SpongeBob Squarepants may soon move from his pineapple under the sea to an app on your smartphone.
Nickelodeon is planning a standalone video service with a focus on mobile viewers, Philippe Dauman, chief executive of the entertainment channel's parent company Viacom, said on a call with investors Thursday. Nickelodeon will unveil the service next month, possibly under a separate name, Dauman added.
"We believe this innovative service, which will have a distinct brand and will target the fast-growing mobile market, will be very attractive for parents and children," Dauman said, according to Reuters.
While older audiences may find themselves nostalgic for 90s-era Nickelodeon programming, like "Hey Arnold" and "Rocko's Modern Life," the channel remains a powerful force in modern children's TV, frequently capturing the top cable spot for kids ages 2 to 11. Yet Viacom's ad revenue has declined steadily due to low ratings. The cause? Habits are shifting -- away from cable and toward streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
In May 2013, Viacom decided not to renew its contract with Netflix, shutting off access to popular children's series like "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Dora the Explorer." Netflix, alongside Amazon and Hulu, have responded by creating kids shows of their own.
Wall Street analysts have voiced interest in the growing market for off-cable entertainment for younger audiences. They see a booming business for whichever company can capture kids' attention and potentially spawn the next generation of billion-dollar franchises that can move into film, apparel and toys.
Nickelodeon joins other media companies, including HBO parent company Time Warner and CBS (parent company of CNET), with straight-to-consumer video services.
A Nickelodeon representative confirmed the plans, but said the company could not elaborate at this time. Executives plan on meeting with advertising and detailing more about the service on February 25.
Update at 12:03 p.m. PT: Added comment from Nickelodeon.