Nickelodeon’s The Splat: Bringing Back Classic Content for Millennials

With the recent All That reunion at New York Comic Con, the opening of the Goosebumps movie in theaters, and Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell reviving their Goodburger skit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, it would seem that 90s nostalgia is at an all time high. Television producers have jumped on this trend by launching ’90s related programs, like Disney’s Girl Meets World, Lifetime’s Saved By The Bell movie, and Netflix’s Full House sequel. Viacom-owned Nickelodeon has taken this strategy to another level with the recent roll out of The Splat, a TV block on the TeenNick channel consisting entirely of ’90s programs from Nickelodeon’s vault, like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and CatDog. In addition to retro television programs, The Splat experience includes social media platforms, a website, and an emoji keyboard. For Nickelodeon, The Splat is not just a way to reuse old content, but also a way to bring back old viewers.

The Wild Thornberry's originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1998-2004.
The Wild Thornberry’s originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1998-2004.

What is The Splat?

Nickelodeon began teasing The Splat in early September with relatively vague promotional stunts and social media promotions. A Nickelodeon slime booth popped up at Brooklyn’s ’90s Fest, and The Splat YouTube channel appeared online, posting a short video featuring ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons. The teasing culminated in the launch of website, which invited visitors to follow The Splat’s social media platforms and #TheSplatIsComing hashtag to find out more. Finally, on October 5, The Splat premiered on TeenNick, a Nickelodeon channel geared towards tweens and teens, and viewers discovered exactly what it is. The Splat is an eight-hour TV block, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Eastern time, that brings back popular animated and live action shows that aired on Nickelodeon in the 1990s and early 2000s. The programs in the block include All That, Angry Beavers, Clarissa Explains It All, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rugrats, and The Wild Thornberrys, among many other classic Nickelodeon favorites. Each week of programming is organized by theme, like “Rugrats Reptar Takeover” and “First Time for Everything”. The Splat also brings back classic programming stunts like Nick or Treat, where viewers can call in and pick a door in order to win prizes, and U-Pick, where viewers vote on which episodes they would like to see aired.

The Splat is much more than just a block of television shows, however. It also encompasses a website, an emoji keyboard, and accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, and YouTube. The integrated emoji keyboard includes emoticons, stickers, and gifs, allowing users to insert Nickelodeon characters into their texts, emails, and social media posts. Website features games, like Hiccuping Dill and CatDog Trivia, and the home page compiles all The Splat’s social media posts into one feed. The posts feature gifs, videos, and images from the television programs featured on The Splat, as well as announcements of which programs are upcoming in The Splat’s lineup. The Splat pours over from TV into the internet unlike any other television block, which Cyma Zarghami, president of Viacom Kids and Family Group, explains was intentional.

“We designed ‘The Splat’ with fans and their requests in mind, which means we’re bringing together these beloved series and a high level of digital engagement to give fans a retro media experience they can’t get anywhere else.” 1

Rugrats originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1991-2004.
Rugrats originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1991-2004.

Why is The Splat Significant?

While Nickelodeon has already re-aired its ‘90s programming in various ways, like their previous ‘90s Is All That block in the 10 p.m. to midnight time slot, The Splat is significant in that it is a longer, more substantial block beginning at an earlier time, just after prime time ends. The internet applications and hype accompanying The Splat also pushes this re-airing of ‘90s programming onto a new level; it is the highest profile attempt of reintroducing old programming that Nickelodeon has done. Rugrats, for example, is one of Nickelodeon’s most beloved shows which is included in The Splat.

