Denying that it was reacting to Fox Family Channel's
planned Aug. 15 relaunch, Nickelodeon will make its push deeper into primetime, airing
kids' shows until 9 p.m., also starting in August.
At an upfront presentation in New York last week, Nick
general manager Cyma Zharghami disclosed that the extra half-hour of primetime kids'
programming, from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., would launch in August.
Back in November, Nick announced its plans to extend its
primetime kids' programming beginning this fall -- not this summer. August is also
the month when Fox Family Channel will be transformed into a daytime kids' network.
Fox Kids Worldwide purchased The Family Channel for $1.9 billion last year.
A Nick spokesman denied that the debut date for the
half-hour primetime extension reflected any change in Nick's plans, or that it was a
reaction to Fox Family Channel's relaunch.
'It's nothing really new ... fall, August, if you
want to split hairs, that's fine,' the Nick spokesman said. 'We
haven't changed anything.'
He added that the primetime extension is slated to start in
late August, and that if Nick was looking to react to Fox Family, it would have made the
move in July, to beat Fox to the punch. Zharghami wasn't available for comment.
During the upfront, Nick executives, including president
Herb Scannell and senior vice president of ad sales Sam Moser, weren't shy about
acknowledging the facts that they were facing new competition this year and that they were
being asked how their network will stay on top.
'Our competitors are taking aim at us,' Scannell
said. 'If our success attracted competitors, I'm not surprised.'
Nick will remain the top-rated cable network and dominant
kids' channel by continuing to take risks, Scannell added. Moser added that according
to data collected by Paul Kagan Associates Inc., Nick is now No. 1 among cable networks in
terms of the national ad revenue that it generates, even surpassing ESPN.
Sumner Redstone, chairman of Nick parent Viacom Inc.,
rarely attends Nick's upfronts, but he was present last week, as was Tom Freston, CEO
of MTV Networks Inc. When Fox Family Channel held its upfront in January, News Corp.
chairman Rupert Murdoch was in attendance. News Corp. is a partner in Fox Kids with Saban