New York -- Continuing its commitment to diversity,
Nickelodeon unveiled a $100 million slate of nine new series last week, with four of the
shows featuring Hispanic talent either on-screen or behind the scenes.
"We want to reflect the world of kids and
Hispanics are a very relevant population for Nick," said Herb Scannell, president of
the No. 1-rated cable network.
At a press briefing here, he and Nick general manager Cyma
Zarghami noted that the network -- which will spend $200 million in total on programming
this year -- has had an ongoing commitment to diversity.
African Americans and Asian Americans are already featured
in fare such as Gullah GullahIsland and Little Bill. And new Asian
characters are going to be added to Rugrats next year, when the hit show celebrates
its 10th anniversary, officials said.
The Latino-themed series for the 2000-01 season include: Taina,a live-action show about a 14-year-old Puerto Rican teen attending a performing-arts
school in Manhattan; The Brothers Garcia, described as a "Latin TheWonder
Years,"from Si TV's Jeff Valdez, about a Mexican-American family in
San Antonio; Dora the Explorer, a Nick Jr. adventure series about a bilingual
l7-year-old Latina girl who lives inside a computer; and the animated Invader Zim,
created by comic-book artist and writer Jhonen Vasquez.
Scannell, noting that his mother is Puerto Rican, said,
"It makes me very proud to bring a lot more Hispanic talent on the screen and behind
Ellen Oppenheim, media director for Foote, Cone &
Belding, said Nick "is just being smart" in terms of its diversity strategy,
thinking ahead to maintain its kids' audience, since America's minority
populations are increasing.
At the session with reporters, Scannell also confirmed
plans for Nick Jr. preschool programming to air Saturday mornings on CBS this fall, with
ad time to be sold by Nick.
"For us, it will be a sixth day of Nick Jr.,"
Scannell said, adding that the specific lineup hasn't been set yet.
Nick and CBS Corp. -- which is acquiring Nick's
parent, Viacom Inc. -- will benefit from cross-promotions, according to Scannell.
Programming officials at several top-10 MSOs have beefed
about the idea of cable-exclusive programming such as Blue's Clues, which they
pay license fees for, going to their broadcast rival, CBS.
As for cable-operator reaction, Scannell said,
"We've had some initial feedback. The operator point of view is that in a
perfect world, everything would be exclusive to cable."
But, he added, "The way of the television world"
now is nonexclusivity, with shows such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and
Once and Again airing both on broadcast and cable within short windows.
Scannell maintained that both Nick and operators benefit by
the Nick Jr. block airing on CBS. "The value is that the Nick brand is going to get
some good marketing from the CBS platform," he said. "That value goes to the
As far as the slate of new shows, in addition to the
Hispanic fare, there is: Noah Knows Best,about West Sider Noah Beznick,
created by the co-creator of The Secret World of Alex Mack; As Told by Ginger,an animated series by Rugrats creators Klasky Csupo Inc.; Maggie and the
Ferocious Beast, a preschool show from Nelvana Ltd.; and two shows spun out of Oh
Yeah! Cartoons!, Chalk Zone and The Fairly Oddparents.
The first of the new shows will appear on Nick's
schedule this summer, officials said.
Nick has a $200 million programming budget this year, with
the new series accounting for one-half of that.
The network, which has been No. 1 in total-day household
ratings for four years, will also produce nearly 300 new episodes, or 150 hours, of
returning series. Despite increased competition from rivals such as Fox Family Channel and
Cartoon Network, Nick still controls 50 percent of kids' gross ratings points,
A new Rugrats theatrical, Rugrats in Paris: The
Movie, debuts later this year, and it will introduce three new characters who will
also appear on the popular series. They are Grandpa Lou's new wife, Lulu, voiced by
Debbie Reynolds; and Chuckie Finster's new Asian stepmother and stepsister, Kira and
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