It’s a debate that’s been raging for nearly two decades: Which is better, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network? It’s been argued about endlessly, and no one ever agrees on which is better. In this article, I will attempt, once and for all, to determine which channel is better. I will make my decision based on three main categories:
Eras– I will talk about how good each channel was throughout the years, from each half of each decade starting with the early ’90s.
Spinoff Channels– Both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network have spinoff channels, and those will factor into my final decision. After all, why just stop at the main channel like everyone else does?
Programming Blocks- Both channels are known for their programming blocks. They’re an important part of each channel, and as such, deserve to be included in the debate as well.
In reviewing these categories, I will attempt to create the most comprehensive article on this debate on the internet. Lets hope I succeed.
There’s really no contest here. Nickelodeon wins this without a doubt. Although Nickelodeon had already been around with a few popular shows, it wasn’t until this time that people really started to give a shit. Cartoon Network didn’t even exist in the first two years of the decade. And in its early days, it mostly played classic cartoons. That’s cool and all, but Nickelodeon was pumping out new, original, innovative, and most of all, quality shows like Rugrats, Ren And Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Doug. Despite some original shows like the excellent Space Ghost Coast To Coast, Nickelodeon would soon become the biggest name in all of children’s programming, and shows like the ones I mentioned are the reason for that.
Now this is where it starts to get interesting. This is when the Nickelodeon vs. Cartoon Network competition truly began. This is when the big debate started, although it was among kids on the playground rather than adults on the internet. Both channels were amazing during this era. Nickelodeon had on its roster such shows as Kenan And Kel, All That, Hey Arnold, and Catdog. Cartoon Network, on the other hand, had the likes of The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab, Courage The Cowardly Dog, and Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy. While both channels had fantastic programming, this is considered by many to be Cartoon Network’s golden period. This period in Nickelodeon history is considered by some to be the beginning of their downfall, though I think that’s complete bullshit, as Nickelodeon programming was still very high quality. Overall though, I think Cartoon Network provided stronger original programming, even if it didn’t have as many shows as Nickelodeon did. Plus, their programming block, Toonami, introduced many a child to the joys of anime. Cartoon Network takes this one.
Winner: Cartoon Network
This is a really hard one. Both channels were pumping out great shows during this period. Cartoon Network released programs like The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, and Samurai Jack during this era. Those are some of the greatest shows in CN history. Plus, all the shows that made Cartoon Network so great in the first place carried over into the ’00s. And Toonami was still great. And, this is when Cartoon Network unleashed the awesomeness that is Adult Swim upon the world. Nickelodeon had amazing shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Invader Zim, and Fairly OddParents. And several of Nickelodeon’s great shows from the ’90s also carried over into the ’00s. There were also several great Nick movies during this time. I am going to have to give Nickelodeon the slight edge with this one. Their original programming created during this time is slightly superior to Cartoon Network’s, and I have to say, SpongeBob SquarePants may be the greatest original show on either channel, ever. Hell, SpongeBob may be the greatest American cartoon of all time if you’re only counting the first three seasons and the movie (though Seasons 4 and 5 were decent). No, I’m not kidding.
Even this late in their lifespans, both channels were really good. Well, for the most part. Many of the shows I mentioned were still around in the second half of the decade, and the original programming was still good. Nickelodeon introduced us to great shows like Danny Phantom and Avatar The Last Airbender. To be honest, aside from those, Nickelodeon didn’t introduce many memorable new cartoons during this period, but Teen Nick was golden during this time. Drake And Josh, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Unfabulous, ICarly, and Zoey 101 were all great shows. Cartoon Network on the other hand, continued giving us great cartoons like Camp Lazlo, My Gym Partner’s A Monkey, Chowder, and The Marvelous Misadventures Of Flapjack. Unfortunately, both channels made a lot of boneheaded mistakes during this era. Like I said, Nickelodeon didn’t introduce a lot of memorable new cartoons, and this is when Nickelodeon started running SpongeBob into the ground and turning it into an awful show. Cartoon Network, with a select few exceptions, was fucking awful from 2008-2010. They got rid of Toonami, and they decided to experiment with live action during this time. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well, and to this day, CN Real is often cited as the worst thing in Cartoon Network history. Imagine that, a live action programming block flopping on a network dedicated to cartoons. I can’t decide which one was better during this time.