Rugrats is one of Nickelodeon’s original programs in the Nicktoons lineup, with new episodes from 1991 to 2004. Rugrats follows the daily activities of four babies, Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and older toddler, Angelica, on adventures created from their imaginations. The children’s parents are also featured in the show, and as time went on, more characters were introduced. Rugrats was especially praised for its depictions of various religious and cultural backgrounds with the inclusion of story lines around Hanukkah, Passover, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and its holiday specials would continue to air for years. Rugrats was one of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows, earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and expanding into a franchise that included books, home videos, a comic strip, and a variety of merchandise. Three big screen films were also created, The Rugrats Movie (1998), Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000), and Rugrats Go Wild (2003). Tommy and friends’ stories also continued on television with two spin offs. All Grown Up followed the characters into their tween and teen years, and Rugrats Pre-School Daze followed Angelica and Susie in preschool. While All Grown Up enjoyed a five year run, Rugrats Pre-School Daze, Nickelodeon’s last major attempt at continuing the Rugrats’ legacy, flopped in 2008 after running only four episodes. Years later, the second week of The Splat was dubbed “Rugrats Reptar Takeover” and was packed full of Rugrats episodes.

What the Rugrats story reveals is that, in general, nothing can replace the original show in the eyes of the fans. The Splat allows Nickelodeon to bring back beloved original programming to the fans. Netflix has enjoyed popularity for giving access to shows that are well past their original runs, like Gilmore Girls and That 70s Show, proving that nostalgia sells. The Splat is different, however, as it provides viewers with a more authentic retro viewing experience. Viewers enjoy a traditional Nickelodeon viewing experience complete with commercial breaks, Nickelodeon promotional stunts, and TV spots announcing which shows are airing next. The Splat pushes fans back into the viewing experience that they enjoyed in the 1990s.

Melissa Joan Hart starred in Clarissa Explains It All, which originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1991-1994.
Melissa Joan Hart starred in Clarissa Explains It All, which originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1991-1994.

Who is The Splat for?

Zarghami’s statement above reveals that Viacom is trying to appeal to their previous generation of fans who enjoyed The Splat’s content when it aired for the first time in the 1990s. The creation of The Splat seems like a logical move for Viacom. They previously re-aired ’90s content in a midnight to 2am block, which received good ratings. Reusing old content is also a less risky way for Viacom to fill time slots for cheaper than creating new content. Lastly, the ’90s content should largely appeal to Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2004 2. The older majority of Millennials have likely outgrown most of TeenNick’s current programming, so appealing to them could expand the channel’s current audience. Appealing to an older demographic than TeenNick’s traditionally tween and teen audience is a smart move for Nickelodeon, as only 43% of 14-25 year-olds still watch television on an actual TV set, a number that increases in older populations 3. Overall, The Splat seems like a good plan, as long as the current popularity of ’90s nostalgia content is due to people actually wanting to watch cartoons from their childhood rather than just remembering them fondly.

However, Viacom realizes that not only have Nickelodeon’s viewers changed in the last twenty years, but also the way that they experience television has changed. This is where the inclusion of the internet applications works into The Splat. When 20-25% of Millennials living on their own do not even subscribe to cable 4, where the TeenNick channel lives, The Splat’s success may hinge on expanding into other technology realms. Their efforts on social media so far have created a buzz around the TV block’s launch, and that buzz could continue. The promise of rolling out more stunts, themes, and programs over time gives The Splat enough to talk about on its social media channels. The Splat is clearly gearing its social media efforts towards Millennials and not the tweens and teens that TeenNick currently targets. Tweets on The Splat’s account include “questions you can’t ask your coworkers in a meeting” with a gif of Danny Tamborelli talking about boogers, and a gif of a singing Susie Carmichael with the caption “YASSS KWEEN”, referencing Comedy Central’s Broad City.

The integration of television programming and internet applications creates a more immersive, multimedia experience for the target audience. Millennials may appreciate being able to watch television while simultaneously engaging with social media on their smart phones without having to leave The Splat experience. Nickelodeon, like many cable channels, has had to adapt their programming strategies as cable subscriptions and traditional TV viewing is dwindling. By bringing back classic 1990s content and coupling it with social media practices of the 2010s, Nickelodeon may have found an economical way to effectively expand their audience on TeenNick with The Splat. At the very least, Nickelodeon is allowing its older fans a chance to relive their childhoods through their favorite classic TV programming.

