Cabler's ayem kid block to air ad-free for now

CBS’ new Saturday morning kids block, soon to be programmed by cable cousin Nickelodeon, will go commercial-free next year.

“Nick Jr. on CBS” will air interstitials and promos throughout the season rather than selling time to advertisers.

Instead, Nickelodeon Ad Sales will wait until fourth quarter 2001 before bringing the new franchise to market. Even then, the three-hour “Nick Jr. on CBS” block will only sell four minutes per hour of ad time — just like Nick Jr. does the rest of the week on Nickelodeon.

A Nick spokesman said the cabler’s sales execs wanted to get a sense of the block’s performance before making their case on Madison Avenue.

Nickelodeon took a similar approach with TV Land, which first launched without commercials.

CBS’ new Nick tenants face an uphill challenge to attract young eyeballs to the web this fall. The network has struggled to make much of a dent with kid auds in recent years after opting to sked an all-educational lineup.

Nick will even look to Nelvana, no stranger to CBS’ Saturday morning kids block, for some assistance.

The Canadian-based kids producer had programmed CBS’ Saturday morning lineup since fall 1997, but the Eye opted to go with Nick to revamp the block beginning this fall (Daily Variety, Feb. 9).

Nevertheless, CBS’ coming fall Saturday morning schedule includes two series from Nelvana: “Franklin” and “Little Bear” (a co-production with Nickelodeon).

Besides the Nelvana cartoons, “Nick Jr. on CBS” will include the signature series “Blue’s Clues,” the new play-along animated adventure “Dora the Explorer,” Bill Cosby’s animated “Little Bill” and HIT Entertainment’s “Kipper.”

All six shows qualify as educational to meet FCC requirements.

“Franklin” first debuted on CBS in 1998, but the property later moved to Nickelodeon’s preschool block Nick Jr. (which has a higher concentration of young viewers), so the Eye’s deal to air programming from Nick Jr. ironically brings the cartoon back to the net. “Franklin” is based on a series of Scholastic books.

“Franklin” will air Saturdays at 11 a.m., along with “Kipper,” the other “Nick Jr. on CBS” series from an outside producer. Airing at 11:30, HIT’s “Kipper” is based on a series of children’s books about a curious puppy.

The “”Nick Jr. on CBS”” block kicks off at 7 a.m. with “Blues Clues,” followed by “Dora the Explorer” at 7:30. “Dora,” produced by Nick Jr., will debut on the cable channel in August in addition to CBS.

At 8 a.m. the network will air “Little Bear,” based on the children’s books illustrated by Maurice Sendak. That’s followed by Cosby’s “Little Bill,” also a Nick Jr. production, at 8:30.

CBS News’ “The Saturday Early Show” interrupts the block from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Nick Jr. will cross promote “Nick Jr. on CBS” during its weekday cable telecasts, while CBS will promote the cable block during its Saturday morning Nick Jr. telecasts. CBS Prods. is also in development with Nick Jr. to produce new series.

“We are thrilled to be partners with the most successful and recognizable brand name in children’s television,” said CBS Entertainment prexy Nancy Tellem.

Elsewhere on the kids front, both Fox Kids and Kids WB firmed up their summer schedules.

Kids WB will debut the new Japanese anime adventure “Cardcaptors” Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. beginning June 17; while Fox Kids debuts “Angela Anaconda” Saturdays at 11 a.m. starting June 24.

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