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'Zoey' Gets Big Views

Controversy over Jamie Lynn Spears's real-life pregnancy may have helped propel the season finale of her Nickelodeon series Zoey 101 into record territory.

The premiere of the one-hour movie on Jan. 4 drew a series-high 7.27 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. The cliffhanger, which saw Spears's character forced to choose between living abroad with her parents or remaining at boarding school, more than doubled the average of 2.94 million viewers for season three.

The finale came less than a month after the 16-year-old little sister of Britney Spears told OK! Magazine she's pregnant. Since the announcement, some critics have urged Nickelodeon to shelve the show's fourth season — set to debut next month — due to the potentially negative influence Spears' pregnancy could have on the show's impressionable tween-targeted audience.

Nickelodeon has already said it has no plans to change the February debut of the show's fourth season, already taped.

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.