Kids Would Rather Watch Than Surf: Nick

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NEW YORK -Television usage among kids is up and the Internet has failed to erode that young viewership this year, according to research conducted by Nickelodeon.

The network last week unveiled that finding and nine others about "Kids in 2000" at a press briefing on kids' ratings in general and its performance in particular.

Despite increased competition, Nick will finish the fourth quarter and the year as the No. 1-rated basic cable network among kids and adults alike for total day. It racked up its highest audience levels ever.

At the breakfast session, Nick general manager Cyma Zarghami offered the data on kids and spelled out 10 highlights from the overall childrens' TV marketplace in 2000-which cable continued to dominate.

Nick had plenty of reasons to spotlight its 2000 ratings. The network has now been ranked No. 1 on a 24-hour basis for five straight years. It will finish 2000 with a 1.5 total-day household rating, or 1.2 million homes, up 4 percent over last year.

And for a fifth consecutive year, Nick in 2000 will be the No.1- rated cable network on a so-called "kid-day" basis. It posted a 4.3 rating among kids ages 2 to 11, followed by Cartoon Network with a 2.5, Disney Channel with a 1.8 and Fox Family Channel with a 0.5 rating.

Despite the fact that Internet access has become increasingly common, more kids are watching larger amounts of TV, according to Zarghami.

For 2000, in fact, TV-usage levels among kids 2 to 11 reached their highest levels since 1994. Kids logged more hours in front of the TV set-18 hours and 38 minutes a week-than in the past six years.

There is no shortage of programming for kids to watch. More than 50 new childrens' shows launched in 2000, including almost a dozen "anime" properties. And several new preschool lineups debuted on Saturday morning in 2000, such as Nick Jr. on CBS and Nelvana's block on PBS.

In an unusual twist for kids' programming, the broadcast networks this year also managed to draw in children with genres such as reality and game shows, in the form of Survivor
, WWF Smackdown
and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,
according to Nick's research.

The Pokémon
rage seems to have hit its peak and is in decline, Zarghami said. The animated show on The WB Television Network hit its high point in March after a five-month reign, and has suffered steady ratings declines and time-slot losses since April, according to Nick.

In that environment, cable's dominance in the kids marketplace is growing, Nick's research found. Cable now accounts for 87 percent of the kids' GRPs, or gross ratings points, compared with 70 percent five years ago.

The distribution of kid-targeted cable networks continued to grow in 2000. Nick is now in 79 million homes, up 4 percent from last year. Disney Channel has grown 30 percent, to 68 million homes, while its Toon Disney spin-off is up 17 percent, to 17.4 million homes. Cartoon Network saw its carriage grow 11 percent, increasing to 68 million homes.

Cartoon has enjoyed a gangbuster ratings year in 2000. It will rank third for the year in primetime with a 1.8 rating, up 13 percent versus 1999.

In total day, Cartoon's 1.1 rating-an 8 percent rise-puts it in a three-way tie for second place with TBS Superstation and Lifetime Television.

Asked how the slowing ad-sales environment will affect the kids' market, Zarghami said Nick's sales force has been cultivating new categories for children, such as car makers like Ford Motor Corp. and computer companies like Gateway 2000 Inc.

"We are working hard to expand the pie," which may help buffer Nick from the softening market, she said.

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