Upfront Update: Orange is the New Nick, and CNBC's Prime Stake - Simon Applebaum

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Our next pair of upfront reviews:

Nickelodeon

Venue : Jazz At Lincoln Center's Rose Hall, a fool-proof home for upfront ceremonies as it gets in New York, thanks to the outstanding technical and production capabilities there. Two other things you can expect from Nickelodeon: plenty of animated sequences in all sorts of orange greeting attendees when they walk in, and a nice after-ceremony buffet and bar walking out. Grade: 5 Jacks

Presentation : A far-different tack from previous years, when Nick executives led by groupNickelodeon Named Best TV Sales Organization by Ad Execspresident Cyma Zarghami slipped their points in among talent performances, banter or show clips. For the most part, Nick's talent on hand sat in the balcony, silent and introduced all at once to audience applause. The spotlight (or orange lights) was on Zarghami and colleagues, first acknowledging "a tough year" for their channel's ratings, then declaring a new programming direction--comedy aimed at post-millennial kids (born after 2004). "Our usual competitors came on strong," Zarghami said. "Fragmentation is everywhere in the kids' market. That is the new normal. For this new generation of kids emerging, funny is everything." Zarghami and production president Russell Hicks promised that from here on, Nickelodeon will offer more series and get new projects off the ground faster in several ways, from talent searches to animated short development. For an exclamation point on that promise, Viacom chief executive Phillipe Dauman made a rare on-stage upfront appearance, saying Nick "has hit a generational re-set button," then bantering with actor Josh Duhamel. The only other talent on-stage besides Duhamel: pop band OneRepublic, doing their hit Good Life. Grade:4 Jacks

News : At least 10 new series emphasizing the funny on Nick, plus four on Nick's preschool daypart and Nick Jr., will debut between now and mid-2014. A few already did so, including Wendell & Vinnie, starring iCarly co-star Jerry Trainor. Ahead and promising: Breadwinners, an animated trek of ducks on bread delivery duty, Rabbids, based on the popular video game (and mentioned in development a year ago), and live-action series Sam & Cat (teaming iCarly/Victorious co-stars Jeanette McCurdyand Ariana Grande), The Thumdermans (superhero family with one family member aspiring to be a super-villain) and The Haunted Hathaways (ghost family lives with human family in New Orleans). However, Nick offered no or little clues on when these shows will launch. Back for another season:SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Big Time Rush and the Scott Baio Nick at Nite sitcom See Dad Run. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Host : Zarghami stepped into the role and handled matters in an engaging manner. One quick aside brought the crowd to applause, following the joint Daumon/Duhamel scene: "Two dudes I love for completely different reasons." Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Solid presentation and programming news value, and you wished for more specifics over when to expect this new generation of Nick/Nick Jr. series.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

CNBC

Venue : Where better to showcase an initiative that includes a car-propelled series than the Classic Car Club down on Hudson St. near the Holland Tunnel--across the street from Skylight, home to a bunch of Upfronts the last few years (Kid Rock's concert there on TruTV's behalfCNBCremains an all-time highlight). Spacious, a few shiny cars to view in the back of the place, and a nice memorabilia room near the front, including a signed Babe Ruth baseball and Muhammad Ali gloves. Appetizers were aplenty, with mahi-mahi surrounded by black bean dip a popular fave. Grade: 4 Jacks

Presentation : Quick and visual, given CNBC's desire to have their affair be more party than anything else. President Mark Hoffman and his chief ad sales executive (who didn't introduce himself to all present) did the honors, introducing the network's new "Prime" evening series, which premieres Tuesday night from 9-11 p.m. with hour-long Treasure Detectives followed by The Car Chasers. A fast-moving clip sequence did the rest. Hoffman threw in a then-and-now comparison of his network's evening schedule, once highlighted by Deal or No Deal reruns and non-biz talk shows. "Our lineup was a mish-mosh, at one point the land of misfit toys," he said. "Now we've got a connecting tissue--business and money." Grade: 3 Jacks

News : Five more CNBC Prime series will launch Tuesday nights after the eight-week runs of Detectives and Chasers end. They are The Big Fix, Money Talks, Outstanding!, The Small Business Project(title may change) and Flipping Wars: Vegas. No information was available on-site or later (via press release or brochure) on these series and their premiere dates. Big missing, and surprised that NBC Universal's Media Village press site has not (as of this writing) issued a release. Grade: 3 Jacks

Host : Hoffman did his thing in less than 10 minutes. Like to see him for longer at another time. Also, credit CNBC for bringing most of their anchorpeople and reporters to the scene.

Grade : 3 Jacks

Overall Grade: 3.5 Jacks Nice party and place to party, and like Nickelodeon, short on key programming details that have the ad crowd and press take notice.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Final thoughts on Academy Awards show 2013:

1) For all the anti-sexist and tasteless banter host Seth McFarlane and some presenters offered, it was women that provided the majority of first-class moments, from Shirley Bassey singingGoldfinger to Jennifer Hudson's Dreamgirls song.

2) Why can't Daniel Day-Lewis, whose Best Actor acceptance speech was another highlight, host this ceremony? Or Halle Berry? Or Barbara Streisand? Or Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep or anyone else giving real gravitas and respect for the art of film and the viewer's appreciation of it?

3) Give ABC credit for increasing the Oscar audience over last year with an asterisk--the last 25 minutes were not rated thanks to local ads running then. Why can't Nielsen, which rates syndicated TV series with local ads all the time, deal with this?

4) The Oscars will continue to stay in the range of 35-40 million viewers a year until ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gets real and makes two fundamental changes to run a ceremony where we the public don't have to wait until near midnight or later to enjoy the big winners--start the program (not red-carpet) at 8 p.m. Eastern time the way every other major award ceremony does, and limit the technical categories to three (cinematography, film editing and visual effects), giving out the rest beforehand and doing a five-minute recap on the program. Do that, ABC and Academy, and you have the foundation for a more watchable Oscars. As Craig Ferguson might say, I look forward to your e-mails.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time onwww.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available atwww.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.

Have a question or reaction? E-mail it tosimonapple04@yahoo.com, or tweet @UBCSimonTWBT.

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