Nickelodeon is putting into action a game plan to remain the most popular kid on cable’s preschool playground.
Looking to solidify its dominant preschool-content brands while keeping new competitors at bay, Nickelodeon Television’s toddler-targeted programming blocks — Nick Jr. and Noggin — this summer will unveil an aggressive multiplatform content-distribution strategy aiming at target viewers through a variety of technologies.
The new-media initiative will include launching a new Noggin-branded, preschool video-on-demand service to complement its current Nick On Demand, which offers some Nick Jr. programming.
|<p>Nick Shows Kids’ Hits</p>||<p>Top 10 shows among kids ages 2 to 5 (ratings/impressions)</p>|
Dora the Explorer (Nick Jr.)
SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
Fairly Odd Parents (Nickelodeon)
Blue’s Clues (Nick Jr.)
Backyardigans (Nick Jr.)
LazyTown (Nick Jr.)
Max & Ruby (Nick Jr.)
Miss Spiders (Nick Jr.)
Little Bill (Nick Jr.)
'DIEGO’ ON DVD
It will also debut the highly anticipated spinoff of popular show Dora the Explorer on VOD, a month before the show bows on Nickelodeon. And Go Diego, Go will launch a new Noggin series simultaneously on both networks, and on the Internet.
Nickelodeon hopes to reach more of its core audience through other platforms while subtly firing a shot across the bow of competing upstart services from Comcast Corp. and Cartoon Network.
“The overwhelming dominance of Nick Jr. and Noggin in both the analog and digital arena allows us to be leaders as we move into new ways to program to kids,” Nickelodeon TV president Cyma Zarghami said in an interview.
Nickelodeon TV’s dominant presence in the preschool television arena is well-established.
Nick TV is currently the most prolific distributor of pre-school programming, offering over 112 hours a week of original preschool programming across its Nick Jr., Noggin and “Nick on CBS” Saturday-morning lineups — more than double that of competitors “Playhouse Disney,” the Disney Channel preschool block (49 hours) and PBS (38 hours).
Nick TV original shows also account for 10-most-watched shows among kids 2 to 5 to date in 2005, according to Nick.
Overall, Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon programming has helped the network to a decade-long streak of consecutive first-place ratings finishes among basic-cable networks on a 24-hour basis.
Nick’s preschool dominance will be put to the test, though, later this year, when Cartoon Network launches its “Tickle U.” That preschool-programming block will air on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Cartoon block will feature a collection of funny, animated series designed to encourage kids to laugh and have an optimistic view of themselves and the world around them.
Early next year Nick will also have to contend with the linear network launch of PBS Kids Sprout, a collaboration of Comcast and children’s content companies PBS, HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop.
A “PBS Kids Sprout On Demand” service, featuring popular shows Sesame Street, Barney & Friends, Caillou, Bob the Builder and Dragon Tales, is currently up and running as part of Comcast’s free VOD service.
“It is an incredibly competitive business right now and we always have to look over our shoulders,” said Brown Johnson, executive creative director of Nickelodeon Preschool Television.
But Katz Television Media Group vice president and director of programming Bill Carroll said any Nickelodeon competitor has a major uphill climb if it wants to eventually dominate the genre.
“It’s clear that they’re the market leader and it’s clear that they’ve established that position and do everything reasonably possible to maintain that,” he said. “If they can maintain the leading position in content, then they’ll be able to maintain their leadership position.”
Zarghami, who oversees the 89 million-subscriber Nickelodeon and the 44 million-subscriber Noggin, said Nick’s multiplatform content strategy is more of an effort to better target its audience than to thwart competition. “Our goal has been to be everywhere kids are, and we want to deliver the appropriate content in the appropriate mediums so that it works.”
In a nod to a growing demand for kids-targeted VOD programming and to provide more flexibility for operators, Nick in August will launch a new VOD package based on its Noggin daytime preschool programming block, according to Zarghami.
Noggin’s “Huge and Fabulous” VOD package will offer a minimum of 17 hours of preschool programming with a 100% refresh rate each month. The package will join a smaller 6-hour Noggin sampling that Comcast currently offers.
The packages complement Nickelodeon’s Nick On Demand package, which offers 30 hours of programming, approximately half from the Nick Jr. programming lineup.
CHARTER DEAL DONE
Nick officials said Charter Communications Inc. will launch the new Noggin package in August, part of an overall deal between MTV Networks and the MSO. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Charter corporate marketing director for on demand and pay-per-view Robert Ladd said the package will help broaden the network’s free VOD content to its more than 1 million VOD-enabled subscribers.
The MSO currently offers a TVN Entertainment Corp.-packaged Kids On Demand offering, which provides a small percentage of pre-school programming.
“It helps round out a compelling program offering for our customers,” Ladd said. “Charter On Demand wants to bring compelling, interesting and unique content to our customers and this is another way for us to do that.”
Zarghami said the network is talking to other MSOs about the VOD package, but has yet to reach any deals.
Along with the VOD services, Nickelodeon TV will experiment with a number of multiplatform launches for several upcoming titles. Nick will bow the premiere episode for Go Diego, Go on Charter’s VOD service nearly a month before it appears on Nickelodeon.
An episode of the series, a spinoff of Dora the Explorer featuring the character’s male cousin, will bow exclusively on Charter VOD Aug. 7, according to Ladd.
A week later, the show will be streamed on the Nick Jr. Web site (www.nickjr.com), marking the site’s first foray into streaming a full-length episode. Nick will then make the show available to Noggin on Aug. 22.
Finally, the show will premiere on Nickelodeon in primetime Sept. 6 before settling into its regular Nick Jr. lineup the next day.
Along with the television series, Nick TV will jump into the wireless market with Diego-branded ring tones, video clips and other content available via Verizon Wireless and other wireless devices.
“It’s a great experiment, and it will be interesting to see how kids are using the different screens as a marketing platform,” Zarghami said. “I think that it is a toe into the world of multiple screens for kids that will hopefully give us a lot of learning but make it feel like it’s an exciting event as well.”
Zarghami said the network will also look to roadblock series premieres across various platforms to maximize potential viewership.
For example, Noggin’s new original music series Jack’s Big Music Show, a live action puppet-based show that will feature in-studio performances by popular children’s musicians, will bow on both Nick Jr. and Noggin on Sept. 12 before airing regularly in Noggin’s preschool block, she said.
To further extend the audience for its preschool offerings, Nickelodeon in August will bow a special episode of Nick Jr.’s series LazyTown in primetime.
“We’re trying to be innovative and creative in the way that we launch and promote programming and not try to come up with a set formula,” Zarghami said. Not a set formula, but a formulated plan to stay atop the preschool jungle gym.