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Successful Franchises See Nick Through Recession

8 Jun, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Like most everyone else, Nickelodeon has found the economic downturn to be a tough selling environment.

“It’s not easy,” said Nancy Rachman, VP of home entertainment for Nickelodeon’s kids and family group.

“Everyone’s challenged. We’re challenged, retailers are challenged and consumers are challenged.”

But leave it to two iconic characters to see Nickelodeon through the tough times: “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Dora the Explorer.”

The March 3 release of SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob vs. the Big One (guest starring Johnny Depp) remains among the top five sellers in the children’s TV DVD category for 2009, thanks in large part to huge promotions at Wal-Mart, Rachman said.

“We’ve done very well with it,” she said. “It’s been a great boost for SpongeBob fans and the franchise.”

Nickelodeon and Paramount Home Entertainment have two upcoming DVDs for SpongeBob fans. The July 21 (prebook June 9) release of SpongeBob SquarePants: To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants (DVD $16.99) features seven episodes, with one never before seen. And the SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes DVD anthology streets Sept. 22 at $99.98. The anthology includes more than 2,200 minutes of the animation, and bonus features include commentaries, an animated art gallery and an original song.

As for Dora, the January release of Dora the Explorer: Dora and The Three Little Pigs performed better than expected, Rachman said, giving Nickelodeon high hopes for the fall release of Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure.

“It’s going to be fabulous,” she said of the 50-minute feature. “We’re working fast and furiously with all our retailers to set it up.”

Before Nickelodeon gets to the fourth quarter, however, it has a thick slate of summer DVDs. First up July 14 is Ni Hao, Kai-Lan: Kai-Lan’s Great Trip to China! (DVD $16.99), a double-length animated feature that introduces Mandarin to children in an interactive format.

Streeting Aug. 4 (prebook June 23) is The Backyardigans: Singing Sensation!, followed Aug. 11 (also prebook June 23) by the DVD debut of the preschool adventure show “Olivia.” Both DVDs will be available at $16.99.

The iCarly: Season 2 Vol. 1 DVD arrives Aug. 18 (prebook July 7) at $26.99 and includes brand new Web segments, behind-the-scenes extras and more.

With a live-action version of Nickelodeon’s “Avatar” TV series set for a summer 2010 release (The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan), Rachman hinted at the possibility of an “Avatar” complete collection boxed set, possibly this year.

“That was a wonderful, strong-selling franchise,” she said. “Each subsequent volume sold as well as the previous one. Our challenge [with a boxed set] is we know ‘Avatar’ has these great fans, and we want to make sure we bring them something extra special.”

A three-disc “Backyardigans” boxed set and the first DVD for the new series “True Jackson, VP” are lined up for the fall as well, Rachman added.

She also said Nickelodeon is working with Paramount to decide if any Nickelodeon titles will make sense for Blu-ray Disc.

“We know it’s an important part of the business,” she said.

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