VIACOM NEARS DECISION ON SYNDICATED KIDS SHOW: 'NOGGIN' COULD EMERGE AS MAJOR MULTIMEDIA BRAND FOR THREE COMPANY UNITS

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Viacom is close to a decision on unveiling "Noggin," a syndicated children's TV project that could evolve into a major brand.

A pilot has already been shot for "Noggin," which was jointly developed by three Viacom divisions: MTV Networks' Nickelodeon; Simon & Schuster's Learning Technology Group; and Paramount Pictures' Paramount Television. The project is awaiting only final approval from Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone.

PROGRAMMING MEETS FCC MANDATE

The sales pitch to TV stations is that "Noggin" would meet the new Federal Communications Commission mandate to provide educational programming for children.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. Simon & Schuster plans a number of "Noggin"-branded products, particularly on the electronic publishing side through its Learning Technology Group. Some of those products would include hybrid CD-ROM/Internet products using the latest World Wide Web tools to present engaging graphics and animation.

MTV Networks has already registered the name noggin.com for future use on the Web.

VAST POTENTIAL FOR 'NOGGIN'

"The potential for 'Noggin,' if it gets the green light, is vast," said one Viacom TV executive. "Besides the in-house spin-offs, think of the licensing and merchandising possibilities. It's 100% advertiser friendly. All original material. And as I think we've proved with Nickelodeon and at Simon & Schuster, this company knows how to do kids."

"Noggin" could also evolve into a cable network focusing on education. It would complement entertainment-oriented Nickelodeon.

Such a new franchise would also be an attempt to stave off plans Walt Disney Co. has to launch its own entertainment/educational cable network for kids. The Disney project is under the direction of former Nickelodeon President Geraldine Laybourne.

Ironically, "Noggin" evolved from a concept Ms. Laybourne first developed when she was at Nickelodeon.

Back in early 1995, Viacom was debating whether to launch a project called Big Orange, an interactive learning channel that would involve other Viacom divisions. Although it never got off the ground, a number of company insiders kept talking about the concept.

PILOT OUT OF NICKELODEON

The pilot for "Noggin" grew out of Nickelodeon's series of clever, entertaining science segments called "Inside Eddie Johnson."

Executives at Paramount TV are anxiously awaiting Mr. Redstone's approval.

"Stations need shows to fulfill the FCC's regulation about kids programming, and they can't wait," said one of the executives. "We really should already be out

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