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Nicktoons Springs Into Action

9/23/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Nicktoons is growing up and looking to move out from under parent Nickelodeon’s giant shadow.

After less than one month as an ad-supported, Nielsen Media Research-rated network, the 3-year-old service last week relaunched with a new name and logo and a greater focus on reaching young male viewers smitten with action-based animation fare.

The new Nicktoons Network, which targets viewers age 6 to 14, will launch three new anime-based series during the fourth quarter to complement its lineup of mostly off-Nickelodeon skeins like SpongeBob SquarePants and original-series product. With an audience of 36 million homes, Nicktoons Network general manager Keith Dawkins hopes the new branding effort will help boost its distribution and overall audience appeal.

“We’ve grown from 8 million to 36 million [subscribers] in two years, and Nickelodeon is committed to investing in that growth so that we can be in the same places as the Toon Disneys of the world,” he said.

The new Nicktoons Network wants to define itself as the 24-hour outlet for all animated programming created in Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons Studio in Burbank, Calif.

“It was important for us to add the word network so that it spells out the fact that we’re not just the hit [Nickelodeon] shows,” said Dawkins.

Key to rebranding efforts are three new shows the network will launch later this year, all aimed at boys. Dawkins said Skyland is a sci-fi action adventure series set in the year 2251 that follows a heroic young brother and sister team searching for their parents in a new world order. Kappa Mikey is an action comedy about a struggling American actor who hits it big in Japan, starring in an anime series. And Shuriken School is quirky comedy with a martial-arts twist about a boy’s adventures in ninja school.

Those series, as well as recently launched shows My Dad the Rock Star and Martin Mystery, will be featured in “Three-Headed Monster,” airing 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays through Sundays. It’s one of several new programming blocks executives believe will entice viewers.

Nicktoons Network will also debut Edgar and Allen, a series of short, exclusive cartoons that Dawkins eyes as a development incubator for new long-form animated series.

“Ninety percent of boys love animation within our demo, so we need to deliver programming that caters to them,” Dawkins said.

With the new animated features, plus old standards such as The Ren & Stimpy Show, the service’s programming is now 75% exclusive.

Nicktoons hopes the new series will help the network improve on its 0.2 primetime average for August, its first month as a Nielsen-measured network.

Nicktoons will also be very aggressive on the new-technology distribution end. Dawkins said it is currently revamping its Web site (www.nicktoons.com) to deliver streaming video and interactive applications, as well as exclusive content for its users.

September