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Nickelodeon Talks Up its Turnaround, Sports Awards and New Shows at Upfront

Nickelodeon brought out its stars new and old and singer Sara Bareilles on Thursday evening to persuade media buyers that cabler has pulled out of its ratings slump.

The youthful Viacom outlet unveiled a slew of new programs amid the razzle-dazzle at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The presentation included a lively three-song set from rising-star thrush Bareilles.

Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami touted the network’s renewed ratings momentum that began last year, after facing tougher sledding the previous two years.

“I can barely remember 2011 and 2012…or I choose not to,” Zarghami joked.

In addition to the new shows, Nick talked up plans to extend its Kids Choice Awards franchise to a sports-themed event. Michael Strahan, Fox Sports football analyst and co-host of the syndie ahem chatshow “Live with Kelly and Michael,” will exec produce the telecast. He vowed to recruit top athletes for the program even if he had to make personal appeals.

The packed house of media buyers seemed to warm to clips of new live-action programs including tween-center “Bella and the Bullfrogs,” about a cheerleader in a Texas town who joins her school football team as quarterback. Also drawing laughs was the preview of “Loud House,” an animated show about a boy living with 10 sisters.

All told, Nickelodeon has greenlit three live-action series, including a new entry from veteran hit maker Dan Schneider, and four animated series for its preschool block, including another “Dora the Explorer” spinoff.

The three live-action entries will begin production in Los Angeles in the summer for debuts later this year.

“Henry Danger,” created by Schneider and Dana Olsen, revolves a 13-year-old who is a sidekick to a “super crime fighter.” Nickelodeon has ordered 20 episodes of the series toplined by Jace Norman.

“Bella and the Bullfrogs,” starring Brec Bassinger has a 12-episode order and was created by Gabriel Garza and Jonathan Butler, tyro scribes who who were discovered through Nickelodeon’s Writing Program.  Jeff Bushell serves as exec producer.

“Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn,” about sibling rivalry among quadruplets, landed a 13-episode order. Matt Fleckenstein (“iCarly”) created the series and exec produces with Michael Feldman.

On the animation side, Nickelodeon said it would debut more than 100 new episodes of educational pre-school series. It is increasing its multi platform offerings, in a nod to changing times, with a My Nick Jr. app and digital channel that offers a host of interactive content tied to Nick Jr. shows and authenticated access to full episodes via streaming.

The four new series slated for the coming season are:

Dora and Friends: Into the City! (20 episodes) – This brand-new animated preschool series features iconic character Dora in new adventures, with new friends and a new interactive curriculum.   The series is set in a fictional, pan-Latino city, where Dora is 10 years old, in school and at the center of a peer group that works together to give back to the community.  “Dora and Friends” helps teach Spanish and introduces new educational areas to the curriculum, including social-emotional skills like community service and peer relationships.  Series is created by Chris Gifford and Valerie Walsh Valdes), and will launch late-summer on Nickelodeon.

Blaze and the Monster Machines (20 episodes) – This brand-new CG-animated series, slated to debuting this fall, introduces preschoolers to the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.  Viewers will join an eight-year-old boy named AJ and his monster truck Blaze on super-sized adventures.  AJ and the viewer help Blaze as they explore the physics of how things move, master mathematics and discover how everyday technologies work.  “Blaze and the Monster Machines” is created by Jeff Borkin and Ellen Martin.

Shimmer & Shine (20 episodes) – This brand-new animated series follows the magical adventures of fraternal twin genies, Shimmer and Shine, who unintentionally create chaos while attempting to grant wishes for their human best friend, Leah.  The new series features an emotional-intelligence curriculum that highlights mistakes as an important avenue to learning and doing better next time.  “Shimmer & Shine”, set to premiere in 2015, is created by Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz and produced at Nickelodeon Animation Studios.

Fresh Beat Band of Spies (20 episodes) – In this brand-new animated series based on live-action show, “The Fresh Beat Band,” four best friends in a band — Kiki, Marina, Twist and Shout – are also a group of undercover spies.  The pop band uses their individual talents and  spy gadgets to outwit a goofy cast of bad guys and solve an endless series of wild and wacky mysteries.  The series, which teaches problem-solving to preschoolers, is created by Nadine van der Velde and Scott Kraft, the same duo behind “the original series. ” Fresh Beat Band of Spies: is currently in production and will premiere on Nickelodeon in 2015.

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