Works Cited

  2. Bump, Philip. “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. .
  3. Steel, Emily, and Bill Marsh. “Millennials and Cutting the Cord.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. .
  4. Steel, Emily, and Bill Marsh. “Millennials and Cutting the Cord.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. .

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  1. There’s nothing that warms my heart more than hearing that “The Splat” has taken off. Growing up between generations is always difficult, especially when it comes to television. “The Splat brings back a lot of content from the 90’s, which was arguably only consumed in full by kids between 1985 and 1994 – the true 90’s kids. Being born in 1996 left me unable to truly get the full experience of All That, Rugrats, CatDog, and Hey Arnold.

    I caught the tail-end of what’s considered classic Nickelodeon content, but looking back at it now as a college student does nothing but warm my heart and conjure thoughts of nostalgia. I was there to see the end of All That, and the re-runs of CatDog, and I remember watching GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and other features higher-up in the cable channels. However, I saw the beginning of Drake and Josh, Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron, and Ned’s Declassifed School Survival Guide. These series are some of the true classics for me, and I think that in another ten years we could see a resurgence of the 2000’s generation of programming as a second incarnation of “The Splat.”

  2. Everett

    Nickelodeon doesn’t care about 80s Kids.

  3. Speaking of Nickelodeon of the 90’s, anyone else enjoy the old Nickelodeon Magazine?
    I used to collect them as a kid. I probably still have 150+ collecting dust at my parents house.

    They used to have some damn fine content.

    • scole

      the content was pretty fine, those magazines were pretty good!

    • I do. I had a subscription too.

      The comics were pretty good, I remember, and they had a lot of great pull-out content.

  4. I wish this could happen for old Cartoon Network

    • Ian McKinzey Hall

      Isn’t that what their Boomerang channel is?

      • i haven’t watched Boomerang in awhile.
        Do they have Kids Next Door, Cow and Chicken, Power Puff Girls, Totally Spies, Sheep in the big city, Grim Adventure, Dexters Lab, Johnny Bravo, Ed Edd n Eddy, or Courage the Cowardly Dog?
        cause if so that’d be swell

  5. Tatijana

    I loved Clarissa. She’s the one who inspired me to be a programmer when I “grew up.”

  6. Hardesty

    So it’s basically what FX is doing with their Simpsons content. Which is pretty darn great after over a year. So I approve.

  7. Matheson

    Pop Culture 90s things that are genuinely great:

    1. The Simpsons Golden Age
    2. Seinfeld
    3. Pete and Pete
    4. Nirvana
    5. That episode of Celebrity Deathmatch with Bill Gates vs. the Lord of the Dance guy

    That’s it.

  8. The intensity of the 90s nostalgia craze really kind of puzzles me. There’s pretty much always a wave of nostalgia about 20 years later, but I really can’t recall anything quite to the extent of what we currently see.

    • Dovie Creighton

      Those who grew up in the 90s are the ones promoting the nostalgia, and they’re a large, active and loud voice on the internet (probably the largest, most active, and loudest), so it seems to be everywhere in a way that it wasn’t with past generations who didn’t have the internet or weren’t as large, active, and loud.

    • Generation size. Oversized generations like the Boomers and Millenials subject the rest of this to their affection for the pop culture of their youth.

    • At my age, looking back at the 1990s is probably more soothing to looking ahead to the next 30 years, but yeah, things weren’t the zenith of culture or innovation back then, so it’s kind of un-warranted.

    • It seems the span of time between the present and the period for which people wax nostalgic gets shorter and shorter. Soon we’ll be seeing Great Job, Internets for shit that happened last summer.

  9. They just need to remember to clean the splat frequently before it leaves streaks.

    • stanford

      It’s like Ghostbusters Ectoplasm: will stain your carpets.

  10. I absolutely adore what is being done with “the splat”. I believe I speak for everyone when I say, “Kids now a days have no clue what quality cartoon programming looks like”. And yes, I know that there are some shows carrying the candle, “Adventure Time” and the show with the blue jay and raccoon (the name escapes me). But in my opinion, these shows are mostly geared toward adult viewers, as the jokes have a penchant for being maturely tongue in cheek.

