Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Porous Is He

Viacom's SpongeBob Crisis (WSJ):

But the show may be suffering from overexposure. In recent years, Nickelodeon has expanded Spongebob's place on its schedule. For all of 2011, "SpongeBob" accounted for 31% of the network's programming, and even hit 40% toward the end up the year, according to Nielsen That's up from 23% in 2007. Reruns traditionally have been seen as ideal for kids because, television executives say, children are often happy to watch the same programming over and over. Paul Debenedittis, senior vice president of programming strategy at Disney Channels Worldwide, says his networks sometimes play their most successful shows more frequently, but only to a limit. "There's definitely a risk in relying on one or two shows to fuel your entire channel," he says. Moreover, Viacom last year licensed the show and other Nickelodeon programs to Netflix, increasing its availability beyond the TV. While the shows became available on the site in May, Netflix introduced a "just for kids' section of its site in August using pictures to display program selections. The severe ratings declines began in September.

"This is pretty close to a smoking gun on SpongeBob getting worn out," says Mr. Juenger. He published a study last week showing that ratings for children's channels were lower in households with Netflix, even though those households are more likely to have children.

As much as my wife and I have enjoyed the show over the years (and our kids still love it today), it’s pretty clear that SpongeBob jumped the shark sometime in the last two-three years. The quality of the writing is nowhere near as sharp as it was in the glory days of the show. While that may not explain why SpongeBob isn’t as popular among kids, I don’t think it should be dismissed entirely. If a kid’s show can also appeal to parents, there’s a better chance that it will succeed (especially in our house).

Another factor may be stricter parental attitudes. In September, the journal Pediatrics published a widely circulated study linking shows like "SpongeBob" to kids' poor performance on tests of skills such as following rules. And some parents say they don't let their kids watch the show. Ian Guarnieri of Maplewood, N.J., says he started letting his son watch the show when he was five years old, but quickly pulled the plug. "Once we started to watch it, we decided it wasn't something we wanted him to be watching. It's very low brow."

Low brow as in not tediously seeking to be educational, diverse, and touchy feeling as most of the children’s shows on public television are? Sorry pal, but while it may not be the same top shelf children's show that it once was, I’d take SpongeBob and his low brow humor any day over these bland offerings that parents delude themselves into thinking are somehow good for their children.