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Nickelodeon debuts children's Web-TV programming

The Viacom property launches a joint Web-television series called the Snooker Report, which aims to get children moving back and forth between the two media.

Nickelodeon wants your kids to use the Web and television to help find a lost dog this summer.

The Viacom property has launched a joint Web-television series called the Snooker Report, which aims to get children moving back and forth between the two media.

"In talking to kids, we found that they are using the Web differently than adults. They're multitasking, working with more than one medium at a time," Lu Olkowski, creative director of Nickelodeon's Creative Lab, told CNET The Snooker Report is part of Creative Lab's push to offer "a format in which kids can bounce from online to TV to have a richer experience."

The Snooker Report is centered around a character named Shanna Levine, a 12-year-old girl who lives in Queens, New York. The premise is that Nickelodeon has granted Levine her wish to be a reporter for her summer vacation and has given her a laptop and a digital camera so she can give dispatches from the "weird" beach town of Twisted Pines, where she is spending the summer.

But soon after Levine arrives in Twisted Pines, her dog Snooker is lost--or "dognapped"--and she asks her audience to help her find him. Along with the Web site, which launched June 23, a series of 13 1-minute episodes is running on the cable channel. They began airing June 28 and are archived on the site after they air.

So far the response from children has been enthusiastic, Olkowski said. "They are really excited for her that she got to be a reporter for Nickelodeon, and they are very engaged in helping her look for her dog," she said.

Along with posting some of the emails on the site with answers from the character, Olkowski said Nickelodeon is "assessing what the majority of kids are asking in their emails to [Levine] and answering those questions on television."

Some analysts say cross-programming is a smart move for Viacom, which is working on building out its Web properties and spinning them off. The media giant is building a music hub site, with the working title the Buggles Project, which was scheduled to launch last month but was delayed by the company's May deal with Liberty Media, part of which involved the transfer of music site SonicNet to Viacom unit MTV Networks. In addition, Viacom is building a children's hub site, known for now as "Project Nozzle," which is scheduled to launch in September.

"The goal for traditional media ventures should be to overlap audience as much as possible and increase the total time spent with a media brand, regardless of where it comes from (online or offline)," according to a recent report from research firm Jupiter Communications.

Along with building the brand, Jupiter said cross-media programming can help broadcasters with the problem of potential lost audience share from the Net.

"Clearly, the Internet has had the most significant impact on the consumption of broadcast media. In a Jupiter Consumer Survey, 42 percent of consumers said Internet usage has affected the amount of time they spend watching television," the report said.

"Jupiter believes that cannibalization will increase substantially over the next three to five years as more consumers continue to use the Internet...," the report continued. "In addressing cannibalization issues, cross-media programming increases the total audience potential over time."

The importance of cross-media programming has not been lost on Nickelodeon's Creative Lab, a roughly seven-year-old division whose "mission has shifted in the past three years" toward developing programming that could incorporate the Web and television, Olkowski said. Previously, the group was charged with "creating short films to enhance the [cable] channel," she said.

Now the group's mission is to "create new characters, new stories, and new formats that live in more than one medium at a time," she added.

Olkowski said the Creative Lab is planning more programming that centers around times that children are at home--specifically, during summer and holiday breaks from school.