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Stone Stanley inks for firstrun with Nick, ESPN

Stone Stanley Prods. has inked 40-episode deals with cable networks Nickelodeon and ESPN that will bring the indie production company’s weekly TV production slate to 13 hours.

Nickelodeon and ESPN become the latest cable webs to confirm more firstrun programing at a time when their main source of revenue — the cable operators — are facing new rate rollbacks of as much as 10%.

Earlier this week, Lifetime confirmed that it would offer four new series.

For ESPN, Stone Stanley is producing “Burnt Toast,” a half-hour strip on “high-energy” sports such as bungee-jumping and snow boarding.

The show, which is set to premier in the spring, could eventually find itself on ESPN’s sister channel ESPN2. That channel, which launched late last year, is aimed at younger demos and features more lifestyle-type programing.

“The show will probably air on ESPN2, but they want to establish it first,” said Scott Stone, co-principal at Stone Stanley. “ESPN2 does not have the money to develop shows and this can take viewers with it to the new channel.”

Stone Stanley also received an order from Nickelodeon for 40 more episodes of the children’s game show “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” which runs on weekends. Since its debut last year the show has improved on its time period from a 1.5 average rating to over a 2.

The show has proven successful enough for the kids cabler that it is now stripping the original 40 episodes in the 5:30 p.m. time period.

The Nickelodeon-Stone Stanley agreement also allows both to exploit the show in ancillary markets and merchandising. “We are in a position to participate,” says co-principal David Stanley.

That may eventually include taking the show to the broadcast networks. For example, Nickelodeon parent Viacom is producing a pilot of “Clarissa Explains It All” for CBS.

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