The path from wide-eyed baby squatting in front of an antenna-topped tube TV airing Nickelodeon to animation-creating DePaul University student is a long one, occupied by the myriad experiences that make a life. But, in this delightful 2:25 animated short, college student Dawn Adepoju winds her two-decade narrative into a colorful and compelling story documenting the powerful influence Nickelodeon has exercised over her creative life.
Game-Shakers Russell Hicks & Dan Schneider Battle the Elements to Launch New Schneider Smash Game Shakers at MIPJR 2015
Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president of content development and production, along with globally renowned live-action hit-maker Dan Schneider (the mastermind behind some of Nickelodeon’s most popular TV shows, including iCarly, Sam & Cat, Victorious, Drake & Josh & Zoey 101) – have just returned from MIPJR & MIPCOM 2015, the world’s largest international dual-TV market in Cannes, France. There, they provided their invaluable expert insight into what makes a kids TV hit in today’s hyper-competitive market. As part of their visit, the pair also unveiled Nickelodeon’s development slate, which includes Schneider’s latest smash, Game Shakers.
Despite the devastating storms that hit the French Riviera on the first night of the event, Hicks and Schneider proceeded, keeping spirits high as they hosted the Sunday morning session, where they addressed a room of more than 150 TV buyers, producers and media.
With a career spanning 21 years at Nickelodeon, Hicks – who oversees all live action and animation development for all of the Network’s content platforms – explained to moderator Kristin Brzoznowski (WorldScreen Managing Editor) “Kids gravitate towards great characters, characters they can relate to, who tell stories true to them.”
“Kids don’t watch shows and think afterwards ‘That was an incredibly well written episode,’” Schneider explained. “They think ‘that character’s super cool,’ and naturally want to watch more” – so it’s all about the characters and the situations we put those great characters in.”
“Kids want to see their own backyard, situations they’re familiar with – but also situations they’re not familiar with that are surprising,” Hicks said.
Referring to his new Nickelodeon series, Game Shakers, Schneider added, “There’s certainly a little similarity in the DNA of iCarly, in that you have four kids who create a videogame that takes off… that’s so much more fun than a show about a kid that plays videogames. It’s empowering.” Hicks and Schneider identified the progressive nature of the show, with the games at the core of the series’ storylines simultaneously available to fans in real life via the App Store.
Addressing the variety of content now available to the first generation of so-called digital natives, Hicks added “There are so many distractions for kids and so many places they can get their shows. I find myself working harder than I ever did before to make the scripts and characters as entertaining as they can be.” Hicks described opportunities created through launching short-form content through the Nick app and the potential to develop the most popular clips into a long-form series. “You can start it out small as a Web series and then say, ‘hey this is working’ and take it further.”
Renowned for keeping ahead of the trend, Schneider – who was one of the first kids’ creators to incorporate social TV into smash hit shows, The Amanda Show and iCarly in 2007 – detailed the challenges of holding kids’ attention in an ever-expansive world of platforms and screens. Speaking about the threat of the Web to content production, Schneider recalled, “I remember in the late 90s, producers would say the Web was going to take away from TV. I never saw it that way. I felt like it was a great thing. We don’t just have to put content on TV, we can put it online. I just see it as the more screens kids have, the more they need stuff to watch on those screens.”
When asked if linear TV is still the most important screen for kids, Schneider responded “I don’t think it matters – the more screens the better.”
“TV is not going away,” Hicks added. “We have a measurement issue, but as soon as they fix that problem, it will be even more apparent that kids love content everywhere.”
Following this session, the pair appeared as special guests at the official 2015 MIPJR Opening luncheon – sponsored by Nickelodeon – as well as an exclusive cocktail event hosted on Monday evening in the designated Viacom International Media Networks area. Caroline Beaton, senior vice president of international programme sales, invited partners and media friends to meet with Schneider and Hicks to raise a glass to the fantastic new portfolio of titles now available for the international market (from Harvey Beaks, and Shimmer & Shine, to 100 Things to Do Before High School, Game Shakers and many more).
Schneider and Hicks weren’t the only Nickelodeon representatives at MIPJR and MIPCOM. Jules Borkent, Nick’s senior vice president of content and acquisitions, took part in the popular What Do Buyers Want? session, along with fellow content execs from Disney, Turner and Lagardere, France and KiKa Germany.
Caroline Beaton took part in a (bright and early!) OTT Show & Tell session spotlighting Viacom’s latest suite of apps, Viacom Playplex.
Katie Keenan, head of acquisitions, VIMN UK and Channel 5, participated in the MIP finale Acquisitions Superpanel.
Viacom closed the event with two awards, as Borkent and Keenan received Content Trendsetter Awards from WorldScreen.
“You can’t fight city hall, you can’t fight corporate America. They are big and we are small. You can’t fight city hall.”
Those are lyrics from a very special musical episode of Rocko’s Modern Life. I typed them by memory – around twenty years after their original airing – and even though I don’t specifically credit those 22 minutes for the B.F.A. in musical theatre I eventually earned, I’m also certain that the time I spent watching Rocko’s Modern Life (and Rugrats and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and All That and…the list goes on) influenced my path in life.
These days, you can find Nickelodeon pretty much everywhere – on your TV screen, in the theaters, on your computer or phone. The network is pretty much the definition of Viacom’s Made Here Lives Everywhere campaign.
Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Sports awards: home of a $50,000 half-court swish, center-stage birthday celebrations and celebrity slimings. The second annual event returned recently, celebrating kids’ favorite moments with host Russell Wilson, the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks QB who met a shower of Nick’s famous slime and danced The Whip with his girlfriend Ciara:
Nickelodeon Unveils First-Ever Animation Scholarship Program in Partnership with Get Schooled to Award One Talented Young Animator a $25,000 Scholarship
Nickelodeon has partnered with Get Schooled, our education foundation co-founded by Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to award one skilled and innovative animator with a $25,000 scholarship by creating an original animated short. This partnership marks the first-ever animation scholarship program between the two organizations, which will help elevate and support the brightest up and coming animators by giving them an opportunity to submit their story. Read More
The Nickelodeon upfront audience was treated to a bit of industry humor with the debut of a short parody starring Benjamin Flores Jr. and Breanna Yde from the hit Nick series “The Haunted Hathaways.” While hanging out in the Viacom offices in Times Square, the curious child stars stumble upon the fictitious Counting for Dummies: A Comprehensive Guide to TV Measurement.