Nickelodeon says just a cable channel is child’s play these days.
At its upfront Thursday afternoon, the ViacomCBS kids brand described itself as a “multiverse,” with programming appearing on the new Paramount Plus subscription service, which will have an low-price ad-supported version launching in June, on the free Pluto TV streaming platform and on digital outlets including YouTube.
The event was virtual, and Nick created a presentation that home-bound media buyers could share with their kids. It featured animation and the stars of Nick’s popular series Unfiltered, Side Hustle, Danger Force, Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan, The Loud House and The Barbarian and the Troll, plus a song by Alaya High, headliner of Nick’s new show That Girl Lay Lay.
Nickelodeon showed off its biggest ever slate of original content, including a record amount of animated shows. The increased volume is needed to keep up with kids’ demand for news stuff as well as a mandate to keep its multiple platforms stocked.
“We definitely have more mouths to feed, which is great because we know our audience is consuming in many different places,” Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins told Broadcasting + Cable. “The appetite is voracious and you have to constantly feed the beat. And so we are.”
Robbins had been head of Nick for a little more than two years--and that’s about how long it take to get an animated show up and running. “So now you’re seeing the work of the last couple of years come to life.”
Much of the new content brings back Nick favorites--businessmen call it intellectual property--of varying vintages.
“We're fortunate enough to have some of the most important franchises in kids’ and families' lives, whether that's SpongeBob, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Avatar, which we're bringing back to life, or the first rendition of Star Trek in animation for kids and families, or something like Paw Patrol, which will be a theatrical feature this year and continue as a television series,” he said. “It’s our job to continue to nurture these franchises that have these worlds of great characters and stories to tell.”
At a time when cord-cutting is steadily eating away at ratings, particular for cable channels with children’s programming, the Nickelodeon multiverse creates opportunities for advertisers to reach kids, and their parents, Robbins said.
Our cable channels are still the biggest reach vehicle for this audience without a doubt Robbins said. “We know that kids are consuming content in many different ways today. They still consume an awful lot of content in the traditional lean-back experience.”
But a lot of kids are leaning into other platforms.
“We’re fortunate enough in our ecosystem to have things like Paramount Plus, where you can watch whatever you want on demand, or a service you can carry in your hand like Pluto TV,” he said. “There’s opportunities in all these places for advertisers to join us.”
“The key message here is that we aren’t selling media plans, we are creating content plans for our partners. We are offering true integration and alignment with Nickelodeon’s premium IP across every platform for kids and families,” said ViacomCBS ad sales head Jo Ann Ross, who participated in the presentation.
"Pluto TV Kids is both a marketing vehicle and a distribution platform for partners,” Ross added during the presentation. “Paramount Plus offers vast integration and media opportunities. There’s already a lot of demand for shows like iCarly, which organically lends itself to integrations and innovative messaging. And we’ve made it easier for brands to manage their digital investments across Nickelodeon platforms with EyeQ, our connected video offering."
Kids programming has become important ammunition in the streaming wars. AT&T’s WarnerMedia is boosting production for its Cartoon Network and HBO Max, The Walt Disney Co. is a powerhouse with Disney Plus on top of its cable channels and other like Netflix and YouTube have plenty of content for children of all ages.
“There is a tremendous competition for kids' eyeballs,” Robbins admitted. “The great thing for us at Nickelodeon is that we have the largest share of audience in the ad-supported space by far. We have almost 80% of the ad supported eyeballs, And now with the launch of Paramount plus whoever we're not capturing their we have a really good opportunity to capture them here. So that's really exciting for us.”
With connected TV, there is more co-viewing going on than ever, with parents and kids watching together on the big screen in the living room, a setup that advertisers prize. “It’s very important for us to make shows and films that the whole family can enjoy together,” Robbins said.”
Speaking of the whole family, with everyone stuck at home with their kids and tired of Zoom meetings, Nickelodeon decided to liven up its presentation with a kid-friendly approach.
“Not only have our partners been home for a year on Zoom, but so have their kids right.” Robbins said “This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invite our partners to come to one of our presentations with their kids. So we said why don't we make a co- viewing experience out of it? And that was the jumping off point. We wanted to have a unique Nickelodeon upfront that gave our partners the chance to experience our brand through their kids eyes.”
It’s hard to tell if kids a trains on different platforms, or blimps floating in air, effectively conveyed a message about the state of modern media to both adults and youngster, but the show has already been a hit in the Robbins household, where his daughter is an important--and tough--focus group.
“I’m not blowing smoke to you right now, but this is exactly what she said to me: ‘This should be on TV.’ She loved it. Drop the mic. We’re done,” he said.
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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.