Nick picks new telepix strategy

Net aiming for feature-length shows

NEW YORK — Kids TV powerhouse Nickelodeon has begun to produce a slate of made-for-television movies, a new programming strategy for the cabler.

Beginning in the late summer or fall, Nickelodeon will premiere the first of its original 90-minute films.

The net’s goal is to produce 12 telepics a year, premiering one each month.

While Nickelodeon produces a slew of original series and has made several theatrical films (in conjunction with sister company Paramount Pictures), the web has never done TV movies.

Nick’s initial slate of original pics is heavy on feature-length versions of existing and forthcoming Nickelodeon series. All will be produced by the shows’ production teams.

Nickelodeon has previously developed its series into films for theatrical distribution. This year’s bigscreen release of Nick’s animated hit “Rugrats,” produced by Klasky Csupo, grossed more than $100 million in domestic box office.

Nick has wrapped production on its first made-for-TV movie, an expansion of the Nick series “The Journey of Allen Strange,” a live-action adventure series produced by Tommy and John Lynch.

Also on Nick’s made-for-TV development slate: “Hey Arnold,” an animated show created by Craig Bartlett; “Stray Dog,” also a forthcoming series from Tommy Lynch; “Kenan and Kel,” a live-action comedy from Marquee Tollin/Robbins Prods. that spawned the feature film “Good Burger”; “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” a live-actioner from Cinar; and “Animorphs,” a live-action show from Scholastic Entertainment.

In addition to capitalizing on the built-in name recognition of Nick’s series, these telepics will be economical. The 90-minute movies will cost only a few hundred thousand dollars more than a 30-minute series episode, as each film will cost less than $1 million to make.

Original move

Nickelodeon will also develop movies from original concepts. One project in development not based on a Nick series is an animated movie version of “The Pied Piper.” The cabler’s execs hope some of these original projects will serve as pilots for future net series.

Nickelodeon has quietly begun televising acquired kids’ films each Sunday from 4-6 p.m. This timeslot is being considered for premiering the original movies as well.

Nickelodeon is the most watched kids’ TV outlet, garnering more than 50% of total children’s TV viewership.

The Viacom-owned web also ranks as the top-rated cable net around the clock.

A Nickelodeon spokesman confirmed the move but declined to elaborate.