In Depth

Nickelodeon Pitches Twice the New Programming Hours Amid Ratings Decline -- Network Developing Projects for Brit Boy Band One Direction, 'X Factor' Singer Rachel Crow

By Jeanine Poggi Bio
Advertising Age

Nickelodeon used its upfront presentation to tout 650 hours of new programming, more than double the amount it presented last year, as it sought to counter a ratings decline and charges that its lineup has grown stale.

The channel also said it is developing projects for new talent including British pop group One Direction and young "X Factor" contestant Rachel Crow.

The Disney Channel passed Nickelodeon for the lead among 6-to-11-year-olds last year and tied it for No. 1 among 2-to-11-year-olds in February for the first time.

But Nickelodeon intends to protect its status as the leader among kids overall. "We have been the No. 1 network among all cable for 17 years and we are not planning on giving that up," President Cyma Zarghami said during the presentation at Lincoln Center in New York on Wednesday.

Nickelodeon went all-out to get executives and buyers excited, getting suits out of their seats to dance along to musical performances from acts such as Big Time Rush, stars of the Nick series by the same name; Gravity 5, from new show "How to Rock"; and Ms. Crow, one of the breakout faces from "The X Factor" on Fox. Nick Cannon presented his upcoming TV movie, "Rags."

"We are making Cinderella fly and fresh," Mr. Cannon said. "It's a reverse Cinderella story with some hip-hop flare."

And director Michael Bay showed a rough storyboard of his "Ninja Turtles" live-action movie, which Paramount Pictures -- a Nickelodeon sibling within Viacom -- plans to release after Nick begins a new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" animated series this fall.

Nickelodeon will have 300 new cartoon episodes alone, with "Legends of Korra," the highly anticipated spin-off of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," which will premiere on April 14. Other animation includes "Raving Rabbids," which is based on a video game; "Monsters vs. Aliens," based on the 2009 film; and "Robot & Monster."

"We have no intention to let Nickelodeon's recent ratings slip slow down creative momentum," Ms. Zarghami said.

Nickelodeon is hanging onto its aging "SpongeBob SquarePants," renewing the series and unveiling "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!" -- the network's first full-length, stop-motion animated special.

Live-action offerings include 26 episodes of the new series "Marvin, Marvin," featuring YouTube star Lucas Cruikshank, who will also appear in a short-form series called "Fred: The Show."

Nick viewers will also see new episodes of "iCarly" and "Big Time Rush," among other shows.

The network will also have 80 one-hour episodes of "Hollywood Heights," based on a Televisa telenovela. Omnipresent actor James Franco has agreed to appear in several episodes. And Nickelodeon is reviving the 1990s game show "Figure It Out."