Nick presents new series, movie at upfronts


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UPDATED 3:25 p.m. PT March 13

NEW YORK -- At its 2008 upfront presentation Thursday, Nickelodeon announced its first original primetime family movie, called "Gym Teacher," starring "Law & Order: SVU's" Christopher Meloni, as well as the development of a music-based sitcom about a boy band called "One 4 All," produced in partnership with Sony/BMG Music Entertainment.

"Right now I feel that Nickelodeon has unbelievable momentum both as a business and as a brand," Nickelodeon & MTVN Kids and Family Group president Cyma Zarghami told the advertisers at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. "As a first generation of Nickelodeon families connect with Nick, we are on the eve of some really exciting initiatives, initiatives that I think are about being creatively inspiring and transformational to our business. All of them are built on great talent and great relationships and all of them will live on every platform, even those we haven't invented yet."

Among the talent Nickelodeon brought in to sell its shows to advertisers for the 2008-09 season were Meloni, tween stars Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy of Nick's new series "iCarly" and Amy Poehler, who pitched her new animated sitcom "The Mighty B!" -- described as a girl-power show about the "world's most dedicated Honeybee scout." The show premieres April 26.

" 'The Mighty B! celebrates Bessie (the show's main character, voiced by Poehler) as one girl taking on the world," said the "Saturday Night Live" star. " 'Mighty B!' is truly a dream come true, so come advertisers, won't you share this delicious dreamsicle with me?"

Also appearing at the upfronts was Quddus Philippe of MTV's "TRL," who is hosting Nick's new tweens series "Dance on Sunset," who attempted to get the advertising and marketing execs in the audience to learn a new dance step.

Sony artist Natasha Bedingfield, who will make a guest appearance on "Dance on Sunset," performed two of her hit songs.

"Gym Teacher," directed by Paul Dinello, is about Dave Stewie, a failed-gold-medal-contender-turned-gym-teacher who vies for the gym teacher of the year award. But standing in his way is a new uncoordinated, very unathletic transfer student who is the son of an English teacher that Stewie falls for. Nathan Kress, Amy Sedaris and David Alan Grier also star in the movie, produced in association with Dolphin Entertainment. The movie will premiere in August. It is part of Nick's strategy to create programming that kids and parents will want to watch together, Zarghami said

"One 4 All," the first series to result from Nickelodeon's partnership with Sony/BMG, follows the story of a talented young singer who is recruited by a top record producer to move to Los Angeles and become a pop star. When he insists on bringing along his three best friends, they become "the world's most unlikely boy's band," according to Nick. Scott Fellows is the show's creator.

"Beyond just integrating our existing music into Nick's programming, we're now together in a complete joint venture where we're doing brand-new shows," said Sony Music Label Group chairman Rob Stringer. He said Nick's pitch to Sony on "One 4 All" was " 'Entourage' meets 'N Sync. 'One 4 All' is about a band with one great singer and three great, slightly less-gifted mates, which is pretty much the formula for all boy bands."

He said Nick and Sony have been searching all over the U.S. since January for the four boys to star in the series. Zarghami said the plan is to narrow down the pool of possible stars to 10 to 20 candidates, put them through an intensive acting, dancing and singing training camp in Los Angeles and then make a decision at that point. She said final casting decisions for the show, due to premiere in the fall, should be made within eight to 10 weeks.

Stringer said Sony and Nick are also developing recording careers for several of Nick's stars, and he told the advertisers to expect a lot more "exciting ventures" in programming and music to emerge from the partnership.

MTV Networks chairman and CEO Judy McGrath also announced a new Nickelodeon multiplatform pro-social initiative called The Big Green Help, which she said would "use every screen we've got" to give kids information and access to "easy, earth-friendly activities. Governments can do what they do but my bet is on the kids."

Jim Perry, executive vp 360 brand sales, told the advertisers that Nick at Nite finished the fourth quarter up 15% over the prior year and said the key to its success has been its strategy of acquiring the first cable window rights of standup comic shows like "George Lopez," "Home Improvement" and the recently announced "Everybody Hates Chris."

In a conference call with reporters after the presentation, Perry said he is "bullish" not only about the kids marketplace but especially about Nickelodeon, with expectations of growing Nick's nontraditional advertising categories such as automotive, travel, financial, wireless and consumer electronics close to 50% in the 08-09 upfront.