Article Digital

Nostalgia in Programming

Oct 27, 2014

What’s The Trend:
Networks tap a growing presence of nostalgia in society to build stronger relationships with their audiences.

What’s New:
Nostalgia is a universal, cross-cultural feeling that people experience weekly. It is a psychological defense mechanism that helps people feel better in the present, and social media platforms have thrown it into the forefront of brand engagement. Facebook introduced its timeline feature in 2011 making it easier to look back at posts, pictures and content from years ago. In March, Twitter released a fun, popular tool in which users could type in any username to look back and reminisce about an account’s #FirstTweets. LinkedIn has made it easy to recall and reflect on how one has grown academically and professionally. People often turn to social media usage out of boredom or a desire to feel connected, making it probable then for users to experience nostalgia.(1) As technology continues to rapidly advance, there are signs that people are yearning for the simpler times; millennials in particular have shown a strong association with feelings of nostalgia.(2) Take #TBT for example. This social media phenomenon sees scores of millennials flocking to their accounts on Thursdays to share old photos of the “good ol’ days,” which may be helping them to counteract feelings of nostalgia.(3)

Nickelodeon took out a programming block during its routine TeenNick broadcast for a feature called “The 90s are All that.” During this block each night millennial viewers could tune in for classic shows from their childhood. The network saw a 50% ratings increase in viewers between ages 18-35.(4)

WWE has also embraced nostalgic programming with its “Old School” themed episodes during its Monday night Raw. During Old School, veteran wrestling icons return to the ring to face stars of a new generation. Ryan Dilbert, WWE lead writer, points out that the merging of the old and new is “moving, exciting and special;” true wrestling fans fantasize about these types of match ups so by turning them into a reality – the nostalgia creates excitement and anticipation.(5)ABC Family created another instance of blending the old and new. They created a new program, “Mystery Girls,” that reunited Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling in the cast, two actresses that starred together in the hit 90s show, “Beverly Hills, 90210.” In June 2014, VH1 released its newest addition to its “I Love the…” series with “I Love the 2000s.”13 Finally, in August 2014, in honor of FXX acquiring the rights to air “The Simpsons,” the channel ran a marathon showing all 552 episodes from 1989 through the present.(7)

Beyond content programming, the “nostalgia” trend also permeates the way Brands market to their consumers. In 2013 to promote its latest version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Windows released a two-minute video journey through the 90s with the tagline, “You grew up. So did we.” The company saw a significant spike in their Brand Power Index.(8)

Why It Matters:
Nostalgia is important to understand for the Hispanic population because not only do they undergo the aforementioned type of nostalgia, but they also may feel nostalgia particular to missing their cultural heritage or country of origin.(9) In 2011, Verizon launched “Cine Nostalgia” as part of its FiOS TV channels. This channel is a 24-hour channel featuring the best movies from Mexico with an emphasis on the 1930s to 1960s; a period of time considered the “Golden Era” of Mexican filmmaking. In 2012, it added sister channel “Cine Estelar,” which included Mexican film hits from the 1960s through the present.(10) By continuing to leverage the nostalgia trend in marketing, social, branded entertainment programs, and even programming, brands will continue to build strong bonds with fans over time.


  1. LePage, Evan. (2014, March). “Why Nostalgia Is An Effective Marketing Strategy, Explained By Science.” Hootsuite.
  2. Fromm, Jeff. (2014, July). “How Urban Outfitters, Nickelodeon and Pepsi use nostalgia to market to millennials.” The Business Journals.
  3. Leahey, Colleen. (2014, May). “Throwback Thursday: The psychology behind its success.” Fortune.
  4. Fromm, Jeff. (2014, July). “How Urban Outfitters, Nickelodeon and Pepsi use nostalgia to market to millennials.” The Business Journals.
  5. Dilbert, Ryan. (2014, January). “Examining the Role of Nostalgia in WWE Programming.” Bleacher Report.
  6. Elliot, Stuart. (2014, June). “Selling With Nostalgia, Post-Boomer.” The New York Times.
  7. Goldman, Eric. (2014, July). “FXX’s Plans For The Simpsons Include a Marathon of Every Episode Ever and a Huge New App.” IGN News.
  8. “Seven Brands That Are Winning With Nostalgia.” (2013, May). AdWeek.
  9. Tagliani, Hernan. (2014, March). “5 Things to know if you want to sell to the Hispanic community.” The Business Journals.
  10. PR Newswire. (2011, November). “Verizon Launches ‘Cine Nostalgia,’ a Top Movie Channel for U.S. Hispanics.” Bloomberg.

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