Nick to up the ante in 2006 with new initiatives

MUMBAI: Let bygones be bygones! That's the attitude kids channel Nick is currently sporting. Not among the kids' hot favourites, the channel is looking at upping the ante in the coming year.

In the pipeline are 516 brand new half hours of programming for 2006. At least 10 new shows and fresh seasons of a few others are being added up. Large scale ground activities, school contact programmes, retail push in merchandising and licensing, mobile ringtones and wallpapers is what's in store on Nick next year.

One major change on Nick will be that the flavour will get more and more local to become a voice of the kids in India.

Nick India vice president and general manager Hema Govindan is upbeat. "We have a very strong line up and I would love to see competition touch us on that one. There are brand new Nick shows in relatively new genres like action, adventure, quasi-horror categories like Danny Phantom and Avatar. The second season of our local production Dum Duma Dum comprising 22 new episodes will be aired in January. Apart from these, there are a couple of new pre-school shows that we will launch but I can't talk about it as yet. These are some of the new acquisitions we have made at Mipcom and other market places. We will also continue to explore local acquisitions."

The new seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, Rocket Power and ChalkZone will also be aired next year. "Also new seasons of our preschool shows like Dora The Explorer and Blue's Clues are in store. This will amount to 516 brand new half hours of programming in 2006," she added.

Govindan explains, "There are so many new opportunities to capitalise on in the future and I believe that Nick is at the cusp of the next phase of growth. Yes, I agree that today Nick has a low base, but one of the advantages that I have is the learnings from the mistakes made."

Reshuffling the programming grid was on Govindan's priority list when she took charge of the channel in September this year. "The first thing that we wanted to do was to dramatically increase channel viewership. For starters, we have reorganised our FCP (fixed chart point) by clubbing all the animation shows in the Nick Toons block. Shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, Rocket Power and ChalkZone that were earlier scattered on the channel now air everyday from 4 pm - 6 pm on this block," she said.

Apart from this J Bole To Jadoo, which was essentially a weekend show, was made into a daily and now airs at 6 pm.

The weekend game show band was also expanded and made into a daily offering from 6.30 - 8 pm. The block called GAS (Games And Shows) has Nick's games shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple, Global Guts and Dum Duma Dum. Govindan said, "We expanded our games and shows offering, earlier aired on weekends to 90 minutes and made it a seven day offering. From 8 - 9 pm, we have Nick Ha! Ha! Ha! where we air slapstick shows like Laurel and Hardy."

Such initiatives, says Govindan, had a direct impact on ratings. "This is what has seen our monthly average ratings double. A few weeks ago it had tripled for key day parts and key demographics. This coupled with our marketing and promotional efforts in terms of a school contact programme for Nick Toons and a contest called Ada Pada Kaun Pada helped in increasing the channel's viewership. The Nick Toons block (4 - 6 pm) has seen a growth of 160 per cent," she explained.

Nick is also looking at exploiting new revenue opportunities. Merchandising will see a push in the coming year. "SpongeBob, Dora The Explorer and Blue's Clues are the shows that have a good scope for merchandising. Also our new shows and their characters will lend themselves very well to consumer products and retail. We are in talks with several potential licensees across categories like apparel, publishing, home video, toys etc. But nothing has been finalised at this point in time so it doesn't make sense to talk about it," she informed.

Talks are also on with online and mobile service providers for developing Nick wallpapers, ringtones and other downloads. "You will see our presence in the interactive online and mobile space too," Govindan said.

So expect the Nick decibel levels to increase substantially with the advent of the New Year. Will that keep the channel in race with the rival networks is anybody's guess.

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