Nick tooling ad-free tyke pike

NEW ORLEANS — At the just-completed National Cable Television Assn. convention, Nickelodeon unveiled plans in the works to launch a commercial-free children’s network with the tentative name Noggin that would serve as an educational sister to Nick, targeting kids age 2 to 11. It’s reportedly geared to compete with proposed new commercial services being planned by Disney and Fox.

Launch for the proposed 24-hour network is sometime in 1998, the same year Disney hopes to launch its Disney Channel companion ABZ and Fox/News Corp. hopes to take the wraps off a cartoon-style channel with partner Saban Entertainment.

Nickelodeon prexy Herb Scannell said the Viacom-owned network already has experimented with various pilot concepts, logos and promos, and is “sensing what the temperature is out there” for such a service.

The channel would operate sans advertising, operating strictly on ancillary sales of books and CD-ROMs. Blockbuster and Simon & Schuster, both Viacom divisions, have expressed participation interest.

B&B to tour again

MTV prexy Judy McGrath told a group of journalists here that a sequel to MTV’s enormously successful “Beavis and Butt-head Do America” film is in development, and that creator-director Mike Judge is on board to participate. “But we’re not going to rush into it,” McGrath said.

McGrath also said a live-action feature version of MTV’s experimental animated series “Aeon Flux” is in development.

Farrah gives ‘All’

Just how badly does Farrah Fawcett need money these days?

In the wake of her recent nude layout in Playboy magazine, Fawcett has signed a pact with Playboy Entertainment Group for a pay-per-view special titled “Farrah Fawcett: All of Me” that will show later this year on Request TV, Viewer’s Choice and over DirecTV and Primestar with a suggested retail of $14.95.

The special is expected to include, among other things, behind-the-scenes footage of Fawcett’s nude and partially clothed photo shoots for Playboy.

Tale of 2 cablers

MSNBC announced that it will grow to 35 million subscriber homes by the end of April, while competitor Fox News Channel noted that it has shot past the 21 million household figure a little more than five months after its October launch in 17 million homes.

It’s interesting to note how differently the networks hyped their new numbers, however.

An MSNBC spokeswoman handed out a press release to get out the word. Meanwhile, Fox News Channel delivered to convention attendees’ hotel rooms a mock edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune with several pages of stories and headlines hyping the network’s having passed the 20 million sub mark.

Nick milestone

Also on the numbers front, Nick at Nite’s TV Land announced that it will surpass the 20 million household plateau by May 1, a year after its launch, while Viacom sister music channel M2 (launched Aug. 1) will rise to 6.4 million subscribers after inking deals with satcasters USSB, EchoStar and AlphaStar.

However, virtually all of M2’s homes are on satellite, practically none on cable.

More numbers: Home & Garden Television announced it has passed the 25 million subscriber mark after signing an affiliation agreement with Cablevision Systems. The agreement ultimately will bring the cablenet past 31 million subs, it reports.

HGTV’s rapid growth has stemmed in large part from its deep pockets that are paying cable operators $4 to $6 per monthly subscriber.

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