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Nick megaskeds original skeins

50 shows greenlit for development

NEW YORK — Nickelodeon on Tuesday unveiled the most aggressive original production slate in its history.

The kids cabler will produce more than 300 new original episodes to air in 1999, including 85 episodes from five shows that will premiere next season.

Nick has also approved 50 new series for development next year.

In addition, Nick prexy Herb Scannell said the cabler has put its series “Hey Arnold!” into development as Nickelodeon’s next feature film project, followed by a movie version of its series “The Wild Thornberrys.”

Nick will invest in the “tens of millions of dollars” to produce the 300 new original episodes, said Kevin Kay, Nick’s senior VP, production.

New on lineup

New series joining Nick’s schedule next fall will include:

  • “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a Nickelodeon animated production about a lovable sea sponge who dreams of becoming employee of the month at the Krusty Krab fast food restaurant;

  • “Rocket Beach,” an animated series from “Rugrats” creators Klasky Csupo; and

  • “Stray Dogs,” a Lynch Entertainment live-action production described as “My So Called Life” for the 6- to 11-year-old set.

Nick and CINAR Films (“The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo,” “The Busy World of Richard Scarry”) are producing 13 new episodes of “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” which will begin airing Feb. 6. The Nick series had been out of production for some time.

Nickelodeon had previously announced that “Little Bill,” based on Bill Cosby’s children’s books, will join the Nick Jr. preschool lineup next fall.

The web’s 1999 lineup will also feature new original episodes of “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold!,” “The Wild Thornberrys,” “CatDog,” “Cousin Skeeter,” “All That!” “Oh Yeah! Cartoons!,” “The Angry Beavers,” “The Journey of Allen Strange,” “Nick News,” “KABLAM!” and “Blue’s Clues.”

Seven pilots

Of the 50 additional series that have been approved for development, Kay detailed seven that have been commissioned for pilot production:

  • “The Amanda Bynes Show,” an “All That!” spinoff from Tollin/Robbins Prods., follows the cancellation of a child actor’s series and her trouble fitting in when she moves to Kansas.

  • “The Carmichaels,” a “Rugrats” spinoff from Klasky Csupo, focuses on Susie Charmichael, Angelica Pickles’ friend and foil, who faces the challenge of moving to a new neighborhood.

  • Nickelodeon’s first 3-D cartoon, “Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius,” follows the adventures of Jimmy Neutron, described as one part McGyver, one part Einstein and two parts Jim Carrey.

  • The live action “One Hundred Deeds for Eddie McDowd” concerns a bad boy who gets his comeuppance when he is transformed into a dog and has to perform 100 good deeds before he can be turned back into a boy. The series is from creators Steve Berman and Mitchell Kaitlin/Nat Bernstein.

  • Dennis Messner and Mary Harrington are creating the animated “Stewy the Dog Boy,” about a dog who can pass himself off as a boy.

  • “The Noah Chronicles,” a live-action series about a bunch of New York City junior high school kids, focuses on the everyday lives of teenagers. The show is from creator Ken Lipman.

  • The live-action “Proud Family” from Bruce Smith follows the exploits of 1-year-old twins who constantly escape the confines of their house to go on adventures.

Ratings reach

Cyma Zarghami, executive VP and general manager, Nickelodeon, said the cable net has averaged a 2.9 rating/18 share in kids 2-11 so far in the fourth quarter, according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s more than double the viewership of Nick’s closest competitor, Zarghami said.

However, not all news is not good news in kids TV viewership for Nickelodeon. Zarghami said that the number of kids homes watching TV has declined a whopping 13% so far in the fourth quarter compared with the “homes using television” (HUT) levels a year ago.

This considerable decline in kids viewing has hurt all kids programmers, including Nick, Zarghami said. She said Nick needed to do more research to determine why fewer kids are watching TV, and what activities they are doing instead.