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Monday, March 02, 2020

Nickelodeon Upfront 2020 Roundup

Nickelodeon Upfront 2020


Below is a round-up of all the exciting news that Nickelodeon announced today during Nickelodeon Upfront 2020!

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From Forbes:

Baby Shark And ‘Chicken Girl’ Enter Ryan’s World As Nickelodeon Bids For Social Media Lift

As the opening strains of the Ryan’s Mystery Playdate theme song begin to play in this San Fernando Valley soundstage, comically accompanied by a chorus of kazoos, the Nickelodeon show’s 8-year-old namesake star bursts onto the set, running at full speed, with his arms held high, proclaiming, “I’m here.”

The frenetic second grader has earned the victory lap. His show, which Nickelodeon renewed on Monday for a third season, is the top-rated TV program among preschoolers. It’s also a much-needed hit for the struggling kids’ network, and early proof that ViacomCBS Kids and Family Entertainment President Brian Robbins’ bet on social media phenoms like Ryan Kaji, with his 24 million YouTube followers, is paying off.

Emboldened by Ryan’s success, Robbins, who was tapped to become Nickelodeon’s president 18 months ago, is doubling down on social media-led programming with a goal of making the cable network “home to the biggest and buzziest franchises in kids’ lives.”

On Monday, Nickelodeon announced it cast another social media sensation, Annie LeBlanc (the 15-year-old best known as the star of the YouTube series Chicken Girls), to star alongside actress Jayden Bartels in a scripted buddy-comedy series called Side Hustle. Together the girls have 38 million followers across social media platforms. Nickelodeon also has a movie project in the works with Dance Moms phenom JoJo Siwa, whose original music video Boomerang has been viewed more than 800 million times on YouTube.

Robbins’ team spent ten months negotiating a deal with the Korean educational brand Pinkfong to develop an animated series based on the YouTube preschool phenomenon Baby Shark, a K-pop rendition of a familiar camp song that has been played 4.6 billion times. It’s expected to air early next year.

The stakes are sky-high—ViacomCBS reported a loss in the final quarter of 2019, the first time it has reported results since Viacom completed its merger with corporate sibling CBS. Analysts pressed CEO Bob Bakish about Nickelodeon’s ratings decline, which seemed to accelerate since the November launch of the Disney+ streaming service. Long believed to be the single largest source of Viacom’s revenue, prior to the December CBS merger, Nickelodeon has lost 44% of its viewers since 2015, according to Nielsen.

“Nickelodeon continues to be a work in progress,” Bakish acknowledged in the February 20, 2020, investor call.

The network inadvertently planted the seeds of its own ratings decline when it licensed reruns of such popular shows as SpongeBob SquarePants, Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer to the then-upstart streaming service, Netflix, in 2009.

But it’s not just a Nickelodeon problem. Children’s television has lost nearly 70% of its audience since its peak in 2011, according to Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger’s analysis of Nielsen ratings data (see graphic). He declared kids’ TV the first victim of the streaming era back in 2017. In January, he wrote, “We continue to believe there is nothing Viacom can do to compel kids and teenagers to put down their iPads and their TikTok and sit in front of a TV set to watch a show ‘when it comes on.’”

Robbins is more optimistic, thanks in part to his own early victories navigating these changes. The former child actor (he appeared as leather-jacketed tough guy Eric Mardian in the 1980s sitcom Head of the Class) whose first breakout television hit was the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That, which he cocreated, wrote and executive produced, realized more than a decade ago that children’s viewing habits were changing radically. Robbins provided most of the financing for a 2010 film based on one of the most popular internet characters at that time, the squeaky-voiced Fred Figglehorn (played by teenager Lucas Cruikshank). When it debuted on Nickelodeon, Fred: The Movie drew 7.6 million viewers, making it the top cable TV movie of the year among 2- to 11-year-olds.

That success informed Robbins’ decision to launch the digital media company AwesomenessTV with Joe Davola in 2012 to create YouTube shows for teens and preteens who had drifted away from TV. Some of the shows were short-form Web adaptations of familiar TV formats—such as “IMO,” a talk show featuring social media standouts of the moment. It didn’t take long for traditional media to take notice. Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation acquired AwesomenessTV for $33 million in 2013. Robbins left four years later to run Viacom’s Paramount Players unit. Just a year later, Viacom picked up AwesomenessTV, returning it to Robbins’ orbit.

