Ramble: Nickelodeon Expands through Separation

Nickelodeon is expected to announce today that Noggin, the daytime commercial-free preschool network, and the N, a nighttime advertising-supported network for adolescents and teenagers, will become 24-hour stand-alone networks and no longer share channel space. The split, planned for the end of the year, will resonate particularly in the intense competition for the 9- to 14-year-olds and 12- to 17-year-olds, whose loyalties are now divided among Walt Disney’s Disney Channel — home of the series “Hannah Montana” and the powerhouse “High School Musical” and a sequel that is being shown on Friday — and ABC Family; Nickelodeon’s Nick, MTV and the N; and the broadcast network the CW, among others.

(P.s. Excuse my article interruption…)

I just wanted to point out how interesting I find this previous paragraph to be…

It “seems” like they’re splitting age groups, right? But really– they’re splitting content-engages. I’m not sure if that’s an appropriate term “content engagers“. The content on CW/ABC Disney is QUITE advanced & challenging in comparison with the happy-go-lucky content on Disney & Nickelodeon. What I would like to see– is research done regarding the content engagers for N & CW in comparison to content engagers for CW & MTV. The N & MTV are aiming at the same type of social challenge & sex/drama-enthusiasts… but if you asked someone who watched MTV (in that age group) if they watch The N… what would their answer be? (Me thinks it would be a self conscious no-ish). And then ask someone who watches The N if they watch MTV, they’ll have the “yes” quickly pop out.

I’m really interested in the social perceptions of The N as it goes more CW/ABC Family. I can’t wait to see if there is a reaction, or a social movement, etc.

By inhabiting its own space, the N, the five-year-old network whose marquee program is “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” will become the only cable network specifically aimed to the age groups, potentially giving it an advantage over its rivals, whose schedules also include programs for other demographic groups. The network will use the channel space currently occupied by Nickelodeon’s Games and Sports, which will become a broadband channel and may align itself more closely with local community sports.

A broadband channel, you say? Innnnnteresting… 😀

Splitting the networks has been considered “for years,” said Cyma Zarghami, president, Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group at Viacom, commenting in an interview that the two “are stuck together a little bit awkwardly; there’s somewhat of a disconnect between the preschool audience and the teen audience at night.”

Amen to that. Somehow I actually that this had already happened. MAN! I miss DirectTv.

By dividing into distinct channels, Ms. Zarghami said, the two brands will make it easier for viewers to find what they want whenever they want it. The networks, she added, also hope to slightly broaden their audiences, by drawing more parents to Noggin in the evening hours and more 9- to
14-year-olds to the N during the day.
**The median age for the mostly female viewers of the N is 16.**

I am really happy they’re honest about their median age… either that or I’m really happy to learn their target demographic. I wasn’t so keen on the idea that it was the 12/13 year old (which they lovingly kept content on Nickelodeon’s weekend/evening programming for TeenNick). I wonder what this will do for Noggin & Noggin’s age competition with Nick & Nicktoons. I realize the content is a little different… but they’re kinda aiming at the same type of kid (granted, Nick is more universal for kids/tweens, and Nicktoons is more for the cartoon/gaming 12 boy/girl-by-default). Sadly, this article doesn’t talk that much about their plans with Noggin.

The Disney Channel, with a tween-focused prime-time lineup, and ABC Family, aimed in prime time toward older teenagers with programs like “Kyle XY” and “Greek,” will still have an important leg up on the N after the split: Those networks are available in some 92 million homes with cable, compared with 60 million for the N, and both roundly trump the N in ratings in prime time, when the most viewers are available.

This is totally true. We have problems with kids & Nicktoons Network. They’re aware of properties on these ‘special’ channels, but unable to watch them. They can find content online, but the frustration is still there. It’d be REALLY interesting (from a social observation angle) if The N opened up on all cable channels– where would the kids go? <CW, MTV, ABCFamily? What would the competition be like? Etc.

Indeed, some industry observers questioned how many more tween viewers the N would attract by expanding into what are essentially school hours, with reruns of programs including “Drake and Josh” and “The Amanda Show.”

The Disney-owned networks tend toward more upbeat fare than the N, which Ms. Zarghami described as a place for viewers “who are exploring adulthood without jumping in with both feet.” The top-rated high school series “Degrassi,” which plans its first two-hour TV movie for next spring, is “the quintessential anxiety show for 15-year-olds,” she said, adding, “Disney’s not about angst.”

This is a concern. ZOINKS.

They want to arrange programming like ABC Family’s Greek (check out Amy J’s thought provoking post at Shaping Youth) with re-runs of tween favorite (and tween heart-throbs): JOSH & DRAKE?! Zoinks again.

Hmm… thinking back: Was there programming for teens/tweens when WE were young that showed so much drinking/debauchery?

I remember family shows like “Mr. Belvedere” when the older brother went out and drank too much and his head hurt the next day (that’s when I learned about ‘alcohol + over indulging = supposed massive headache’, thanks Mr. B). I remember Three’s Company hanging at the bar & their comments alluding to drunk debauchery… but I never remember
programming directed at youth/upper teens that CIRCULATED (season long) about Sex & drunken debauchery and so on… like some of the programming for the upper teen market.

