Nickelodeon Shifts Direction to Draw Today’s Younger Viewers

To attract a new generation of young viewers, children’s television channel Nickelodeon is retooling its strategy to produce shows with the more media-savvy viewer in mind. This latest generation of kids has typically consumed more media on TV and YouTube by the age of 12 than their older brothers and sisters did, so re-runs of older content no longer keep them hooked. Nickelodeon is now filming outdoors, adding multi-episode plotlines, and adding fresh writing and acting talent.

One of the first shows with this new strategy is “Bella and the Bulldogs,” which premiered January 17. Instead of being shot on a sound stage, like past children’s sitcoms on Nickelodeon, this series was shot outdoors. The star is actually a 15-year-old teenager, not an older actor meant to pass for a high schooler, and some storylines continue across episodes.

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Another experiment is with a sitcom that will be taped in the single-camera style similar to the style of “Parks and Recreation.”

“There’s this deeply held notion in the industry that kids only understand multicam shows,” Nickelodeon Programming Chief Russell Hicks said in The New York Times. “That’s silly. Have you heard of this new thing called YouTube? Believe me, they understand single camera.”

Nickelodeon has been trying to increase the size of its audience since 2011 when ratings declined. The company started spending more on original programming and bringing in new talent. The creators of “Bella and the Bulldogs,” Jonathan Butler and Gabriel Garza have never had their own series, and the two bring some much needed diversity to the network’s team of television creators.

Nickelodeon has been successful with new original series like “Sanjay and Craig,” but viewership fell 14 percent last year. Some of that decline may have to do with the way children consume television that may not be counted in the viewership totals for ratings. However, Nickelodeon still has to be cautious because they rely on ad sales.