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Nick to get 'MTV India treatment' for makeover

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MUMBAI: The first phase has been rolled out.Bollywood film star Saif Ali Khan as brand ambassador and a tie up with Hum Tum is just the first step towards the rejuvenation of Nickelodeon, the kids' channel from the Viacom fold that has been struggling to make its presence felt in the last four years of its existence here.

MTV Networks India managing director Alex Kuruvilla believes that Nick will be up and running by the end of 2004. "It will get the same overall treatment that MTV did," he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Youth Marketing Forum on Thursday. This means a huge marketing campaign, brand tie ups and a massive publicity drive. A content tie up with Mattel for original Mattel programming and a deal with Asian Paints to offer children a chance to host their own show on Nick have already been signed. But similar deals with other major corporates are already in the offing.

Currently, the only signs of Nick being resurrected from its comatose state are bus shelter hoardings that have Saif sharing the visuals with cartoon characters. The channel is consciously undergoing a hipper image change, having dropped the 'Nickelodeon' nomenclature in favour of the crisper Nick in ads. 12 hours of Hindi have already been introduced, and if the initiative works, the channel could well add more hours to the desi lingo programming in the coming months, say sources.

Locally sourced programming is already being put into place, says Kuruvilla, although no names of production houses roped in for the endeavour are being disclosed. As of now, indigenously sourced programming initiatives include an Asian Paints-Samsung-Lifestyle sponsored show that will enable a child winner to host a show on Nick, shot in the kid's own room that's to be done up by Asian Paints.Also, It is as part of this initiative that Nickelodeon India signed a multi-platform agreement with leading toy manufacturer - Mattel India, which includes original programming as well as rights for Nickelodeon India to air exclusive Mattel programming.

According to the deal signed, Nickelodeon will create a new animated series of vignettes based on Mattels recently launched toy line My Scene. The new launch targets girls between the ages of eight and 12 or "tweens". The programming component- My Scene- Jammin in Jamaica, aired on 20 May 2004. My Scene is an animated feature film on a DVD format based on characters Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, Nolee and Delancey from California. The movie is aimed at bringing alive the group experience of the real world, with the dolls as a means to participate in teen aspirations. The My Scene dolls are new tween-targeted fashion dolls who are cool, chic like big city girls. The channel will hold exclusive TV rights for the airing. 

A separate team to handle the marketing and ad sales wings of Nick, thus far clubbed with MTV India is also operational. More recruitments are also on at the channel, it is learnt. The 'huge marketing campaign', details of which Kuruvilla is still loathe to discuss will be unleashed shortly, on the scale and format of what MTV India has been getting thus far. Nick last year did run a Chhota veejay hunt on the lines of an MTV VJ Hunt, but despite the ripples of interest it created, Nick did not manage to stand on its own.

The imminent entry of Disney and the indigenously grown Hungama TV seems to have spurred the network into recharging Nick. MTV Networks International president Bill Roedy also says his priority is now to make Nick 'bigger and better in India.'

If the MTV model is to be followed loyally, that should not be a big problem.

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