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MTV Networks Online details plans for children's Net firm

Hoping to distinguish between its Internet music division and children's programming division, MTV Networks Online details plans for a company focused on interactive content for children.

    Hoping to distinguish between its Internet music division and children's programming division, MTV Networks Online today detailed plans for a new company focused on interactive content for children.

    The Internet-only company, Nickelodeon Online--which will include,,,,, and children's e-tailer Red Rocket--is MTV Online's effort to bring parent company Viacom's far-flung children's sites under one umbrella.

    The company also unveiled MyNick on, formerly code-named the "Nozzle Project," which offers content and interactive experiences for children.

    Nickelodeon Online will be run by Taran Swan, the company's senior vice president.

    Today's move is part of Viacom's double-fronted assault on the Internet. The strategy on one front is to mine Viacom's vast content and expand it onto the Net. Earlier this summer, MTV Networks Online launched MTV Interactive, building on its "Buggles Project" initiative.

    The other front involves building a Web empire from CBS's crowded stable of Internet investments. Viacom announced in September that it would acquire CBS in a deal worth nearly $35 billion.

    "This is really a continuance of a strategy to move our company from a promotional Internet strategy to a business strategy," said Fred Seibert, president of MTV Networks Online and chairman of Nickelodeon Online, adding that although Nick sites already existed, they did not operate as one smooth business.

    "They were outgrowths of the TV Networks in many ways and weren't necessarily Net-driven," Seibert said.

    The new company plans to generate revenues through e-commerce, including sales through Red Rocket, as well as through advertising and site sponsorships.

    MTV Networks plans an on-air promotional campaign worth more than $300 million.

    Analysts agreed that Viacom needs to begin focusing its Internet sites aimed at particular markets.

    "What the restructuring does is to indicate a real dedication to focusing on Internet-intrinsic content instead of repurposed content from their networks," said Anya Sacharow, an analyst at Jupiter Communications.

    CNET TV: Newsmakers: Seibert
    CNET TV: Newsmakers: Seibert
    Media behemoth Viacom is one of many media companies--including Time Warner, Sony, Disney, and News Corporation--trying to leverage their brand recognition on the Web. One of the key benefits of the Internet is the ability it gives companies to gain knowledge about their audience's habits and interests, allowing them to directly market goods and services to their users.

    But Nickelodeon Online and other sites aimed at children will have to tread carefully before gathering children's personal information, as the Federal Trade Commission last week issued new rules stipulating that Web sites must get parental permission before collecting personal data from preteens in most cases. The FTC's rules go into effect April 21.

    "We will be able to collect information during the registration, and we plan to follow the FTC's regulations on collecting information from children," Swan said.

    Seibert and Swan said the company is looking to boost its services with acquisitions of technology, games, and graphics capabilities.

    "We are looking at opportunities pretty much on an hourly basis," Seibert said.

    The company will be taken public sometime in the future depending on market and business factors.