robert Ottenhoff, a former chief operating officer for PBS, addressed this in 1999; he stated that his company "can no longer differentiate ourselves by the uniqueness of the program genres we offer."[109] 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.[110] 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.[25]

Network repositioning[edit]

In 2001, the Jim Henson Company sold its stake in Noggin to Sesame Workshop along with the rights to Sesame Street's characters.[111] 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.[112] 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.[18]

In August 2002, Sesame Workshop sold its 50% share of Noggin to Viacom.[113][114] The buyout was partially caused by CTW's need to pay off debt, in addition to its interest in partnering with other broadcasters.[115] While this limited the Workshop's control over the network's daily operations, it did not affect the company's influence on the programming lineup. 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).[116] As part of the arrangement, Noggin became the primary broadcaster of the Workshop's Tiny Planets, Pinky Dinky Doo and The Upside Down Show.[117][118]

Following the split, creative executives from Noggin toured New York schools in search of ways to improve the channel's programming and continuity.[119] Amy Friedman, senior vice president of development at Noggin, decided to model the channel after a well-run preschool. These ideas took effect in May 2003, when Noggin's slogan was changed to "It’s Like Preschool on TV."[120] The changes also included revised branding and a new lineup, divided into thematic blocks based on key curricular knowledge.[121] On December 31, 2003, a Nielsen Media Research report confirmed that the redesigned Noggin channel was available in 37.1 million households.[122]

The continuity shown on Noggin and the Nick Jr. block had been entirely separate until December 2006, when Brown Johnson of Sesame Workshop created a single management team for the two entities.[123][124] On-air spots for the Nick Jr. block were used to advertise the Noggin channel and vice versa.

On August 13, 2007, it was announced that Noggin and The N would become separate 24-hour networks later that year.[125] The split was intended to improve how each network's different demographic was served.[126] It took place on December 31, with The N taking the place of sister channel Nick GAS.[127] A primetime marathon of family films (consisting of Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure and double-length episodes of Noggin series) aired in place of The N on Noggin's first full day of broadcast after the split.[128]

Modern history[edit]

On March 12, 2009, Viacom announced that the Noggin channel and The N would be replaced by Nick Jr. and TeenNick, respectively.[129] The rebranding, which was intended to make all channels in the Nickelodeon family easily recognizable, took place on September 28, 2009. Although several Noggin series were carried over to the Nick Jr. channel, all Noggin continuity was phased out completely by 2012.[130]

On January 29, 2015, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman confirmed that the Noggin brand would be relaunched as a set of mobile subscription services.[131] Commercials for the service have aired regularly across all Nickelodeon channels since the apps' release.

Live events[edit]

Noggin's float at America's Thanksgiving Parade in 2005.

On April 6, 2002, Noggin launched a live version of its Play with Me Sesame series.[132] 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.[133] It became a finalist in the 2003 Beacon Awards[134] and received national coverage on CBS's news program The Early Show.[135]

In May 2002, the Jillian's restaurant chain signed on as Noggin's first corporate marketing partner.[136] Fifteen restaurants provided in-store branding based on Noggin series from then until 2004.[137] 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 centers to host Club Noggin, an educational program targeted at children aged 3–6.[138][139] It debuted at five test malls in April of the same year.[140] Attendance at the first several events exceeded expectations,[141] leading General Growth to bring Club Noggin to over 100 malls across the United States.[142] The monthly events were hosted by trained YMCA leaders, who distributed Noggin posters and merchandise to attendees.[143] Each meeting featured a different Noggin character[144][145] and encouraged visitors to create themed art projects.[146] Television actors hosted Club Noggin events on occasion. The WB's Lori Moitié and RJ Johnson hosted sessions throughout 2005.[147] Donovan Patton of Blue's Clues made appearances at Club Noggin in July 2006 to promote his show's tenth anniversary.[148] Although Club Noggin was free of charge,[149] pre-registration via the Noggin website was required.[150] In 2005, Club Noggin received a Silver Community Relations Award in the International Council of Shopping Centers' MAXI Competition.[151]

In August 2005, Noggin and Highland Capital Partners produced "Jamarama Live", a music festival that toured the United States.[152] It began in October and continued until late 2006.[153][154] Laurie Berkner, a musician on Jack's Big Music Show, performed at many Jamarama venues on the East Coast.[155][156] Select concerts featured musical acts by the stars of LazyTown, Franklin, and Miffy and Friends.[157][158] The festival also included meet-and-greet opportunities with Moose and Zee.[159] The characters hosted karaoke, face-painting, and storytelling sessions during intermissions.[160][161] Writers for Time Magazine noted that Jamarama's interactive attractions were similar to those of Lollapalooza, but "with sippy cups instead of beer cups."[162] Jamarama proved more popular than other children's stage shows running at the time, such as those featuring Mickey Mouse.[163] Noggin executives considered on-air advertisements a major contributor to the event's success.[164] After the tour ended, a DVD set including Jamarama performances was released.[165]

A Noggin float appeared at the 79th annual America's Thanksgiving Parade, held on November 24, 2005.[166] In August 2007, Noggin partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and sponsored 14,000[167] of the organization's national Trike-A-Thon events.[168] The network promoted the events through a series of four commercials that ran until summer 2008.[169] At each Trike-A-Thon, attendees received workbooks featuring Noggin characters and certificates from Noggin's "Gold Star Club".[170] Additionally, every school that hosted a Trike-A-Thon was thanked by Noggin on-air.[20]

In April 2016, event venues throughout Mexico promoted the release of the Spanish Noggin application with appearances by costumed Nickelodeon characters, such as Dora the Explorer. Posters and banners providing a brief description of the app were present at these locations.

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