UPFRONT & CENTER: Nickelodeon Aims to be Everywhere

New York -- Nick’s everywhere: That was the message Thursday morning from the kids’ programmer at its annual upfront presentation to advertisers here.

In addition to previewing new programming for the linear cable channel, Nickelodeon executives stressed its expansion beyond TV, pointing to recent brand extensions in music, hotels and cruises.

“Nickelodeon has unbelievable momentum both as a business and a brand,” said Cyma Zarghami, president of the Nickelodeon//MTV Networks Kids and Family Group, promising that the brand will “live on all platforms -- even those we haven’t invented yet.”

The upfront presentation, held at the Hammerstein Ballroom, featured Sony Music Label Group chair Rob Stringer talking up his label’s work with Nick -- albums for the network’s The Naked Brothers Band, iCarly, The Backyardigans and others, as well as forthcoming series One 4 All, a live-action show about a boy band. Sony and Nick have worked together on casting the show and will launch albums and concerts with its stars.

“What’s really exciting is our ability to get in early on the ground floor,” Stringer said. “Both of our companies are excited to find tomorrow’s superstars today.”

MTVN chairman and CEO Judy McGrath also took the upfront stage to announce an eco-focused pro-social campaign, The Big Green Help, which will include partnerships with youth-focused environmental groups and a massive, multiplayer online game that will enable kids to participate in giving to green groups.

“Governments can do what they do, but my bet is on the kids,” McGrath said.

Nick is also pushing its appeal to adults and families, instead of just kids, diverging from its brand play in the past as a sort of kids-only clubhouse.

The network always commands more than one-half of the kids’ upfront dollars, but it projected that this year, spending from “nontraditional” advertisers -- those targeting adults, as well as kids -- will be up 50% during the upfront through deals with new partners in adult categories, like automotive, financial and insurance. New partners last year included Chrysler, Royal Caribbean International and Hertz.

On the linear-programming front, Law & Order’s Chris Meloni was on hand to talk up Nick’s Gym Teacher: The Movie, the feature film premiering in August, which he stars in.

Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler also appeared to talk up her new animated series, The Mighty B!, which premieres April 26.

As expected, Nick said it picked up new seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants, The Fairly OddParents, The Backyardigans and Back at the Barnyard.

The kids’ upfront is expected to be flat to slightly up this year. Last year, it dragged into the summer as haggling over metrics -- whether to include digital-video-recorder viewing -- took its toll. But the market finished its strongest in several years at just under $1 billion. This year, it's still challenged by consumer activists' complaints about fast-food advertisers, but it continues to profit from theatrical-movie ads.

For complete coverage of the upfronts, click here.