Nickelodeon ups the ante in visibility stakes with 'Chhota VJ' hunt

Nickelodeon, MTV's sister channel, is all set to stir up some heat on the kids entertainment scene. And in true MTV-style, yesterday it unveiled its first major initiative in the country - Nickelodeon Chhota VJ Hunt.

The hunt is a first of its kind for the channel anywhere in the world. Highly interactive in nature the hunt, which commences today, will give one child the chance to host the programme block Nick Masala, not only on the channel but also on Zee TV, where Nickelodeon airs as a two-hour block in Hindi.

On hand to explain the strategy was MD Nickelodeon India Alex Kuruvilla. He pointed out that Nickelodeon wasn't merely about cartoons. The channel encompasses a variety of genres, which include gameshows, live action and sitcoms.

Queried about distribution, Kuruvilla said the channel had been in a slow burn process for quite a while but the Zee AOL joint venture, which kicked in from March, finally gave the channel the thrust it was looking for. In the past six weeks the channel has nearly doubled its reach from 7 to 12 million households, he said, adding that he expected the figure to reach 15 million before the year was out. This surpasses the 10 million home target which had been set earlier earlier.

Said Kuruvilla: "Nickelodeon is not about adults creating programmes that they feel would suit kids. Programmes begin and end with children. Through the initiative Nickelodeon is looking to provide a breakthrough whereby a kids platform could be created."

He said that the channel would concentrate on exponential growth and that revenues were a by-product of factors like marketing a channel and building brand loyalty. Once this is taken care of the money would flow in.

Auditions for the Chhota VJ Hunt are being presented by Nestle Munch in association with Kellogs Chocos, Act II Popcorn, Hero Cycles and Archies. The auditions will be held in four cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. Kids can also send entries through photographs with or without a VHS tape. Emails can be sent to netfundu.com or chotavj@nickindia.com. The hunt closes on 30 June.

As far as promotional activity is concerned there will be road shows, audition parties, and audition booths. In addition the channel will also use print advertising, hoardings posters etc. Promo spots will run on Nickelodeon, MTV and Zee TV in order to get the message across.

Although the channel is principally looking for one child in the hunt, it also hopes to create a talent pool where kids can have a platform to showcase their abilities. Kuruvilla added that the channel would be organising internal training programmes for kids so that they get the feel of being in front of a camera. The kids' personalities would be considered and depending on that they could take up a specific task he said.

Kuruvilla said the Nickelodeon brand was a phenomenal success abroad. It reaches over 300 million homes in 30 languages worldwide. In the past one year it has commenced airing in China, Indonesia and Malaysia. In India the channel commenced airing in 1999 and it went to Singapore last year. The 2001 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards saw 15 million kids cast their votes. The hunt is basically a step towards replicating the international success story of the channel in India.

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