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Networks reach young viewers online

Web sites compete for most popular click

It’s no secret that kids watch oodles of television, but they’re increasingly turning their attention to the Web, so savvy networks are finding ways to reach young viewers online. Sites allow fans to participate in the creative process by taking online polls, submitting original videos and browsing virtual environments.

Nickelodeon

Nick is leading the way in allowing viewers to interact with its programming. The new sitcom “iCarly” features a 14-year-old girl who hosts her own webcam show, which features homemade videos sent in by fans. More than 2,000 videos were submitted during the sitcom’s weekend premiere on Sept. 8.

The two-hour show “ME:TV” also allows Nick.com users to submit their videos, the best of which are featured on air.

Nick.com also is home to Nicktropolis, a virtual environment where users chat with friends and post on discussion boards. More than 4 million people have registered so far.

Cartoon Network

Master Control,” a two-hour block that premiered Sept. 24, lets kids choose the shows they want to watch after school. Users join one of three teams, and whichever team ends up casting the most votes gets to select the programming for that day.

On the channel’s Friday-Saturday “Fried Dynamite” block, a 10-year-old host named Blake encourages viewers to upload videos, photos, letters and artwork, promising to unveil the most exemplary submissions during his show.

Additionally, Cartoon Network is developing Mini Match, a virtual-world game scheduled to launch this month. Visitors will create their own characters, chat with other users and challenge friends in a variety of interactive games.

ABC Family

Instead of letting young adults influence the actual content of its shows, ABC Family is attempting to replicate the programs’ thematic atmosphere as an online experience. An example is the site for cabler’s teen drama “Greek.” Users participate in a “virtual rush” in which they set up a profile with pictures and videos, choose a house to rush and then compete in weekly fraternity-related challenges.

For “Kyle XY,” ABC Family devised an alternate-reality game. Players begin at the fake websites for the Mada Corp. and the Latnok Society, then proceed to sites that may or may not provide clues about the show’s mysterious lead character.

4Kids TV

Fox’s Saturday morning block launched a new site on Sept. 8 in conjunction with the beginning of its fall programming. The Web page features a selection of original games as well as streaming video of both current and past shows.

The site contains an avatar engine that allows users to manufacture their online personas. Kids can communicate with others through rating, tagging, commenting and posting on the message boards. As users play with the site, they earn points that can be used to modify their avatars and purchase accessory items.

Discovery Kids

Endurance,” the channel’s popular reality competition show, has a prominent presence online. For the sixth season (premiering Oct. 13), fans selected the final two contestants by watching their audition tapes and then voting online. As the season progresses, users will be able to send questions to the contestants, who will then respond online. Furthermore, any of the opinions or information shared on the show’s blog is eligible to be included as “in-program messaging” during an episode.

Disney Channel

Before “High School Musical 2” started shooting, fans of the original hit telepic were able to vote for some of the specific things they wanted to see in the sequel. The winning requests included having Chad wear a T-shirt that read “I Majored in Vacation” and having Troy fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his love, Gabriella.

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