Oh wait. FLIP FLOP. What am I talking about? 90210! Dawson’s Creek! MY SO-CALLED LIFE!!! Etc. Naturally, they were going straight out for the teen market on family based public channels (WGN/UPN/Fox). Will there be more of a “personal connection” since these programs are directed to their NETWORK’S audience???

I would LOVE to see research on teen’s view of their life vs the television shows they’re surrounded by.

Ex. Laguna seems to have given credit & value to being a slutty, spoiled teen. That’s the “norm”, or is it? Yikes. All i know is– I visited a high school at the end of this past school year, and WAAABAM… not only was the Laguna influence everywhere, they OPENLY ADMITTED it’s influence.

I’m just interested in the development of youth social interaction as pop culture continues to grow in the many new levels of engagement. Instant gratification, instant friend association, instantly spoiled youth, instant progression of peer pressures. Or, is that exaggerating? Am I being to sensitive? Am I so desenstized by my late 20’s that I can’t even tell the difference of WHAT MAKES someone desenstivied? Can I see what is cool vs too much ‘cool’? Am I concentrating on things that are actually worrisome vs or am I overbearing? Am I missing the point of necessary exploration vs unnecessary responsibility? Am I being paranoid? Could be.

She played down the notion of any heated battle for advertising dollars, noting that the Disney Channel features commercial sponsorships, not ads, although ABC Family does accept advertising. Rich Ross, president of the Disney Channel Worldwide, said in an interview that he does not expect the N’s expansion to have much effect on his channel. ABC Family executives declined to comment.

I loved the bolded phrase above. “Sponsorships” Very unique spin on it. Cool.

Perhaps a bigger challenge for all these is remaining relevant to viewers tempted by the wonders of the Internet, iTunes, cellphones and video gaming. But Mr. Ross said that “tweens
actually have proven to be a very viable audience to reach on linear television. They are very loyal; they are not as fickle as people think they are.” Teenagers, he said, are tougher to reach, once they are unleashed by parents into the digital world.

Amen to the loyal tween comment. They LOVE to explore content, stories, brands, etc. Goes back to my “collage” theory. In an awkward time of discovery & self expression exploration… it is ALWAYS easier to claim who you are by identifying yourself with a popular brand/style, etc.

To fill in the extra time it will have, the N has acquired reruns of the former Fox hit “That 70s Show,” which ABC Family is to begin running in 2008 as well.

New original shows for the N include its first comedies, “About a Girl,” which follows a college sophomore living with four male roommates, and another with the working title “Interns,” from the creators of its series “South of Nowhere.” The half-hour “Gigantic” will take a fictional look at teenagers growing up in the shadow of Hollywood stars.

This is GREAT programming. Sounds like fun. Not necessarily the type of shows I would want to stick next to …say… “The Amanda Show” Sigh. It would be GREAT and FINE and WONDERFUL as long as a larger percentage of parents knew what their kids watched, participated in it, and discussed it… instead of using TV & Brands as trusted babysitters.

I guess that’s what it comes down to… Parents do you know what your tweens/teens are watching? Have you watched what they enjoy? Have you seen how it influences, or doesn’t influence, educate or invades your child’s life? Do you take responsibility for their media consumption, or do you expect Brands/Networks/Programs to do such?

Maybe my paranoia comes from the fact that I’m predicting a yellow flag, and negatively expecting parents to be either lazy or over-bearing/irrational. Sigh. I should stop doing that.

And because a cable network is nothing without its own reality show these days, the N plans its first one, with the working title “Queen Bees.” (A previous working title was “Mean Girl Makeover.”)

This actually sounds like a brilliant idea for any age. Cool. (Take THAT Laguna-skanks & Sweet Sixteen Dramatic snots! <– even though I adore your melodrama… oh the quandary of it all, lol)

The split will provide new competition for PBS Kids Sprout as well, which has plenty of daytime rivals, but until now has been the only 24-hour preschool channel. That network, a joint venture of PBS, Comcast, HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop, has focused its original programming efforts on the 6 to 9 p.m. dinnertime and pre-bedtime block, when Noggin goes off the air and the N begins.

PBS Kids Sprout runs limited commercials meant for parents and caregivers between its programs; Noggin relies only on sponsorships. When it expands to the evening hours, Noggin will begin directing some of the
material between the shows to parents, but the programs themselves will remain oriented to children, who “we know are staying up late,” Ms. Zarghami said.

A Coming of Age at Nickelodeon: Noggin and the N Will Get Their Own Channels – New York Times

You know what I’m realizing? It’s very hard to separate my adoration as a TV-CONSUMER, an Online Community Manager for youth (aka online care giver, lol… seriously sigh, silly tater tots), and an eager brand/marketing trend spotter.

There are so many exciting new ways to engage the end consumer now… and so many new opportunities for entertainment & demographics… and yet, my teacher/camp counselor “yellow flag” continually pops up and ruins the fun of it all with worries and forecasts and big questions.

Well… that’s what this blog is for, isn’t it? Stumbling roughly through this amazing avenue of entertainment engagement.

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