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Nickelodeon Laying Claim To ‘Family Hour’

Nickelodeon, cable’s top-rated basic network, announced Monday a $30 million programming investment that, beginning next fall, will seek to pick up where the big broadcast networks left off when they abandoned the weeknight “family hour.”

“Eight o’clock has been a time when TV traditionally cared about kids, but now networks have decided the audience they want is young adults, and nobody else matters at 8,” Herbert Scannell, Nickelodeon’s executive vice president for prime-time programming, said in a phone interview.

Nickelodeon’s announcement signals a further push by the network to take over public television’s leadership in children’s programming.

In March 1994 Nickelodeon committed another $30 million to develop daytime preschool programming for its NICK, JR. programming block. Nickelodeon already beats NBC and CBS in viewership among 2- to 11-year-olds.

In premiering three original programs, the Viacom Inc. unit is betting a half-hour of its highly successful “Nick at Nite” block of sitcom reruns (“The Munsters” now airs in the 8-to-8:30-p.m. slot) that it can scoop up children lost by the broadcast networks. There has been a 25 percent drop in network children’s viewership during the first two weeks of this season versus last year.

The three programs, each to air once or twice a week in the 8-8:30 slot, are: “The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss,” based on Theodor Geisel’s works and created by Jim Henson Productions; the animated “Hey Arnold”; “Nickelodeon Declares BLAM!,” an animated sketch-comedy series.

Also in the rotation will be “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” which Nickelodeon already televises on Saturday night.



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