  11. Your second section heading, ‘Why Is The Splat Significant?’ is a compelling question that could be answered from a lot of different angles. But I think that its significance as an indicator of the state of modern media tech and culture is what’s most interesting. The Splat is significant because it’s an admittance on the part of content developers and rights holders (here, Nickelodeon) that, in order to maintain not just the relevance of their titles, but the accessibility–the consumability–of those titles in a modern communications market where such accessibility is both demanded and expected, they’re going to have to cater to the new requirements of old fanbases. But, at the same time, to what degree is Nickelodeon regaining viewers versus retaining them? In the long run, this may just be a pilot program for the maintenance of viewers well beyond the original demographic parameters of the network.

    Irrespective of what the audience might shake down to, it’s pretty reasonable The Splat is intended to be permanent. Given the predcedent of Nick@Nite, combined with the wealth of back-content Nick still has in the vaults, the broadcaster doesn’t just WANT this to last; the project got off to a strong start apparently, but I’d imagine the overall plan would be to value the overall product, to fiddle with the details of the concept until it becomes, perhaps, as pervasive as Nick itself.

    Finally, and on a little bit different of a note, I’m glad you noticed the Broad City ref on the Splat social media feed. It’s indicative of The Splat as, itself, a fusion of what we used to watch with what (shows and devices) we’re watching now. And, in that recasting, perhaps we’re liberated to think of these narratives as being as old as we are now, as adults. Do we still need to think of Pete and Pete as PG (even if it was)? Does it still need to reside strictly in the teen-rated section of the mind, or can we allow it to interact in our brains with more mature stuff?

  12. The Splat has done a good jog of adding enough adult content in with their younger content; they are bringing back older viewers and letting the older viewers who are now parents share something they loved with their children and not miss any inside jokes with current adult entertainment.

  13. I am not looking forward to people getting all misty eyed over crunk and The O.C.

  14. And, like all Nickelodeon endeavors aimed at targeting fans of its early 90’s output, it will soon be replaced by Spongebob and whatever other crap they’ve made for the past 15 years.

    • stiller

      I think that’s nearly all nostalgia-based endeavors these days….

  15. YsabelGo

    I think it is a smart move for Viacom to bring back the 90s programming and integrate the technology that millennials have. Unfortunately, I don’t have cable so I won’t be able to watch Nickolodeon, but hopefully it works out well for them!

  16. Are there any plans to move The Splat to any kind of streaming format? I like the idea, but with such a high percentage of millennials being ‘free’ of cable, you’d have to think they’ll be all but forced to offer up some of their cable content online.

  17. alexpaulsen

    Honestly it is so cool that they are bringing back millennial T.V., it means parents and kids will be able to bond over the same characters and themes that our generation did so many years ago.

  18. I grew up watching Nickelodeon in the 90s…I suppose my childhood would have been different had I watched Japanese anime like most of my friends at that age!

  19. OverandOut

    They need to create and maintain a firm time cut-off. I’m ok with anything pre-Rocket Power, and/or anything pre- Dill Pickles, whichever is earliest.

  20. How have I never heard of The Splat before? This is all I’m going to watch from now on.

  21. When I first heard of the Splat and that it would be showing the Rugrats, it took everything I had not to outwardly scream. Rugrats was, and probably always will be my favorite show of all time.

  22. It’s strange how nostalgic 90’s kids appear to be in comparison to previous generations. It’s not that older generations are less nostalgic or that they don’t wish that they could relive some of their favorite childhood experiences, but that the invention of the internet made it easier for millennials demand and access nostalgic content. Before the internet, older generations reminisced about their music or their TV shows, telling stories to and with friends (in person), while younger generations are able to listen to the music and watch the TV shows instantaneously using their smartphones and tablets, then talk about it with complete strangers via social media.

