Less Upfront Fun and Games for Nickelodeon This Year

Nickelodeon, whose annual upfront presentation was among the first signs of both the spring and the upfront season, will not be having its usual star studded event for buyers this year.

Instead, the top kids network will be having a series of more customized meetings with execs from media agencies and marketers looking to reach children and their parents.

Nick will also be joining parent company Viacom’s other networks in the Viacom President Dinners where top execs from MTV, Comedy Central and other channels meet with clients. Those dinners replaced individual events that some Viacom networks had held previously.

Holding glitzy upfront events is expensive and they are often poo-pooed by top media agency execs, leading some networks to question whether they remained an effective way to explain programming strategies, create marketing opportunities and generate upfront sales.

“We are taking a tailored approach this year in favor of more intimate, personalized experiences with a series of customized presentations that better reflect our conversations with clients and partners,” said Sean Moran, head of ad solutions for Viacom. “Nickelodeon will also continue to be a part of the Viacom Presidents Dinners as we have done over the past couple of years.”

Kicking off last year’s upfronts, Nickelodeon held its held its presentation in March at the Palace Theater where SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical had its one year. The Broadway show closed in September.

At that presentation long-time Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami touted her plan to combat falling ratings by creating more content for more platforms and introduced talent including John Cena and Nick Cannon.

Last year, Zarghami was replaced by Paramount exec Brian Robbins.

The kids upfront ad market has also changed. Not so long ago, the broadcast networks’ Saturday morning slate of kids shows was a big deal. But Nick, along with AT&T’s Cartoon Network and The Walt Disney Co.’s non-commercial Disney Channel now dominate viewing.

Kids have been spending more time streaming, games and other digital forms of entertainment, so the cable networks have been stressing co-viewing and the ability to reach both parents and their children.

That has helped lead to a more consolidated buying process. Instead of buying commercials aimed at kids early in upfront season and buying adults as summer approaches, most big companies are making all of their upfront commitments at one time. The networks have responded by making kids programming just another part of their corporate portfolios.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.