'SpongeBob’ Turns 10

Cable TV Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage From Multichannel News

Nickelodeon will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its undersea animated star SpongeBob SquarePants with a documentary and a month-long merchandising run in Wal-Mart stores.

The deal was announced as part of the kid-targeted network’s celebrity- and cable executive-filled upfront presentation last Thursday, which featured Keke Palmer, the teen star of Nick’s True Jackson, VP, and actor Nick Cannon, who was named honorary chairman of The N, soon to be renamed TeenNick.

Nickelodeon will team with Wal-Mart during March to prominently offer a wide variety of SpongeBob merchandise including apparel, DVDs, music, electronics, toys and books. Dubbed the “happy place,” Wal-Mart’s SpongeBob shop will be supported by an integrated TV, print and online media campaign, which includes in-store support through advertising in the Walmart circular and the company’s Walmart.com Web site.

In addition, Wal-Mart has developed a microsite, www.spongebobhappyplace.com, where net users can get exclusive SpongeBob content.

“Ten years of SpongeBob deserves something incredible,” said Leigh Anne Brodsky, president of Nickelodeon/Viacom Consumer Products. “With a truly unique in-store experience and new, distinctive product at Wal-Mart, customers feel they are part of the SpongeBob tenth anniversary celebration.”

The SpongeBob/Wal-Mart deal comes on the heels of the network’s on-air celebration of the popular yellow sponge, including a July documentary about the SpongeBob phenomenon and a TV movie scheduled for the fall.

Nickelodeon also announced it will add seven new shows to its lineup, including new live action, TV movies, animated and preschool programs, although it would not disclose specific titles. The new shows will join two previously announced new projects, Penguins of Madagascar and the Michael Eisner-produced Nick at Nite series Glenn Martin DDS.

As honorary chair of The N, Cannon — former star of Nickelodeon’s ensemble comedy show All That — will serve as creative consultant for the channel as it transforms into TeeNick later this year. Nickelodeon will also rename Noggin, its preschool-targeted network, as Nick Jr.

Cannon will also host and executive produce TeeNick’s Halo Awards, a one-hour special celebrating ordinary teens making a difference in their communities and the world, as well as a new original Nickelodeon TV movie.

During the presentation, Nick president Cyma Zarghami and film producer Kathleen Kennedy also announced that Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel will appear in Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ upcoming film The Last Airbender, based on the network’s animated series Avatar. The live-action film, for which Kennedy will serve as executive producer, is set to premiere in 2010.

R. Thomas Umstead

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.