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Nick has way with words at upfront

'Diego,' 'Blue's Room,' 'Power Strikers' among new skeins

Nickelodeon’s tween digital channel, The N, is going commercial.

Announcement was made Tuesday morning at Nick’s annual upfront presentation, where the channel also unveiled nine new series.

The N is the evening counterpart of pre-school channel Noggin, running from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Nearly five years old, net will be available in 41 million households by the end of the year.

Nickelodeon Television prexy Cyma Zarghami told Daily Variety that moving toward an ad-supported N had been in their thoughts for some time and that the timing was now right.

“The N is well on its way to becoming a top viewing destination for this demo and a sought-after brand with an identity all its own,” Zarghami said.

Promos and interstitials currently fill up the space where ads are traditionally placed. Initial plan calls for net to sell 6 minutes of advertising per hour. Zarghami said there were no plans to place commercials on Noggin.

Remainder of the presentation at the Roseland Ballroom focused on the continued strength of Nickelodeon, celebrating its 25th anni. Focus was more on words than numbers as info was presented poetry slam style, partly in verse. (Not surprisingly, some rhymes were wincingly received.)

Nick dominates the kids race, controlling 51% of the weekly share in the 2-11 demo, according to Nielsen.

The Ad sales team also shilled net’s “multi-platform” success — beyond the network, Nickelodeon brand extends to digital channels, consumer products, a magazine and online. This year, Nick’s film arm will release a “SpongeBob” movie and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Accordingly, ad sales senior VP Jim Perry said that the kids market had seen another season of growth, with a lot of interest coming from advertisers of film, DVDs and videogames.

Programming highlights include:

  • Five new series for the preschool block Nick Jr.: “Dora the Explorer” spinoff “Go, Diego, Go”; CGI animated music adventure “The Backyardigans”; comedy/fitness series “Lazy Town”; “Blues Clues” spinoff “Blue’s Room”; and “Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch” from the children’s book franchise. Latter features the voice of Kristin Davis.

  • Four new live-action comedy series: “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” in which the star addresses the audience “Ferris Bueller” style; Whoopi Goldberg-produced “The Power Strikers” about a girls soccer team; “Unfabulous,” starring Julia Roberts’ niece, Emma, coming of age with the help of music; and a Jamie Spears series set at a boarding school.

  • “Avatar,” net’s first anime-style series. Action comedy focuses on a selfish pre-teen who must accept his destiny as the Chosen One.

  • Returning series: “Romeo,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “My Life as a Teenage Robot,” among others.

Event closed with a performance by net’s alumna, Alanis Morissette, who starred on “You Can’t Do That on Television” as the age of 11.

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