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Nick Jr. joins CBS Saturdays

The merged CBS/Viacom has taken on Saturday mornings. As expected, CBS' struggling lineup is being revamped with Nickelodeon programming. For the first year, it will be commercial free.

Nick Jr., the children's cable network's weekday preschool lineup, will add Saturday morning in the fall. Six half-hour episodes of Nick Jr. series, including popular Blue's Clues, replaces CBS' lineup on Sept. 16. Two hours of the Nick Jr. block will air from 7 to 9 a.m. ET/PT; another hour, from 11 a.m. to noon. In between will be CBS News' The Saturday Early Show, which continues airing from 9 to 11 a.m. ET/PT.

"I think this is one of many synergistic moves that we are going to be making," says CBS Entertainment President Nancy Tellem.

CBS' current Saturday-morning lineup of animated series from Canadian producer Nelvana, will give way to the three hours of Nick Jr. programming. The two sides have agreed to a three-year deal to program Saturday mornings and have set up some elaborate cross-promotions.

Nickelodeon executives will handle ad sales for the three-hour CBS block, but they won't have much to do during the 2000-01 season. Nick Jr., which sells only four minutes of advertising time each hour, will use those four minutes on CBS only for cross-promotion and interstitials.

"Just like we did with TV Land,'' says Herb Scannell, Nickoledeon's chief. "We worked out the kinks, and this way with Nick Jr., we will be able to go to market with a track record as opposed to a speculative kind of thing." Nickelodeon didn't sell advertising on co-owned TV Land until it had reached 20 million subscribers.

The programming block: Blue's Clues at 7 a.m.; Dora the Explorer at 7:30; Little Bear at 8; and Little Bill at 8:30. After The Early Show, there's Franklin at 11 and Kipper at 11:30.