Network to launch scripted show 'iCarly'

Hoping to fend off the advances of an improving Disney Channel, Nickelodeon is lacing its upcoming schedule with digital components.

In the fall the Viacom net will launch “iCarly,” a scripted show starring Miranda Cosgrove in which viewers will be asked to submit content, some of which will be integrated into the show.

Skein, produced by Dan Schneider, turns on a girl (Cosgrove) who becomes a Web 2.0 celeb via her own Webcast. Viewer-submitted content could appear on the Webcast or be integrated in other ways into the series.

Net is touting the series as the first scripted show to include user-generated content. Sister net VH1 has two unscripted shows, “Acceptable.TV” and “Web Junk 20,” that uses and riffs on viewer-submitted videos.

Nickelodeon made the announcement at its customarily glitzy upfront Thursday at the Nokia Theater in Gotham.

User-generated content has been a focus at Viacom’s older-skewing MTV, but Nickelodeon feels the trend has migrated to younger auds.

“We want to play pitch and catch between the Internet and television,” said MTV Kids and Family group prexy Cyma Zarghami in a conference call. “It makes for great content, and it makes the viewer feel more connected.”

In her remarks at the upfront, Zarghami pledged Nick would be “in lockstep with kids as their relationship to media evolves.”

Pickup of “iCarly” comes after Nickelodeon’s two-hour daily block “Me:TV” debuted last month. With on-air hosts and a studio audience, it runs original content submitted by consumers as well as Nick content mashed up by users at Web site TurboNick. Execs said submissions had quintupled from 2006 levels.

Network even promoted a buy of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for Nick at Nite by billing the show as a “YouTube predecessor.”

User-generated content is appealing because of the perception that it can keep media-saturated auds more engaged; it’s also produced more cheaply.

But outside of smaller outfits like Current and G4, few cable nets have made it a staple of programming.

Also at the upfront, Nickelodeon said it has picked up animated series “Making Fiends,” “Buppie Guppies” and “The Umizumis” for broadcast in 2008.

It has renewed docu-style hit “The Naked Brothers Band” and “Just Jordan” for second seasons, as well as put in fresh orders for episodes of long-running hits such as “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Fairly OddParents.”

Nick at Nite has also bought reruns of “George Lopez” and will begin running them in the fall; web is getting the skein earlier than any other off-network sitcom in its 22-year history.

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