Nickelodeon Gives Preschool Block a Facelift

In an effort to connect with parents as well as preschoolers, Nickelodeon will incorporate several new on-air elements within its Nick Jr. morning programming block to aid adults in their efforts to interact and play with kids.

Beginning Sept. 24, the block — replete with the new tagline, "Nick Jr. Is Where I Play to Learn" — will include interstitial programming aimed at parents and icons within each Nick Jr. show meant to alert parents of the show's educational content, Nickelodeon executive vice president Cyma Zarghami said.

The new tagline also allows Nick Jr. to better define its brand and message in an increasingly crowded kid-targeted marketplace.

The service decided to redesign its seven-year-old Nick Jr. franchise to accommodate the significant number of parents who watch such shows as Blue's Clues
and Dora the Explorer. Zarghami said nearly one-third of Nick Jr. viewers are adults — and that's not including those who may not be in front of the television but are listening to the shows.

"One of the things we know is that parents are making the viewing choices for preschoolers," Zarghami said. "We wanted to reinforce to parents that we do have a curriculum for teaching kids that involves playing as a learning tool, and the changes illustrate that for the parents."

An on-air icon at the top of each show will inform parents about a program's educational content, from problem solving to social skills, Zarghami said.

In between shows, the network will run parent-targeted interstitial programming, in which parents talk to each other about how they interact with their children to build social and communicative skills.

Along with the added programming, Nick Jr. will undergo an on-screen facelift to better illustrate the "play-and-learn" message to parents, Zarghami said. The Nick Jr. on-air look will feature brighter colors and more clearly displayed letters that adults can easily read.

Despite the changes, Zarghami said Nick Jr. would not abandon its mandate to educate and entertain preschoolers with quality, informative programming. The programming lineup will remain the same and will feature some of the network's more popular shows such as Blue's Clues, Franklin
and Little Bear.

"All of the changes are more tactical than strategic," Zarghami said.

The redesign will also appear during Nick Jr.'s Saturday morning slot on CBS, also owned by Nick parent Viacom Inc., as well as through other distribution outlets such as the Internet. The Web site was relaunched last June, employing the new on-air look, and will offer message boards for parents to discuss ways they participate with their kids.

Nick Jr. magazine, which reaches 3 million readers per issue, will feature a multi-part series that tracks parents' attitudes and actions about play with their kids. It will also survey parents' attitude toward play and parent-child interaction.

Zarghami wouldn't say how much money the network spent on the redesign.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.