The appeal of programming blocks to the international channels can be summed up as exposure. In markets without a channel, blocks can serve as soft channel launches, and in territories where a channel is running on cable or satellite, they can expand awareness of the channel’s shows and brand at the wider-reaching terrestrial level. Greater exposure also translates to a wider platform for licensing.
While, in the past, Nickelodeon had shied away from offering branded blocks and even program sales into territories when it was starting a channel, the kidcaster has found blocks can be a benefit to both terrestrials and its channels, says Kathleen Hricik, executive VP of international program enterprises for MTV Networks. Nick also appears as a block in Switzerland, where it does not yet have a channel.
Fox Kids’ block strategy is twofold. In Asia, blocks are intended to ‘create an association between the brand and the programming, and that will create a springboard for us to launch full-fledged channels,’ says Stan Golden, president of Saban International. In Latin America, where Fox Kids is available as a channel, blocks allow it to cross-promote between the two platforms.
Both Hricik and Golden say blocks and channels can exist in the same territories without drawing viewers from each other, and the cross-promotion between the two can build viewers to both. Terrestrials still enjoy wider penetration. For their part, the channels have the advantage of airing more runs of a series. Plus, says Golden, ‘as the brand builds, what we really see happening is that the brand itself is what will attract viewers to the terrestrial channels.’
Programmers are also able to customize their blocks to meet their needs. For Venezuela’s RCTV, which has been running a Disney Club block since 1986 and kicked off a Nick block last December, ‘the branded blocks not only maintain reasonable costs for rights acquisition, but also build an international and advanced image [for the broadcaster] that works [with] kids’ in a market where entertainment options include the Internet, video games and international channels, says Andrés Badra, acquisitions and programming manager at RCTV. The channel airs roughly 24 hours of kids programming per week, with three hours filled by the Disney and Nick blocks.
On Nick’s home turf, Spanish-language Telemundo Network has also found a Nick block to be a positive addition. Spanish-language television was characterized by a lack of kids programming. When the block was picked up in late 1998-by providing kids with some of the most popular shows in the U.S. in Spanish-the move fit with the net’s philosophy that being Latino in the U.S. combined the best of the U.S. and Latin worlds, says Ted Guefen, director of corporate affairs and public relations. The shows in the block-AAAHH!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, Rugrats and Blue’s Clues-feature a mixture of kids and an acceptance of diversity that attracted Telemundo. The shows continue to be well received, and Guefen does not perceive any downsides for the network. The two-hour Monday to Friday block, branded as Nickelodeon on Telemundo, and Jumanji, running as a half-hour series weekday mornings following the block, make up its full kids lineup.