MTV uses Nick’s Noggin as new net

Station part of 10 chan digital package

NEW YORK — Noggin, the kids’ educational cable channel jointly owned by Nickelodeon and Children’s Television Workshop, is one of 10 new channels that Nick parent MTV Networks will market as one digital package of networks, MTV executives said Tuesday.

The digital package also will contain six music channels previously announced as the Suite, and three Nickelodeon spinoff networks that have not yet been identified. MTV Networks will begin selling Noggin at next week’s National Cable Television Assn. convention in Atlanta.

Capitalize on digital

In creating a package of 10 digital channels, MTV Networks is hoping to capitalize on cable operators’ eagerness to distribute digital set-top boxes to subscribers over the next few years.

All 10 channels will be housed on one satellite transponder, to make it easy for cable systems to pull the signals down from the sky. Cable operators will get a bulk discount if they take all 10 services, said Peter Low, senior VP of regional operations, affiliate sales and marketing for MTV Networks.

Cable operators also have the option of launching one or more channels without having to take all 10. Noggin, scheduled to launch in January 1999, will cost cable companies 10¢-20¢ per subscriber per month, depending on how much distribution they guarantee, said MTV sources. A widespread rollout on a cable operator’s basic tier of service will cost close to 10¢. Limited penetration on a separately priced digital tier will cost closer to 20¢.

Initially, Noggin will be programmed primarily from CTW’s library, which includes 3,000 hours of “Sesame Street,” along with “3-2-1 Contact,” “The Electric Company” and “Ghostwriter.” Nickelodeon will contribute its preschool shows such as “Blues Clues.”

“This is as good a library to build a channel off of since Turner launched TNT with the MGM library 10 years ago,” said Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon.

The commercial-free Noggin will run a 12-hour block of shows twice each day, said David Britt, president and CEO of CTW. Smaller blocks of programming will be targeted specifically to preschoolers (ages 2-5) and older children (6-14).

A management board will be created to oversee Noggin and a chief executive will be named at a later date. The Noggin CEO will likely come from a company outside MTV Networks and CTW, said sources.

CTW has talked to a variety of potential partners about launching a cable channel, including discussions with Nickelodeon that began 18 months ago. Sources said Nick was hot to include CTW in Noggin because Nick’s education-based programming lineup is thin and CTW’s great reputation in the eyes of parents would be a big help in affiliate sales efforts.

“We really share common values in the use of TV to help educate children,” said Britt. “We talked to a lot of folks over time and this felt right from the beginning.”

Cable operators generally praised the concept behind Noggin, but some criticized the channel for not including more original programming in its business plan.

“I’m disappointed that they’re reusing so much programming,” said an executive from a major cable company. “It needs more original programming to qualify for basic (carriage).”

Scannell said Noggin will contain some original programming, but he declined to elaborate.

Operators also questioned MTV Networks’ decision to package Nick’s digital channels with the six digital music channels that are being spun off from MTV and VH1.