"Gabba" is a "Pee Wee's Playhouse"-esque variety show for the digital age, complete with musical guests so hip even Pitchfork would approve (the Shins, Biz Markie, Mark Mothersbaugh and Cornelius, to name a few). Since premiering in June, it's become a modest hit for Nick Jr., with 4.4 million total viewers tuning to see the first five episodes, according to Nielsen. But on NickJr.com, clips of the show have been bringing "Lazy Sunday" levels of viral buzz, with 17.8 million streams on the Nick Jr. video player since June 25, according to Nielsen's Omniture SiteCatalyst. If you've heard a college student utter the line, "My name is Oskar! I like to dance!" followed by a Biz Markie beat box, now you know why.
"Yo Gabba Gabba" is just part of a recent spate of Nickelodeon shows finding equally scalable audiences online. Sitcom "iCarly" reaches 2.8 million viewers a week on TV and 1.4 million viewers online (including a dedicated site where fans can create web videos). And animated series "Avatar" has created an ever-bigger online community for fans outside its core age group, with its message boards generating 17.5 million visits to date, according to Omniture SiteCatalyst. That's to say nothing of "The Naked Brothers Band," the musical series and band of the same name that released its debut album this fall and already has outsold new titles from Jennifer Lopez and Bruce Springsteen.
Bridging from broadcast
Nick Chief Marketing Officer Pam Kaufman said the strategy for launching shows is not approaching them as shows at all. They're "big ideas," that elusive marketer buzz phrase. "We're trying to really give the consumer as much of the show as possible," Ms. Kaufman said. "Obviously [TV] seems to be where it's starting for our audience, and we really use the internet as a way to expand upon the idea."
Shows such as "iCarly" and "Avatar" each were conceived with online components and a unique set of success metrics. "It's not just about page views or visitors. We also get our measurement from the message boards," Ms. Kaufman said.
Nick has incubated some of kids' online-media consumption through community sites for shows such as "SpongeBob SquarePants," as well as the Kids' Choice Awards. This year's event generated 44 million online votes, and additional encouragement from host Justin Timberlake prompted a real-time spike in web traffic as the live show unfurled on-air.
Those consumers everyone talks about who need to access content when they want it and where they want it? Those are kids. Steve Youngwood, exec VP-digital media, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, said: "Our research says that kids are multitasking and experiencing their entertainment on multiple platforms, so convergence is key when it comes to our programming. It's a natural part of our strategy to dually program big TV events."
Still, even Ms. Kaufman said she was a bit surprised by the instant popularity of "Yo Gabba Gabba" with audiences that aren't parents or 4-year-olds. "What we try to do with all our shows is create a dual appeal and entertain the parents, but there were a lot of blog entries about bands like the Aquabats or the Shins being on the show. And these are people who are single, not parents, and aware that it's a preschool show."
For the marketers looking to associate themselves with these shows across platforms (this season they've included Kellogg, Nintendo and Buena Vista), the key is to be one step ahead of the YouTube linkers. "It takes a little bit of foresight and insight to make sure the brand and teams are asking themselves questions and doing some scenario planning," said Art Sindlinger, VP-activation director at Starcom.