Seeking to carve out a space in its sked that will attract hard-core boys advertisers in categories like video games, action toys and feature films, Nick is shucking its gender-neutral stance to launch a boys block called Slam this fall. Set to air on Sundays between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., the block will target boys six to 14 with shows including Nicktoon original Invader Zim, Mike Young Productions’ Butt-Ugly Martians and a kid-friendly version of Robot Wars, which Nick’s in-house team will model after the original series produced by London-based Mentorn Entertainment. Nick is hoping to acquire more live-action and animated programming for Slam, and the net already has some material in development for 2003.
Although the move is designed to shift Nick’s boy/girl split from 50/50 to 60/40, many wonder whether this modest boys audience increase will be enough to tempt media buyers and new advertisers in a market that’s already full of on-air boy destinations. A full 70% of Kids’ WB! viewers are boys; Cartoon Network’s Toonami block is well-established as a boy magnet on weekday evenings; ABC Family launched a daily two-hour morning action block for boys last month; and Fox’s 4Kids block will be gunning for that gender on Saturday mornings with four hours of anime starting this fall.
Tom Horner, senior VP of media services for Active International, doesn’t expect many of his clients will be swayed by Slam. ‘Nick is a safe, dependable destination for kids advertisers,’ he says, but the only way that it will expand its advertising base is by aging up. John Wagner, lead kids buyer for Starcom Worldwide, is equally indifferent. ‘I can place boys stuff all day long,’ he says, dismissively, adding that what sets one boys destination apart from another is its channel’s ability to run a solid integrated marketing platform.
In other channel news, Nick has upped its programming spend 7% to US$383.5 million this year, and new shows scheduled to join the lineup this fall include Angelica and Susie’s School Daze, Danny Phantom and My Neighbor the Teenage Robot.
The first-ever Rugrats spin-off, Angelica and Susie’s School Daze (13 half hours) follows the adventures of Angelica Pickles and Susie Carmichael, who take their rivalry out of the backyard and into the schoolyard. Created by The Fairly OddParents’ Butch Hartman, Danny Phantom is six x half-hour animated action-comedy about a 14-year-old ghostbuster. My Neighbor is a Teenage Robot (13 half hours) is an animated comedy spin-off of Nick’s Oh Yeah! Cartoons about Jenny, a teen robot who must balance teen angst with her responsibility for saving the world from a never-ending series of catastrophes.