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Volume 21 No. 1
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Nickelodeon launching prime-time sports block

Nickelodeon has signed programming deals with the NFL, NASCAR and MLS and plans to launch a weekly prime-time sports block on its Nicktoons channel.

A two-hour block of sports-themed programming called “NickSports” debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET and will run every Wednesday night on Nicktoons, a channel run by MTV Networks that is in 67 million homes.

Nickelodeon has co-produced “NFL Rush Zone” with the NFL for the past two years.

Nickelodeon executives said they firmed up the idea of launching a sports block after the TV ratings success of the “Kids Choice Sports” awards show hosted by Michael Strahan this summer. The July 17 show averaged 2.392 million viewers on Nickelodeon and included a host of athletes, Hollywood stars and musical acts. Awards ranged from best male and female athlete (won by Kevin Durant and Gabby Douglas) to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that was won by Seattle Seahawks fans.

The awards show pulled in a big audience during prime time, which is when the program block is scheduled.

“This was a different type of dealmaking process,” said Keith Dawkins, Nicktoons’ senior vice president and general manager, referencing rights and trademark issues that came up with the leagues.

Dawkins said the channel has no timetable for how long it will run the programming block. “The audience always dictates where we go with these shows.”

The block will consist of programming from vignettes and series to documentaries and movies.

NFL programming will fall under the NFL Rush brand. Nickelodeon has co-produced the animated “NFL Rush Zone” series with the NFL for the past two years. Dawkins said the channel has been happy with its performance.

New NFL shows that will debut in the block will be “NFL Rush,” (a half-hour magazine show),  “NFL Rush Follies” and “NFL Rush Top 10s.” All of these shows will be produced by NFL Films.

MLS’s agreement will have the league produce a series of “shorts” for the program block, starring league players Mike Magee and Thierry Henry.

NASCAR will produce a four-episode docu-series on new drivers called “Hammer Down,” and a series of vignettes.

In addition to content from the leagues, the block has rights to several sports films and documentaries.