Nick Sets New Look, Interactivity, Shows

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Nickelodeon this week will unveil its first new on-air look in more than a decade.

The kids' network also slated three new shows and one acquired series.

Nick also intends to seize on ABC's cancellation of its family-oriented Friday-night "T.G.I.F." block by unveiling the interactive "U Pick Nick" and adding one hour to its primetime slate. It will cut an hour of vintage Nick at Nite sitcoms like Happy Days and Bewitched.

In the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. stretch on U Pick Nick Fridays, Nickelodeon will urge viewers to vote for four half-hour shows, starting Sept. 15, at the Nick.com Web site, Nickelodeon said executive vice president and general manager Cyma Zarghami.

"We are our own best marketing tool," Zarghami added, saying Nick will promote U Pick Nick on its own air, its Web site and in Nickelodeon magazine.

Since early summer, Nick's 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday span has been occupied by "U Pick Nicktoons." Such interactive surveys during the day attract, on average, "a couple of hundred thousand kids."

Nickelodeon spent about $1 million on the new on-air look. Zarghami said it was needed to help differentiate Nick from "a lot of competition and copycats."

Zarghami said the color scheme would augment the signature orange "splat" with black, white, butter yellow and mint green, with perhaps more colors later. Nick will also include still images of its signature characters and humorous sound effects.

The on-air revamp will first appear in program teases, credit rolls and show bumpers, and expand throughout September.

Despite intense competition, Zarghami said, the network enjoyed strong ratings growth this summer. Building on that, Nick slated a batch of new series for early evening and primetime.

Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky & The Brain will be stripped Monday through Saturday at 6 p.m. Nick bought all 78 half-hour episodes from Warner Bros. Animation.

Other off-net cartoons acquired in its $20 million deal with Warner are the 99-episode Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, due on Nick in spring 2001, and the 102-episode Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures, set for September 2001.

Nick's latest live-action series is Noah Knows Best, about a 14-year-old New Yorker. Created by Tested Ladder Entertainment's Ken Lipman (The Secret World of Alex Mack), Noah bows Oct. 7 at 8:30 p.m.

Pelswick starts Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. Described as "groundbreaking" and "fearlessly funny," Pelswick focuses on a 13-year-old in a wheelchair. Syndicated cartoonist John Callahan, a quadriplegic, developed the show.

And Klasky Csupo Inc. (Rugrats) developed As Told by Ginger, a cartoon that bows Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. Ginger is a 12-year-old who "tiptoes between.the cool and the uncool" at junior-high school.

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