Nickelodeon is heading south of the border to implement the next phase in its plan to become the global channel for children.
Nickelodeon Latin America will debut in 20 countries in this quarter. At press time, no official launch date had been set.
Latin America marks the fourth international market that the number one U.S. children’s network will enter on a full-time basis. Nickelodeon also operates in the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia, and is seen in over 70 countries via channel blocks and independent program sales.
The new channel’s programming will consist of shows from the Nickelodeon library, series purchased from Nelvana and Cinar, and local acquisitions. The Nelvana acquisitions include Babar and Rupert, as well as first-run rights to shows such as Blazing Dragons and Secret Life of Toys. From Montreal-based Cinar comes Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Space Cases and The Busy World of Richard Scarry. Regionally, it has purchased two series from Brazil’s TV Cultura, Castelo Ra-Tim-Bum and Urbanoides.
Acquiring new original, locally produced programs remains a long-range goal, according to Taran Swan, launch director, Nickelodeon Latin America. ‘We think it’s best to launch the channel, and then form relationships with local producers to make local programs later as the venture gets going,’ she says.
The network took a major step toward securing regional distribution when it announced a strategic alliance last September with Argentina-based Artear to distribute the channel to over 800,000 subscribers on Multicanal in Argentina, as well as in Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Further distribution deals across the region are pending.
‘Latin America is a very popular market to go into, especially for the international programmers,’ says Swan. ‘The distribution capacity is going away pretty quickly. It’s still a good time for us to come in because there’s still room on the cable systems.’
Cartoon Network is the only other children’s channel currently transmitted to Latin America, although Fox has plans to enter the region. Several local children’s channels service Argentina and Mexico.
As with its U.S. and European-based networks, Nickelodeon hopes to become involved and integrated with its kid audience through programming, promotions and contests. Swan admits that Latin America poses a bigger challenge than previous international launches due to its geographic expanse and the number of countries and cultures involved. She adds that the network is committed to rising to that challenge.
Nickelodeon has yet to name an executive to head the Latin American network once it is up and running. The executive will report to Jon Miller, managing director of Nickelodeon International.
Beyond Latin America, Nickelodeon is considering continued expansion into Europe as well as Asia.