Upfronts: Kids’ Nets Push Many Platforms

NEW YORK — Facing the possibility of continued audience erosion for its linear channels, the major kid-targeted networks are pushing a multiplatform message to advertisers this year, as young viewers from preschoolers to tweens continue to watch video on a variety of platforms.

While linear television, video-on-demand and authenticated online services continue to make up the lion’s share of kids’ viewing, executives from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel are pitching advertisers on the growth of their digital and social-media offerings.

“Overall, the linear television business is challenged across the board for the kids’ marketplace, but when you look at our business across all screens and devices our multiplatform business across all media, it’s strong,” Rita Ferro, executive vice president, Disney Media Sales and Marketing, Disney Channels Worldwide, said.

From a ratings perspective, Nickelodeon, Cartoon and Disney all posted total-day declines among kids 2-11 in 2014, while Cartoon Network was the only service to gain viewers year-to-year among kids 6-11, according to Nielsen.

Instead of driving advertisers just to linear content, network executives are pitching a unified platform approach that encompasses linear TV, video-on-demand, authenticated online services, websites and social media to provide a more balanced look at the audience.

“We’re seeing our numbers go up in other places beyond just our TV network, so to me it becomes about total consumption,” Cartoon Network general manager Christina Miller said. “I think the metrics need to catch up in order to measure it, but I do believe that when that happens, you’re going to see that consumption actually rises.”

Miller said Cartoon Network’s digital offerings on CartoonNetwork. com generated 30 million downloads, while its Watch Cartoon Network app and VOD service garnered 300 million hits last year. “We’re looking at the marketplace differently — we’re looking at a larger, unified approach from a market and ad-sales standpoint,” she said.

Nickelodeon’s 10-screen ecosystem encompasses properties on platforms ranging from the programmer’s four pay TV channels to the Nick Jr.com website, which averages 28 million streams a month. That ecosystem is the starting point for its multiplatform sell to advertisers, Jim Perry, president of sales for the Nickelodeon group, said.

“We’re offering up our broad reach over platforms to marketers to create the biggest impact possible to reach the Nick audience,” Perry said. He said he was optimistic about the advertising prospects for the upfront, although it’s too early to estimate actual upfront dollar figures.

“We’ll be encouraging advertisers to take advantage of all of those screens and incentivizing them to do so,” Perry added.

To further extend its reach beyond traditional linear television, the network on March 5 will launch Noggin, a $5.99/month mobile subscription service targeted to preschoolers.

Disney will look to build on its 11% year to year audience increase across all of its video platforms — linear, VOD and its “Watch” subscriber- authenticated product for its Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Jr. channels — to push a multiplatform message that encompasses original content both on the cable network and digital platforms.

Along with offering new and popular content through its digital services, including WatchDisney and other online app-based properties, Disney Interactive will develop sponsorbranded short-form content distributed via social-media outlets like Pinterest, Facebook, Vine and YouTube, in an effort to give sponsors an opportunity to reach kids, moms and families outside of traditional cable.

Netflix, Amazon Add Kids’ Fare

The kids-targeted cable networks are not the only ones looking to make noise within the children’s marketplace this year. Over-the-top services Netflix and Amazon are looking to establish an original-programming foothold, siphoning small eyeballs away from the cable players.

Netflix will add five new series to its lineup over the next yeary, including a reboot of the popular 1980s animated series Inspector Gadget as well as a 2016 remake of 1980s animated spy series Danger Mouse.

Amazon recently renewed four of its kids-targeted series, including preschool-themed Creative Galaxy and Tumble Leaf, as well as tween-targeted shows Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street and Annedroids.

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.