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Nickelodeon is leaning into the necessity of remote production during the novel coronavirus pandemic, greenlighting two series that will feature their stars interacting over video chat.
The talk show Group Chat: The Show, hosted by social media stars Annie LeBlanc and Jayden Bartels, and a game show called Game Face are both set to debut within the next six weeks. The kid-focused ViacomCBS cable network has given initial orders of six episodes to each series.
“Group Chat: The Show and Game Face will bring together kids’ favorite celebrities and topics in a format meant to live across all Nickelodeon screens,” Ashley Kaplan, senior vp digital studios at Nickelodeon, said Wednesday in a statement. “The virtual filming of these shows will provide the fun escape kids crave, but also let them know that we understand what they’re going through and are listening to what they have to say.”
On Group Chat, LeBlanc and Bartels — who have millions of followers on YouTube and other social platforms — will discuss the hottest pop culture topics of the week, based on what kids are talking about on social media, as well as play games and compete in challenges, all via video chat. LeBlanc’s sister Hayley will also be featured in each episode, along with celebrity guests.
The show is set to premiere May 23. LeBlanc and Bartels are also set to star in a scripted series for Nick called Side Hustle, though production is currently paused due to the pandemic.
Game Face, meanwhile, will feature a star-studded panel of guests trying to decipher the identity of a celebrity hidden behind an animated filter and voice changer on video chat. The show is set to go into remote production later this month for a June 13 premiere. A host will be named later.
Kaplan, vp digital studios Luke Wahl and vp unscripted current series Paul J. Medford will oversee production on both shows.
The two series on Nick follow a remotely produced version of the Kids’ Choice Awards that aired Saturday and are part of a growing cohort of shows to embrace socially distanced filming. Late-night talk shows, competitions like The Voice and American Idol, the NFL Draft and TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé have all turned to remote production during lockdown, while Food Network has thrived recently with self-shot episodes of several shows. Discovery is also planning special at-home episodes of several of its series.
Since March 16, when widespread stay-at-home mandates went into effect, Nick’s ratings have improved by 24 percent among its core audience of kids 6-11 compared to the prior four weeks. The cabler’s YouTube channels have also experienced double-digit growth over the same time frame as millions of kids have been home from school.
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