American couch potatoes have never warmed up to telenovela-style scheduling in primetime. But that hasn’t stopped networks from trying.
Cabler TeenNick is the latest to take a stab at training viewers in the telenovela way when it skeds the 10th season of enduring teen sudser “Degrassi” Monday-Thursday at 9 p.m.
It’s a gamble for Nick, but a calculated one. The show is well-established and has a strong following among the Nick demo, particularly girls. Nick execs have been wanting to experiment with strip skedding in primetime for some time, according to Marjorie Cohn, prexy of original programming and development for Nickelodeon and MTV Networks Kids and Family Group.
“Telenovelas have been popular around the world for years — we thought a great marriage for us would be that format with ‘Degrassi,’ where the kids are already attached to the program and the characters,” Cohn says. “Knowing what we do about their viewing habits, we think this is going to be very successful for us.”
Another factor that Nick hopes will contribute to nightly tune-in is the fact that the episodes are not widely available online.
“Degrassi” has been on the air in one form or another in Canada since 1979 and on Nick since 2001, but the show has never run as a strip before. The format change spurred changes on the creative side, starting with the need to significantly increase the 10th-season episode order to 48 segs. But that move was eagerly embraced by the “Degrassi” creative team, led by series co-creator Linda Schuyler, as it gave writers and producers a lot more breathing room in their storytelling.
TeenNick’s telenovela foray bows July 19 with a two-hour “Degrassi” movie “The Heat Is On,” followed by regular hourlong segs through Aug. 26.