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Children's Shows Scoring Big Points for the Networks

November 04, 2000|BRIAN LOWRY

The public received a demonstration last week of just how important Saturday-morning lineups are to television networks, as Disney-owned ABC's West Coast stations initially balked at televising a key college football matchup between then-top-ranked Nebraska and Oklahoma because it meant preempting children's fare.

So with the November sweeps about to kick off, what are the kids watching?

Cable's Nickelodeon has solidified its standing as the top choice among kids, attracting an estimated 1.7 million children ages 2 to 11 on average with its Saturday-morning block since mid-September--a 17% increase over the corresponding period last year.

In a demonstration of corporate synergy, Nickelodeon has also taken over CBS' lineup--both networks are owned by Viacom--and more than doubled its children's audience. CBS is now delivering about 676,000 kids on average, based on Nielsen data, with a schedule catering primarily to preschoolers.

The WB remains the most-watched broadcast network among kids, with 1.2 million children watching on average--off roughly 25% compared to a year ago, when the "Pokemon" flame was burning considerably brighter.

Having skewed its lineup toward action shows, the WB introduces an important franchise today, "X-Men: Evolution." The animated program is based on the popular Marvel Comics property that spawned a long-running Fox Saturday-morning hit and the recent live-action film, which has grossed $157 million in domestic box office. (The WB is part-owned by Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times.)

Ratings for Fox and ABC have also dropped sharply--down to 1 million and 800,000 kid viewers, respectively, or declines of 14% and 31%; however, PBS, with almost 500,000 children tuning in Saturday mornings, has achieved significant gains.

The fall is particularly important to children's programmers, since toy marketers concentrate advertising for Christmas properties during this window.

Nickelodeon currently exceeds the combined kids audience for three other cable channels offering Saturday children's fare--in descending order, Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel and Fox Family Channel.

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