Launch and debut
TV Land launched at 8:00 pm Eastern Time on April 29, 1996, and was originally called Nick at Nite's TV Land to provide reassurance to new viewers of who was behind the channel. The first program to air on the network was Love, American Style, and the episode entitled "Love and the Happy Days", which had later been recycled as the pilot episode for the 1974-1984 ABC sitcom Happy Days. The phrase "TV Land" (and a variant, "television land") had been in popular parlance since at least the late 1950s to refer to the viewing audience; early examples of its use included on The Honeymooners and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and clips of the use of the phrase in both shows were used in the network's early promos. The phrase was then used by Nick at Nite in the 1980s as the name of the fictional place where the channel received its classic programming block, and was utilized in slogans such as "Nick at Nite: Hello Out There From TV Land!" for much of that decade. However, Nick at Nite quit using the term in its own branding campaigns in September 1997, seventeen months after the TV Land network launched, in order to prevent viewers from confusing the two separate channels.
TV Land's first logo ran from April 29, 1996 to December 31, 2000; the "Nick at Nite's" prefix accompanied it in full-time usage until December 31, 1996, and was used sparingly thereafter.
TV Land's second logo ran from January 1, 2001 to November 23, 2009. Another version from that point until May 7, 2012 featured a streamlined version with the boxes framing each letter removed and the "TV" letters rendered in Clarendon
TV Land's logo used from November 24, 2009 to May 7, 2012. TV Land also gained a slogan, "Laugh more", in December 2011.
TV Land primary logo used from May 8, 2012 to June 22, 2015. It continues to be used as a secondary logo for the network's daytime classic programming, with the "Laugh more" tagline removed.
The network's original lineup consisted of: Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, The Ed Sullivan Show, Gunsmoke, That Girl, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Honey West, The Addams Family, Love, American Style, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres; The Phil Silvers Show and Hogan's Heroes.
Although the channel launched during a time when retransmission consent was becoming more common amongst subscription networks and terrestrial television stations nationwide due to a provision in the 1992 Cable Act, MTV Networks chose to offer TV Land to subscription providers for free for its five years of operation, as long as they added the channel to their expanded basic tiers during the 1996 calendar year. Likewise, USSB, then one of two services that used the DirecTV satellite, offered TV Land as a free channel to USSB and DirecTV satellite users, without requiring a subscription, for its first years on air.
Shortly after TV Land's debut, MCA filed a lawsuit against Viacom. Because MCA's original agreement with Paramount Pictures to operate USA Network prohibited either partner from operating other pay-television networks outside the joint venture, Viacom had been in breach of contract ever since the company bought Paramount in 1994, because it had operated MTV Networks (whose holdings include Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1) since its founding in 1983, and Showtime Networks (owners of Showtime, The Movie Channel and Flix, all of which are now owned by CBS Corporation) since it was founded in 1985. MCA claimed that the intention of TV Land was to compete directly with USA (this turned out to be true). Viacom claimed that the matter had already been settled when Sumner Redstone released Frank Biondi from his contract to let him work at MCA. The suit was eventually settled when Viacom agreed to sell its 50% stake in USA Networks to MCA (MCA later became Universal Studios, formerly just a subsidiary, which eventually merged with NBC and later, Comcast).
In 1997, TV Land partnered with TV Guide for a feature in the magazine and a special on the network, ranking the 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 1999, TV Land entered into a deal with Universal Television that allowed the channel to "cherry-pick" from a variety of series including Emergency!, Kojak, and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.
In February 1999, according to Nielsen ratings data, TV Land averaged a 1.0 share during primetime, tying ESPN for 10th place among all pay-television networks. Its siblings, MTV and VH1, respectively tied for 17th and 26th place. Columnist John Dempsey reported in Variety, "That February rating put TV Land into the top 10 for the first time since it began operating, and opened the eyes of the TV industry to the rich vein of golden-oldie TV shows that distributors are mining for an audience of nostalgia buffs and kids who are stumbling across the series for the first time."
In the early 2000s, TV Land aired special program blocks on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (beginning on December 31, 2001): the final day of the year revolved around series finales of classic television series, and the first day of the new year exclusively featured pilot episodes. On January 1, 2001, the network introduced a streamlined logo, which traded the uneven-ness of the original design for a more rigid form, and restricted the wedge serif type to the "TV" and the sans serif type to the "LAND" in the logo. TV Land celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 29, 2006. On December 17, 2006, MTV Networks (which was renamed Viacom Media Networks in 2011) began operating TV Land as part of its Kids & Family Group unit, with Nickelodeon taking over operational duties for Nick at Nite, which in turn had previously maintained oversight of TV Land since its launch.
The network's original continuity announcer was DJ Dan Ingram; Ingram was replaced by Harry Shearer, who served as the primary announcer for the network's promotions from 2001 to 2010. In 2008, TV Land added a three-hour block of infomercials to its morning lineup, airing Monday through Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. As such, TV Land became only the fourth pay channel operated by Viacom and its MTV Networks division to air infomercials (the only others being CMT, Comedy Central and Spike); TV Land removed one hour of the infomercial block in May 2010, reducing it from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m., with reruns filling the 8:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) hour.
