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Nickelodeon management shakeup continues

October 11, 2012|By Meg James
  • Life imitates art? Top executives are being chased from children's network Nickelodeon, which is reeling from a 28% drop in ratings in the key demographic of young children. One reason for the decline, analysts say: The network became too reliant on its animated hit, "SpongeBob SquarePants"
Life imitates art? Top executives are being chased from children's… (Nickelodeon )

The executive exodus continues at Nickelodeon.

On Thursday, the embattled children's network witnessed two more departures of high-level executives: Paul Ward, a 22-year veteran of MTV Networks and head of prime-time acquisitions, and Pete Danielsen, executive vice president of programming. Danielsen, who has worked at Nickelodeon for 12 years, was in charge of scheduling.

Both were based at Nickelodeon's New York headquarters.

Six weeks ago, the network pushed out its head of animation, Brown Johnson, the Nickelodeon executive most responsible for creating the hit "Dora the Explorer."

Nickelodeon is trying to engineer a high-stakes ratings turnaround. Last season, the Viacom Inc.-owned children's network experienced a 28% drop in ratings among the key demographic of children ages 2 to 11. The staggering fall alarmed Wall Street, leading some financial analysts to question whether Nickelodeon had the right management in place.

Ward had served as executive vice president of prime-time acquisitions and strategy since 2008. He was part of the team that launched the TV Land network in 1996, and more recently concentrated on the Nick at Nite prime-time programming block, which is evolving from a model based on network reruns, such as "Friends" and "George Lopez," to more original programs.

Nick at Nite drew an average 1.5 million viewers a night four years ago, according to Nielsen. This year, an average of 892,000 viewers are tuning in.

Nickelodeon is rolling out hundreds of hours of new programming, including "See Dad Run," starring 1980s heartthrob Scott Baio, which debuts Sunday. The network is getting a boost from its reboot of the animated "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," which drew nearly 4 million viewers in its first outing.  "Ninja Turtles" has improved Nickelodeon's ratings among young viewers by more than 15% in the Saturday morning time slot.

Viacom executives also are banking on an earnings injection from "Ninja Turtle" merchandise sales.

Analysts believe that Nickelodeon's ratings stumble was caused by several factors, including changes in viewing behavior accelerated by the popularity of video streaming services such as Netflix. The network also became overly reliant on the juggernaut property "SpongeBob SquarePants," which has lost some of its zip.  Others suspect changes in the Nielsen ratings sample audience contributed to the lower numbers.

Nickelodeon is bracing for more fallout. One of its signature shows, "iCarly," is ending this fall after five years.  And after three seasons, another popular Nickelodeon program, "Victorious," is making its final lap, which will leave more holes in the schedule. 

ALSO:

Viacom's MTV has ratings issues

Wall Street worried about fall season

Nickelodeon hopes for a rescue by "Ninja Turtles"

Nickelodeon orders more "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

"Dora the Explorer" executive out in Nickelodeon shake-up

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