The Venue: The Nokia Theatre, New York
Key Execs: Judy McGrath, chairman-CEO, MTV Networks; Cyma Zarghami, president, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group; Tom Aschiem, exec VP-general manager, Nickelodeon Television; Hank Close, president-U.S. ad sales, MTV Networks; Jim Tricarico, senior VP-ad sales, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group
The Food: A healthy assortment of fruits, bagels and juices that were occasionally hard to distinguish due to the glare of the orange and green lights that permeated the venue
The Swag: Guests left the event with a silver tube containing a special portable iPod speaker system emblazoned with the orange Nickelodeon slime logo. The toy is sure to come in handy for those buyers who also attended the Oxygen upfront and took home the complimentary iPod Shuffles.
The Celebs: Justin Timberlake (via prerecorded video), Emma Roberts, Jamie Lynn Spears, the Naked Brothers and a handful of other young Nick stars
The Ratings Game: Nickelodeon is still the No. 1 cable kids network, as it has been for 12 consecutive years, attracting more than 2 million viewers a day during 2006.
Buyer's Verdict: Shari Lynn Cohen, co-executive director for national broadcast at MindShare, applauds Nick and its consortium of kids networks for being one of the more proactive brands on TV. "They don't rest on their laurels. They understand what their audience and scale is and are always one step ahead of what the next big thing is. They keep refreshing the brand."
MTV may be splitting its upfronts into three brand roadshows this year, but the kids group at Nickelodeon still rolled out the orange carpet for their annual fete for the advertisers and media buyers.
The network kept its role as entertainers at the forefront for their event in Times Square by trotting out Justin Timberlake via prerecorded video to virtually emcee the event in preparation for his hosting gig at the Kids Choice awards at the end of the month. MTV CEO Judy McGrath, other key execs and the young stars of Nick's live-action series (and Kathleen Herles, the voice of Dora the Explorer) also appeared awards-show-style in pairs throughout the presentation.
Though Mr. Timberlake proved to be an engaging host even on a video screen, the true highlight was watching the performance of another "JT," MTVN Kids and Family Group's senior VP-ad sales, Jim Tricarico, who gave a special performance of the Timberlake hit "Sexy Back" with a twist.
"Get your sales-y on!" he sang to the crowd amid other lyrics such as "Media people, you see these numbers and it ain't no lie." Ms. Cohen remarked afterward that a day-job switch might be in order for Mr. Tricarico: "He's a better singer than he is a seller."
Elsewhere, Nickelodeon announced a boatload of new programming for its upcoming season, most notably "iCarly," starring Miranda Cosgrove of "Drake & Josh" in a LonelyGirl-esque show that's part YouTube webcast/part tween sitcom and premieres in September. "Making Friends" is another show with digital roots that premiered on the channel's TurboNick broadband platform and makes the move to the linear network later this year. An increased offering of programming for preschoolers -- including "Bubble Guppies" and "The Umizumiz" -- is also on the horizon for early 2008.
The channel's new hit, "The Naked Brothers Band," showcased its new stars, the 12-year-old and 9-year-old brothers, who made their public performance debut at the upfront event. Though the plucky young musicians came off as old pros, the real star for many buyers was still the goo-logoed Nickelodeon, which can still deliver as a "multi-splatform" brand, to use Ms. McGrath's terminology.