Nickelodeon Bolsters Commitment to Preschoolers

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The Nickelodeon cable channel last week announced a major commitment to create new shows for preschool children.

Each year for the next three years, the children's-entertainment channel will develop at least one hour of original programming for its daytime, Monday-through-Friday lineup of shows for preschoolers, said Geraldine Laybourne, the president of Nickelodeon. The channel's $30 million financial commitment includes a deal with Jim Henson Productions to create new shows and characters for "Nick Jr.,'' the weekday preschool-programming block.

By bolstering its Nick Jr. programming, which airs from 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. Eastern time, Nickelodeon will compete more aggressively with Public Broadcasting Service stations, which air such preschool shows as "Sesame Street,'' "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,'' and "Barney & Friends.''

The Entertainment Factor

"What I think is different about our [programming] and PBS is that we don't have a curricular agenda,'' Ms. Laybourne said. "We are much more interested in untapping kids creativity.''

But Alice Cahn, the director of children's programming for PBS, noted that public television's educational shows do not lack entertainment value.

"We provide entertainment programming built on a rock-solid educational foundation,'' she said. "Public TV's children's programming is designed to prepare children for life. As I understand it, Nickelodeon's stated intention is to build Nickelodeon viewers for life.''

In July, PBS will start its "Ready to Learn'' service on 11 public-television stations nationwide. The service will combine existing and new preschool shows into a single block of programming, with a defined look and short educational vignettes in between. (See Education Week, Dec. 15, 1993.)

Nick Jr. will also have a special look, with 40 two-minute Muppet vignettes being developed to run between shows.

The channel will add its first new shows from the initiative this fall:

  • "Gullah Gullah Island'' will be a multicultural look at music starring Nathalie and Ron Daice.
  • "Allegra's Window'' will be a puppet show that focuses on the world of a 3-year-old girl.

As part of the agreement with Jim Henson Productions, reruns of "The Muppet Show'' will join "Muppet Babies'' on Nick Jr. Existing shows in the preschool lineup include "Eureeka's Castle'' and "'The World of David the Gnome.''

Vol. 13, Issue 27

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