Viacom CEO Bakish tapped Robbins in October 2018 to lead Nickelodeon’s turnaround, betting heavily on his social media savvy. One of the very first things Robbins did in his new post was recruit his 4-year-old’s favorite YouTuber: Ryan.


“When I got here . . . the disruption was happening at such a rapid pace, I was like, ‘What’s our next ‘Fred’ movie?’ ‘Who’s our audience interested in?’” recalls Robbins. “Literally within the first week here, I was like, ‘We gotta do a show with Ryan.’”

It’s not clear who picked up the phone first. The studio Pocket.watch had repeatedly approached Nickelodeon about bringing the YouTube sensation to TV—but until Robbins’ arrival, the pitch fell on deaf ears, says Pocket.watch CEO Chris Williams. The new Nickelodeon president put the project on the fast track, relying on the proven production chops of Pocket.watch’s chief content officer, Albie Hecht, the former Nickelodeon Entertainment president who oversaw the development of SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues. Hecht says he completed a pilot in six weeks. After testing it in January of last year, Robbins ordered 20 episodes—a blistering pace of development for a preschool show.

Ryan’s Mystery Playdate debuted on April 19, 2019, at No. 1 in the time period among viewers ages 2 to 11. It continued to attract viewers across the weekend, reaching an audience of 5.5 million. Indeed, 40% of the viewers were new to Nick. Less than a week later, Robbins ordered a second season.

“Brian Robbins obviously understands a thing or two about influencers and the ability to bring influencers to these more established platforms,” says Judy McGrath, the former chair and chief executive of MTV Networks, who at one point had oversight of Viacom cable networks, including Nickelodeon. “A lot of the success with Ryan, with his show, brought a new audience.”

Migrating talent from other platforms is just part of Robbins’ strategy to revitalize Nickelodeon. He’s also developing shows that the family can watch together—such as an American version of the British game show The Crystal Maze, and making sure that the talent reflects the nation’s diverse population.

Robbins is not naive enough to think that Nickelodeon will bring back 100% of the audience. Although it boasts such top-rated shows as PAW Patrol and Henry Danger, ViacomCBS is looking to reach the 60% of kids who aren’t tuned in to its cable network. So Nickelodeon is developing a spin-off of its superpopular SpongeBob SquarePants series for Netflix, and Paramount Pictures plans to release The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in May. Nickelodeon also will be part of a streaming service planned for later this year, and offer 30,000 TV episodes and up to 1,000 movies.

Nickelodeon already distributes shows through a pair of streaming apps, preschool-focused Noggin and NickHits, which together command more than 3 million subscribers. It launched two podcasts, “Listen Out Loud” and “The Casagrandes Familia Sounds,” for fans of its animated series The Loud House and The Casagrandes, respectively. Dedicated Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. channels attract some 18.6 million YouTube followers. And it’s looking to create live experiences that extend its brands, such as the weekend-long “Slime Fest” that precedes its Kids’ Choice Awards Show on March 22, 2020.

“I’m very open to our brand living everywhere,” Robbins says. “I think it’s really important, in the world that we live in, that we’re not just making shows. We have a brand and our brand needs to reach our audience wherever they’re consuming content.”

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From Deadline:

‘The Astronauts’, Live-Action ‘Loud House’ Movie, ‘Big Nate’ Series, ‘Henry Danger’ Spinoff On Nick’s Slate

Nickelodeon has unveiled its 2020-2021 programming slate, its second under ViacomCBS Kids & Family president Brian Robbins, ahead of ViacomCBS’ earnings call later this week. Newly greenlighted series include The Astronauts, the network’s first co-production with Imagine Kids+Family, due for summer 2020 bow; a live-action The Loud House: A Very Loud Christmas! original movie based on Nick’s animated hit for Q4; and Big Nate, a new animated series based on Lincoln Peirce’s bestselling HarperCollins children’s books.