  23. I am thrilled that Nickelodeon is bringing back some of the greatest cartoons from the 1990’s. I remember as a child waking up at 5am just so I could catch at least two episodes of Rugrats or Hey!Arnold before I had to get ready for school. These cartoons were, and for some still are, truly a great part of the millennial generations lives; given the data that proves a great deal of them grew up watching these cartoons throughout the duration of their childhood. However, I am not sure that “The Splat” will be able to encourage many people of the millennial generation to re-subscribe to cable television, if they don’t have it, or keep them from cancelling their cable subscriptions when they can stream these cartoons on Hulu, Netflix, and even Youtube, for a much cheaper price than what they are, or would be, paying for a cable subscription. Such streaming sites also eliminate commercials, which although as you mention in your article, provide for a more “traditional” viewing experience, but commercials in the present day are generally unwanted and irritating. Thus, although Nickelodeon is attempting to bring back an authentic viewing experience for the millennial generation, the people of the millennial generation have adapted to a more modern, immediate, and technological way of viewing their favorite old, and new, television programs. Such hands-on ways of watching shows like Rugrats, Hey!Arnold, The Wild Thornberrys, etc. have truly taken over how television is accessed. Which brings up the question of why pay more money to watch television shows that you can stream on any device, even your cell phone, for a cheaper price, without commercials, and anywhere/anytime?

  24. This is fine and dandy and all, but what does it say about Nickelodeon’s current brands? I honestly don’t think they’re doing so hot.

  25. I deeply missed the 90’s shows of Nickelodeon, and was very excited that there was going to be a greater expansion of the programming coming back, even if it ended up being a niche channel. This version of 90’s nostalgia is far more acceptable than all the reboots and remakes. It’s one thing to go back and re-watch the old shows, it’s another to take what was force commercial nostalgia down the throats of the populace.

  26. If you were born in the latter part of the 1980s or the 1990s, you were born into a strange new world. Technological and cultural reform has sped ahead at record speeds, and the proliferation of “old” content, as it were, in the public conscious today speaks to the existence of a new ‘Lost Generation’; they didn’t die, but look for them and you might not find them.

    This generation was born too old for the tech of your Dad, but too young to grow up on tablets and App Stores. In a way, Nickelodeon’s grab at pulling an older crowd back into the fold is not just a smart business decision or a clever re-branding of an aging production company, but the affirmation of the existence of a displaced generation consoled not by the content of the post-millennials, but only by that which they grew up with.

  27. Emily Deibler

    Wow, great point about the relaunching of several older series. I definitely remember some of these shows. It’s certainly nostalgic to see all these old series returning. I’m curious what might’ve prompted this on Nickelodeon’s part. You’re right that if Viacom wants The Splat to expand, they may need to look to other media besides cable TV.

  28. Allowing users to use characters within their social interactions (emojis, etc.), shows an effective way of advertising! Also, using these tools will help a “non-90’s individual” a chance to really experience the 90’s culture!

  29. Nickelodeon found an emotional goldmine. Every generation has something that brings them back to thinking about happier times, mostly their childhood. And 90s Nickelodeon programming, in my opinion, was a huge staple for that era. I’m a senior in college, I grew up watching a lot of these shows and late nights when I’m up studying for a test that made me feel dead inside; I got to watch The 90s Are All That and it made me feel better. We would all gather in someones room to watch it until 2 AM. The demand grew and now so many things from the 90s are coming back, like music and fashion. Nostalgia is one of the most powerful things but no one really sees it that until they feel it.

