Since moving much of its preschool fare off the mother net and onto a 24/7 Nick Jr. channel in March, Nickelodeon Australia now has a bit of wiggle room in its schedule to play around with. And although the timing will hinge on buying speed, the channel’s programming team is aiming to launch a new strand for young teens that will air Monday to Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Programming and research director Jane Gould is on the hunt for at least four shows capable of growing Nick’s 13- to 17-year-old viewing audience, which currently makes up 15% of the net’s total take. (The rest of the profile breaks down like this: 10% preschool, 48% five- to 12-year-olds, and 27% 18-plus.) ‘We are really looking to increase time spent viewing in year one, and possibly the size of the audience in year two,’ she explains.
Gould is predominantly fishing for live-action dramas with a comedy twist that feature both boy and girl leads. Some recent acquisitions in this vein that have performed well with the 13 to 17 set include Unfabulous (Nick), What I Like About You (Warner Bros.) and Degrassi: The Next Generation (Epitome Pictures). Gould isn’t ruling out animation if the right pitch comes along, considering that SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the net’s two top-rating shows with tweens (along with Peter Engel Productions’ Saved by the Bell). But regardless of style, she’s looking for concepts that have at least 26 episodes, and more is better.
Nickelodeon is currently ranked third in the 6 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. time period, according to ratings tracker OzTAM National Subscription TV Panel, and a mere 2% gap separates Nick and market leader FOX8. In terms of the total-day race in cable/satellite broadcasting, Disney and Cartoon Network are the channel’s stiffest competition, while in free-to-air it’s the kids block on Channel 10 (Cheez TV) and ABC Kids. ‘Our main point of differentiation is that Nick is kids,’ says Gould. ‘We don’t look to program outside of our kid skew, and we also pepper the schedule with a significant amount of local content to keep it relevant to our Australian audience.’
Co-production involvement varies on a case-to-case basis, with Nick coming in as a full co-pro and broadcast partner on series like Studio B’s Yakkity Yak and Sesame Workshop’s Ollie. In other cases, the channel will help producers meet their Australian financing requirements. A full 10% of the net’s lineup is made up of Nick Australia originals, while 30% comes from Nick US.
In terms of pitching preferences, Gould likes a fairly detailed package (pitch doc, detailed synopsis and story lines or a storyboard), and if she likes what she sees, she’ll ask to see a script. But Gould cautions producers to keep their expectations in line with reality. ‘We are a small cable channel in a relatively small market. We’re unlikely to affect a production budget, and Australian content (or co-pros involving an Aussie partner) will always hold favor. If we do see something we absolutely love, then we will try to come in with the other Nick channels or look at creative ways to get involved.’