CBS Doesn't Kid, Drops Nick, Picks Up DIC

In another effort to firmly split Viacom from CBS, CBS and Viacom's Nickelodeon have abandoned their seven-year-old "Nick on CBS" kids' Saturday morning programming block.

Now CBS is starting up a new programming relationship with DIC Entertainment for a three-hour block of FCC-required programming, called "CBS's Secret Saturday Morning Slumber Party," for Fall 2006.

DIC already runs a syndicated ad-hoc three-hour block of FCC programming, called "DIC Kids Network," on a number of stations, such as Tribune and Fox.

Andy Heyward, chairman/CEO of DIC Entertainment, says the CBS programming deal will be a completely separate operation from its syndication business. Although he declined to disclose specifics, he did say it's similar to a revenue-sharing deal.

"CBS is a participant," said Heyward. A CBS spokesman wouldn't comment about specifics of the deal.

He added DIC would be selling the national advertising time, and run licensing and consumer products of the business. Currently, Tribune Entertainment sells the national advertising time in the DIC Kids Network.

This is the latest in the line of networks looking to lease or sell off their Saturday morning kids' programming time. NBC does it with Discovery Channel. Fox Broadcasting Co. does it with 4Kids Entertainment. Media agency executives estimate that NBC gets $8 million from Discovery; Fox gets a larger fee--$25 million a year--from 4Kids Entertainment.

DIC will program the three-hour block, half with new programming and half with library product. One new show, "Horseland," a young girl-skewing reality show, will start in the fall.

DIC's animated library includes "Madeline," " Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego," "Sabrina: The Animated Series," "Strawberry Shortcake," "Liberty's Kids," "Trollz," "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century," "Archie's Weird Mysteries," "The Littles," "Inspector Gadget's Field Trip," and "Sonic Underground."

DIC won't put its name on the new programming block--as other kids' program producers have done.

"We are not going to put our brand on it," said Heyward. "DIC is not a consumer brand. Our show, 'Madeline,' for example, is a consumer brand."

Programming analysts say it's likely that Nickelodeon bolted from the Saturday morning kids' programming block--once considered the most significant time period for kids viewers.

Nickelodeon has been providing Nick Jr.' kids' shows to CBS, such as "Dora the Explorer." But Nickelodeon needed to produce extra episodes of its series to accommodate CBS. This added production costs to the cable network. One analyst said that at best, Nickelodeon might have broke even on the deal.

Nickelodeon's executives didn't return phone calls by press time. While Nickelodeon had its name attached to the CBS Saturday morning block--"Nick on CBS"--analysts say that running programming on CBS did not substantially add to the value of the Nickelodeon brand. Nickelodeon is already a worldwide kids network with its own brand appeal.

When Viacom and CBS became separate public companies on January 1, 2006, this freed up Nickelodeon to act more independently. In addition to DIC's syndicated programming network, DIC derives licensing revenues from its kids' shows. More recently, DIC also became the kids' licensing agent for McDonald's Corp.

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