  30. I’d like to preface this comment by first say that I have watched the Splat and have thoroughly enjoyed it. But I always finish watching feeling somewhat melancholic… like I was just emotionally manipulated by a television. And worst of all, that manipulation was easy. That is not to say I don’t enjoy a good tug on the heart strings or situation that makes my stomach sink (certain scenes from “Breaking Bad” come to mind), but rather this re-airing of old material, cheaply as you mention, to appeal to those that grew up in the 90’s just seem like laziness that banks on millennial longing. I’m not saying it’s not a brilliant marketing move, because it is and I am glad that shows I loved are being re-aired, but I feel like it’s enforcing this creative vacuum, as more and more mediums are resorting to either re-airing or re-making “classic” franchises…long story short, I guess what I’m saying is, I’d rather see a new show that captures the essence and magic of Rocco’s Modern Life without digging up its grave. Maybe I’m picky or hard to please, but half the joy of getting older is the Christmas-like moment when you happen to catch some obscure reference or glimpse at a childhood memory, be it an old show or commercial. Like a heartfelt minute as you set things out for a rummage sale – this feels like Mom pulling all the old sterilite containers out of the attic, showing you your baby toys, and then pitching them in the bin.
    Maybe a bit drastic, but you get my point

    • I actually agree with this and I don’t think you’re being picky. As much as I love seeing classic shows like Hey! Arnold and All That, it mainly serves as simple nostalgia fuel for me. That’s not to say I can’t still enjoy the shows even though I’m a bit older now, but I feel that it may be a bit too much “holding onto the past.” Even as someone who constantly dwells on nostalgia, I can’t say I feel too inclined to watch all of these shows again back-to-back each day (not to mention at a rather inconvenient time if you ask me). Perhaps a special, 1 week (maybe even just a weekend) of the year marathon would be a nice way to have an occasional nostalgia trip.

  31. We don’t even have time to watch as much tv as we did then, but it’s nice that they’re recognizing our love for nostalgia.

  32. Douglas

    I had no idea that The Splat even existed. It definitely sounds like a great way for us ’90s kids to re-watch the shows we grew up on, but all of these shows are also available on Hulu, on demand, at anytime we want (granted, it’s subscription based, but so is TeenNick). Also, if they are airing the shows from 10pm to 6am, it sounds like they are going to appeal more to college-aged people, who are probably more reminiscent about television shows that aired in the 2000’s – Nickelodeon recently touched on this with their Zoey 101 reunion. While The Splat seems like a good idea, they may want to air these ’90s shows from, say, 6pm-10pm, when the people who grew up on the shows mentioned in this article are settling in from work. Adults who grew up watching The Rugrats, Clarissa Explains in All, The Wild Thornberry’s and All That, for example, are in their mid-to-late 20’s and probably not awake from 10pm-6am. The ones who are awake, drinking with friends and reminiscing about the past are talking about Drake and Josh, Unfabulous, and maybe even iCarly at this point.

  33. Wow! The Splat seems like an awesome opportunity to get back to old-school nickelodeon! I grew up with the rugrats. Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold, and Doug were also good shows! Although, to tell you the truth, I really never cared all that much about “All That”. But that’s just me! However, what I’d really like is for The Splat to bring back my all-time favorite show from Nickelodeon; “Are You Afraid of the Dark”. That show rocked! The Splat should also bring back my all-time second favorite show from Nickelodeon; “The Secret World of Alex Mack”. That show rocked too! Thank you for informing me about The Splat! It will certainly bring back some of my favorite Nickelodeon childhood shows! If only they would bring back “Are You Afraid of The Dark?” and “The Secret World of Alex Mack”! Then The Splat would be an absolute paradise for me!

  34. Stephanie M.

    I have personally watched The Splat and enjoyed it. Every now and then I’ll DVR a spate of Rugrats or Hey Arnold episodes, primarily to take my mind off the realities of life as a 30-something. (My gosh, I feel old). However, along with all this nostalgia, I’d like to see original programming that embodies the *spirit* of the old shows. Not trying to be harsh here, but the majority of today’s kids’ shows on Nickelodeon and other channels are pretty bad. They reflect laziness and pandering to a generation of kids who are being treated like they have no brains. Even if the people of my generation couldn’t have our old shows back, I think we would’ve settled for having dedication to content back.

  35. I just don’t understand how Nickelodeon got so bad. All That, Keenan and Kel and The Amanda Show were all so well written and provided a place for young people with genuine talent to showcase their comedy. They were reminiscent of Saturday Night Live. Sadly I think it’d be impossible to create a successful sketch comedy show featuring teenagers these days.

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