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Viacom plots Nick turnaround

Viacom is putting programming at the heart of its recovery plan for flagging children’s channel Nickelodeon, aiming to debut six new animated series designed to appeal to a “purely post-millennial” audience.

During the firm’s quarterly earnings call, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said that Nickelodeon was “rapidly improving” even though the channel is struggling financially and was blamed for a 6% slump in domestic ad revenue within Vicaom’s Media Networks division.

Dauman said Nickelodeon posted three consecutive months of sequential ratings improvement in the quarter ending December 31 by putting more emphasis on event programming from strong franchises like SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents, and new properties like Peter Rabbit.

However, Dauman said that in the short term, the channel’s objectives were to reclaim its Saturday morning leadership, strengthen its weekday afternoon block and improve its preschool viewership, in order to boost longer-term growth of its older audience.

“That last point is particularly critical as the network hits the generational reset button. Nickelodeon’s long-term strategy is to refine its programming filter for an audience that is purely post-millennial,” said Dauman.

Among the new shows to which Nick is pinning its hopes are Monsters vs Aliens, based on the hit DreamWorks film, and the recently launched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. Viacom said it also aims to introduce a live afternoon block in about a month and that its efforts to centralise Nickelodeon’s leadership in Los Angeles under Russell Hicks would help to get programmes to screen faster.

Over at MTV, Dauman said Viacom also aimed to roll out “more and more new original programmes” aimed at the millennial generation. He said MTV had also started to answer the question “What’s next after Jersey Shore?” with Catfish: The TV show, which he claimed was “the number one new cable series of 2012, with MTV’s core 12 to 34 demo.”

Excluding the Nickelodeon networks, Viacom said its domestic channels – which also include MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central – returned to positive ad sales growth in the quarter. However, it predicted that Nickelodeon’s ratings improvement “will help us significantly improve our overall ad sales performance.”

Media Networks revenue fell by 2% to US$2.39bn during Q1. Total revenue dropped 16% to US$3.31bn, while operating income slipped 22% to US$797m, partly due to lower filmed entertainment revenue.

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