Original programming efforts
In 2007, the network began adding series from the latter part of the 1980s and on in an effort to attract viewers in the 18 to 49 age demographic favored by advertisers (by rerunning shows familiar to younger audiences). As such, TV Land no longer labels itself as a "Classic TV" network (this role has since been filled by over-the-air rivals Retro Television Network, Cozi TV, Antenna TV, and, most notably, Me-TV, all of which have carried programs that have aired on TV Land in previous years). The network began airing its first original programs in 2008 with the reality series High School Reunion (a revival of the former WB series, which features reunions of older ex-classmates than the original series – usually those between 40 and 50 years old, compared the original series' focus on classmates that were between 25 and 30 years old at the time of filming) and She's Got the Look (a modeling competition for women over 40). Accompanying this strategy was a refresh of the network's graphic identity, which was designed and conceived by
Trollback + Company, who also developed its 2000 to 2008 graphical identity.
From October 2008 to 2011, the network ran a late-evening block that aired weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time, called "TV Land Prime", which depending on the night featured the network's original series, movies or newer archive programming that TV Land was airing at the time. The block utilized drastically different brand imaging than that otherwise featured the network; the "dot" logo accompanying the "Prime" logo was replaced by TV Land's standard logo in November 2009; some programs featured in the block incorporated the "TV Land Prime" bug when aired in other timeslots.
On November 23, 2009, the network changed its logo to a more simplified form, keeping the double-trapezoidal outline, but removing the outlines around each letter and simplifying the fonts. An overhauled logo was introduced on May 8, 2012, which not only features a revised design and different typeface (although it retained the double-trapezoidal outline, which was now placed on the top left side), but also sets the "Land" part of the name to the adjacent right of the "TV" moniker.
Since 2009, TV Land has also added more recent series from the 1990s and 2000s, such as those already or formerly aired on Nick at Nite (from which TV Land has acquired several of its programs since its inception) like The Cosby Show, Roseanne, Who's the Boss?, The Nanny, and Friends, and shows that had not aired its former parent network like Murphy Brown, The Golden Girls, Everybody Loves Raymond, and The King of Queens. However, the network continues to air series from older decades throughout its schedule, mainly during the daytime and overnight hours. The network's scheduling is often not bound to the strictness of half-hour timeslots outside of primetime, with programming airing in expanded timeslots to allow more advertising to be sold, though in most cases, the series on TV Land continue to use the 'syndication cut' rather than the original network airing cut of an episode.
The network first forayed into original scripted programming in 2010 with the debut of the sitcom Hot in Cleveland (starring established sitcom stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White), which premiered in June 2010 to 4.75 million viewers, a record audience for the channel. (The success of that series led to a spin-off called The Soul Man, which debuted in June 2012.) This was followed by the January 19, 2011 debut of Retired at 35. 2011 saw the expansion of its original sitcoms with the June 15 debut of the Fran Drescher comedy Happily Divorced and the November 30 debut of The Exes. 2013 and 2014 also saw the debuts of Kirstie (which reunited Kirstie Alley with former Cheers co-star Rhea Perlman and also stars former Seinfeld co-star Michael Richards) and Jennifer Falls starring Jaime Pressly. Both Kirstie and Jennifer Falls were canceled after their first seasons.
Shift of programming focus to Generation X audiences
The network began to transition away from the original double trapezoid imaging in March 2015, when the new Sutton Foster series Younger was launched without either traditional TV Land branding or advertising, choosing instead to go with a different imaging campaign to the point that "TV Land" was merely shown in regular text on-screen during the series to differentiate it from the rest of the network's schedule. After Memorial Day and the series finale of Hot in Cleveland, a new simple 'ribbon effect' network logo was unveiled to go with the campaigns for the network's new original series Impastor and The Jim Gaffigan Show and more of a focus on Generation X viewers who grew into the network's demographic, an implicit admission that its subchannel classic television competitors are more designed for the generation of viewers TV Land started with. The network officially announced the introduction of the rebranding on June 23, 2015. Completing the shift to edgier, single-camera programming, TV Land announced on July 28 that the upcoming fifth season of the multi-camera sitcom The Soul Man would be its last. Less than two weeks later, on August 10, TV Land's last remaining multi-camera sitcom The Exes was cancelled as its fourth season was still airing, with the announcement that the final episode would air September 16. 2016 saw the debut of the single-camera sitcom Teachers.
Currently though, the network's morning and afternoon blocks of classic television will continue under the "TV Land Classic" branding, which will continue to feature a version of the double-trapezoid logo, creating a setup equivalent to FXM, where that network's older movie content under its former branding of Fox Movie Channel is branded under the "FXM Retro" banner.
Viacom has been in the process of reorganizing its media businesses around six flagship brands, including Paramount Pictures, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and MTV. Network president Keith Cox was re-assigned to the newly-rebranded Paramount Network (the former Spike), and two series originally slated for TV Land—American Woman and Heathers—were re-assigned to the channel. The former was canceled after its first season, while the latter would not air.