Cyma Zarghami

Nickelodeon Pitches an Upfront That Goes Beyond Television

Brand expands with digital and live events

Nickelodeon’s pitch to ad buyers is that the network can reach a new generation of kids beyond TV.

Cyma Zarghami, president of Viacom’s Nickelodeon Group, says the post-millennial generation is very different in their outlook and their media habits.

“These post-millennials have no other experience except for on-demand viewing,” she said. “And for us, what’s so exciting is even in an on-demand viewing climate, Nickelodeon is seeing incredible stability and growth.”

Zarghami says Nick, which was struggling a couple of years ago but now dominates the ad-supported kids TV world, has “committed to making sure that our brand is as vibrant as it has ever been by creating a pipeline of content for every genre, by marketing in all different ways, by embracing all the new media that kids are using.”

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At Nick’s presentation Thursday evening in New York, Zarghami said the network would roll out 300 new episodes of its live-action series and 200 episodes of its animated shows. Another 200 new episodes for pre-schoolers are also on the way.

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In addition Nickelodeon creates digital content platforms based on characters and franchises kids already know. “It isn’t about the platform. It’s about the IP [intellectual property],” she said. “So the way we make games and short form and movies and long form and social media for the [Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles is the way kids are going to fall deeper in love with that property.” Those properties also appear on store shelves and increasingly in live venues.

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Nickelodeon is also selling ads across every platform with what it calls its All for One approach.

“We have it all together as we’re going to market,” said Sean Moran, head of sales for Viacom. “We have a digital footprint that’s very sizable. You’ve got 41 million downloads on our Nick and Nick Jr. apps, and those together deliver about 58 million video views each month.”

He said that scale lets Nickelodeon ad partners spread their messages across four linear networks, a ubiquitous digital offering, mobile and over-the-top.

“This year we’re expanding that to include digital video and VOD for campaign delivery,” Moran said. “This is going to put us in a place where folks come to us, buy against our guarantee. The reason it works is it gives them the broadest flexibility and the largest scale for the custom marketing they want to do against these targets.”

Sponsors clamor for big events like the upcoming Kids' Choice Awards, which has sold out its commercial inventory. Some of the sponsors are outside of Nick’s traditional advertisers, including retailer Walmart, Procter & Gamble’s Crest and Toyota.

“That’s about the delivery we’re able to provide with people and women 18 to 49 on Nickelodeon,” Moran said. “So we get a share of kids that’s crushing the competition. But we’re also resonating with brand managers and CMOs who are looking to find that family atmosphere.”

At the upfront, Nick announced Slimefest, a multi-day music festival for kids and families that will be inaugurated in the U.S. next year. It will offer a number of sponsorship opportunities for commercials, integrations and on-site activations.

"This is a business that goes beyond television,” Moran said. For a property like PAW Patrol Live!, which is staged in 90 markets, Mars’ pet care line is a sponsor. “They see that special tie in,” he said.

Moran is expecting the kids market to be strong this year. He notes that toy sales were up 5% last year and analysts are projecting 2% to 3% more growth this year. At the Toy Fair, marketers' plans show that they believe “TV is still the most important to drive sales,” he said.

Related: Disney's Upfront Pitch Says Reaching Kids Is in Its DNA

Movies, the no. 2 category, is also expected to be strong. “You get 21 toy-themed movies versus 18 in 2016,” with titles including Star Wars, Cars 3, and Justice League.

There is also at least one more film aimed at kids and families during the holiday season, when ad inventory is tight and prices are highest.

“We feel very good about that,” he said.