Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Familiarity Breeds Audience for Kids-Show Reboots

Networks turn to old favorites to draw in young viewers and their folks

Children’s-targeted programmers such as Nickelodeon and Disney Channel are rebooting popular kids shows from the 1990s and 2000s in an effort to reach a new generation of kids, as well as their parents who grew up watching them on both traditional television and online streaming platforms.

Shows with brand identity and familiarity have an advantage over new programs trying to establish themselves in a crowded multiplatform content universe, network executives and industry observers said. But such advantages don’t guarantee success for reboots, regardless of the original show’s popularity. 

“If you can provide an entertaining show to the current audience and use established characters in an established format that also attracts past viewers, then you’re on the right track,” TV analyst Bill Carroll told Broadcasting & Cable. “Yet in any show, whether it’s a reboot or an original, it has to stand on its own, whether it’s entertaining or whether the audience finds it attractive.”

As young viewers consume content across multiple platforms — kids 2 to 11 averaged 14 hours as week of viewing on connected-TV devices and 10 hours of live or time shifted TV viewing according to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report for third-quarter 2020 — content distributors are turning to more established intellectual properties (IP) to reach more kids, as well as their parents who grew up with such properties. 

“It absolutely helps break through the clutter and connect to audiences,” Paul DeBenedittis, Nickelodeon’s executive VP of programming and content strategy, said. “We have the ability to bring back properties so that parents who are now 40 years old can experience Nick with their children.”

Aggressive IP Revivers

Nickelodeon in particular has been aggressive in developing reboots and spinoffs for its older titles, having brought back this past May animated series Rugrats with new episodes featuring the original actor voices from the 1990s. On the live-action front, the network in June revived its 2010 series iCarly, featuring the original kid stars Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress reprising their respective roles as adults. 

Both shows debuted on upstart streaming service Paramount+ and not Nickelodeon, where the original shows ran. DeBenedittis said the streaming service allows the network to reach both fans who watch reruns of the original series on Paramount Plus as well as new viewers who may not be familiar with the franchise but are viewing other shows online.

The strategy seems to be working. The iCarly reboot, whose June 17 debut reached 145,000 households within the live-plus-three-day window according to Samba TV, was recently renewed for a second season on Paramount Plus.

“We have an opportunity to reach a broader audience that might not be watching Nick and might not have children, but they’re watching Paramount Plus to see a title that they grew up with,” DeBenedettis said. “These titles generally have a strong affinity with audiences while at the same time they also have the ability to drive new audiences.” 

In addition to the Rugrats reboot and iCarly revival, Nickelodeon is planning to putting a new spin on the classic animated series The Smurfs, and a live-action reboot of 2000s animated series The Fairly OddParents is also in the works, DeBenedittis said. Other franchises such as Star Trek (Prodigy) Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are also being primed for new projects. 

“We’re looking at additional content — both movies and series — that we could potentially deliver for the fan base and grow new audiences through both linear and streaming,” he said. “The different platforms offer us the ability to drive broader reach and engagement with beloved properties that fans love as well as introduce kids to these properties.”

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