With in-house franchise Blues Clues giving number one-rated PBS a run for its money in preschool, acquired product at Nick Jr. has a tough act to follow.
First, potential pick-ups must possess the distinct kids point of view and the creator-driven, fresh look necessary to fit Nick Jr’s branding demands. Nick Jr. must perceive the property as something that can break through against primary preschool rival PBS, as well as secondary competitors HBO Family, Fox Family and Discovery.
Once under consideration, testing determines whether the product passes muster with kids and parents. Recent series that passed the test include U.K.-originated Maisy and Kipper, both of which were pitched to Nick at the development stage and received initial orders of 26 half hours. Both series began airing in spring 1999. Nelvana’s book-based Franklin joined Nick Jr. in January as a straight acquisition, quickly surpassing Blues Clues in the ratings race during its first season on air.
Nickelodeon’s senior director of program enterprises and acquisitions, Salaam Coleman, made the pick-up. She formerly served as Nick’s director of international programming, where her development activities included Nick’s launches in Latin America and Germany. An initial 13 half hours of Franklin debuted on CBS’s KidShow block in fall 1998 before Nick acquired the series, arranging to swap Rupert (also from Nelvana) to CBS in exchange for the turtle toon.
In its straight acquisitions and prebuys, Nick acquires only U.S. domestic broadcast rights. According to distributors, Nick pays ‘the going rate’ for preschool series.
While Nick refuses to consider properties that spring from a toy line, they acquire the rights to properties for three to five years, looking for long-term growth that will eventually translate into licensing and merchandising strength.
Traditionally, prebuys have been more common at Nick Jr. than acquisitions, due to the increased creative involvement they afford. Only five or six straight acquisitions have been made since the 1994 re-launch of Nick Jr., Coleman notes, but Franklin’s success has made the tots web more receptive.
Looking forward, Nick Jr. is considering preschool product from U.K. and Canadian suppliers such as HIT, Cinar and Nelvana, and part of the impetus is financial. ‘These [producers] can get enough international presales in order to finance the lion’s share of their budgets,’ she notes.
In development are creator-driven properties, including a series project with Nelvana created by children’s illustrator Mickey Paraskevas, and a project created by author/ illustrator Dan Yaccarino.