Nickelodeon Buyout Brings Noggin In-House

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After four years of co-ownership, Nickelodeon has purchased Sesame Workshop's 50 percent interest in the pre-school and tween-targeted Noggin digital cable network.

The deal, announced (without terms) last Wednesday, gives Nickelodeon parent MTV Networks full control of the burgeoning digital channel while maintaining a content production relationship with the prolific kids programming production outfit, Nickelodeon, TV Land and TNN president Herb Scannell said.

Noggin general manager Tom Ascheim will report to Scannell.

Sesame Workshop will continue to produce new programming for Noggin, but it has the ability to pull signature series Sesame Street
from the service in three years, said the network.

"After three years, we'll figure out where to go from there," Scannell said. "It's a good relationship, and we will continue to determine what we can do together."

Sesame will continue to produce the new interactive series Play With Me Sesame
for Noggin through 2009.

MUPPET LOVE

Sesame Workshop also produces several other shows for the 25 million- subscriber network, including Sponk!,
a comedy series that helps kids develop their ability to solve problems; Tiny Planets, a comic adventure series; and Two Down Under, an Internet educational program.

"I'd love to get another Sesame Street
derivative — I think we showed that there's a lot of life in those characters and it actually freshens them," Scannell said. "We certainly want to remain an outlet for their product."

The deal provides Sesame, a nonprofit organization, with much-needed cash to develop content for both domestic and international distribution. The group, once known as the Children's Television Workshop, has a longstanding distribution relationship with PBS stations, as well as a digital-cable network, PBS Kids.

"What we'll do is go back to what we do best: developing content," Sesame Workshop vice president of communications Ellen Lewis said. "Part of the deal is to develop original programming for Noggin, as well as other outlets."

STILL AD-FREE

Noggin's daytime preschool programming block, as well as its tween-targeted block, "The N," will remain commercial-free for the foreseeable future, according to Scannell.

No major programming changes are expected for the network, which airs several off-Nickelodeon shows, such as Gullah Gullah Island, and library episodes of such current series as Blues Clues
, he added.

Scannell said the network is the highest-penetrated network of MTV's digital suite. Outright ownership of Noggin will give the programmer more flexibility in positioning the service within the MTV Networks stable, he said.

"Having a wholly-owned position in Noggin gives us the ability to think through how we complement and supplement our other channels," he said.

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