In a move designed to further capitalize on its success in prime time, Nickelodeon will extend kids programming into the 8:30 to 9 p.m. slot Monday through Friday, beginning in fall 1998. While some statements from the channel regarding the change have mentioned programming ‘to kids and family,’ Nick denies that there will be any change in its target demographic of two to 11 years. Filling out Nickelodeon’s prime-time lineup are a new series from Klasky Csupo titled The Wild Thornberrys and three live-action additions: Tollin/Robbins’ Cousin Skeeter, Animorphs from Scholastic Productions, and Lynch Entertainment’s The Journey of Allen Strange.
‘The [programs] we’re putting in there target the same demo as the rest of our stuff. It really just reinforces what we already are,’ says Cyma Zarghami, executive vice president and general manager at Nickelodeon. ‘The minute we get off that focus, we should start to be concerned,’ she adds. She points to Rugrats as a good example of the ‘kid first, parent-friendly’ shows that Nickelodeon supports. ‘There are great adult characters in it, so parents can get something out of it as well,’ she says.
Factors influencing the move, according to Zarghami, are Nick’s strong performance in prime time since its entry in fall 1996 into the 8 p.m. slot and kids’ excellent response to Nick’s new shows. Another reason is network competition, or lack thereof. ‘Part of the reason for going into this was nobody was there,’ she says. ‘It was our response to what the networks are doing.’ She adds that Nielsen ratings reveal a lot of kids watching TV between 8 and 9 p.m., yet few network shows target them at that time.
The move raises Nickelodeon’s weekly broadcast hours from 105 to 110.