October 9, 2013

Are Nickelodeon and SpongeBob worse than DC/WB and Batman?

Are Nickelodeon and SpongeBob worse than DC/WB and Batman?

As we all know, DC Comics (and their parent company Time Warner) rely heavily on Batman. In a previous post, I wrote that by my count, about 42% of DC’s “New 52” comics tie into Batman (or a Batman-related character, setting, etc.) in some way, shape or form. Not to mention the large number of Batman-related TV cartoons. There’s also Warner Bros. forcing the Dark Knight into what’s supposed to be a Superman sequel.

But it turns out that there’s one company that’s even more one-note than DC/Time Warner when it comes to excessive reliance on a single franchise. According to Deadline.com, “SpongeBob SquarePants” currently makes up a whopping 45% of Nickelodeon’s lineup. That’s up from a “mere” 25% in January 2012. The article notes that Nickelodeon’s ratings, which had slid off a few years ago, are now up, largely thanks to:

  • The aforementioned heavy reliance on SpongeBob.
  • Nick airing its most popular Nick Jr. shows (“Dora the Explorer,” etc.) on Nick-proper instead of on sister channel Nick Jr.
  • The recent loss of Viacom-related programming on Netflix, when Viacom moved its shows to the less-popular Amazon Prime. This meant that kids who wanted to watch SpongeBob, Dora and company would be more likely to tune into the actual TV network.

Nick’s CEO states that its new shows are the reason for its ratings rise. Given that half the network’s programming is “SpongeBob,” however, that claim seems iffy, even if their new “Ninja Turtles” cartoon is successful.

Perusing the most recent ratings for Nick, only 13 of the top 50 programs (26%) for the week of September 23-29 aren’t “SpongeBob.” The only three programs in the top 25 that aren’t “SpongeBob” are “Sanjay and Craig,” TMNT, and “Sam & Cat,” a live-action sitcom. Though it also might explain why “The Fairly OddParents” is still on, if Nick has few major hits outside of SpongeBob.

As the article notes, it seems unhealthy to excessively rely on just one successful show to such a degree. That’s especially given that SpongeBob debuted in the late 90s. Even Fox’s Sunday night lineup consists mainly of various shows (albeit all produced by Seth MacFarlane); it’s not just long-runner “The Simpsons.”

This move’s been profitable in the short term for Nick/Viacom. However, I’d have to wonder what happens in the long run if SpongeBob’s popularity drops off; say, if Disney Channel or Cartoon Network came up with the hottest cartoon of the 2010s, just as SpongeBob was for the 2000s.

Tags: animationBatmanMediaNickelodeonSpongeBob SquarePantsTime WarnerViacom