Atlanta Along with kids' educational channel Noggin,
Nickelodeon will debut two additional networks Nickelodeon Games & Sports and
Nick Too in January, as part of MTV Networks' 10-pack of digital services.
Games & Sports' schedule will feature Nick's classic
game shows, such as Global Guts, Double Dare, Wild & Crazy Kids
and Figure It Out. Nick Too will offer East and West Coast digital feeds of the
existing Nick network. Time-shifted versions of Nick are already available on
Nick made its announcement at the National Show here, where
a variety of programmers besides MTVN were eagerly pitching digital networks with imminent
At the show, Discovery Communications Inc. set June 30 as
the launch date for its two new digital networks, Discovery Wings Channel and Discovery
Health Channel. Lifetime Television's new movie channel, Lifetime Movie Network, is slated
for a June 29 debut. And Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. just rolled out American Movie
Classics spinoff AMC's American Pop, which will become a digital-video network later this
year, on the World Wide Web.
On the show floor, E! Entertainment Television was showing
off its new Style network, aimed for analog and digital carriage. Recovery Network
described plans for a digital network next year. And even C-SPAN has plans for digital
networks covering different slices of public affairs on the burner.
Commercial-free Noggin, a joint venture between Nick and
Children's Television Workshop, will be the flagship of Nick's digital networks. Nick
studied long and hard about what its other digital services should be, according to Nick
president Herb Scannell.
"We tested a bunch of ideas, and games and sports came
out on top," Scannell said. "One of the things that kids universally love is to
play. This is not about being ESPN Jr."
Games & Sports "out of the gate" will be
mainly library product, according to Scannell. But there will be original programming, as
well, including new series Renford Rejects, about the coming-of-age of members of a
kids' soccer team. Games & Sports will also air live segments and new programs
originating from Nickelodeon Studios Florida, the network's production studio at Universal
Studios Florida in Orlando, Fla.
There are also plans to do programming that incorporates
electronic games on Games & Sports, Scannell said.
Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer Summer Sanders, host of Figure
It Out, will serve as commissioner of Games & Sports, much in the way that Dick
Van Dyke served as chairman of Nick at Nite, Scannell said. Sanders will serve as honorary
spokeswoman for the network, and she will participate in both programming and promotional
"This is a woman who is a tremendous athlete in her
own right, and she is very active with kids," Scannell said. "I love the idea of
a woman leading a channel for sports. Both boys and girls love to play games."
Games & Sports will also offer Nick the opportunity to
do partnerships with kids' sports leagues on the local level, like Pop Warner baseball, as
well as doing tie-ins with professional-sports leagues on projects involving kids.
"All of the leagues have come to Nick at one time or
another," Scannell said.
The four Nick digital channels, as well as the six-network
"The Suite" from MTV: Music Television and VH1, will be part of a package of 10
channels that MTVN will offer on a single transponder. Noggin and M2: Music Television
will also be available as stand-alone channels, for both analog and digital carriage. The
Suite will roll out at the end of July.
As for Nick Too, having digital East and West Coast feeds
is especially valuable for Nick, which is dayparted with a preschool Nick Jr. block in the
early morning and with off-network vintage programs in the evening as Nick at Nite,
according to Scannell.
During an National Show panel, "Digital Programming:
The New Frontier," MTVN president Mark Rosenthal and Rainbow president Josh Sapan
both said there is revenue to be generated by digital networks, particularly if tie-ins
with the Web are created.
"There is a single revenue stream [for digital
networks]: license fees," Rosenthal said. "And these channels can live on
license fees. Advertising and Madison Avenue are not interested in channels that have less
than 20 million viewers."
For his part, Sapan said, links between digital networks
and the Internet such as opportunities for electronic commerce and online shopping
can help digital channels to bring in money.
Added Rosenthal, "The Internet is like cable
television on steroids. There are tremendous ties between digital offerings and what you
do online ... And that will further drive cable modems."
Far less bullish on digital networks was panelist Tom
Rogers, president of NBC Cable. "I can't say that I've seen anything for a digital
channel to be viable in and of itself," he said.
Susan Swain, executive vice president of C-SPAN and
moderator of the digital-programming panel, said the network's board has already approved
plans to create three C-SPAN multiplexes. The first, C-SPAN3, already has some carriage as
C-SPAN Extra. Plans for C-SPAN4 and C-SPAN5, which would focus on international and
business/the economy, respectively, are still in the works, with no definite launch date.