For the second time in three months, Nickelodeon released Nielsen ratings factoids on Wednesday that illustrate the sheer depth of the kiddie cablenet’s dominance of the children’s television marketplace this season, sparking claims that it now commands 57% of all TV viewing done by kids aged 2-11.
That phenomenal percentage is perhaps given unfair weight by the fact that Nickelodeon programs 103.5 hours each week aimed at kids, while all of its competitors, save for the Cartoon Network and syndication, run children’s fare less than 20 hours each week and, in the case of ABC and CBS, a mere five to six hours apiece.
Yet, the numbers are clearly impressive, showing Nickelodeon’s viewing up 15% for the 1996-97 season to date (Sept. 2 to Dec. 1) as its cable and broadcast rivals have dropped a collective 18%. Nick has also increased its national 2-11 ratings average from a 2.7 to a 3.0.
“We have 40 of the top 50 shows and 78 of the top 100 (among kids aged 2-11),” said Sam Moser, senior VP, advertising sales, for Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and its spin-off nostalgia channel TV Land.
“I think our story is really quite remarkable and historical in the sense that no network has ever dominated a particular demographic group like we dominate kids. I mean, to control 57% is just amazing.”
The 57% figure is given added perspective when one considers that comparatively, CBS draws a scant 1% of the collective gross ratings points for kids 2-11 and ABC just 2%. Even Fox, whose numbers have slipped 16% for the season, commands just 11% of the total pie.
In fact, Nickelodeon easily beats the rest of TV combined in attracting the pre-pubescent crowd. Even Cartoon Network, with its exclusive target of kids, averages only a .5 national rating to Nick’s 3.0, Moser said, “even though Cartoon Network’s penetration has increased.”
Moser added that Nickelodeon is now outdrawing CBS and ABC so dominantly on Saturday mornings that it has helped force CBS to forge a new strategy targeting older kids and adults in the daypart beginning next season. Moser said the move might be the start of a trend.
“It wouldn’t surprise me all that much if the networks went out of the children’s business altogether in the next few years,” Moser said. “I’m not predicting they will shut down their kids entertainment units, but the fact is they can make more money programming news and sports against us.”
While Nickelodeon, with 71% penetration, still lacks the 80% to 90% clearance levels enjoyed by the networks on Saturdays, Moser said the broadcast networks have hurt their own cause by preempting kids programming for news and sports specials, alienating kids still further.
Nickelodeon’s foray into primetime has likewise been successful this season, with its 8-8:30 p.m. original nightly block outperforming the broadcast offerings on five of seven nights each week with kids 2-11 since September, said Moser.
It has all resulted in an advertising windfall for Nickelodeon that Moser estimated will result in a 1996 advertising revenue increase “in the healthy double digits” over fiscal 1995 -meaning upwards of $50 million. “The thing we keep hearing from the networks, including Fox, is that kids are leaving television to turn on their computers and watch videos,” Moser said, “but we maintain – and our numbers back it up – that kids are abandoning the broadcast networks and shifting to us. What we’ve done is change the way kids watch TV.”