You’ve just come home from school on a warm summer afternoon and immediately turn on your television so that you don’t miss the new episode of Victorious that’s being aired. I’m sure everyone from GenY breaks into a smile when they think of the bright splat of orange paint that covered the television screen, indicating the start of their favorite show. But can the same be said for the upcoming generations? Cable network is dying, and this article will take a look into why.
Owned by Viacom CBS Domestic Media Networks and sister-networks to MTV and VH1, Nickelodeon established itself as the world’s first and leading cable network for children. Nickelodeon was launched in 1977, with its unique mission of putting kids first. Unlike any cable network at the time, Nickelodeon took on its role as a leader in the children’s entertainment industry, and with original ideas, it successfully created a brand image of being “fun” and “relevant” along with being “healthy”, “wholesome” and “safe”.
While the network’s primary target audience is children aged 2 to 17, some of its programs blocks target the broader family audience, and as of today, Nickelodeon has a total of 11,949 employees and annual earnings of $708 million, merely by subscription revenue. Additionally, Nickelodeon earns its revenue from toys, merchandise, theme parks, etc., and has various sister brands such as Nick Jr., NickTeen, NickRewind, NickMusic , with a total of $9.3 billion.
Nickelodeon’s Evolution in the Digital Era
Entering the market as the world’s first commercial-free cable network for children, Nickelodeon dominated the television industry. Having the premise to be wherever the kids are and give them whatever they want, Nickelodeon quickly capitalized on its prominence by opening the Nickelodeon Studios in Florida, starting the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, releasing game shows like Double Dare, and launching its very own magazine. However, later came the online streaming platforms, which attracted kids more due to their diverse and compelling content. Nickelodeon therefore created its own YouTube channel soon after this platform was launched to adapt to the new media. Nickelodeon also ensured that they strategically incorporated the upcoming social media platforms in their activities by inviting famous YouTube personalities such as Liza Koshy to collaborate and create fresh online content.
Additionally, they partnered with Netflix in 2019 to produce original animated films and television series. Nickelodeon also hopped onto what its audience demanded in the digital era by creating consumer products designed for the new generation. For example, Nickelodeon’s sticker program initiated in 2019, which is a user-sharing initiative involving virtual badges- an innovation that skyrocketed Nickelodeon’s engagement with its new audience. Besides, Nickelodeon put cross-platform engagement into practice by announcing the nominees of the Kids Choice Awards via a live-stream on all social media platforms, and launching voting for the show across Twitter, the Nickelodeon website and Instagram, where Nickelodeon created an AR lens for nominees. In the times of the pandemic, Nickelodeon also launched a new website with educational coronavirus resources, like videos of SpongeBob SquarePants teaching children how to wash their hands.
Thus, to continually reach their demographic, Nickelodeon looked outward for creative inspiration, and unlike just taking one central idea like they did in the past and pushing the same creatives across different media platforms, over the year’s Nickelodeon’s has learnt to customize everything based on which new technology in the digital era kids find most appealing.
Nickelodeon’s Threat- Online Streaming platforms
As of 2020, children report that their love for Nickelodeon is decreasing, and consumers’ increasing shift to online viewing is slowly killing the cable network, thus threatening Nickelodeon.
As of today, the average time tweens spend watching TV is merely 24 minutes a day; however, their average screen time is nearly four hours. From 2015, time spent watching online videos has doubled for tweens and this number is only expected to rise, thus bringing into the picture a new competitor: online streaming platforms. When Netflix entered the game, Nickelodeon began licensing returns of popular shows like SpongeBob to the budding streaming service, which Netflix offered commercial free to its subscribers, thus becoming the new destination for kids. The children’s network has lost nearly 60% of its audience since 2010, according to Nielsen ratings data. And in Viacom’s recently ended fiscal year, Nickelodeon’s viewership slumped 28% compared to fiscal 2018, according to Bernstein & Co.
YouTube, meanwhile (like Netflix), rose to prominence, offering more diverse content due to its flexibility and easy access to not only view but also create content. 92% of kids use YouTube, making it the most widely-used brand by children while Netflix is the close second. As of 2020, children report that their love for Nickelodeon is decreasing, and consumers’ increasing shift to online viewing is slowly killing the cable network, thus threatening Nickelodeon.
So What Can Nickelodeon Do?
While Nickelodeon has already incorporated the horizontal and vertical integration strategies to counter this by capitalizing on their creations across all platforms and partnering with Netflix respectively, another strategy would be to focus on increasing the viewership by targeting a new audience- young parents.
Most young parents belong to GenY and have a strong affinity with Nickelodeon as it reminds them of their childhood. Moreover, studies show that companies that incorporate feelings of nostalgia in their design tend to attract viewers. Nickelodeon should therefore create content about childcare, bringing up children, easy-to-cook meals for children, DIY activities for new parents and kids etc. to attract a new audience. Thus, Nickelodeon will be sticking to its mission of putting kids first while attracting parents to the channel as well.
Nickelodeon should develop adjacencies in the form of a parent-oriented platform. This would not only be something outside its traditional activities, but also using its existing capabilities and developing this adjacent product that would boost Nickelodeon’s views in the existing market. While YouTube has creators who may produce the same content, in my opinion, targeting a new audience that grew up with cable networks will definitely increase viewership for Nickelodeon due to the nostalgia attached, and Nickelodeon has this major advantage over its competitors. With 40% of women in the U. S taking maternity leave, there is no doubt that new mums enjoy spending time with their child and have time on their hands. Nickelodeon should see this as an opportunity to create a new adjacency and diversify its content across wider age groups, since this would boost its viewership immensely.
So getting back to our initial topic of discussion-is Nickelodeon dead? Well yes and no. With the outburst of competition from online streaming platforms, Nickelodeon is in an unsafe position for sure, but only time will tell if it’s strategies keep it alive.
Cover: Rhiannon-Mairi Dickinson
Edited by: Andreea Rebegea