Just like with the first era I went over, this is no contest. Only, instead of Nickelodeon winning, it’s Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon is absolute shit nowadays. Like, I would say it’s worse than 2008-2010 Cartoon Network. It’s pretty sad, too, as Nickelodeon used to be the #1 children’s channel. While it has some good shows, like Legend Of Korra, Power Ranger’s Megaforce, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the bad definitely outweighs the good. I mean, Power Rangers Samurai (thank god they redeemed themselves with Megaforce)? Supah Ninjas? Sam And Cat? What the fuck is that shit? And they also had the stupidity to reject Adventure Time. I bet you they’re punching themselves in the face for that one. So, what does 2010s CN offer that 2010s Nick doesn’t? Oh, I don’t know, Regular Show, Adventure Time, Sym-Bionic Titan, The Amazing World Of Gumball, Steven Universe, and more. They also had the common fucking sense to bring back Toonami, even if it is on Adult Swim late at night. Sure, they still have some flaws, like cancelling the awesome Sym-Bionic Titan after only one season. And true, they still have SOME shitty shows like The Annoying Orange and Uncle Grandpa. But you know what? Cartoon Network is the definition of a turnaround. It went from being shitty to being a once again respectable network, a great network, even. Let’s just hope Nickelodeon does the same.
Winner: Cartoon Network
And now I’m going to include in my article something that no one ever includes in their arguments over which channel is better, and that is the spinoff channels. Nickelodeon certainly has more spinoff channels. They have TeenNick, which plays a lot of the great shows that were on TeenNick when it was just a programming block, plus some ’90s Nickelodeon late at night. Nick Gas, which is sadly now defunct, played all of Nickelodeon’s awesome game shows. Nick Jr. is great for the little kids. And Nicktoons Network was at one point perhaps the superior Nickelodeon channel, and honestly, still is. Cartoon Network only has Boomerang as far as I’m aware. But Boomerang is amazing. It plays a shit ton of classic cartoons, and a lot of the old Cartoon Network shows. Both have amazing sister channels, so it’s hard to pick the winner in this case. Boomerang is one great channel compared to four great channels, but Boomerang can easily stand up to the four Nick channels, and I’ve watched more Boomerang than I have the other channels. Really, they’re both winners in this situation.
Both of these stations are or were home to some of the greatest programming blocks of all time. Nickelodeon had such classic blocks as U Pick Live, which also doubled as a TV show, Nick Jr., TeenNick, and Nick At Night. All great programming blocks. Who could forget Pick Boy from U Pick Live? And Nick Jr. was a huge part of my childhood. Shows like Blue’s Clues (with Steve only because Joe is a tool) and Little Bear were my life as a young child. Cartoon Network on the other hand has such great blocks at Cartoon Cartoon Fridays, Toonami, Adult Swim, and Boomerang (before it became a channel). So, which has better blocks? Well, I can tell you that Adult Swim is a better night block than Nick At Night. NAN plays/played some reruns of great shows, mostly sitcoms. That’s fine and dandy, but Adult Swim has a history of innovative, often times surreal, and almost always quality ORIGINAL programming. Plus, Toonami has introduced many people to anime, and that has a huge impact in the overall result of my final decision. So, as good as Nick programming blocks are, Cartoon Network’s blocks are superior.
Winner: Cartoon Network
And now I must make a decision. A hard decision. I could have taken the easy way out and just called it a tie, but that’s no fun. I want it to be clear that both channels have a long history of excellent programming. So how can I decide which one is better? Nickelodeon had all the amazing Nicktoons, the great game shows, and far superior live action programming. Cartoon Network has a history of creating some of the best cartoons of all time, and unlike Nickelodeon, they’re still great to this day. They also have far superior programming blocks. So, which is better? I’m gonna have to go with Cartoon Network. CN has continuously pumped out great cartoons since the mid ’90s, and even in the early days, were showing some great classic cartoons. Their programming blocks are also a huge factor in this decision. Without them, Nick would have probably won. Also, Nickelodeon sucks nowadays, whereas Cartoon Network came back from their 2008-2010 slump. And Boomerang is an awesome spinoff channel. So, sorry Nickelodeon. You’re no doubt a fantastic channel, but I have to give this to Cartoon Network.
Overall Winner: Cartoon Network