Nick Jr. on CBS looms large

Mar 12, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Nickelodeon has a big bargaining chip at this year’s kids upfront table: Its Nick Jr. on CBS Saturday morning block is now open for sales.
An outgrowth of Nickelodeon parent company Viacom’s merger last year with CBS, Nick Jr. on CBS’s program lineup includes “Blue’s Clues,” “Little Bill” and “Dora the Explorer.” Cyma Zarghami, executive vice president and general manager of Nickelodeon, said Nick Jr.’s new animated series “Bob the Builder,” which launched in January, could also eventually make it over to the CBS block.
Nickelodeon’s CBS Nick Jr. block has altered the distribution of kids Saturday morning viewership, siphoning away viewers from CBS’s broadcast competition.
Season-to-date viewership on CBS’s Saturday morning block among kids 2 to 11 is up 171 percent over the same period last year. Meanwhile, ABC, Fox and The WB have all seen their kids 2 to 11 viewership dive between 14 percent and 27 percent.
“We know that both Fox and The WB are eroding on Saturday morning,” Ms. Zarghami said. “So some of it must be coming from there. The tide has changed again.”
CBS’s Nick Jr. block doesn’t appear to be hurting Nickelodeon’s own Saturday morning numbers. “We are still No. 1 on Saturday morning with kids 2 to 11,” Ms. Zarghami said.
Nickelodeon credits the success of Nick Jr. on CBS to filling a Saturday kids program need that wasn’t being met.
“I don’t think anybody targets kids 2 to 5 years old specifically on Saturday morning,” Ms. Zarghami said. “In typical Nickelodeon fashion, this was a way to serve an underserved audience.”
Most industry experts praise Nickelodeon’s takeover of CBS’s Saturday block.
“It’s been successful, and I think everyone knew it would be,” said one media buyer who requested anonymity. “You take something like that and you open it up on a Saturday morning not only to households that like it but to ones that never had a chance to see it before, and it’s going to do well.”
“Nick Jr. is one of the reasons you’re seeing more kids viewing on Saturday morning,” said Debra Solomon, vice president and director of media research for J. Walter Thompson. “You’re getting some of these younger kids watching CBS. So [Nick Jr. on CBS] is adding points.”
Nickelodeon, which has run Nick Jr. on CBS commercial-free since its fall launch, started selling scatter market ads for first and second quarter last month. So far it has cut deals with Ford Motor Co., Tootsie Roll, Microgames and Disney Home Video.
For upfront, Nickelodeon said it will sell CBS Nick Jr. inventory separately from Nickelodeon’s weekday Nick Jr. block.
“We’re not roadblocking it,” said Sue Danaher, executive vice president and general sales manager for Nickelodeon. “They’re two separate entities that will be sold by the same sales force. There could be a Nickelodeon package and a CBS package on the table at the same time. But we’re not tying them together as a roadblocking opportunity.”
But some media buyers aren’t crazy about Nickelodeon’s plan to sell its Nick Jr. on CBS as a separate time block.
“They’re just trying to isolate it,” said Shelly Hirsch, kids media buyer and president of Summit Media Group. “They’re saying, `If you want Nick Jr. on Saturday mornings, you can buy it on its own, but you are going to pay a premium.’
“I told Nickelodeon I don’t mind being in it as long as it is part of the rotation. But to isolate a specific budget and designate it for that, that’s not for me or my clients. Now that you have more kids inventory to sell, you should be charging me less, not more.”