Disney digs in for kidvid battle

Mouse House rolls out lineups on three channels to take back turf from Nick

As Disney and Nickelodeon battle it out for kidvid bragging rights, the Mouse House on Monday unveiled program lineups for Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior, which will evolve into a standalone network later this month.

Kids TV has rarely been more heated as Disney, a leader in the 9-14 and 6-11 demos has narrowed the gap with longtime heavyweight Nickelodeon among kids 2-11. The rivals will showcase product and roll out talent at upfront presentations in Gotham thisweek, with Disney going today, Nickelodeon Wednesday.

Late last year, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman signaled a sharp and what he he called “inexplicable” drop in Nick ratings ahead of the holiday season. He questioned Nielsen’s methodology. Disney execs suggested there’s little cause for concern.

“Ask Philippe Dauman. It’s an anomaly,” Gary Marsh, prexy and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, told Variety on Monday.

Dauman recently announced that while Viacom continues examining Nielsen data, Nick will add more than 500 hours of fresh episodes to try to turn the ratings around.

Marsh said Disney is starting to see more of the balanced appeal to boys and girls that has been Nickelodeon’s hallmark.

“Disney has tilted more girls than boys, but last year it was not losing girls, but was gaining boys,” he said.

Rita Ferro, exec VP of Disney media sales and marketing, said the Disney Channel site has been redesigned and was relaunched Monday “talking across all four (outlets) for the first time,” mean the three cablers plus Radio Disney. Advertisers including Best Western, Ubisoft and Horizon Milk are on board with cross-platform deals.

New Disney Channel series include “Code 9,” an unscripted, hidden-camera jokefest starting this summer, and animated comedies “Wander Over Yonder” and “Gravity Falls.” Talent competish “Make Your Mark” is back for the second year with extensions across multiple Disney platforms.

The latest addition to Disney’s original TV movie slate, along with one based on weekly series “Jessie” (Variety, March 12), is “Teen Beach Musical” with “Austin & Ally” co-star Ross Lynch. That joins such previously announced efforts as “Girl vs. Monster,” a Halloween movie with Olivia Holt from “Kickin’ It”; “Let It Shine,” a musical movie inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac and “Shake It Up: Made in Japan,” a 90-minute song-and-dance event that takes the Sunday series to Tokyo.

Pilots in the works include singing “Zombies and Cheerleaders” — which Marsh said he hopes can become the new “High School Musical” — “Dog With a Blog,” and “Crash and Bernstein.”

At Disney XD, the Marvel Universe block starts April 1 with the debut of “Ultimate Spider-Man” and a second season of “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Other XD series include “Motorcity,” set in a futuristic animated Detroit, “Tron Uprising” and “Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja,” while acquired series include “Slugterra,” “Packages From Planet X” and “PacMan.”

The long-anticpated expansion of Disney Channel’s Disney Junior programming block, targeting kids age 2-7, into its own network will begin March 23, launching with about 30 million subs from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Verizon. The net is intended to replace Disney’s SoapNet on most systems as contracts expire. Disney Channel will retain a Disney Junior block after March 23, however.

Soon to premiere on Disney Junior is “Doc McStuffins,” an animated skein about a 6-year-old girl who talks to and heals stuffed animals and toys, as well as princess-themed “Sofia the First,” and “The Happy Hugglemonsters.”

Special events that are part of existing series will include: “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Bucky’s Great Race” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey and Donald Have a Farm.”

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