Broadcasters Lick Chops Over Kids' TV

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NEW YORK ( -- Despite all the blustering about obesity, the kids' TV market is anything but a bust for cablers. Broadcasters are changing up their programming, hoping to somehow take a bigger bite of cable's lucrative kids' business.

For the full year 2005, Nickelodeon's ad revenue grew double digits and Cartoon Network's increased high-single-digits. While Kraft lowered its spending at the two major kids' players, both General Mills and Kellogg, along with the larger players in the beleaguered toy industry, increased their kids' TV dollars significantly, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Last year the kids' upfront market settled up 5% at $890 million.

This year Nick and Cartoon are joined by some new players. Nick used to supply Nick Jr. programming and ad sales efforts to CBS, a role now filled by DIC Entertainment. Cartoon Network used to do the same for corporate sibling the WB, but the new CW network will handle those duties.

Fox has an agreement with 4 Kids Entertainment and there's talk that NBC's contract with Discovery Kids is being redrawn after yielding woeful Saturday morning ratings -- in recent weeks NBC has drawn a 0.5 average in viewers 2-to-11, less than a third of the 1.6 rating ABC Kids, part of the Disney Channel empire, draws. (NBC and Discovery did not respond to calls for comment.)

Also out looking to sign marketers to its kids' properties is PBS, which like Disney Channel, signs corporate sponsors. A video-on-demand channel, PBS Kids Sprout, is now available on cable and satellite in 18 million homes.

Broadcasters, required to commit three hours a week to educational kids' programming, are under pressure from local stations to do the bare minimum rather than the five or six hours they currently commit, since kids' programming is a hard sell to local advertisers.

"It is very difficult and close to impossible to be successful if you're just a part-time player," said Jim Perry, senior VP-ad sales at Nickelodeon. "[Broadcasters] are there because they have to be there."

CBS is employing a new tactic with its partner, DIC, introducing shows such as "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?" that skew to an older, 6-to-11 audience, which Karl Kuechenmeister, senior VP-sales and marketing, called "larger and more salable" than the younger audience serviced by the former Nick Jr. block.

But while the players have been rearranged, it's unlikely to have a huge effect on the kids' market. According to a recent Magna Global ratings report, kids spend about a half-hour a week -- just 4% of their total TV watching -- on network kids' programming, as opposed to more than eight hours watching ad-supported cable.

While endemic categories have continued to grow, nonendemic categories have also provided fuel for cable. Nickelodeon began pursuing autos, travel and consumer-electronics categories six years ago; this year ABC Kids plans to go after nonendemic categories as well. The cable networks have also been aggressively offering up healthful-living and -eating initiatives for its food-marketing partners who are under pressure from consumer groups.

"There's a lot of opportunity to create messages in the food category that are responsible and relevant," said Kim McQuilken, exec VP-ad sales for Cartoon Network.

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