MTV readies Nickelodeon push

Nickelodeon, the neglected child of the Viacom family in India, looks to be finally getting the attention it has craved for long.

Nick will see some major programming and marketing initiatives within the next three weeks, says MTV India managing director Alex Kuruvilla. Barely two months after being taken up by the Zee-Turner bouquet for distribution, the kids' channel's viewership has increased from 5.5 million to eight million, according to Kuruvilla. 

An upbeat Kuruvilla, who says says the network undertook some qualitative research in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore recently to assess Nick's reach found that 80 to 90 per cent of children, exposed to just two weeks to Nickelodeon, shifted to it from other kids' channels. MTV India distribution head Sanjeev Hiremath says that Nick's channel positioning too will be rejigged in the coming two to three months. 

"In the first phase, we focussed on distribution. In the next, we will take up channel positioning", Hiremath says.

In the US, Nick commands a powerful audience with its mix of toon and reality programming. In India, however, the channel has failed to generate mass interest thus far, even as rival Cartoon Network surged ahead in popularity. While Nickelodeon suffered from a lack of viewership when it was bundled with the Zee bouquet, the distribution tie up with Warner seems to have given Nick the much needed push. In the 14 months it has been around in India in its present avatar, Nick was unable to match the numero uno position it commands in the US and was labouring on with a viewership of barely two million, admits Kuruvilla.

With it getting noticed, however, Nick is sprucing up its programming. Nick Masala, the two-hour Hindi block is already drawing in viewers although Kuruvilla maintains there is no urgency for localisation on the channel. Its two-hour block on Zee is also drawing ratings of around 0.4, he says. Kuruvilla is also bullish about ad revenues for Nick, which he sees picking up after the increased viewership figures. 

MTV meanwhile, is seriously pursuing its plan of going digital within the next three to six months, says Kuruvilla. Cross promotions for Nick have already picked up on MTV and will see a spurt in the coming days with prime properties like Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius becoming a highlight of Nick's programming. While MTV itself is undecided on whether it will continue to remain independent or will join a bouquet, Nick too "is keeping its options open," says Kuruvilla. The channel will also look at locally created animation programmes in the medium term, he adds.

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