Following on the success of its three-hour Sunday night TEENick block, Nickelodeon is ramping up its live-action efforts by renewing a trio of series and making development deals for two new shows.
The movement is part of the channel’s plan to continue targeting tweens, kids ages 9 to 14, who are heavily sought by advertisers.
In September the network launched the live-action Sunday evening comedies “Unfabulous” (starring Emma Roberts, the 13-year-old niece of Julia Roberts) and “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” about life in junior high. Both shows cultivated a more grown-up, “Malcolm in the Middle”-style sensibility than typical Nick fare. The shows ranked as basic cable’s most popular shows in the tween demographic in September, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The network has ordered second seasons of both (20 episodes for “Ned,” 13 for “Unfabulous”), as well as a pickup on its sophomore live-action series “Romeo!” (13 episodes).
In addition, Nick has a development deal for “Rice & Beans,” another junior high series, created by Vince Cheung and Ben Montanio (“Married … With Children,” “The Steve Harvey Show”) and based on their childhood friendship.
Also, the network is developing “The Badmans,” a live-action show about the 14-year-old daughter of a retired superhero mom and villain dad that is created by Steve Marmel (Nickelodeon’s “The Fairly OddParents,” “Danny Phantom”).
“Kids have television trends the same as adults,” said Marjorie Cohn, executive VP of development and original programming for the Viacom-owned network. “And for a while animation was king. But kids also want to see kids who look like them, and now live action is back and bigger than ever.”
Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon, said she will eventually consider running “Unfabulous” and “Ned” after school on weekdays, once enough episodes are available.
The TEENick block is seen as a potential stepping stone to graduate viewers from Nickelodeon to the network’s spinoff teen network, The N. Next year the network will debut “Zoey 101,” starring Jamie-Lynn Spears (Britney Spears’ younger sister) and “The Power Strikers,” about an all-girl soccer team.
Competititors Cartoon Network and Disney Channel are also pursuing the tween demographic with live-action shows. But Nick leads in both tweens and overall viewers, having been the top-ranked basic cable network in those categories for nine years.
Disney Channel’s freshman series “Phil of the Future” has made a strong showing, however, and the network picked up the program for a second season earlier this month.