In addition, Nick is working on a spinoff of staple Henry Danger. Titled Danger Force, it stars the flagship series’ Cooper Barnes (Ray/Captain Man) and Michael D. Cohen (Schwoz) and introduces four new superheroes-in-training as they team to fight crime in their town of Swellview. The offshoot will premiere Saturday, March 28 at 8 PM.

The newly ordered series join the previously announced CG-Animated SpongeBob SquarePants prequel series Kamp Koral and Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan, the live-series executive produced, directed and written by Perry that bows February 29. The story follows a family whose world is turned upside down when their nephew, Young Dylan (Dylan Gilmer), an aspiring hip-hop star, moves in unannounced.

Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years features the animated series’ original voice cast reprising their roles in an CG-animated prequel following a 10-year-old SpongeBob during his summer at sleepaway camp. The 13-episode season premieres in July.

“This is the most wide-raging slate in the history of the network,” Robbins told Deadline. “These are many different categories: animated, live-action single-camera and multi-camera, tentpole movies, reality. We finally have a well rounded portfolio.”

Last year, Robbins’ first slate included Are You Afraid of the Dark?, All That, Blue’s Clues & You! and The Casagrandes, all of which scored renewals on Wednesday along with long-time series like PAW Patrol and Bubble Guppies.

Starting “from scratch” last year, Robbins said he pursued several top programming goals. Putting on programs that would attract co-viewing was a main priority. Are You Afraid Of the Dark? launched as the No.1 co-viewing series, with Top Elf also scoring high co-viewing marks, Robbins said. Another major goal was adding diversity to Nick’s slate so the shows’ casts better reflect the network’s audience. Among the series launched as part of that initiative were the All That reboot and The Casagrandes, the most popular show among Latinx kids, both of which were renewed today.

Other priorities included bringing back iconic franchises, like Blue’s Clues, also renewed today, expanding existing ones with spinoffs like Harry Danger and Kemp Coral, and creating new ones, which the network is hoping for with Big Nate.

Here are Nick’s descriptions of the new projects:

The Astronauts (working title; 10 episodes) – Marking Nickelodeon’s first co-production with Imagine Kids+Family, this single-camera action-adventure series follows a group of kids who embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they are mistakenly launched into space. The Astronauts is executive produced by Imagine Entertainment chairmen Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Imagine Kids+Family President Stephanie Sperber and Daniel Knauf (Carnivàle, The Blacklist), who also serves as writer and showrunner. The series is slated to premiere this summer.

The Loud House: A Very Loud Christmas! (working title) – The popular animated characters from Nickelodeon’s Emmy Award-winning The Loud House will literally come to life in an original live action, feature-length TV movie. Casting is currently underway for the holiday movie, which will begin production this summer and premiere in the fourth quarter of this year.

Big Nate (26 episodes) – The misadventures of Big Nate will go from page to screen in an all-new animated series based on HarperCollins’ best-selling children’s book title, penned by acclaimed author and cartoonist Lincoln Peirce.

Danger Force (13 episodes) – The brand-new spinoff of the number-one kids’ series Henry Danger stars two of its most beloved characters, “Ray/Captain Man” (Cooper Barnes) and “Schwoz” (Michael D. Cohen), and introduces four new superheroes-in-training as they team up to fight crime in their town of Swellview. Danger Force premieres Saturday, March 28, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).

Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years (13 episodes) – The original SpongeBob SquarePants voice cast has been tapped to reprise their roles in this brand-new CG-animated prequel of the beloved hit series. Premiering July, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years follows a 10-year-old SpongeBob during his summer at sleepaway camp.

Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan (14 episodes) – Executive produced, directed and written by Perry, the live-action series follows a family whose world is turned upside down when their nephew, Young Dylan (Dylan Gilmer), an aspiring hip-hop star, moves in unannounced. The series is currently in production at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Ga., and will premiere Saturday, Feb. 29, at 8:30 (ET/PT).

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More Nick: Nickelodeon Marks 20 Years of "SpongeBob SquarePants" with the "Best Year Ever"!

Originally published: Thursday, February 20, 2020.

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