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Cox to Help Nick Play

Nickelodeon expanded its Worldwide Day of Play initiative, which this year includes a corporatewide commitment from Cox Communications to support the public-affairs initiative with local events.

Now in its third year, the pro-social program urges children to get up from in front of the PC and TV screens in favor of physical activity.

The network will go dark Sept. 30 from noon-3 p.m. to promote the effort. Nickelodeon’s digital networks, Nicktoon Networks and Nick G.A.S., will join that blackout this year, while TurboNick, the broadband platform at (, will stream health and wellness messages.

Lara Salamano, senior director of affiliate marketing for the Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group, said the company is very excited about Cox’s support of the program.

For instance, the operator’s Orange County, Calif., cluster will host an event in San Juan Capistrano. An estimated 2,500 children are expected at that event, which will include stations focusing on characters created for Nickelodeon’s Go Healthy Challenge.

Kids attending will find Chris, the activist, who provides information on how kids can advocate for healthier lifestyles in their communities; Ayesha, the “health warrior,” who is challenged to fit fitness activities into her busy schedule; Bianca, the “emerging athlete,” who is seeking sports as a fitness component; and Wes, the “barrier breaker,” who incents his family to live and eat healthier.

The local promotions are strictly pro-social with no ad sales components. One affiliate wanted a commercial gym to have a station at an event, but the network discouraged that, Salamano said.

Affiliates are provided with a tool kit to give them ideas for events, such as a locally sponsored sack race or jump-rope competition.

Cable affiliates aren’t the only supporters of the campaign. American Heart Association chapters in 120 cities will hold events, reaching an estimated 15,000 kids, while 255 Boys & Girls Clubs of America in the United States and internationally will host activities related to the program.

Following the network’s blackout Sept. 30, Nickelodeon will program interstitials on the four healthy challenge role models during programming from 3 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Then, it will air the finale of its 2006 Go Healthy Challenge.

As another component of the pro-social campaign, Nickelodeon sponsored the Let’s Just Play Giveaway. Children log onto to describe why play is important in their community and to nominate a local program that needs funding.

Since August 2005, Nickelodeon has provided $1.4 million to local schools and other community organizations. It will award another $400,000 to 70 recipients in the next three months.

“Kids are really aware of this issue and they take advantage of the money for ways to play,” Salamano said, noting that kids have asked everything for sports balls for physical-education classes to the construction of local bike paths.