Execs tout development prospects at upfront event

Nickelodeon prexy Cyma Zarghami said Wednesday the net “has no intention of letting the recent ratings slip slow down our creative momentum” as it unveiled more than 650 hours worth of programming of new and returning series for the upcoming season, as well as projects in development from “iCarly” and “Victorious” creator Dan Schneider, “iCarly” stars Jennette McCurdy and Jerry Trainor, Rachel Crow from “The X-Factor,” and Brit pop group One Direction.

“Nickelodeon is in fantastic shape here and around the globe,” Zarghami told hundreds of advertisers assembled at Jazz at Lincoln Center for the cabler’s upfront.

James Franco is on board for a multi-episode part in the new Nick at Nite skein “Hollywood Heights,” she said.

Big Time Rush opened the show, and Crow rocked the end. In between, helmer Michael Bay took the stage with early 3D storyboards for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” feature he’s producing for Paramount, with a follow-up series to air on Nick. “Kids have a ferocious appetite for new content and it’s our intention to serve them more innovative work than ever before,” Zarghami said.

The announcements at the annual upfront presentation in New York come at a critical time for the 32-year-old cabler. It has seen ratings dip and rivals nipping at its heels after decades of dominance of kids’ television.

Execs hope the animation roster of over 300 new episodes will turn the tide starting with “The Legend of Korra” about a teenage Avatar to debut April 14 as part of Nick’s Saturday morning block.

“Raving Rabbids,” based on the Ubisoft videogame and produced by the game maker will join the lineup in spring 2013.

The net has ordered 26 episodes of “Monsters vs. Aliens,” in partnership with DreamWorks Animation and based on the 2009 film, and of buddy comedy “Robot & Monster.”

Of the seven new animation pilots picked up for the 2012-13 season, four are from Butch Hartman, creator and exec producer of “The Fairly OddParents” and “T.U.F.F. Puppy.”

“It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!” will be Nick’s first full-length, stop-motion animated special.

Live action offerings include a 26 episode pickup of new series “Marvin, Marvin” with Lucas Cruikshank as an alien teem living with a human family and trying to fit into life on earth; and new episodes of his short-form series “Fred: The Show,” along with a third movie installment, “Fred Goes to Camp.”

“Hollywood Heights” (previously called “Reach for a Star”) will feature Brittany Underwood, Melissa Ordway, Cody Longo Anthony and Justin Wilczynski. Show starts in June as a co-production with Televisa and produced by Sony Pictures TV.

Original TV movies include “Rags” is a music-infused pic about an Orphan named Charlie Prince who dreams of being a singer.

“Figure It Out,” a revival of the 1990s family game show, will launch later this year.

“A Fairly Odd Christmas” spesh will bow this holiday season.

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