Continuing a tradition of starting to introduce new series in the late summer rather than in the fall, Nickelodeon debuted all-new Nicktoons SpongeBob SquarePants and Rocket Power July 17, followed by the fall debut of live-action series 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd, which enters the Saturday Snick prime-time lineup on October 9. Twenty episodes have been ordered of each of the three shows, all of which target Nick’s primary six to 11 demo. Debuting later is Nick/Bill Cosby co-production Little Bill, an animated series based on Cosby’s book series for children, which will air on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. starting November 7.
Concerning Nick’s prevailing early launch strategy, Marjorie Cohn, senior VP of current series, explains: ‘It’s always done well for us. Kids are around in the summer looking for new stuff, so we stagger the new season, giving kids something to talk about.’ Another benefit of the early launch is that kids are able to encounter new shows without the distraction of back-to-school promotions, Cohn adds.
SpongeBob SquarePants was created by in-house Nicktoons talent Stephen Hillenburg. Now the executive producer for the series, he pitched the project to Nick executives, who greenlit the concept late last summer. Set a few fathoms beneath a tropical isle in an aquatic city named Bikini Bottom, the series stars a character named Bob, who’s a very enthusiastic sponge.
Rocket Power sprang from Rugrats studio Klasky Csupo’s desire to mine kids’ interest in extreme sports. The series centers around a group of athletically gifted kids and employs a dynamic visual approach in which the audience is brought into the sports activities. ‘You are the puck,’ says Cohn of one hockey-related episode.
Live-action 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd centers around a bully who is magically turned into a dog as punishment for terrorizing the new kid in town, and must perform 100 good deeds to become human again. The series was produced by Tommy Lynch of Lynch Entertainment (The Journey of Alan Strange).
Entering its fourth year of fall promos with Kraft, including last year’s tremendously successful ‘Nogglevision’ campaign, Nick’s back-to-school cross-promo, called ‘Smell-O-Vision,’ incorporates scratch n’ sniff cards with nine different smells and 3-D goggles to heighten kids’ viewing experience. Specially produced episodes of shows, including SpongeBob SquarePants (Fridays at 8 p.m.), Rocket Power (8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays), Cousin Skeeter (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.), CatDog (8:30 p.m. on Fridays) and newly stripped series The Wild Thornberries (Monday to Thursday at 8 p.m.) will air from September 13 to 17, followed by a repeat of the shows from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday the following week. The inclusion of debuting shows in the promotion is a departure from Nick’s usual six-month waiting period to let a show catch on before starting promotions. ‘Shows like Rocket Power from Klasky are easy shows to communicate right off, and we’ll be whetting the kids’ appetite for certain types of kids product [for the new shows] as it relates to `Smell-O-Vision,” says Pam Kaufman, VP of marketing promotions at Nick.
Smell-O-Vision cards allow kids to release different smells following special cues in the shows. Blockbuster will distribute game pieces, and Kraft will extend the promotion on packaging of Post Cereals, Oscar Meyer Lunchables, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Kool-Aid. An additional back-to-school promotion with Burger King will offer Nick-branded school product premiums such as Splat calculators, along with a special apple-flavored Nick ‘slime’ dipping sauce for chicken tenders. The QSR campaign is Nick’s first promotion for the Nickelodeon brand rather than a particular show.